Different Types Of LED strips

If you have ever spent any amount of time looking up LED strips, you have probably ran across 4 numbers throughout your search. For an example, on our site, we have our “RGB Sticks” as we like to call them. If you notice in the product description it says they are 5050SMD LEDs. The most common LED strips you will see will be “5050” or “3528” Before we get off on a tangent on LEDs, let’s answer the question that already may be forming in your head, “Hold up, what does SMD mean?!”. To be fair, that is a great question. SMD means “Surface Mounted Device”. To be completely honest, it is almost superfluous information. I don’t think I have ever seen LED strips that didn’t have the LED chips surface mounted. Nonetheless, SMD does in fact mean “Surface Mounted Device”

Moving on

After a brief DE-rail off  subject, we can focus back on what some of the numbers mean. To start with, 5050 is the size of the LED chip (5.0mm x 5.0mm) and 3528 is, you guessed it, 3.5mm x 2.8mm. More important then the size, is what the LED chip is actually capable of.  Not only is the 5050 LED chip much brighter then the 3528 chip, the RGB (Red Green Blue) chip actually contains 3 different diodes, one for each primary color.  Something else that is unique about a 5050 LED chip, is it is large enough to hold a 4th diode. Those chips are called RGBW (Red, Green, Blue, White) and are the solution to a lot of peoples issue with color change LEDs. They produce a “true white” by having their own dedicated white diode. Normally, RGB leds have to “mix” the colors to try to blend a white. If you even stop to think about it, it doesn’t quite make sense. How does red + blue + green = white? Well, it really doesn’t (obviously), if you have ever had RGBs with a controller that had a white option, then you know exactly what I am talking about.

 

Take a quick look at the picture above. I’ll wait…   As you can see, in the last picture there is a dedicated white section on this chip. This is an example of what a RGBW strip can do for you.   Now as obvious as the choice may seem to be, don’t knock our friend 3528 just yet.

 

Now as much as you don’t want to continue reading because you think your mind has been made up. Don’t lose hope in us just yet.

 

Even though the 3528 LED chip is smaller in size, and therefore cannot contain 3 separate diodes in the single housing it does have a place in the LED universe. Instead, a 3528 LED chip strip (now try to say that 5 times fast) has 3 separate housings, one for each color. For clarification, each housing has a single diode that emits one single color.  So why is this a good thing? Well in regards to RGB lighting, they really are honestly not a good choice.  They don’t mix colors well at all.  For example, the color purple consists of the color blue and the color red.  This strip would have to use the red led and the blue led at the same time.  That means instead of a “truer” purple, you will see a very spaced out blend of red and blue.  That’s not ideal when you put in the work to install these lights.  As a more or less visual learner, I would have to see a picture to get a better understanding.  Hopefully, this picture will help your understanding a little better.

Still waiting for the good news?
Well, lets say you want to save some money, and only want a single color. Well, I think these are just perfect for that. They still aren’t quite as bright as the 5050 single color variants, but the strip is most of the time physically smaller, which aids in very tight install areas.

 

Thanks for reading! If you liked this or have any questions, let us know in the comment section below!
If you have any information to add or correct don’t hesitate to call us out!
If you would like to learn more about LEDs or have any other topics you want dicussed, leave us a comment or feel free to email us at developers@abckustoms.com

2018 Honda Rubicon 500 Neopixel and LED Pod Headlight Build

Have You Ever Seen This Before?!

I would be willing to bet not.

 

There are times when the “pre-fab” just won’t come close to cutting it. There are times when you want something different, something better then the next guy.

That is exactly the case with this client. He told me “Make it one of a kind”.

To help meet the request of my client, I decided to pull out one of my favorite tools in my toolbox, an Arduino. For those who don’t know, an Arduino is an open-source platform that is used in building electronic projects. It consists of the psychical circuit board it self, as well as the software IDE (Integrated Development Environment), which is a program that can run on almost any computer and is used to upload computer code to the micro controller (physical circuit board). Arduinos have inputs and outputs that can be used for an unlimited amount of applications.

It all sounds very complicated, and you may be thinking, why would I need an Arduino to control some lights? Don’t they make RGB controllers?

Why yes, they do. However, the lights used in this particular application are called NeoPixels, which are not your standard RGB LED lights. They operate on data and frequency, where standard common anode RGBs are controlled with PWM(Pulse Width Modulation) basically, they are controlled by the ground applied to the Red, Blue, or Green “Wire”.

The benefit of operating on data vs PWM, is that you can control each LED module independently. For example, if I have a standard RGB strip and I supply the positive lead with 12V and the Red wire with ground the entire strip turns Red. NeoPixels operate on a completely different spectrum.  They require data communication and have their own driver built into each LED.

The black piece in the middle is the driver built into each LED.

However, NeoPixels only have 3 wires, Positive,Negative, and Data. Even still, there are specialty controllers that can meet basic needs of NeoPixels. BUT this client wanted a very specific set of flash patterns and color codes that “off the shelf” controllers would not be able to meet.

An example of an Arduino connected to a NeoPixel Strip. The green is the data wire.

Therefore, by using an Arduino, I was able to sit down with the client and go over the flash patterns and make changes on the fly. If he wanted the pattern to be faster, slower, a different direction, or whatever he could thin of, it was entirely do able.

You may be thinking, man I just want a blue accent light, this is way to much.

To that I would say, there is nothing wrong with wanting something a bit less complex. This was a very advanced installation that no local shop would be able to complete for you. Most people will not be interested in going this route. However, some people are unaware of the possibilities, and that is the point of this post. To help show interested individuals what COULD be done.

Alright, now that you hopefully have a little better understanding of some of the parts used in the install, lets move forward.

So first thing first, I decided to start on the Arduino part of things.

Arduino Example

You can see here the 3 Wires for the NeoPixels, Red (Power), Black (Ground), and Green (Data). The two black wires connect to a momentary toggle switch which tells the Arduino to change patterns

Once the basic foundation of the Arduino was completed, I decided to treat the client to a little sneak peak of what he would more so be interested in.

Enter Spray Guns!

Since his bike is orange, I decided to go all out on the theme. If you look close you can see that bolt to the left of the bulb fitment area. That it was the pods will attach to down the road.

Once I was satisfied with they way things were looking, I decided its time to start the wiring.

Don’t guess!

I wanted the headlights to operate just like the factory. I hooked a meter to the factory headlight bulb plug to find which wire was the high beam and which was the low.

What size fuse and wire should I use?

I would never recommend guessing on wire size and fuse rating. Even if the manufacture has a spec sheet available, why not triple check and test for your self. As you can see these pods draw 1.61 Amps at 12 Volts. That is a pretty low current draw, factory wiring COULD handle that. But, that would be the easy way out. I would rather take a few extra steps to know that everything exceeds standard safety ratings. So I designed a relay circuit that would send power from the battery (fused with 3A fuse) whenever the headlight switch was turned on.

Right Power, Right Now

The Arduino Nano I used requires 3.3v-12v to operate. As you may know, voltage fluctuates alot in automotive applications, and that is not good for sensitive electronics, such as micro controllers and computers. The NeoPixels also need 5v to operate at full capacity. So It makes sense to run 5v to both the Arduino, and the NeoPixels. In order to do that, I needed a converter. And in order to make the voltage more stable, I used a 1000uf capacitor. I added a good bit of 3M “waterproof tape self-fusing” tape to help protect against the elements. I took this picture before I loaded it down with the tape, but this is a small example of the tape for reference.

Don’t forget about the Arduino!

The mini USB you see (that rhymed) is where you can not only upload the code, but also power the Arduino. I would recommend only powering from USB while testing.

Finished product looks pretty good if you ask me.

But more importantly what do YOU think?

 

 

For those interested in the code used, I will paste excerpt below.

Read More

Nissan 350Z RGBs

 This is a video sent to us by a happy customer! Stuff like this really, really makes my day. I love seeing people happy, and knowing that I contributing even the slightest bit, is amazing. 

Camaro Box Design

We wanted to make absolute sure that this box would not only fit but sound great!

This enclosure is designed to hold a Sundown Audio ZV5 12″ in the trunk of a 2018 Camaro. Man oh man, it was tough playing with these dimensions. Luckily, we have software to verify the airspace as well as the integrity of the box.