Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Introduction To Building An LED Suit

First things first.  I'm not really writing this for anyone's benefit but mine.  I often find that, during a project, I need to check back on things -- and this is an easy way to archive what I've done.  That being said, I will try and make things as clear and detailed as possible, in case anyone wants to try the same thing.

PLEASE DON'T TRY AND ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS.  I am a beginner when it comes to electronics and have zero programming experience.  basically I try and find someone who's done something similar and attempt to make modifications to suit my needs.  It involves a lot of trial and error, and I'm too selfish to invest time trialing and erroring on your behalf.

Why Do I Want To Build An LED Suit?

I got into the habit of making fairly elaborate Halloween costumes for one of my sons.  Because they're elaborate, I always needed to start sometime before October 31st.  However at 13 years old, we were running into the risk of growth spurts between the start and finish of the project.  On top of that, up here in Canada we have to allow for the possibility of wearing the costume on top of a parka (yes, we sometimes have snow for Halloween).

Because of the above, I decided I would make him an LED hat.  It ended up having three 8x8 grids on it, resulting in 8 rows and 24 columns of blue LEDS.  By multiplexing the LEDs and using 3 MAX7219's and an Arduino Mega 2560 I was able to control each LED separately and program some simple animations.

The hat was done earlier than expected, so I added a bunch of flashing RGB LEDs to a leather zipper tie.  When the tie and hat were complete, I still had time to take an over-sized suit jacket and outline the lapels with the same blue LEDs used for the hat.

It was quite the hit while trick or treating and got a lot of comments.  Video is below.

This year, we still have the potential growth spurt issue,  So I've decided to go with LEDs again but with some modifications.  The biggest change is I want to use RGB's so that I can control the colors.  Secondly, I want to use some kind of modular system so that the LEDs can be used by different people and over different clothing.