One thing that I absolutely love is increasing the bang-for-the-buck of cheap lighting fixtures. Call it "e-upcycling". By trolling eBay, Alibaba, Amazon, etc you can often get decent cheap lighting effects in a horrible package that just need a reflector, bezel, background, or some other modification to make them really interesting. Here I attempted to find a use for some $12 lights from Amazon that looked horrible hanging on the wall by themselves by turning them into some large snowflake props for a DJ gig.
Step 1: The $12 light in question...
A few months ago I bought four of these $12 "Sunflower LED Lights" from Amazon...
Among the amazing things advertised are "Extraordinary VISION, super bright, AUTO Sound Active", so I knew I was getting into another cheap light imported from overseas type of situation. Upon arrival, I found that three of them were in pretty good shape with the LEDs mostly pointed radially, and the fourth was pretty badly assembled. They all however did power up and start doing their light dance.
Now the light dance may be "AUTO Sound Active", but the patterns aren't controllable. Meaning you can make whatever current pattern is playing change direction, but you can't lock it on a particular pattern; they just change on their own after a period of time. This is a huge bummer, because as with most cheap imported overseas lights about half of the patterns are horrible blinky RGB RGB RGB RGB messes that would never be usable for anything. I did break one of these apart and find some very simple circuitry based around a microcontroller that I am likely going to write my own firmware for, but that's another instructable entirely.
Anyway, winter holiday time rolled around and I decided to repurpose these as lighting decorations for an event that we were throwing by hiding them inside some laser cut multi-layer snowflakes. Despite the fact that the patterns are horrible about half of the time, the radial beam effect is pretty nice on a wall so I figured this might work well.
Step 2: Laser cutting the snowflakes
I started with a fairly simple vector snowflake design in Coreldraw and produced two output files. The "back" snowflake was a little bit larger and had hanging holes as well as a circle for the plastic protrusion of the light (one side is flat, and the other side has a bump that houses the AC/DC power supply circuitry). The "front" snowflake is a bit smaller and has no cutout in the middle.
My plan was to cut the back out of 1/8" plywood which I would paint white and then apply a glitter coat to catch the LED light. The front would be "sign white" acrylic. Both of these would be the largest snowflake that would fit in an 18"x18" box, as the stock I was working with was already 18"x24".
The Metabeam, as always, made quick work of cutting the materials.
Step 3: Painting the plywood back
After sanding the back, I hit it with two coats of Rust-oleum Semi-gloss White Paint/Primer. I've found that flatter paints usually catch light from LEDs much better, while the glosses seem to reflect it more. For this particular build I wanted a little bit of both.
When that was dry, I also gave the plywood back pieces a hefty dose of silver "diamond dust" glitter paint to add some extra sparkle.
Step 4: Adhering the Sunflower light
For attaching the three pieces, I went with my old standby: 3M VHB. This stuff is totally awesome and becomes almost impossible to separate after a short period of time.
I cut small strips and placed them on the flanged edge of the sunflower light, placed the light on the ground sticky-side-up, and placed the plywood directly on top and pressed for 60 seconds or so.
Next I applied a few strips to the other side of the light and pressed the acrylic piece onto it after carefully aligning them.
Viola! Now we have a nice new "audio reactive" decoration!
Step 5: Turn it on and check it out...
Well, I was pretty happy with the effect of this one right out of the gate. The only thing I would have improved, if given we had extra before the show, would be to have moved the power cord of the effect light to the other side of the PCB and enclosure so that it would come out of the back behind the plywood.
Embedded is also a short video, unfortunately of one of the more annoying modes. It does however show the diffusion of the lights through the white acrylic. They were nice and bright, and multiple fixtures seem to stay in sync (at least for a while) if they are all turned on at the same time with a DMX controlled relay.