Build Night: How to Make LED Badges

With SXSW fast approaching, Umbel Labs has begun our yearly tradition of building badge bling. For last year’s panels and opening night party, we laser-cut shapes out of acrylic and then illuminated the acrylic with electroluminescent panel. This year we are building 8×8 LED matrix enabled badges, and to that end, our January build night was dedicated to prototyping. Next month, we will convert the prototypes into actual units.

breadboard with LED lights

In the foreground is the Arduino board that drives the LED matrix along with help from a chip attached to the back of the matrix. This backpack on the matrix allows us to communicate over I2C and therefore use fewer wires. Future versions will use a smaller and wearable board like this Gemma from Adafruit. Adafruit also sells the LED matrix and provides tutorials for how to get started.

We constructed the 2015 badge out of lasercut acrylic and electroluminescent panel.

In addition to hosting build nights, Umbel Labs also serves as a hub for innovation projects that help to drive the future of Umbel. While most of the the innovation projects are software related, we also are outfitted as a makerspace, which we use to prototype hardware and software around data collection and IOT (Internet of Things). In the foreground you can see one of our 3D printers. We have a Dremel and and a Ultimaker 2 for employees to use. Alan, also in the  foreground, is adding a Raspberry Pi and camera to the Dremel and then tying the output to a Slack Bot so that we get notified when a print is done. The camera can be used for time-lapse photography of prints.

Check back for our monthly Umbel Labs blog post to see what we’re creating next!