The Lino board was correctly made and roughly tested. But now, how can I see how correctly performs? By simply integrating the load (power LEDs) and the PC environment to a complete working system. In this article will be provided a summary of these various steps, just to keep rtace of the progresses.
The test load
The load is made by 4 Glighter-S that are powering as many power LEDs. I grouped them in a proto PCB like in picture below:
These 4 boards are simply connected to the same power line, with 4 control wires that are connected th Lino. Each of their output is connectet to a single LED, with the result of 4 LEDs in total driven singularly by Lino.
The finger test
Now, moving to the board that actually carry the LEDs, I felt the need to change some things. When doing my math, I realized that a small heatsink could work keeping the LEDs cool enough to keep them alive, as you can see here:
This “cool enough” is not enough to pass the so called finger test: this test is considered to be failed if you can’t stand a finger on the heatsink or any surface. If this happens, we are likely more than 65°C, depending on what is it your job, if you are a farmer maybe you have thicker skin and maybe you are sensible to higher temperatures.With this one, we are passing 80°C using my IR thermometer. My finger is definetely hopeless.
Since the heatsink actually shall be touched during the usage and my finger must not be burned, I needed to ovesize the heatsink itself. With a new one, the maximum temperature rise to no more than 60°C, and I extend by 20°C more the ambient operating temperature range of the LEDs:
As you can see, I need to think about the shape of the heatsink and the PCB. But for this test, what’s in the picture is acceptable.
Turn on the board
The board can be driven using the USB/serial or with a single encoder. Herein I will show the serial test, and to generate the correct data pattern to be sent on the board, I wrote a simple Python script to simplify the testing. It uses Python 3+, exploits the pySerial and Tkinter module. Basically the Tkinter lib generates an HTML compatible color code and will be arrangend to an array sent throug the serial line, here emulated on USB. At every complete frame received, Lino will apply instantly the requested color. In other words, when receives the “stop character” described in the Lino protocol.
Here the complete assembled configuration, where the power supply is given from a 9V – 1.5A DC power supply that will be connected to the board.
Let’s connect the DC power jack and the USB to the Lino and to a PC running the Python script demo available here.
Run the script with Python 3.5+ and the following will be opened:
Just type the available COM that appears when you connect the board, a space mark and write the communication speed used by Lino. Press enter and the following appears:
It is in italian, but it is the intuitive and dummy default color table provided by Windows: select the right combination and press OK. Lino automatically displays the colors on the LEDs.
Shades of white
Note that it is implemented a white adjustment computed directly by the Lino’s microcontroller, the white component that controls the white LED it is not generated by the script: when all of the RGBs are greater than zero, there is a bit of white that will be reproduced using the fourth pure white LED, making it more realistic with respect the expectations. In this way I can generate any kind of white light shade. Awesome.
Setting-up the prototype
To set up everything and test it in a more compact way, I thought to use a PVC panel. But at the moment they were missing. So to finish in the same day, I remembered that I have kept a light guide plate from an old LCD panel. I knew that wasn’t trash!
A light guide plate is a panel (in acrylic like material) with some dots that are intercepting the light from the side backlight and redirect, guiding it, it to the LCD, actually rotating the light path by 90° towards the LCD panel:
Then I have realized too late that I could make a photo before cutting the plane, so here is what remains of my panel, already cutted, bended and somehow abused:
Exactly, the old panel was used for all but lighting purposes. In the end, I can put everything in a uglyish case, sticked on the wall like a painting:
The video below shows the working system paired with the PC:
When only powered from USB, the firmware derates the total provided power to stay inside the power budget of 2.5W. This video shows the automatic power handler when disconnecting/connecting the main power supply: