Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Party Light with EL-Wire

One of the easiest ways to add some "wow" to any lighting project - EL-wire is cheap and super simple to work with. This project adds some reflective panels courtesy of the fins from a gigantic aluminum heat-sink that I scavenged from a discarded stereo.

The spacing between the fins was perfect for the width of the EL-wire. And the polished metal surface gave a cool 3D effect to the project.

You can see the "wire" wrapped around the base in this photo, and notice how the light reflects all the way to the top because of the shininess of the metal.

The light carries all the way to the outside edge of the aluminum heat-sink. Usually, EL-wire projects are either flat or a 3D wireframe. But the heat-sink looks like a 4x4 cube and the way the light falls off and reflects adds to the three dimensional effect.

Also, the aluminum fins hide the EL-wire itself except for certain angles. So the look of the light changes as you move around it.

El-wire is very simple to install and run; just plug it and turn it on. You can find controllers of various power levels, everything from a coin cell, 1xAAA to 4xAA on up to 12v. The more power the controller is the more wire you can run and the brighter the glow is.

Most of the controllers have at least a few display modes (always on, slow blink, fast blink etc.) There are versions that react to sound. And Sparkfun has two versions that use Arduinos to create programmable displays with up to 8x different wires.

If you want to create your own party-light I would strongly suggest buying your supplies from either Sparkfun or from Adafruit. Both of these companies feature high quality, durable and very bright versions of EL-wire components. I have bought the cheap versions from other vendors. They do work, but they are always much dimmer and more fragile. If you want a dependable, brightly glowing version stick to the versions from Sparkfun or Adafruit - they are worth the extra cost in the long run.

Also check out my glowing pillow project on Instructables for more ideas about how to use EL-wire.