It’s been pretty obvious from the start that the 5mm “bulb” LED is not actually the ideal part to use, in this day and age, for making bili lights. But as I said in a previous post titled Project Appeal, way back in July 2011 when Luma League had not even shipped the first 5mm LED-based light yet, the 5mm approach has a set of benefits that go along with the 5mm LED’s; namely: the 5mm LED’s cost less than $0.20 each and they’re fun to solder. The circuit boards are cheap too, we buy the copper-clad project boards for about $2 each. And soldering 120 LED’s and 60 resistors is a lot of opportunity for a lot of kids to do a lot of soldering and have a lot of fun.
On the other side of the equation is the modern SMD – Surface Mount Device – High-Power LED. While the 5mm LED’s consume 20 mA (milli-Amps) and turn that into blue light, modern high-power LED’s turn at least 350 mA into light, and with the new XT-E LED’s from Cree, some can do more than 500 mA. And they’re more efficient than the 5mm type, so they produce a LOT of light.
Today, I’ve been in touch with Cree, and I’m hoping to get some samples of their new Royal Blue XT-E led’s from them. In quanitity, they cost about $1.50 each, but so far, the smallest minimum order I’ve seen is 450 units… out of my price range for now. They also sell star boards that hold one XP-E or XT-E LED for about $1.10 each. So I might be able to solder together a high-power LED star board for as little as $1.60, as opposed to the retail price of about $4. That’s a big difference.
Today I also ordered a couple of pieces of MakersLED extruded aluminum LED housing from LEDSupply. I’ve not been happy with LEDSupply’s customer service in the past, and their prices are high, but this stuff is very cool, and I want some, so I ordered it. It has T-shaped slots to receive fasteners, and the slots are spaced to make it easy to position star boards on the bottom face. There are six T-slots giving you five tracks along which to attach star boards. The design is cunning in other ways too, and they’ve come up with a very intriguing range of accessories to finish, hang, and cool the aluminum and the LED’s attached to it.
Between the XLamps and the MakersLED extruded aluminum, we can come up with a very cool new design for bili lights that will have as much project appeal as the 5mm LED based design. It will not be a platform for a lot of practice soldering, but it will be fun and easy to put together.