All of the lights, but how?

Hi,

I have been using Brickstuff lights for a few years, and I really like them. So easy to work with!

I am working on a big(ish) project now, where I will create 50 or so "cells" where each cell will be lit. Somehow. The cells need to be modular as they will be coming with me to events, travelling by car or plane. I am currently working on the hows and the whys, but I still haven't found a good way to do the lights.

So far I have found that using the LED strips provide the best light, but of course the pico lights are smaller and easier to hide well. I would like to be able to move maybe 5 cells as a module, I think that will work just fine, I just haven't figured out where to put the cables yet. I have tried having the lights on the outside of the cell, mounted at an angle facing in, and while it looks good inside, they bulkiness on the outside is not very nice.

I have tried picos through the ceiling,  which is ok, but it doesn't really provide enough light. My next experiment will be a LED strip recessed into a ceiling brick somehow.

I see I can run about 100 lights on one power source, but that the ones towards the end will be dim. What does this actually mean? How many and how dim?

What is the max number of lights I can run and still expect max brightness?

I would prefer LED strips over picos due to the brightness, but maybe there is a solution here that I am not aware of?

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  • Hello, and thank you for your message.  I'm happy to hear you are enjoying our lights, and I'm interested to see what large project you are working on!

    For your setup, I think the "Home Run" wiring method would make most sense.  This is explained on the last page of the instruction manual for our Light Strip Starter Kit.  With this setup, you'd have one main power wire that would feed each of the "cells"-- each cell would be like a branch on the tree, with the main power line being like the trunk of the tree.  With this setup, as long as you were powering the lights with a USB power source and either a USB battery bank or plug-in mains power adapter, you should be able to power all of the lights in the chain of cells.  I know Jim Pirzyk has done a lot of work with large-scale wiring setups-- maybe he could offer some additional guidance here.

    In terms of which lights to use for each cell, we're going to be launching some new LED panels early next month that might work for your setup.  These are thin and have a cool white light-- not as bright as strips but providing a larger area of smooth light.  I'll be writing a post about them soon in the Forum, and if you have any photos of your cells or more details about the area you need to light inside of each cell, I'd be happy to make some more specific recommendations as well.

    Good luck with your project, and thank you again for your post!

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  • Benedicte P said:
    I see I can run about 100 lights on one power source, but that the ones towards the end will be dim. What does this actually mean? How many and how dim?

     So this depends on quite a few factors.  Ultimately you are trying to limit the voltage drop between the first light and the last light in the string.  A voltage drop of 1W will be noticeable and depending on what color the LED is, it maybe enough for it to look like it is not working.  (I'm looking at you, Green LEDs).

    So I use several techniques to help limit the voltage drop:

    • Invest in a multimeter.  I use this to test voltage drops in my display.  I also have created pig tail connectors I can use to help troubleshoot and spare LEDs.
    • Use a high fanout.  Right from the power source have a branch board to provide as many lines as possible before you hit the first LED.  100 LEDs in serial is going to have quite a big drop at the end compared to 10 lines each only having 10 LEDs.
    • Limit the length of cable.  Using the shortest possible cables between each LED will help cut down the voltage drop.  Ultimately this is reducing the resistance throughout the entire line.
    • Using thicker cables closer to the power source.  So think of your wiring plan like a tree, where the trunk is thicker than the leaves.  As you get to your cell, the wires within the cell can be thinner than the wires delivering the power to each cell.  I use the DIY cable ends that Brickstuff sells and solder them onto heavier gauge wire.  Furthermore my wiring to get to each building (think the Modulars) are solid wires and connectors you'd find in other electronics.  Thicker wires can conduct higher amperage of power than thin wires.  If you have something wired up and on, and the wire feels warm or hot, you need to upgrade that wire to a thicker wire.
    • Replace connectors that are getting loose.  My display gets setup and torn down for weekend LEGO shows (like BrickWorld) so this puts stress on my connectors.  I regularly have to replace connectors because they can get frayed.

    I regularly run about 500+ LEDs through a USB cable connected to house power.  Some of my longest lines do suffer from a noticeable voltage drop, then I may reconfigure the wiring plan to work around the issue.

    Other devices still get their own USB cable run to them, like the induction power that Brickstuff sold a few years ago.  It's amperage pull is quite high.

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  • Thank you both for your replies, this gives me so much more to work with!

    I have never had a large amount of lights before, and I need to order (almost) everything, which means I need to know more or less what to get. It is difficult to test this without enough lights. I have around 25-30 or so now, so I can prototype the modules and each cell, but I  have no idea what the finished build will be like as of now.

    I appreciate your comments about thinking of it like a tree. I believe I have a tendency to over complicate things.

    I'll have a look at this again tonight and see where it gets me.

    Rob Klingberg These panels sound interesting! What size are they? I would prefer white light, so maybe this is a good solution!

    I am not quite ready to share anything yet as I am in a trial and error phase right now. Maybe later when things are a bit more structured.

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