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ELECTRONICS HELP

Get started with wiring my kits.

PREFACE

These instructions cover basic RGB LED systems with plug-and-play microcontrollers.  While some soldering and electronics knowledge is required, this is a good project with which to start learning.  I only go over the broad strokes here, and encourage you to take a class or watch additional tutorials on basic soldering and working with low-voltage electronics. 

Links are to products I have used, but the availability, cost, and quality will vary.  If any links are dead, searching for the key terms should yield results.

COMPONENTS

LED Strip components.png

GENERAL

All components must have the same operating voltage range - typically 12-volts DC.  Components for RGB and single color systems are both covered here.  The 5521 barrel connector is common among all of these components.

LED STRIP

I usually use silicone encased "neon-like" LED strips.  These eliminate LED hotspots and are more durable than bare LED strips.  They also project light perpendicular to the strip's curve, which is ideal for collars.  The strip must measure about 6x12mm (~0.25" x 0.5") and be cuttable every 25mm (~1").

RGB WIRE + CONNECTOR

Specific 4-conductor RGB wire is handy for keeping track of color channels (RGB, and positive).  A 4-pin connector is used on some RGB strips, and is a necessary component for the controller that is usually sold separately.

  • RGB Connector (cut in half to solder the bare wires to LED strips)

  • 4-conductor wire (similarly sized wire is fine.  Silicone wire is better but I haven't found bonded and colored versions)
     

Single color systems will only have two wires (positive and negative).

RGB CONTROLLER

The controller takes power from the power supply and tells the LED strips what to do.  The remote is always included with the controller.  There are many different types of controllers/remotes:

  • BlueTooth types can connect to smartphones and have advanced control options.

  • Radio Frequency types do not need line of sight or a smartphone.

  • InfraRed types require line of sight between the remote and controller.  The only advantage this holds over RF is that it is unlikely to receive rogue signals.

For single color systems, this component is not needed.

POWER SUPPLY

Assuming you're using a 12-volt system, there are two main options:

  • An 8x AA alkaline battery holder is cheap (at first) and batteries can be replaced immediately.

  • A rechargeable lithium pack is better in every way except recharge time.

Both power supplies are meant to be stored remotely in a pocket.  It's difficult to get a small 12-volt power supply that will last for a long time.  A23 batteries may be tempting, but they're meant for remote controls where they only get short, occasional use.  You can look into buck-boosting a smaller voltage battery if you want to deal with an extra component.  Again, the components recommended here are chosen for simplicity.

WIRE IT UP

GENERAL

I won't be able to match the wealth of information available online.  I have linked some tutorials below, and encourage you to explore further to broaden your path of enlightenment.  I have added tips relevant to my products.

SOLDERING

A basic soldering kit is pretty cheap and easy to use.  You'll also need other basic materials like  heatshrink and zipties.

After making a solder joint, always test it by tugging on the wire.  After soldering a circuit and/or before any permanent steps (like glue), test that the LED is working by connecting the positive and negative leads to your power supply.

INSTALL TIPS

Be sure to plan your install steps carefully.  You can't solder every connection and then install the completed circuit.  You need to install each component individually, leaving enough wire slack to work with. Then make the solder connections and tuck the excess wire away before moving to the next component.

An important step for durable LED strip solder joints is to reinforce the connection.  After testing that the LEDs work, apply CA glue+activator where the wires are soldered to the LED strip.  This immobilizes the wires and helps prevent the solder from vibrating apart over time.  Hot glue also works, although I suspect it still allows some wiggles.  This step is permanent!
 

Wherever possible/applicable, use zip ties to provide strain relief on wires.  If a wire were to get yanked or flap around, would it pull directly on a connector or solder joint?  If yes, secure the wire so that the force would be applied to anything other than the weak point.  A good method is to put a loop in the wire and zip tie the loop to the parent structure.  Solder joints should not wiggle!

ENFORCER COLLAR

The Enforcer has LED tracks on the top and bottom of the collar interrior.  I find that only the bottom really needs to have an LED strip, but I always install both anyway.  

  1. Cut the LED strips to size.  Cut away the silicone on the ends that will be soldered.

  2. Solder long 4-conductor wires to the LED strips. 

  3. Pass the wires through the hole on the left side of the collar, as well as through any other parts you may be using like the grommet, jammer, and a wire sheath.

  4. Tuck the LED strips into the tracks.  I just realized there should be strain relief on the hole that the wires are passing through!  You can just drill two small holes and insert a zip tie, as the collar interior is obscured by the diffuser later on.

  5. Install aluminum tape on the inside face of the collar to reflect the light.

  6. Install 0.02" thick frosted polypropylene plastic in the LED track to diffuse the light.

  7. Assemble and install the collar on your jacket according to the included instructions.

  8. Plan where your RGB controller and battery will go in your jacket.

  9. Solder the 4-conductor wires together and to the connector. 

  10. Plug the connector into the controller.  Tidy up and strain-relieve the wires.  Heatshrink or tape the connector to the controller to prevent them from wiggling loose.

  11. Plug the controller into the battery and let there be light!

Assembly_RGBwiring.jpg

In this picture I soldered the wires together inside the collar, but that just made things more difficult.  Just give yourself tons of slack and solder them together further down the line.  Add a zip tie where the heatshrink passes through the hole to prevent damage from yanks and WiGgLeS.

 

I hope that all helps!  The Enforcer was one of my first original 3D printed designs, and I have learned a lot since then.  It works though, and the simplicity is good for new makers.  Once you have the basic build done, there is a lot of potential for improvement and customization.

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