LED Assembly

3D Printed Cases

These little 3d printed cases snap onto your NeoPixels and hold the light pipe shoelaces firmly in place against the LED for maximum brightness.

 

Print them in white or transparent ABS or PLA.

Every 3D printer is a little different. Before committing to a whole pile of these, start with one and test the fit, adjusting scale as necessary.

If you don’t have access to a 3D printer, don’t worry! The light pipes and pixels could also be joined with caps of hot glue, Shapelock (aka Instamorph or Friendly Plastic), Sugru or Apoxie Sculpt.

Power and Ground Wires

Grab a tape measure and determine the distance between your shoelace holes.

Double the shoelace-hole-distance measurement.  Lay out four 30awg wires (2 for each boot) and make one mark for each NeoPixel's placement.  I marked every 2" since my shoelace holes are 1" apart. 

 

Go outside.  Grab a lighter with a hot, focused flame and char the shielding at each mark.  Let it cool off a bit.

 

Scrape off the ash and you'll have a nice bit of stripped wire at each mark.

String all the NeoPixels onto your wires, being sure they're all aligned the same way -- all the "+" holes should go along one wire and all the "-" holes along the other.

 

Slide one NeoPixel to each bare wire spot and twist it around 2-3 times to secure the bare wire to the solder pad.  Once you have them all in place, solder each wire to each pad.

Data Wires

Connect all the "out" pads to the "in" pad of the next pixel, making sure your NeoPixel spacing matches up with your lace hole spacing.

Since my boot laces were exactly 1" apart, I cheated a little and simply stapled the data line holes together.  If yours are a different distance you'll need to fiddle with stripping and soldering wires to get them to end up the right distance, but for 1" spacing, staples work brilliantly.   

However, for the connections that go across the ankle this will NOT work.  Any flexing of the strip will eventually break the staples, so only staple the NeoPixels that will be on the shin or the top of the foot.  Use flexible stranded wire to connect the pixels that are anywhere near the ankle.

Solder the staples and stranded wires into place.

This is a great time to hook up your pixels with some alligator clips and the NeoPixel Strandtest code, and test to be sure all the pixels are working.  I keep a Gemma pre-loaded with this code near my workbench for just this purpose.

Adding the Light Pipe

Get out your LED shoelaces and cut them down so they fit nicely between opposite shoelace holes in your boots. Remember they'll be a little longer for the top holes and shorter for the bottom holes, for most boots.

Pop your 3D printed 'cases' onto your NeoPixels, add a blob of hot glue right in the hole and shove the light pipe in while the glue is wet.  When it dries it will hold the light pipe beautifully perpendicular to the LEDs.  Hooray!  If needed, add another blob of hot glue to the outside of the case for extra support.

 

Now you have a creepy glowing alien spinal column to play with.  Take some artsy photos.

Once the glue is set, thread the light pipes through the shoelace holes, making sure the first NeoPixel in the sequence is at the top.  I had to do some dissasembly on my boot to get them between the boot facing and boot liner -- each pair of boots is different so get a little creative.  Sew or glue them in place.

Bend the pipes across and use hot glue to secure the other end in the opposite lace hole. 

This guide was first published on Mar 01, 2015. It was last updated on Mar 01, 2015. This page (LED Assembly) was last updated on May 31, 2020.