How To Build An RGB Light Tunnel: Your Ultimate Guide

RGB (Red Green Blue) lights are a popular choice for creating dynamic displays, due to the wide range of colours that can be achieved by mixing the three primary colours. With a clear plastic tube, a few RGB LED lights, and a microcontroller to control them, you can create a mesmerizing light tunnel that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as decoration, entertainment, or art. In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps of building your own RGB light tunnel.

Gather the Materials

The first step in building an RGB light tunnel is to gather all of the necessary materials. You will need:

  • A clear plastic tube: This can be made of PVC, acrylic, or another transparent material. The length of the tube will depend on the size of your display and the amount of light you want to create.
  • RGB LED lights: These are lights that can produce any colour by mixing red, green, and blue. They are widely available and can be purchased online or from an electronics store.
  • A power source: You will need a power supply to power the lights and microcontroller. A 12V DC power supply is recommended for this project, but be sure to check the compatibility of your supply with your components.
  • A microcontroller: This will be used to control the lights. The most popular choice is an Arduino, which is easy to use and program.
  • Wiring components: You will need wires, connectors, and a soldering iron to connect the lights and microcontroller.
  • Hot glue or a similar adhesive: This will be used to secure the lights in place inside the tube.

Cut the Tube

Once you have all of your materials, the next step is to cut the clear plastic tube to the desired length. A mitre saw, or a hacksaw can be used to make the cut, but make sure to wear protective gear such as safety glasses and gloves to avoid injury.

Install the LED Lights

The next step is to install the LED lights inside the tube. To do this, you will need to measure and mark the location where each light will be placed. The lights should be spaced evenly along the tube length to ensure a consistent and even glow.

Once you have marked the locations, you can attach the LED lights to the inside of the tube using hot glue or a similar adhesive. Ensure that the lights are firmly attached and that the glue does not block the light from shining through.

Connect the Lights

With the lights installed, the next step is to connect them to the power source. The lights should be connected in parallel, with the anode (positive) of each light attached to the positive power supply and the cathode (negative) connected to the negative power supply.

To connect the lights, you will need to use wires and connectors. You can use a soldering iron to make the connections, but make sure to follow proper safety procedures when soldering.

Install the Microcontroller

The microcontroller will be used to control the lights, allowing you to change the colour, fade, or flash the lights in a specific pattern. To install the microcontroller, you will need to mount it to the exterior of the tube and connect it to the power source and the LED lights. There are many options available for controllers. A simple search on the internet for “pixel controllers” will provide a plethora of results.

Write the Code

Once the microcontroller is installed, the next step is to write the code that will control the lights. If you are using an Arduino, you can use the Arduino Integrated Development Environment (IDE) to write the code. If you are using a different controller, I encourage you to check out xLights! A GUI-based interface for programming lights.

The code will define the patterns and behaviours that you want the lights to display. For example, you can make the lights change colour, fade in and out, or flash in a specific pattern. You can also use the code to control the brightness of the lights using a dimmer switch or a potentiometer.

There are many tutorials, and examples available online that can help you get started with writing the code for your RGB light tunnel. You can also use these as inspiration for creating your own unique patterns and displays.

Power Up and Test

With the code written, the next step is to apply power to the system and test the lights to ensure that they are working as desired. If everything is working correctly, you should see the lights change colour and display the patterns that you have programmed.

Close the Tube

The final step is to seal the ends of the tube to prevent light from leaking out and to protect the components inside. You can use silicone or another sealant to seal the ends, making sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application. A silicon is encouraged as it can be removed should future repairs be required. Glue tends to be more permanent.

Building an RGB light tunnel is a fun and rewarding project that can be used for a variety of purposes. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create your own colourful display that can be used for decoration, entertainment, or art.

While the steps may seem intimidating, they are relatively straightforward and can be completed with basic electronics and microcontroller programming skills. With a bit of patience and effort, you can create a stunning and dynamic display that will be the center of attention wherever it is displayed.

Author

  • Rusty Griswold

    Since 2015, I have been building my light display to celebrate the holiday season and experimenting with various recipes to bring people together around the table. I have learned many do's and don'ts in both areas along the way, and share them with everyone via the rustygriswold.ca website.

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