Email me

Jellyfish lamp lit up - view 1 Jellyfish lamp lit up - view 2

September 5, 2014

Jellyfish Lamp - Under Construction

I am working on my latest Jellyfish lamp. During a test I learned two things:

  • It had some heat dissipation problems.
  • It was absolutely gorgeous.
The problems prevented me from entering it in the Utah State Fair, but I should have it fixed up very soon. I have applied to display it at the Salt Lake Mini Maker Faire in October.

Jellyfish lamp - detail view

From the start, the main problem with the Jellyfish lamp was generating enough light for it to be impressive under normal conditions. I started using more and more powerful LEDs. This lamp, however, just uses more LEDs, many more. It is powered by more than 700 RGB LEDs, with a maximum draw of about 45 Amps. In the green close up, the dots are the individual LEDs.

Jellyfish lamp - power supply and Mega

Using that many LEDs became feasible with the appearance of WS2812 (or NeoPixel) strips with a packing of 144 LEDs per meter. My lamp uses 12 strips at about .42 meter, or 61 LEDs per strip. The lamp is powered by a 60 Amp 5 Volt power supply and controlled by an Arduino Mega.

Originally, my lamps displayed colors by shining the LEDs at the ceramic surface. Last year, I started to enclose the light with a translucent cloth skirt. That creates the large surface that changes colors. Coupled with the large number of LEDs, I now have a lamp that can hold its own against normal lighting conditions.

Jellyfish lamp - power supply and Mega

LEDs are traditionally pretty cool (temperature) light. I did not anticipate any problem using a PVC pipe as the vertical structure holding the LED strips. However, the 15-45 Amp draw eventually produced enough heat to soften the PVC. After 3 hours of use, there was a noticeable bend.

I am currently throwing a new bell/top for the lamp. It will include the same vent hole patterns that I included in the base to allow cooling of the power supply. That will be a visual improvement anyway. I will also replace the PVC with a metal pipe. I think that including multiple parallel power/ground taps on each strip will reduce the heating and spread it out from the top. If needed, I can add a small fan to the interior of the support pipe.

I was hoping that this would be my final Jellyfish lamp and that I could move on to other projects (or to finish off a few more). But two things have me questioning that. First, the problems that need to be resolved will keep me with this one for a little while longer. Second, it is such a visual leap from my previous one that I have new design questions to answer.