Christmas Tree with Embedded LEDs

I’m really excited to share this project I’ve been working on for the past week. I found this project on Printables, and decided to tackle it – and I’m thrilled with how it turned out! More details on the project are below the video!

The project uses 5mm x 5mm individually addressable LEDs, embedded into the tree by pausing during printing and placing them carefully into the print, and is controlled by a Trinket M0 board.

I started working on soldering the LEDs, and after I had spent about an hour, I had two chained together successfully, and thought there was no way I was going to be able to keep doing those. I already had a pack of 100 of the same LED mounted on individual PCBs, which I knew I could work with a lot easier, so I decided to use those instead – however that meant I’d need more space in the model to fit the larger 9.5mm x 9.5 mm PCB, and the added thickness. Fortunately, I only needed to scale the model up to 130% for them to fit.

I started by scaling the very top of the tree up to 130%, and printing just the bottom part of it which would hold the LEDs, then used that as a stencil to wire up the LEDs. The model creator provided a stencil for the other three stages. Once I was sure the model would in fact work with the LEDs I wanted to use, I used the provided stencil scaled at 130% to wire the other three sets of LEDs, and the tested them all linked together.

After that, it was pretty simple! I had programmed the slider to pause at the right point in each stage of the tree, so it was basically start the print with the transparent PLA, wait for it to pause, carefully place and tape in the LEDs, change filament to green, then resume! After each stage was done printing, I tested the LEDs again, and fortunately (or likely, due to my much better soldering on these larger LEDs), everything worked! The final stage had an additional color change back to transparent.

I printed the base in a copper silk PLA, then wired it all together! I chose the ItsyBitsy M4 Express from Adafruit – I used an ItsyBitsy M0 Express for my initial tests, but I wanted to be able to run a lot of different patterns so I used an M4 I had handy. I’m really proud of how this came together, and I am already thinking about how I could do my own version of something like this for the future!

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