LED Sign Construction

Making the LED Sign during Broken City Lab office hours

Tuesday night’s Broken City Lab Office Hours were successful, but as usual, all too short. Spending the majority of the time in Lebel’s wood shop, we started working on our LED sign, but still have a long ways to go with it. We cut plexiglass, drilled holes, and started soldering—I think we’ll continue next Monday and Tuesday night at Office Hours. Lots of photos of the whole process after the jump.

Cutting down the words to take proper measurements

The first step was trimming down the words to their very edges to get a better idea of how they would fit on the plexiglass. We got a few sheets of plexiglass that were going to be thrown out from the hallways of Lebel, and this sheet happened to be almost the perfect length.

The letters with proper 1 inch spacing around them

We laid out the words, realizing that the letters were about 2″ high, the masking tape 1″ wide, we would only have to cut a little bit off the end.

Immony clamps the plexiglass in the University of Windsor woodshop

Immony went about clamping the plexiglass along with a meter stick to give us an edge to score the plexiglass. The meter stick was a bit warped, so we used another board to brace it.

Josh begins scoring the plexiglass

Josh scores the plexiglass with an xacto knife. 

Everyone supervises Josh score the plexiglass

Everyone else supervises.

Michelle and Josh work to finish scoring the plexiglass

We reasoned that after all this measuring and clamping, it would be good to make the first break of the plexiglass the right one. You have to score the plexiglass a bunch of times, then it will snap off. However, even after all our preparation, the first snap ended up breaking at a strange angle on the right-hand side. We only lost 1.5″, so we just re-centered the words, shortening the length of the plexiglass and cut it again.

The final layout for the sign

This time, the break was clean, and the spacing between words is still fine.

Josh begins marking where the holes need to go for the LEDs

Josh then used Steven’s gold glass pen to mark where the holes would have to be drilled for the LEDs.

Darren bravely uses his finger to hold down the plexiglass while drilling

Immony took on the drilling. We put a piece of MDF under the plexiglass to try to keep it from cracking.

Immony drills the sign

Immony made some adjustments on the fly to the placement of the drill holes.

Immony using the drillpress

In the end, the letter M ended up being the most difficult in terms of fitting enough LEDs in and shaping it correctly.

First word done on the drill press

Most of the first word, MAKE, done. You can see that we were a little off with the placement of holes for the LEDs. At 10mm each, the peaks of the M and the diagonals on the K had the holes a little too close to one another.

Immony continuing with the drillpress

Immony went on with the rest of the sign.

Immony showing off his drill press skills

Immony gave us an action shot of his awesome drill press skills.

Back around the table, we begin to sort out the LEDs

Back around the table, we started laying in some LEDs into the holes, starting with the first word.

Steven fashions a stand for our soldering iron

Steven fashioned a stand for the soldering iron for safety.

Josh and Michelle try to figure out some adjustments that need to be made

We realized that some of the holes would need to be redone, so rather than going back to the wood shop, we used the soldering iron to make some new holes. 

The layout for soldering the letter A

You can see our first bit of soldering on the letter A, along with the new holes on the letter M on the right.

Josh and Michelle try to clean up some of the solder

Josh and Michelle try to clean up some of the solder.

The letter A soldered

The letter A, partially soldered. We’re going to wire up the sign in parallel, so each anode of the LED needs to be connected, then each cathode needs a resistor and then will be connected to the next cathode. Above, we soldered the anodes first, the cathodes are standing up, waiting for resistors.

the letter A in LEDs on plexiglass

The letter A from the front view of the sign. 

Justin and Michelle look at the possibility of using a diffused plexiglass

Steven had suggested that we could try using a frosted plexiglass to finish the sign. He sanded down a spare piece of the plexi we had, and we were testing it to see if the legibility increased over having just the bare bulbs. Darren got this great photo of it.

Office Hours this week were really productive and now we can move forward with the soldering of all the letters.

6 Replies to “LED Sign Construction”

  1. Nice commentary! I would hope we could come together this upcoming week and “test our A.” The teamwork was at it’s height on Tuesday and I think we’ll really need it when we choose to mount our tape sign.

  2. I’m looking to working on things more and getting into documenting your work more too. It’s taking time but I’m starting to get more comfortable with my camera finally. It was good to see you at the BT today too Justin. Looks like lots of interesting things will come together as the year goes on.

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