DIY LED-NEON Signs
Since dusjagr's visit to Taipei in October 2018, we got completely hooked up with those LED-NEON tubes to be used for making simple DIY signs, artworks, installations, workshops and more. Together with the artist duo Veli & Amos we experimented using them for next-gen demonstration banners, solar-powered public mobile billboard-on-a-car and more to come soon... This is not a commercial!
- 1 General Intro
- 2 How to make them
- 3 DIY Signs and Workshops
- 4 Digital Designs and CNC milling
We experimented with various different versions of these LED Neon tubes (search for "Flex LED Neon Light" on aliexpress.com), ordered them from China, which can take 3-5 weeks. There are different versions, most important is the Voltage! They are sold as 220V, 12V (and 24V). All have their own use, benefits and cons.
We advise to get started with the 12V tubes, makes your life easier, less problems with high-voltage, less danger and easy to dim, or control with switches or microcontrollers. And most importantly the 12V tubes can be cut as you want every 2.5 cm.
More about 12V tubes
When ordering the 12V tubes, make sure you get the high-density "120leds/M" versions, for a more uniform NEON-light effect. We found two different versions of tubing, one is kinda whitish tube and the color is only visible when the LEDs is powered on, the other is using coloured tubing and when powered on gives kinda a more smooth light. It depends on your style and design ideas, but generally we preferred the coloured tubing, also it's easier to find the color of choice in a bag full of little pieces of tube!
Our favorite supplier for the coloured tube is here on aliexpress. Best to order a few different colors and at least 4 meters each to get started.
They come in various colours, usually from cold white, warm white, yellow, green, blue, red and pink, somtimes a store might have 1 or 2 more colours available. Another version is "round" tubes, which are not covered in this description, cos they can't be easily glued or mounted to a board.
Power Supply / Netzteil 12V
For the 12V tubes you will need a trafo also known as 12V power supply, or "Netzteil", which you might have lying around in your house or you can find them in many many stores. check the rating, it has to be a 12V DC output, and if your sign is getting bigger and bigger, make sure they have enough power, which can be read as "A" for Ampere, or as power something like 30W, 100W. For small signs, the same store sell this one, 2A, and it comes with a little switch. For larger signs or the whole room lighting best to get 5-10A. It might not come with a Swiss plug... but you can also search on Ricardo.ch or ebay.ch for local suppliers or get it from Conrad or any other local electronics / household store. They start at around 6CHF and go up to 30CHF for more power.
For "smaller" signs a USB-step-up converter can also be used. Found on AliExpress.
DC plug and socket
As we are making the signs ourselves, we will also need to add a DC socket (female) on the side of the LED sign, to be abe to plug in the DC plug (make) of the power supply or add a battery. Best to go to Pusterla or Conrad with your power supply (Netzteil) and make sure it has the right size and fits tighly. Sadly they come sometimes in weird dimensions. But most of them come with this kinda standard size.
12V DC is easy to dim... many units are available on Aliexpress. Some of them work with PWM, or you can adjust the voltage with a DC-DC step down converter.
This really cheap one from Aliexpress
Some info about the 220V tubes
They are also useful, if you just want to add a single color tube / line in your room, a wave, a little heart etc, and they can just be plugged into the wall plug. The tubes already come with a little integrated converter and a plug. BUT they can only be cut every 1m, so they are not suitable for a LED sign that combines different elements, or if you want to combine different colored tubes in one "painting".
- Side cutter
- Plier (flat)
- Super glue (instant glue, Sekundenkleber)
- Soldering iron and solder wire
- Strong wire
How to make them
DIY Signs and Workshops
2nd Workshop at L200, July 2019
16. July 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Workshop at L200, April 2019
Great fun at L200 aka Langstrasse 200, Zürich, for the Workshop, many many more people seem to be interested. Let's do it again!
Short Video Docu
Here more impressions form the workshop, photos are taken from social media by Panos and Alex. Thanks for joining!
Workshop in Fablab Zurich, Dec 2019
Hall of Fame
Digital Designs and CNC milling
See on github