Creating the LED Driver Board (Round 2). Attack of the NeoPixels.

Since I first created my LED driver board I’ve come across another pinball fan who has created a great site detailing his plans on building multiple custom pinball machines.  You can visit his site at:

https://howtobuildapinballmachine.wordpress.com/about/

He has pointed out to me that there are now many options for controlling LEDs.  As they are off the shelf options, I would not have to create my own LED driver board from scratch.  The plus side is that it is cheaper and faster to move forward on making the actual pinball machine.  The downside is that I will be more dependent on third party products that may not be around at any point in the future.

Nonetheless, it is important to explore options and I intend to do this.

The primary option for controlling LEDs that I intend to explore comes from Adafruit and the LED parts are called Neo Pixels.

Neo Pixels are individually controllable super ultra-bright miniature LEDS.  They can be chained together yet they are individually addressable requiring with only one control wire.  Best yet they are fully 24-bit color capable.  According to Adafuit, an Arduino can drive up to 500 pixels at 30 FPS.  That is more than enough lights for any pinball machine!

Right now I am waiting for my Neo Pixels to arrive.  Until then I have plenty other parts to work on.  I believe that this might be a better LED lighting solution than my custom shift register board.  But I do have some concerns.  Adafruit mentions that after 6 inch spacing between Neo Pixels you can lose signal.  I believe this is more of a problem when using thin clothing wire thread so hopefully this is not going to be an issue.

I have since received my NeoPixels and they were quite easy to get working with the Arudino UNO!  Here is a sample of two pixels working:

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