Heart (i)

8 February 2012

Valentine’s Day Light Fixture

LED heart (lit view)

LED heart (lit view)

A client contacted me wanting a red, blinking, heart-shaped LED array.  Since my production schedule didn’t afford me the time to design, assemble, and program a heart-shaped LED matrix at his desired size of about 10″ x 10″ for his Valentine’s Day deadline, I proposed a back-lit acrylic heart, to which he agreed.

We settled on a design consisting of a black acrylic rear panel, and a combined white acrylic (for light diffusion) + smoked acrylic front panel combo.  This gave the appearance of a black heart when unlit:

LED heart (unlit view)

LED heart (unlit view)

The acrylic panels were designed w/ Inkscape, and cut at Artengine on the recently acquired laser cutter.

For the internal lighting, I opted for Adafruit’s addressable RGB strips (full review coming soon), since they have good brightness, are very easy to control thanks to the associated tutorial and library, and work off the same 5V used for the controlling circuitry — in this case, a stripped down DOTKLOK control board (minus the timekeeping components).  All this combined to make a straightforward assembly with a minimum of parts:

LED heart (internal circuit view)

LED heart (internal circuit view)

The client wanted a “blinking red heart” so I programmed the LEDs to “beat” at a slowly changing rate, and also added an occasional “chase” sequence.  The programming was expedited thanks to the useful and full-featured demo code provided by Adafruit.


After seeing the demo video, the client enthusiastically approved the programming and the piece was shipped in time to arrive for his Valentine’s Day gifting.

Had I more time for the project, I would have explored more animation sequences, such as the left and right sides of the heart beating in opposite phase, and some color effects to fully take advantage of the full color and individually addressable LEDs . . . maybe next year ;)


I’ve since added the heart lamp as an offering on Etsy, and it was covered by Wired’s Design Blog.

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