Official Lego Lighting
Angle pieces for holding LED’s and reg Lego
1968 – 12v Train
1974 – First Figures
1978 – First With moveable
1981 – 2nd Gen Trains
1985 – Light and Sound Sets
1986 – Light and Sound Town and Space sets
1957 – First Lights [Pic of my 1957 Brick]
In 1969 Lego introduced a 4.5v system for Technic motors, trains and lights. 093 superset
1981 brought a Police based model with custom 9v powered sound and light components, sets 6430. Later in 1985 sets 6480 and 6450 were released with similar features.
[pics of those)
In XXXX Lego made some products that
In 1969 the Lego company developed a 12v lighting and motor system to use with their new train system.
Picture courtesy of Brickshelf.com
Picture courtesy of Brickshelf.com
Push to Light
The Lego company created a new light, which has a push button switch. This is in fitting with the Lego Group making it easy to add interactivity to the models it releases.
The first time I saw this was with the Christmas Toy Shop released in XXXXX.
Unofficial Lego Lighting
Lego shaped LEDs
A new arrival is the LED light brick sold by Spark Fun electronics [x]
The LEDs on these items has been shaped to the size of a 1x1 Lego brick complete with a stud on top. This makes them very easy to make smaller lit items like lampshades, sconces or street lights.
I'm hoping the next generation of them includes a stud on the side and a recess on the opposite side of it to facilitate sideward mounting into walls.
They come in 5 colours, and are very bright powered with the recommended voltage.
[Breadboard picture of the lights, lit and un lit]
The Littlebits electronic kits are an amazing set of components that snap together using magnets. They are very well designed, and come with an amazing amount of documentation on their web site, for both children and adults.
Available in a variety of sets, as well as individually, they have lights, buttons, sensors, internet connectivity and a programmable brick – most of which we will look at later.
For prototyping there are various LED components you can connect such as a rope light, RGB LED you can set to any colour to help decide what to buy for your permanent installation; or indeed just use the LittleBricks components themselves.
They can be powered by battery or USB, there is a LittleBit for both.
Wires and Lights – Flexability
The best fun you can have is using LED lights and programmable controllers. These are very cheap and easy, and you can plug and play a variety of things into a breadboard. A breadboard is an almost Lego like item that makes it easy to experiment with you lighting model before you actually put it in the building.
[Nano with Led]
By far the cheapest and most flexible solution to light a model is to use LEDs. You can buy over 100 lights for the price of one official Lego LED brick, and the wires too.
They plug neatly into the ends of the DuPont style wires.
[Vertical Bend pic]
[Diagram of LED]
[LED in wires, LED in clip]
One thing to note about LEDs is that they are not all equal, being that if you buy a bag of 100 hundred from the same seller and some may be different to each other. Test them in a row.
[Lined up pic]
As a lover of all things to play with that may educate me in someway, I am a great fan of http://kickstarter.com where inventors the world over create things and encourage you to back them. One of the projects I backed was the Circuit Stickets project at https://chibitronics.com which make it easy to create flat lighting using copper tape of the sort that gardeners use to keep slugs out of their plant pots.
Its very easy to create things with these, I’ve used them for cards, place mats and artwork.
[Pooh Placemat pictures]
By laying out copper tape or wire, you run positive and negative rails through the model and then bridge the two with a sticker.
You can also get stickers that introduce effects like fade, heartbeat and even a programmable sticker to create your own effects. The starter kit comes with an interactive book that teaches you the core concepts.
[Picure of book, both sides of lightbulb]
[Picture of effects circuit]
Resistors are the way to drop voltage to the level of the LEDs you are lighting up. Different LEDs like different voltages but also have a tolerance within which they will work and even if you power them too hard they will still work often, but just for a limited amount of time.
I have noted that they work overdriven for longer if you are fluctuating the voltage to them in order to create flickering or fade effects, and so if that is the case you have less to worry about in terms of longevity.
The Arduino programmable pins give out 5v as standard, so a 330ohm resister is needed to drop the voltage down to the 3.3 volts the average LED needs. Some of the LEDs need even less now, and you should check what you have.
Many breadboard based power supplies are switchable between 3.3v and 5v which means you can avoid many of the problems described above.
The great thing about resistors is that they work whichever way you install them. The coloured stripes on the resistor tell you what they do to the voltage applied to the LED.
You can buy small breadbards that can be easily hidden in your models, and also boards that stack on the Arduino boards and intereact with the pins directly saving wires.
Transistors are a way to light several LEDs from one control on your device.
[Picture on bread board]
[Picture on iCircuit]
This is particularly very useful for flood lighting large models.
A breadboard and power supply.
The simplest solution to lighting a lot of LEDs is to get a breadboard and a power supply. You can buy all this for under £5 at the time of writing, though you may have to wait a short while for postage from the Far East to get the best prices.
In the UK, you can buy them off the shelf at places such as Maplins, but you will find if you are willing to wait for the shipping you can buy 100 for the price of 10 in a much larger array of colours to suit your needs.
Jumper wires and Connecting Wires.
I have found that often the sellers of sensors and kits throw in a lot of cables with them, if you are exploring beyond the basic lighting mentioned in the book I recommend looking at this. I have had lots of freebies in my purchases.
Boxes of cables can be bought too, which lay flat on breadboards in a variety of sizes and even easily sit under other components.
[Picture of cable box]
[Picture of cables underneath things]
The beauty of the Dupont wires, which come in various guises and sizes, are they are the perfect solution for those that don’t like to solder, or who want to easily pull the modular houses apart.
They are produced in strips, with either male or female connectors – or both - and can be bought very cheaply. They fit into most of the Microcontrollers boards mentioned in this book, as well as connecting together and also into LEDs and other components.
[Picture of Leads]
[Picture in LED]
The likes of Maplins in the UK, Radio Shack in the USA or eBay, have boxes of pre-made jumper wires that are a very quick and neat solution especially for bread boards, and also lay flat on the breadboards and even under compoants if you need easier access to or want to avoid using header pins.
[Picture of jumpers o bread board]
[Picture of Jumper Box]
These are often refered to as U-Jumpers, and boxes of them are very cheap if you look around.
The other way of getting the jumper wires you need, is to make them.
This can be as simple as grabbing wire from old electronics and peeling back the ends with a knife, or buying a real of cable and using a cable stripper. You should aim to get solid core cable not stranded as its much easier to use with breadboards, unless you solder the strands together which is unnecessary hassle.
[Picture of Cable Stripper and wire]
Cable strippers can be bought from the usual sources including eBay, and are a lot quicker to use than a knife as well as being a lot safer!
You want to aim to strip about 11-13mm (1/2”) off the end of the cables, in order to fit them snugly into the breadboard. More is better than less, as long as you ensure wires do not short each other when sat side by side.
You can experiment with laying wires from hole to hole on the breadboard to get a feel for the sizes needed, as well as the size from the breadboard to the Arduino with the aim of having the least amount of cable for the situation, but not so tight it stops you working on the breadboard.
You can buy copper wire that is thin enough to hide in a stack of bricks, so you can literally hide it in the fabric of your buildings.
Copper tape can be used as a decorative feature, as well as providing the supply to your lights..
Gardeners put copper tape around pots to stop slugs munching on their favorite plants, as it gives them a shock and they head off to eat something else than your strawberry’s.
The tape comes in various sizes, both in thickness and length. More importantly it comes with either single sided or double sided conductivity, which for pots is fine but for your Lego models may make a difference.
If you find it easier to cut strips and stick them on your models then the double-sided tape is easier, as the glue is conductive and you can just lay strips one on top of the other to create a circuit.
The single sided copper tape needs to be laid in one continuous run, bending it as you go without cutting the tape. The single sided tape is considerably cheaper, but the double sided is considerable easier.
Breadboard switches provide interactivity to your project, be that a simple on/off or a change in effect.
Not all USB power is equal, and this is true of all power supplies.
A great new invention is the ElectronInks pen, a simple device that writes silver conductive ink.
A new enterprise at this time is BrickLoot, they offer a subscription service that primarily delivers boxes of Offical and Non Official Lego products.