The WS2812 Integrated Light Source — or NeoPixel in Adafruit parlance — is the latest advance in the quest for a simple, scalable and affordable full-color LED. Red, green and blue LEDs are integrated alongside a driver chip into a tiny surface-mount package controlled through a single wire. They can be used individually, chained into longer strings or assembled into still more interesting form-factors.
- Not all addressable LEDs are NeoPixels. “NeoPixel” is Adafruit’s brand for individually-addressable RGB color pixels and strips based on the WS2812 and WS2811 LED/drivers, using a single-wire control protocol. Other LED products we carry — WS2801 pixels, LPD8806 and “analog” strips — use different methodologies (and have their own tutorials). When seeking technical support in the forums, a solution can be found more quickly if the correct LED type is mentioned.
- NeoPixels don’t just light up on their own; they require a microcontroller (such as Arduino) and some programming. We provide some sample code to get you started. To create your own effects and animation, you’ll need some programming practice. If this is a new experience, work through some of the beginning Arduino tutorials to get a feel for the language.
- NeoPixels aren’t the answer for every project. The control signal has very strict timing requirements, and some development boards (such as Netduino or Raspberry Pi) can’t reliably achieve this. This is why we continue to offer other LED types; some are more adaptable to certain situations.
NeoPixel Digital RGB LED Weatherproof Strip is available in three different “densities”: 30, 60 and 144 LEDs per meter, on a white or black backing strip.
- NeoPixel strips are sold in one meter lengths. The 144 pixels/meter strips are always separate 1-meter lengths. For 60 and 30 pixels/meter strips, orders for multiple meters will be a single contiguous strip, up to a limit: 4 meters for 60 pixels/meter strip, or 5 meters for 30 pixels/meter strip.
- For 60 and 30 pixels/meter strips, if purchasing less than a full reel (4 or 5 meters, respectively), the strip may or may not have a 3-pin JST plug soldered to one end. These plugs are for factory testing and might be at either end — the plug does not always indicate the input end! Arrows printed on the strip show the actual data direction.
- Although these strips are flexible, they do not tolerate continuous and repeated bending. A typical application is architectural installations, where they can be curved around columns and then stay put. Repeated flexing (as on costumes) will soon crack the solder connections. For wearable use, either affix shorter segments to a semi-rigid base (e.g. a hat, BMX armor, etc.), or use the individual sewable NeoPixels shown later.
- The flex strips are enclosed in a weatherproof silicone sleeve, making them immune to rain and splashes, but are not recommended for continuous submersion. Early 144 pixel/meter strips were not weatherproof, but the latest batches now include this feature.
- The silicone sleeve can be cut and removed for a slimmer profile, but the strip is no longer weatherproof.
- Very few glues will adhere to the weatherproof silicone sleeve. Using zip ties for a “mechanical” bond is usually faster and easier. The only two reliable glues we’ve found are Permatex 66B Clear RTV Silicone (not all silicone glues will work!) and Loctite Plastics Bonding System, a 2-part cyanoacrylate glue. The Permatex 66B silicone can also be used to seal the open end of a cut strip.
- All strips are manufactured in 1/2 meter segments that are then joined into a longer strip. The pixel spacing across these joins is 2-3 millimeters different than the rest.
Some batches of 144 pixel strip don’t have pads between the LEDs. If you cut these into shorter sections, the only way to connect to them (except at the half-meter segments) is to carefully solder directly to the LED. The corner with the notch is the GND pin.
NeoPixel Shapes: Rings, Matrix, Shield and Strip
These ready-made shapes simplify many projects! Rings are perfect for jewelry, timepieces and navigation displays. Matrices work for bitmap displays and scrolling message signs.
All NeoPixel shapes can be chained (the output of one can connect to the input of the next) and are controlled from a single microcontroller pin.
- When soldering wires to these rings, you need to be extra vigilant about solder blobs and short circuits. The spacing between components is very tight!
- If using alligator clips, we recommend first soldering short jumper wires to the ring inputs and connecting the clips to those, for similar reasons. (Some of our tutorials and product photos do show alligator clips directly connected to the rings, but we’ve had a lot of experience using them.)
Single NeoPixels allow maximum control over individual pixel placement (some are even sewable!), while bulk sheets are a more economical option.
Each individual NeoPixel requires 60 milliamps max at full brightness. Mixed colors and lower brightness settings will use proportionally less power.