andru24

A Complete Idiot's Guide to Building an LED Array

71 posts in this topic

First off I am a complete DIYer but not wise in the ways of circuitry/electricity. But given good enough instructions I should be able to do everything necessary. Also, take everything I say here with a grain of salt as it is based not on any actual knowledge or training other than the experience of building the light itself.

 

I am going to be using this thread to document every minute detail of this build. I will be updating the first post as I go along so that all necessary info is in one place, and using the other posts to ask questions before I perform any given step.

 

This light will be going over my 20 Long AIO which has a display area of 24x12x12 and will be retrofitted into my existing 150w MH fixture

 

Please, let me know if I am doing anything wrong/stupid.

 

***ALSO, DON'T DO ANYTHING STUPID LIKE KILL YOURSELF BY FORGETTING TO UNPLUG STUFF BEFORE TOUCHING IT*** oh and don't touch the hot part of soldering irons while hot (I totally did this)

 

STEP 1: Parts/Planning/Purchasing

Complete parts list

 

LEDs: 18 CREE (10 royal blue, 8 cool white) from RapidLED

Drivers: 2x Meanwell 60-48D from RapidLED

Dimming: 10v power supply, 2x 10K ohm potentiometers from RapidLED

Heatsink: 4.25" x 16" from RapidLED

 

Other stuff:

- 3 rolls of 18 gauge wire from Radio Shack (red/green/black)

- 18/5 sprinkler wire from Home Depot

- aluminum L-bar (Home Depot)

- rubber grommets (Radio Shack)

- 1 plastic "project box" (The Container Store)

- wire nuts (RapidLED/Home Depot)

- 63/37 rosin core solder (Radio Shack)

- self-tapping screws (Home Depot)

 

Tools:

- 10A max multimeter

- 40w soldering iron

- alligator clips

- drill

- hacksaw

- wire cutters/strippers

- tape measure

- clamps

- screwdrivers

 

I have sketched out my LED layout on my heatsink in Sketchup. LEDs are 2" apart in the rows and the rows are 3" apart. The two extra Royal Blue are in the middle.

 

LED.png.jpg

 

 

My first hurdle is understanding the wiring. After posting some questions I have come up with the following:

LED%20Layout.gif.jpg

 

 

All LED supplies received, which includes 18x 60 degree lenses (didn't use), 2 potentiometers, 10v adapter w female socket, Arctic Alumina thermal adhesive, 12 LEDs, 2 power cords, 2x Meanwell ELN-60-48D drivers, heatsink, wire pieces (didn't use...too short), and some wire nuts.

IMG_0410.jpg

 

 

STEP 2: Attaching LEDs to Heatsink

First I mapped out where my LEDs are going on the heatsink using a sharpie.

 

IMG_0411.jpg

 

 

Then using baby wipes I cleaned off the circled areas and wiped down with a dry paper cloth.

 

Then in batches of about 5 LEDs at a time, I mixed together a 1:1 ratio of the thermal adhesive 2-part using the plastic spoon that came with it. Then applied a small amount of the mixture to each LED, placed on heatsink, pushed down, and wiggled the LED around to distribute the adhesive.

 

This is what it looked like part way completed.

IMG_0412.jpg

 

I wiped away excess to the extent I could without nudging the LEDs.

 

Completed array, & closeup:

IMG_0413.jpgIMG_0414.jpg

 

All LEDs are positioned with the same orientation with the + to the left and - to the right. This puts the soldered connection points towards the middle allowing the wired connection to be more direct from LED to LED without having to go around the LEDs (if that makes sense).

 

 

STEP 3: Wiring & Testing First String

Had to pick up a few things at RadioShack: Multimeter, Alligator Clips, 63/37 rosin core solder, and a soldering iron (40w). I already had a soldering iron, but it was for making stained glass windows and didn't have the right kind of tip.

IMG_0415.jpg

 

Plugged in the soldering iron, let it warm up, and then tried to just heat the wire ends up on the CREE star terminals. This did not work. So after watching some YouTube videos, I started tinning the wire ends first by holding them on the soldering iron then dotting some solder on them. Then held the tinned wire ends over the CREE terminals and placed the soldering iron on top until the solder melted and attached. Even with this I had some difficulty getting the solder to stick to the CREE stars... not sure why. The solder that was pre-tinned on the stars didn't seem to want to melt very easily.

 

First piece successfully soldered.

IMG_0416.jpg

 

Closeup:

IMG_0418.jpg

 

Not one of my better ones (this one actually ended up needing to redone as it didn't make a solid connection):IMG_0419.jpg

 

First string all soldered up:

IMG_0420.jpg

 

I then soldered a longer red wire to the + terminal of the first LED and a black wire to the - terminal of the last LED.

 

I then set about connecting everything to test and set the driver's internal potentiometer:

1) Connected the ACL (brown) wire from the driver to the black load wire from the power cord using a wire nut.

2) Connected the ACN (blue) wire from the driver to the white neutral wire from the power cord using a wire nut.

3) Connected the V+ (red) wire from the driver to the red wire attached to the first LED using alligator clips.

4) Connected the V- (black) wire from the driver to the black wire attached to the last LED using alligator clips.

5) Connected the DIM+ (blue) wire from the driver to the positive terminal of the 10v power adaptor jack using alligator clips.

6) Connect the DIM- (white) wire from the driver to the negative terminal of the 10v power adaptor jack using alligator clips.

 

Everything connected (but not plugged in)

IMG_0422.jpg

 

I then removed the screws and opened the Meanwell driver and turned the SVR2 potentiometer fully counter clockwise.

 

Opened Meanwell (internal pot is white screw in lower right)

IMG_0421.jpg

 

I then plugged in both the main power plug and the power adaptor and prayed. At first it did not work... unplugged everything and discovered a soldered connection didn't take and an alligator clip had fallen off. Fixed these two things and ... VOILA! It works.

IMG_0423.jpgIMG_0424.jpg

 

I then went about connecting a multimeter to set the max current using the SVR2 internal pot. Multimeter is installed between the driver and first led... driver V+ to multimeter 10A max port then multimeter COM to first LED's positive terminal.

 

All hooked up.

 

IMG_0425.jpg

Reading is 250 mA with SVR2 turned full counter clockwise.

IMG_0426.jpg

 

I turned the SVR2 pot clockwise until reading was around 900 mA

 

IMG_0427.jpg

 

This is what it looks like with the blues running and the current set at ~900 mA.

IMG_0428.jpg

 

I then repeated the process for the white string

 

IMG_0430.jpg

IMG_0431.jpg

 

Made some cool shadows on the ceiling.

IMG_0432.jpg

 

 

 

STEP 4: Retrofitting Into Old Fixture and Finishing Wiring of Pots

 

 

This is my metal halide fixture that the LED will be retrofitted into. I would have liked to use the ballast box to hold the drivers and wiring but it was not big enough.

 

IMG_0433.jpg

 

After taking it all apart

IMG_0436.jpg

 

Looks like it will fit perfectly

IMG_0437.jpg

 

I bought some L aluminum bars to use to attach the heatsink to the fixture. I cut 4 pieces, 1 for each corner, long enough to allow two screws to be attached to the heatsink and a bit of over hang on the ends. I cut the aluminum bar using a hacksaw and attached with self tapping metal screws.

 

IMG_0441.jpgIMG_0442.jpg

 

There were two aluminum pieces that were used in the old fixture that I reused to attach across the ends and then screwed those into the fixture.

IMG_0443.jpg

 

The next step was to build out a project box to hold the drivers, dimming pots and all the wired connections. I couldn't find a big enough project box at Radio Shack so for now I am using a clear plastic box from The Container Store.

 

IMG_0438.jpg

 

There are total of 6 holes that I had to drill into the box. 2 for each driver power cord, one for the dimming power adaptor, 1 for the wire that runs to the fixture and 2 for the pots.

IMG_0440.jpg

 

I then painted the box black with Krylon fusion paint and started running the wires. I used rubber gromets to keep it looking decent.

 

IMG_0446.jpg

 

As you can see it starts to look like a real jumble of wires.

 

IMG_0449.jpgIMG_0451.jpg

 

I used 18 gauge-5 wire sprinkler wire from Home Depot from the project box to the fixture... 2 wires (+/-) for each string and one extra wire that I didn't use. I made the connections using insulated wire nuts.

 

IMG_0445.jpg

 

I soldered wires to each pot... Red is for positive from power adaptor, green is positive to the driver DIM+ wire, and black is negative.

 

IMG_0448.jpg

 

After everything was wired I turned it on and only the whites worked. Had to take apart the fixture and re-solder a couple of my LED connections.

 

Everything connected and working.

 

 

IMG_0450.jpg

 

Somehow I was able to get the box closed... Looks pretty good.

 

IMG_0452.jpg

 

Project box closeup, all wires go in one side.

 

IMG_0453.jpg

 

Pots are on the other side.

IMG_0454.jpg

 

 

Overall, I am pretty pumped by this project and tremendously surprised that it all worked without too many hiccups.

Edited by andru24
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Everything looks good to me.

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Everything looks good to me.

 

cool. I am going to attempt to attach the LEDs to the heatsink today.

 

1 question: Where does one find a project box to fit two Meanwells? Radioshack has an 8" x 6" one which I could probably fit them in at an angle but it seems like a pretty tight squeeze.

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You can find lots of enclosures on sites like Newark, Mouser, and Digikey, is a range of materials and sizes. Hammond is a large manufacturer of them, and we (Nanocustoms) have used them in the past.

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LEDs have been attached to heatsink... see first post.

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Ok, I have soldered one set of my LEDs (the blues) and temporarily connected everything correctly... I think/hope.

 

Need to know if it is safe to plug this in.

 

Blues soldered together with 18g wire.

IMG_0420.jpg

 

 

I have opened one driver and turn the SVR2 dial all the way counter clockwise

IMG_0421.jpg

 

 

I have soldered a longer red wire to the + on the first LED and a longer black wire to the - on the last LED.

 

Then, using wire nuts, connected the + brown wire on the driver input to the black wire of the power cord and the - blue wire to the white wire of the power cord. Then using alligator clips, the red V+ wire is connected the first red wire of the LEDs, and the V- black wire connected to the black wire of the last LED. The DIM+ blue wire is connected to the positive terminal on the power adaptor and the DIM- white wire to the negative terminal. I have left the pots out for now.

IMG_0422.jpg

 

So my question is:

IS THIS SAFE TO PLUG IN?

Edited by andru24

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HOLY ####E! It worked... I got brave and decided to plug it in. Didn't work at first... Discovered one of my soldered connections didn't quite stick and one of my alligator clips had come off unbeknownst to me. Fixed those two things, and holy crap is it bright.

 

IMG_0423.jpg

 

IMG_0424.jpg

 

Tomorrow I wll attach the multimeter to set the internal pot, and then repeat for the whites.

Edited by andru24

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Very nice job for your first LED light! :bowdown:

Did you end up using the 60degree optics?

 

 

I have them, but don't know if I will use them... Probably not at first, unless I decide to suspend the fixture. Right now it just sits over top on legs about 6" above the surface.

 

Today I will be using the multimeter to set the internal max current and soldering up the string of cool whites.

Edited by andru24

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do you have a picture of it sitting on the tank? would like to see how it covers

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do you have a picture of it sitting on the tank? would like to see how it covers

 

 

Just finished it today and updated the first post. Will be taking it to the office tomorrow to see how it looks on the tank.

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wow, this was an amazing read -- i am absolutely ignorant towards DIY anything, and have no skillz whatsoever. Ive tried looking up step by step tutorials, but almost all of them require 'advanced' knowledge of 'stuff'.

 

Everything here was extremely well explained -- I'll have to read it again and again for sure -- but I'll be more than happy to do so. Thanks for the motivational read, and that extra 'push' to go towards the DIY side of things.

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wow, this was an amazing read -- i am absolutely ignorant towards DIY anything, and have no skillz whatsoever. Ive tried looking up step by step tutorials, but almost all of them require 'advanced' knowledge of 'stuff'.

 

Everything here was extremely well explained -- I'll have to read it again and again for sure -- but I'll be more than happy to do so. Thanks for the motivational read, and that extra 'push' to go towards the DIY side of things.

 

Thanks. Hope it helps. If there is anything you need more info on let me know.

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Is it normal for the LEDs to flash when the external pots are turned down? As I turn them down they dim then at a certain point they start to flash, and then as I turn them down further they get very dim, to the point that you no longer see their effect.

 

Is this all normal? and is there any issue with running them when turned down all the way?

 

 

Beyond that, these are freakin awesome! I love being able to adjust the color. It's a good thing I got the dimmers because I think my ratio is definitely off when both strings are at full strength. I would definitely up the number of blues if I were to do this over again.

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Is it blinking on both drivers?

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Is it blinking on both drivers?

 

 

Yes. Both drivers when dimmed to a certain point. Above that point they are fine.

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Can you tell me what the driver output voltage is once it starts to flicker?

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Can you tell me what the driver output voltage is once it starts to flicker?

 

If you can tell me where I need to put the multimeter's connection to check, I can check it when I get home tonight.

Edited by andru24

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Just check voltage across the positive and negative output wires from the driver that are connected to the LEDs.

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NIce job and great write up, I have been sneakily gathering information on attempting a diy led but have been on the fence about it. I may just give it a shot now after reading this.

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Just check voltage across the positive and negative output wires from the driver that are connected to the LEDs.

 

 

So I can just touch the multimeter's red wire to the driver's V+ red and black to black with the multimeter set to the voltage setting? I can leave everything attached right, no need to disconnect LEDs to run the multimeter in series or anything like that?

 

Thanks.

 

NIce job and great write up, I have been sneakily gathering information on attempting a diy led but have been on the fence about it. I may just give it a shot now after reading this.

 

 

Thanks. I was the same way until I decided to just jump in and do it. Of course it helped that the wife was willing to buy the LEDs for my birthday.

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No need to disconnect anything. You only do that for current measurements.

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No need to disconnect anything. You only do that for current measurements.

 

 

Ok cool... I'll bring my multimeter with me to work tomorrow to test.

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did you ever get a picture of the light over the tank?

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did you ever get a picture of the light over the tank?

 

 

Yeah I got the new light over the tank today and took some pictures. As soon as my camera recharges I'll get them uploaded.

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