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Hive13 Project
Glass Block LED Matrix
Status: Inactive
Start Date: 10/21/2009
End Date: ADFDJK


This page is way out of date...


The goal of this project is to build an RGB LED Display that will sit behind the glass block window in the Hive13 bathroom effectively turning the 7x8 glass block window into a 7x8 pixel RGB display.

A subgoal of the project for this display to be mobile, allowing for it to be taken to hacker cons and other Hive13 events.

We are building the framework for the display from PVC pipe. The display is powered by a RainbowDruino.

Project Manager



Project Status

The framework of PVC pipe has been cut and fitted together. We are currently in the assembly phase of the project. RGB LED strands need to be soldered together and tested.

We have had some issues with crosstalk in Cat-5 cables and problems with bad RGB LEDs. We are attempting to remedy (or at least alieviate) the crosstalk problem by using Cat-3 cable for the anode wires (rather than the Cat-5). This means we will need to buy more Cat-3 sooner rather than later.

As for the RGB LEDs, the current strategy is lots of testing. We have gone through the LEDs and tested most of them for really bad failures however I suggest we test each LED after it has been soldered into its protoboard and again after it has been soldered into the strand. This can be done with a multimeter, if there is a resistance other than infinite from any cathode -> anode then the LED is probably bad.

What Needs to be Done

  1. Solder up the RGB LED strands
    • See "RGB LED Strand Soldering and Mounting"
  2. Drill out 2nd set of pipes
    • See "PVC Pipe Drilling"
  3. Test 66 block punchdown strategy.
  4. Mount 66 block and PVC hinges

Project Needs

  • I think we have all the parts required, however a smaller Tenma soldering tip would be nice.
  • A dedicated power supply. (information on what we need?)
  • People to solder the LED's

Project Information

Glass Block Window

  • The window is 7 blocks wide, and 8 blocks tall.
  • The window is 56 inches wide and 63 inches tall.
  • The window is recessed:
    • 4.5" on the left
    • 3.375" on top
    • flush w/ right wall
    • 6.375" on bottom w/ a downward slope towards the window. The wood is raised 0.5" from the floor on the outside then slopes down towards the window.
  • Each block is 7.5" square with an average of 0.56" of grout on either side.
  • There is no grout on the left, right, top, or bottom sides of the window.

Parts List

Part Source Status Description
Frame Home Depot Purchased and Assembled PVC Pipes, elbows, and T-connectors
Rainbowduino cjdavis has purchased and received. Thanks to Great customer service from NKC Electronics - LED matrix controller, can be daisy chained together, or used singly
USB to TTL Programmer board Purchased, received, tested This also has a mount for a XBee wireless device so we can program the matrix wirelessly.
56x RGB LEDs (Common Anode) and The 70x adafruit ones have arrived, ebay ones are in transit Dave bought 70x RGB's from Adafruit however we have been having issues with these and might not have enough. Paul has 100x RGB LEDs on order from China, they are in transit now with an ETA of ~ Jan. 15. 2010.
Wiring Harness Misc Need more Cat-3 This was originally going to be done with Cat-3 connecting the RGB LED's cathodes and Cat-5 being used for each anode, however due to cross talk issues we will be using only Cat-3.
Power Supply Rainbowduino will take anywhere between 5.5v and 9v, but is highly recommended to stay with 6-6.5v

Project Construction

PVC Pipe Framework

Framework Information

  • Framework is made of 1" white PVC pipe, right angle joints and T-joints.
  • The individual upright columns are 60" long.
  • The frame consists of two major assemblies of 4 columns that are then hinged together by a piece of white pine wood.
  • The plank of wood will hold the electronic brains of the display.

Hole Drilling Process

  • The LED's poke through 13/64" holes in the front of the pipe. The LED's are 5 mm, 13/64 is the closest bit we could find to 5mm @ 5.15 mm.
  • The LED's can be positioned in place by a 3/4" hole in the back of the pipe. The 3/4" hole is immediately behind the 13/64" holes.


Image Instruction
m|center</flickr> Attach the pipe to be drilled to the jig to hold it steady. The Jig is simply a long piece of wood with a V cut into it with a table saw. The pipe is held down with screws and washers on either end of the pipe.
m|center</flickr> Using a pencil,draw a line down the side of the pipe, using the jig as a kind of ruler. Then rotate the pipe in the jig so that the line is down the center of the pipe.
m|center</flickr> First measure out 3.5 inches from the bottom of the pipe, mark it on the center line. Then using measuring tape, mark out a point every 8 inches on the pipe. These are the points where we are going to drill pipe.
m|center</flickr> m|right</flickr> Using the marks made in the previous step and a 13/64 drill bit, drill through both sides of the pipe. Be careful to not drill into the jig.
m|center</flickr> After drilling the 13/64" holes through both sides, swap the drill bit for the 3/4" hole saw. Adjust the drill press table so that the hole saw will cut through only one side of the pipe. Then use the 13/64" holes as a pilot to ensure that the new holes are centered. The cut out slug will probably be stuck inside the hole saw, you can cut 3 holes before you need to disassemble the it and remove the built up slugs.
m|center</flickr> The hole saw leaves a rather nasty mess, this needs to be cleaned up with an exacto knife or other razer.
m|center</flickr> Ta-Da! Final result. You can remove the pipe from the jig now.

Wiring Diagram

  • TODO: How stuff is wired together
  • TODO: The soldering process

Rainbowduino Programming

Uploading to Rainbowduino