Art and Technology are Friends

Aurora 9×18 assembled

Just finished assembling Aurora 9×18. Based on the prototype aurora 9, this unit has 18 tri-color LEDs in each of 9 circles.
Because of the number of components (162 LEDs), assembly was quite a chore. Tri-color LED has pins that are close together, very narrow for a through-hole component. Solder bridging can happen very easily. (I’ve been soldering for over 30 years now, and thought I had good enough skill to get through the soldering, but I had a bit of a struggle…)

Now it’s done, and the hard work is worth it. It’s beautiful… LEDs are controlled in 9 groups of 18 each. Each group of LEDs are forming a circle. Each RGB component is controlled by PWM, with effective resolution of about 13 bits.

The colors produced by those LEDs are beautiful, the transitions between colors are smooth. To me this is fascinating…

Here’s the schematic if you are interested.
Aurora 9x18 Schematic

12 Responses

  1. Ben

    Hi again Aki,

    It seems you program the microcontroller with a number of programs and then solder it to the board. I’m interested in being able to re-program the PIC after it’s permanently fixed (like arduino) using a mini usb port. Can this be done? Would you need a switch to separate the PIC pins from the rest of the circuitry while you re-program? (I don’t know how arduino does it).



    October 31, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    • Hello Ben,

      The microcontroller (PIC) is soldered to the PCB, and then programmed by a programmer via ICSP (In Circuit Serial Programming). The programmers typically connect to a computer via USB (I use PICKit 3).

      Even though this process is called “programming”, it’s simply uploading HEX file to the flash memory inside PIC. You can rewrite the flash memory thousands of times using PICKit or other programmers. The way this is done is pretty much the same as Arduino. However Arduino has USB interface chip on board, Aurora doesn’t. In essence PIC programmer is just an USB interface between PIC and computer.


      October 31, 2012 at 9:31 pm

      • Ben

        Thanks Aki, much appreciated!

        November 2, 2012 at 3:24 am

  2. Ben

    Hi Aki,

    I love your work! You’re the first person I have seen to use very smooth colour and brightness fades…I think this is the future of LED design. I am also an artist, though only starting to get my head around microcontrollers etc. As I understand it your 18×18 aurora PIC can control 18×3(rgb) individual pins. I am working on a sculptural artwork that will require control of 30×3 (rgb) individual pins (though using a lot less LEDs overall). Once I properly understand your architecture…hoping I can of course ;) … could I use the same method with a larger PIC to achieve this?


    June 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    • Thanks for your comments!
      It took me a while to refine the PWM method to achieve smooth transitions and economy. You can always use dedicated PWM LED controller IC to get the fades, but that will take too much PCB real estate, and cost much more.

      Regarding your question, yes you can extend this design to control more LEDs. I have made up to 48 LED version. This one required an extra logic IC to double the RGB busses, but up to 30 LEDs can be done without the IC, using 40 pin PIC micro.


      June 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm

  3. Carson T Moore

    Wow this is REALLY amazing.
    I have seen a lot of LED stuff, and this is the best so far. Great transitions between each row. Mind if I email you about a couple of questions?

    -Carson Moore

    September 22, 2011 at 12:43 am

  4. Gary B

    Please, I beg of you, make these available. You have something that no one else has. They will sell, either in kit form or assembled. I know I would gladly pay into the hundreds for one. Please keep us posted on when and where :-)

    Gary B

    June 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm

  5. pim

    beautiful ;)

    June 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm

  6. can you also give us some notes on how you realised the programming for the color waves with your schematic? – would be very interesting cause the colors are amazing!
    thank you

    June 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

  7. Pingback: Aurora RGB LED Ring Project - Hacked Gadgets - DIY Tech Blog

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