Simple LED Backlight

February 08, 2014

So you're looking to get some nice LED backlight, but aren't looking to spend hundreds of dollars? You're in luck. With Chicago Electronic Distributors and some household items you can do just that!
Though I'm an IT guy, I'm no guru when it comes to soldering and small electronics. If I can do it, so can you. Here's my tutorial:


1.) What you're going to need:

 From left to right: A soldering iron, 2 sided tape, solder, electrical tape, an 8 LED Neopixel Stick (purchased here), an Arduino Uno (purchased here), some female to female jumpers (purchased here), and some male to male jumper converters. Note: Not pictured is a standard USB cable I used. You can use any spare USB cable you might have laying around the house. 

2.) In fact, that's where we'll start. Find a spare USB cable. Cut the end off that DOES NOT plug into a computer. Strip away about 1-1.5 inches away from the cable. This will expose a bunch of shielding. Strip that away and just tape whatever is left over to the side of the cable. you should now see the 4 cables inside a USB cable. 
Take the power cable (red) and strip it back to expose bare wire. THIS IS THE ONLY WIRE NEEDED FROM THE USB CABLE. 


3.) Now let's take a black female to female jumper wire and cut off one end. Strip back about .5 of an inch that exposes bare wire. Do the SAME THING for a wire you'll use for the DIN cable. I used green, but this can be whatever color you'd like. 


4.) Alright, so now we should have a USB cable with exposed 4 wires coming out of it, 2 jumper wires that have female ends with the other ends exposing wire. Now let's convert the necessary jumpers to male on our Arduino:



5.) Now the fun part. Soldering. 
We're going to solder the red wire from the USB cable to the "5v" power segment on the Neopixel Stick (note: it might say "4-7v"). The black jumper wire we're using for ground will go to "GND". Then the colored jumper wire will solder to the segment labeled "DIN". Note: do not get DIN confused with DOUT! :) 

6.) Once you have everything soldered, it's time to start plugging things into the Arduino. The diagram from Adafruit should help with this one.

In summary, the black jumper wire will attach to the pin labeled "GND" and the colored jumper cable will attach to pin #6.

7.) Once you have everything plugged into the Arduino, it's time to configure everything. Be sure to have the latest Arduino IDE downloaded and installed on your computer. Then, browse to Download the file, rename the folder to 'Adafruit_NeoPixel', then move the entire folder to the Arduino Libraries folder.

8.) Now, plug in your Arduino to your computer, as well as your USB cable that's attached to your Neopixel Stick. Now open File->Sketchbook->Library->Adafruit_NeoPixel->strandtest sketch. Make sure your PIN is set to "6" and the number of LEDs is set to "8". Verify your code and upload it to your Arduino. If everything works out right, you should see some pretty bright stuff happen! 

9.) Now let's get this thing mounted. I simply took down my monitor, flipped it on it's face, slapped on a piece of double sided mounting tape and attached my Neopixel Stick to it, horizontally. 

10.) Now you'll just have to hide everything to the way you'd like it. You can mess with the programming of the Arduino code to your satisfaction and you're set! Simple, affordable backlighting! 


Checkout the video:

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