Overview

Circuit Python Powered

In this project we’ll take a look at the process of building an LED acrylic sign using NeoPixels and Circuit Python. The 3D printed case houses all of the electronics making a simple portable sign. You can engrave just about anything on the acrylic and it makes a pretty sweet project for your desk.

Using Circuit Python to drive the NeoPixels allows you to easily reprogram them so don't have to recompile code each time you want to make a tweak or try out a new animation. 

Signs, Logos and Lamps

You may have seen an LED acrylic sign at a bar, restaurant or similar establishment. You can get pre-made ones from retailers like Amazon and Target. You can even get them personalized from places like Etsy. Just search around and you can find almost any logo, phrase or graphics etched or engraved into the acrylic.

Designing your own signs however allows for creativity and experimentation. You can make something that has never been done before. 

NeoPixel LEDs

Most of them use a single color LED strip. Others feature RGB LED strips where you can choose from either of the three colors. These are limited and typically do not fade between the color spectrum.

NeoPixel LEDs however, allow fine control over each pixel. This lets you fade between different colors to create amazing animations. Rainbow cycles, color wipes and sparkles, just to name a few possible sequences. 

Engraving, Etching, Laser or Milling

There's several methods of getting a design onto acrylic. Most common process is done using a laser cutter – A powerful laser burns onto the surface. Another method uses a CNC milling machine – An engraving bit spins at high speeds and draws the design onto the surface. You can even do this by hand using a rotary tool such as a Dremel power tool with a special engraving bit.

Light Guiding Acrylic

The acrylic material I used is specifically designed for making edge lit acrylic signs. Lucite is a light guiding acrylic that features light diffusing particles. This is great for edge lit engraving because it provides even illumination.

From Inventables:

Developed specifically for edge lit applications, including lighting and signage, this LGP continuous cast acrylic is formulated with evenly dispersed illuminating particles to provide bright, even illumination. Suitable for use with LEDs, fluorescent and cold cathode light sources.

Prerequisite Guides

If your new to electronics and the Adafruit Feather M0 Express, I suggest you walk through the following guides to get the basics. The Adafruit Feather M0 Express guide will walk you through setting it up with CircuitPython.

Parts & Components

You'll need just a couple a parts to build this project. You have the option to choose from two Adafruit Feather M0 boards. You also can choose different batteries (capacities).

1 x Adafruit Feather M0 Express
Designed for CircuitPython - ATSAMD21 Cortex M0
1 x NeoPixel Stick
8 x 5050 RGB LED with Integrated Drivers

Batteries

A couple of different capacity to choose from. I recommend the bigger 500mAh, but you can go with smaller if you want to save some capital. 

1 x 3.7v 100mAh
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery
Out of Stock
Notify Me
1 x 3.7v 150mAh
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery
1 x 3.7v 350mAh
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery
1 x 3.7v 500mAh
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery

Tools & Supplies

Hardware, rubber feet, wires, that sorta thing.

1 x Lucite Light Guide Acrylic Sheet
1/4" Thick – 8 in × 12 in – Cast sheets with light diffusing particles
6 x M2.5 Machine Screws
Phillips Flat Head Machine Screw A2 SS M2.5 x .45 x 5MM
1 x Bumper Feet
Little Rubber Feet – Pack of 4
1 x 30AWG Wire
Silicone Cover Stranded-Core Wire - 30AWG in Various Colors
1 x Solder Wire
Solder Spool - 1/4 lb SAC305 RoHS lead-free / 0.031" rosin-core - 0.25 lb / 100 g
1 x Heat Shrink Tubing
Multi-Colored Heat Shrink Pack - 3/32" + 1/8" + 3/16" Diameters
1 x Mounting Putty Tack
Loctite Fun-Tak Mounting Putty 2-Ounce

Cool Tools!

These things really do help make building the project smoothly. You don't need them all of them, but I recommend them.

1 x Othermill Pro
Compact Precision CNC + PCB Milling
Out of Stock
Notify Me
1 x Ultimaker 3
3D Printer
1 x Wire Strippers
Hakko Professsional Quality 20-30 AWG Wire Strippers - CSP-30-1
1 x Wire Cutters
Flush diagonal cutters - CHP170
1 x Soldering Iron
Adjustable 30W 110V soldering iron - XY-258 110V
1 x Panavise
Panavise Jr. - PV-201
1 x Helping Third Hands
Helping Third Hand Magnifier W/Magnifying Glass Tool - MZ101

Circuit Python Powered

In this project we’ll take a look at the process of building an LED acrylic sign using NeoPixels and Circuit Python. The 3D printed case houses all of the electronics making a simple portable sign. You can engrave just about anything on the acrylic and it makes a pretty sweet project for your desk.

Using Circuit Python to drive the NeoPixels allows you to easily reprogram them so don't have to recompile code each time you want to make a tweak or try out a new animation. 

Signs, Logos and Lamps

You may have seen an LED acrylic sign at a bar, restaurant or similar establishment. You can get pre-made ones from retailers like Amazon and Target. You can even get them personalized from places like Etsy. Just search around and you can find almost any logo, phrase or graphics etched or engraved into the acrylic.

Designing your own signs however allows for creativity and experimentation. You can make something that has never been done before. 

NeoPixel LEDs

Most of them use a single color LED strip. Others feature RGB LED strips where you can choose from either of the three colors. These are limited and typically do not fade between the color spectrum.

NeoPixel LEDs however, allow fine control over each pixel. This lets you fade between different colors to create amazing animations. Rainbow cycles, color wipes and sparkles, just to name a few possible sequences. 

Engraving, Etching, Laser or Milling

There's several methods of getting a design onto acrylic. Most common process is done using a laser cutter – A powerful laser burns onto the surface. Another method uses a CNC milling machine – An engraving bit spins at high speeds and draws the design onto the surface. You can even do this by hand using a rotary tool such as a Dremel power tool with a special engraving bit.

Light Guiding Acrylic

The acrylic material I used is specifically designed for making edge lit acrylic signs. Lucite is a light guiding acrylic that features light diffusing particles. This is great for edge lit engraving because it provides even illumination.

From Inventables:

Developed specifically for edge lit applications, including lighting and signage, this LGP continuous cast acrylic is formulated with evenly dispersed illuminating particles to provide bright, even illumination. Suitable for use with LEDs, fluorescent and cold cathode light sources.

Prerequisite Guides

If your new to electronics and the Adafruit Feather M0 Express, I suggest you walk through the following guides to get the basics. The Adafruit Feather M0 Express guide will walk you through setting it up with CircuitPython.

Parts & Components

You'll need just a couple a parts to build this project. You have the option to choose from two Adafruit Feather M0 boards. You also can choose different batteries (capacities).

1 x Adafruit Feather M0 Express
Designed for CircuitPython - ATSAMD21 Cortex M0
1 x NeoPixel Stick
8 x 5050 RGB LED with Integrated Drivers

Batteries

A couple of different capacity to choose from. I recommend the bigger 500mAh, but you can go with smaller if you want to save some capital. 

1 x 3.7v 100mAh
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery
Out of Stock
Notify Me
1 x 3.7v 150mAh
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery
1 x 3.7v 350mAh
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery
1 x 3.7v 500mAh
Lithium Ion Polymer Battery

Tools & Supplies

Hardware, rubber feet, wires, that sorta thing.

1 x Lucite Light Guide Acrylic Sheet
1/4" Thick – 8 in × 12 in – Cast sheets with light diffusing particles
6 x M2.5 Machine Screws
Phillips Flat Head Machine Screw A2 SS M2.5 x .45 x 5MM
1 x Bumper Feet
Little Rubber Feet – Pack of 4
1 x 30AWG Wire
Silicone Cover Stranded-Core Wire - 30AWG in Various Colors
1 x Solder Wire
Solder Spool - 1/4 lb SAC305 RoHS lead-free / 0.031" rosin-core - 0.25 lb / 100 g
1 x Heat Shrink Tubing
Multi-Colored Heat Shrink Pack - 3/32" + 1/8" + 3/16" Diameters
1 x Mounting Putty Tack
Loctite Fun-Tak Mounting Putty 2-Ounce

Cool Tools!

These things really do help make building the project smoothly. You don't need them all of them, but I recommend them.

1 x Othermill Pro
Compact Precision CNC + PCB Milling
Out of Stock
Notify Me
1 x Ultimaker 3
3D Printer
1 x Wire Strippers
Hakko Professsional Quality 20-30 AWG Wire Strippers - CSP-30-1
1 x Wire Cutters
Flush diagonal cutters - CHP170
1 x Soldering Iron
Adjustable 30W 110V soldering iron - XY-258 110V
1 x Panavise
Panavise Jr. - PV-201
1 x Helping Third Hands
Helping Third Hand Magnifier W/Magnifying Glass Tool - MZ101
Last updated on 2017-09-18 at 12.06.41 PM Published on 2017-08-30 at 12.01.29 AM