Clint, the other tech-tut.com owner, and I have joined our powers together to begin designing an 8 can lighting system that would fit any budget. We were, and still are, hoping to keep it under $150. We have had estimates as high as $200, but we keep getting creative. The first money saving device was for Clint to build a computer program to control the settings instead of having a “breakout box” to do all the work. This means that we don’t have to buy a bunch of slider pots and switches, which add up in cost almost exponentially.
The second money saver was something that did create a little extra work, for the future since I don’t have any parts to do this yet. We were going to have PCBs made for the LEDs to be mounted to. The cheapest PCBs were close to $6 a piece plus shipping. That’s not bad, but when you have 8 cans, this really adds up fast. What I’ll do is make a template to drill holes. We are going to mount these light into 3″ PVC pipes, and I found some knockout plugs that could be used in place of PCBs. I’ll just drill holes and mount the LEDs into that plug. Once the connections are made, I’ll just hot glue them into place. I love hot glue!
The brains of this operation will certainly be a computer. It doesn’t have to be a powerful or fast computer. We will communicate via USB, through a USB-Serial converter, to a MAX232 connected to a PIC16F887 Microchip programmed in C. The 16F887 will then communicate with 8 PIC12F615 Microchips to control each light individually. To control the brightness of the LEDs we will use PWM. The whole idea seems to work in theory, but only actual testing will tell.
Each light can will contain 25 high-brightness LEDs. I chose 18000mcd, 20° LEDs because they were relatively inexpensive on Ebay. I’ll see how they do and make a decision before looking into anything different.