AllPixel is an open-source board measuring just 2.7″ x 0.9” that provides easy USB control of all major programmable LED strips.
Designed by the team at Maniacal Labs, AllPixel — which recently made its Kickstarter debut — is a USB interface capable of controlling up to 680 pixels on any popular LED strip equipped with a USB port.
The AllPixel is a small, open-source board measuring just 2.7″ x 0.9” that provides easy USB control of all major programmable LED strips. It is compatible with Linux, Mac and Windows platforms, and can run on any device that supports Python, including Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, or pretty much any desktop/laptop.
“Working with addressable LED strips, we’ve found that the extra components required to communicate with and power them complicate designs and limit the options for how they can be used. Each chipset requires its own special protocol and supporting hardware components. This is where the AllPixel comes in. Think of it as a video card for your LED strips,” its team writes.
At its core, the AllPixel isn’t much different from other boards like the Arduino Leonardo, Arduino Pro Micro, or even Teensy 2. That’s because at the heart of the open-source device is an ATmega32U4, which as its creators note, “allowed them to provide such amazing frame rates, since it is capable of full 12Mbps throughput on the USB Serial connection.
“It [the ATmega32U4] also provides 2.5KB of SRAM, 2K of which is used to buffer the pixel data. Not needing to waste SRAM on the serial buffer was also a huge advantage of using this chip over the venerable FTDI and something without built-in USB support.”
To achieve the speeds they desired, Maniacal Labs turned to Teensy Arduino cores and modded their own variant core. These newly-devised core libraries enabled them to run full USB speed on anything with an ATmega32U4, including their original Arduino Pro Micro mockup.
The AllPixel comes with an assortment of optional user-installed parts to allow for a variety of hook-up configurations, ranging from a 2.1mm DC barrel jack and a 4-pin 0.1” male header to a 1000uF capacitor and 1N5817 Schottky diode. With the 2.1mm barrel jack, an external power supply can be connected to provide up to 5 Amps to the attached LEDs. According to the team, AllPixel can even be configured to power LEDs directly from USB power for short runs.
In order to join and power multiple connected strips, the crew at Maniacal Labs developed the PowerTap, a small board with input and output terminal blocks and a 2.1mm DC barrel jack. They are offering this small board un-assembled, thereby allowing Makers to configure it as they see fit.
“We’ve been working for over a year on a Python animation library called BiblioPixel. Where the AllPixel takes the pain out of the hardware interface to your LED strips, BiblioPixel takes the pain out of controlling your LEDs and programming your animations,” a company rep shares.
Additionally, its companion FastLED library serves as the “universal translator” of the entire operation, which as the team points out, not only knows how to talk to all the different LED strips but is super fast doing it.
Looking for a USB interface for all of your holiday LED needs? You may want to check out its official Kickstarter page here. Originally seeking $5,000, the team well exceeded its goal in a matter of just 48 hours.