Overview

Make your own neon-style signs without any of the glass, gas, and high voltage! These neon-like LED strips have a great look, are easy to shape and splice, and you can drive them with just 9V to 12V DC.

We'll learn how to control them for blinking and animation using a microcontroller and a Darlington transistor driver.

Parts

You can decide how many strips you need depending on the sign you're making. The parts listed below are for the Adabot / Lightning bolt sign I made.

1 x Adafruit METRO M0 Express
designed for CircuitPython - ATSAMD21G18
1 x Proto-ScrewShield WingShield
Kit for Arduino and METRO
1 x ULN2803: 8 Channel Darlington Driver
(Solenoid/Unipolar Stepper) - ULN2803A
1 x Waterproof Polarized 4-Wire Cable Set
Set of two cables - one plug and one jack, 16" total
1 x 16mm Illuminated Pushbutton
Red Latching On/Off Switch
1 x Heat Shrink Tubing Pack
High-grade flexible polyolefin material
1 x Hook-up Wire Spool Set
22AWG Solid Core - 10 x 25ft

Materials

In addition to the parts above, you'll also want a large piece of black foam core board to mount your sign. This will vary depending on size -- I used a 32" x 40" piece for the backboard, and two 20" x 30" pieces for mounting the two sign halves.

You'll use clear zip ties to mount the neon tube strips.

Tools

You'll need wire strippers for stripping insulation from wire ends.

You'll need a soldering iron and solder to put the circuit on the Proto ScrewShield. Alternately, you can keep the circuit on a breadboard if you don't want to do any soldering!

This guide was first published on Aug 10, 2018. It was last updated on Sep 25, 2018. This page (Overview) was last updated on Aug 10, 2018.