Pixelblaze V3

by Hencke Technologies

A Wi-Fi-enabled, live-codable LED controller with a web-based development environment

$12,854 raised

of $1 goal

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$35

Pixelblaze V3 Standard

The Pixelblaze V3 Standard comes with a solderable pin header and screw terminal


$35

Pixelblaze V3 Pico

Due to its tiny size, the Pixelblaze Pico does not come with solderable headers. You don't need them!


$29

Pixelblaze Sensor Board

Use sound, movement, light, and more to control your Pixelblaze with this add-on. Comes with two solderable terminal headers


$15

Pixelblaze Output Expander

Give Pixelblaze 8 outputs and simplify wiring and power distribution, up to 64 outputs in a single system. Drive any combination of WS2812/APA102 type LEDs and up to 800/600 pixels per output. Comes with three header terminals and one screw terminal, all solderable.


$18

8x8 LED Matrix

Made in-house right alongside the Pixelblaze, this 67.5 x 67.5 mm (about 2.7" square) LED Matrix is perfect for interesting little projects, perhaps even...an LED cube? Comes with one solderable 15 cm wired header.


$64

Sound and Motion Kit

One Pixelblaze V3 Standard + one Sensor Board, + all solderable headers and terminals needed. If you want your LEDs to react to sound, movement, light, and more, this is what you want!


$132

Full Kit

Don't want to decide? We get it. Includes one Pixelblaze Standard + one Pico + one Sensor Board + one Output Expander + one 8x8 Matrix.

Details

Recent Updates


As Featured In

Hackster News

"Pixelblaze’s Pico measures 11 mm x 33.3 mm, making it the smallest LED controller on the market."

Geeky Gadgets

"The latest iteration of Pixelblaze, the Pixelblaze V3, brings more computing power and a smaller form factor so it can be used in even more creative ways, both larger in scope and smaller in size."

CNXSoft - Embedded Systems News

"Both boards have 1.4MB flash reserved for pattern storage with 100 patterns with previews, preloaded with dozens of patterns, and annotated examples. "

Advanced Wi-Fi LED Controller and Pattern Development Engine

Pixelblaze makes it fast and fun to write new LED patterns with its web-based live editor and highly optimized expression engine. You can store a hundred patterns and write new ones by entering mathematical expressions or code that update live as you type. Pixelblaze was designed to make it easier to both write LED patterns and get an intuitive feel for how code and math impact those patterns.

Made for LED Enthusiasts and Novices Alike

If you aren’t a coding wizard, don’t worry, many people with limited programming experience have found Pixelblaze’s editor approachable and fun to use. The real-time editor, instant feedback, a variable watcher, and expression-centric pattern generation means you won’t be pulling your hair out trying to find that missing semicolon or curly brace. Even run-time errors that would usually just crash your program are harmless and show up right in the editor.

You’ll also find that Pixelblaze really shines in the hands of someone who is familiar with programming and is comfortable writing mathematical expressions in a JavaScript or C-like syntax. If you are already doing this with a microcontroller, Pixelblaze was made for you.

Pattern Demo

Improvements in V3

Here’s a summary of the upgrades in V3:

  • New Pico form factor option
  • ESP32 dual-core 240 MHz processors
  • Twelve GPIO supporting more analog inputs and/or touch sensors
  • 2.6X average faster pattern performance
  • 5X more array elements and 2X more global variables available to patterns.
  • Faster Wi-Fi, more responsive web interface, and WebSockets API!
  • Easier Wi-Fi setup
  • New patterns with much improved documentation and comments
  • Pixelblaze playlists

Pixelblaze Pico

Also, the new Pixelblaze V3 Pico form-factor is the smallest and most powerful LED controller made. It was designed for minimal size, while having the same ESP32 firepower of its larger sibling. The Pico can be hidden away more easily and used in smaller places. The Pixelblaze Pico is only 11 mm x 33.3 mm (366.3 mm²)!

Pixelblaze V3 Pico and Miss Jie Couture

To show you just what Pixelblaze V3 can do, here is a custom couture outfit powered by an itty-bitty Pixelblaze V3 Pico. LEDs by sunandmoon couture, jewel outfit by Miss Jie Couture.

More Power in Less Space

The latest iteration of Pixelblaze, the Pixelblaze V3, brings more computing power and a smaller form-factor so it can be used in even more creative ways, both larger in scope and smaller in size. The physical differences of the standard Pixelblaze form factor are intentionally minimized so that V3 is compatible with existing V2 expansions and mounting setups.

Pixelblaze can interface with hardware and sensors using the available GPIO, analog, or touch inputs, like our easy-to-use add-on Sensor Board with microphone, accelerometer, light sensor, and co-processor that performs audio frequency analysis.

Enhanced Web Interface

No more time-consuming compile-upload-test cycles! Pixelblaze supports a subset of JavaScript for control-flow, loops, functions, etc., and simple-yet-powerful expression capabilities for generating patterns. It also ships with dozens of patterns, and over 100 compatible patterns are available through an active community of Pixelblaze users.

Easier Wi-Fi Setup

Pixelblaze Wi-Fi setup wizard

Pixelblaze creates a Wi-Fi network for initial configuration. Once you connect to the network from your phone or computer, a captive portal pops up and shows the Wi-Fi Setup page, allowing you to connect the Pixelblaze to a local Wi-Fi network or set it up as its own hotspot for portable installations or in areas without any internet.

Pixelblaze Playlists

Playlists are a new software feature for V3. Playlists gives you ultimate control over which patterns play, and for how long. You can also use this feature to trigger a sequence of lighting effects using the button or external signal.

Serious Software

Live Code

See your changes live (click to expand)

Pixelblaze has a built-in editor with inline syntax and runtime error highlighting, a real-time compiler, and a wide range of language features. It supports a subset of JavaScript for control-flow, loops, functions, etc., and simple-yet-powerful expression capabilities for generating patterns. Arrays are supported and can be used for creating sprite or particle effects.

As long as your pattern is valid, it’s live and running on Pixelblaze. Your pattern is recompiled and sent to Pixelblaze on every change so you can see your changes live. This is one of the most powerful pattern writing features, and you really get a feel for how your changes impact the pattern - all while it’s still installed!

As long as your pattern is valid, it's live and running on Pixelblaze (click to expand)

Creating & Sharing Patterns

Pixelblaze comes pre-loaded with dozens of gorgeous patterns, including tutorial patterns (click to expand)

Pixelblaze is great for anyone making LED art large or small, costumes and wearables, or decorating cars and houses inside and out! With Pixelblaze V3’s improved tools and documentation, it’s easy to learn how to write patterns and dissect existing patterns to discover their secrets.

Sharing and finding patterns written by the community is easy, and there are over 100 patterns available that can be loaded as-is, or used for inspiration in your own designs.

And that’s not all, pixel maps let you focus on how your pattern looks in 2D and/or 3D space without having to worry about coordinates or scaling for different installations. A pattern that works on one LED setup will work the same on a different LED setup. Write a generative map in JavaScript, or use real-world coordinates in any unit. It supports arbitrary LED configurations without impacting pattern code. Examples include rings, 2D matrices, walled cubes, and volumetric cubes.

Adding UI controls to a pattern are as easy as writing a function. This lets you add sliders and color pickers to a pattern that can be used to adjust the look and feel of a pattern.

Control Anywhere

Connect to a Wi-Fi network, or create your own when you don't have access to one

Pixelblaze V3 and V3 Pico was designed to be embeddable and integrated into LED art pieces or used in costumes and props. Because it’s 100% programmed over Wi-Fi, the pattern can be written or updated AFTER it has been installed without needing to attach any cables.

Access the UI through any browser-supporting device

Lots of LEDs, Lots of LED Options

Choosing your LED type is simple in the Pixelblaze UI (click to expand)

Pixelblaze has a single output capable of supporting the various LED types up to 5,000 APA102 LED or 2,500 WS2812 LEDs. An Output Expansion Board can be connected to the output and add from 8 up to 64 channels. Any wiring configuration is supported, including strips, matrix panels, or other configurations. The pixel mapper can be used to take any physical layout and used to create powerful 2D and 3D animations even for complex wiring scenarios.

LEDs with known support:

  • APA102, SK9822, DotStar with HDR support for a dynamic range well beyond 0-255
  • WS2811, WS2812/WS2812b, NeoPixel, WS2813, WS2815, SK6812 RGB or RGBW.
  • WS2801

Pico Direct-wiring

The Pixelblaze V3 Pico’s header is pin-compatible with most APA102/SK9822 LED strips and can be soldered directly to the end of a strip with its castellated edges, or easily wired to LEDs with its 0.1" header.

Pixelblaze V2 Example Projects

Glow Flow Interactive Sculpture

Glow Flow is an interactive light sculpture project that reacts to sound, light, and motion. The light comes from a single 5 meter strip of 300 individually addressable SK9822 LED modules. These are similar to APA102C or Adafruit DotStar. The strip is wound around a 3D-printed cylindrical chassis in a helix and controlled by a Pixelblaze LED controller making it easy to iterate through ideas for LED patterns. Physical data input courtesy of the Sensor Expansion Board. By Roger Cheng.

Pixelblaze Chandelier

A chandelier inspired by tulips. An experiment with 3D shapes using outward facing LED strips. By Ben Henke.

8x8 WS2812 LED Cube

6 sided 8x8 panel LED cube powered by a Pixelblaze and serial expansion/sensor companion boards. This includes some 3D-printed components. By BanhammersWrath.

Features & Specifications

Both the Standard and Pico form factors of Pixelblaze V3 support the same ESP32 processor and pattern rendering capabilities, and have the same LED driving capabilities:

  • Processor: ESP32 dual-core, 240 MHz
  • Pattern storage (1.4 MB): 100 patterns with previews, preloaded with dozens of patterns and annotated examples
  • Available memory per pattern: 256 global variables, 256 stack variables (recursive functions supported), and 10,240 arrays/elements - plenty of room for complex patterns
  • LED compatibility: APA102, SK9822, DotStar, WS2811, WS2812 (up to 2,500 LEDs), WS2813, WS2815, NeoPixel, and WS2801 actively driven at 5 V with 100 Ω resistors for long-distance signal wiring; also works with 12 V LEDs with a separate power supply
  • Direct connection: output can be connected directly to LEDs, with support for any RGB color order and RGBW/GRBW
  • Adjustable refresh rate: up to 5,000 APA102/WS2801 LEDs can be driven from 250 kHz to 20 MHz
  • User button: press to change LED patterns or enter Wi-Fi setup mode (additional external button can be connected via solder pads on the underside of the board)
  • Status LED: indicates connection, setup, and power states
  • Current draw: 72-145 mA in client mode, 150-172 mA in AP mode

Pixelblaze V3 Standard: Lots of Expansion Options

  • Dimensions: 34.2 mm x 39.5 mm, including antenna
  • LED strip mount: 5 mm screw terminal or 0.1" pin header for connecting 5 V, data, clock, and ground
  • Power supply: micro-USB (1.8 A pass-through) or 5 V back-feed from the LED strip, with an onboard 3.3 V regulator for the ESP32 and expansion boards
  • Power protection: reverse-polarity protection and up to 18 V overvoltage protection to prevent damage from common wiring mistakes
  • GPIO: three on the expansion header and nine on the underside of the board
  • Analog inputs: five (pins 14, 25, 26, 27, and 33)
  • Touch sensor inputs: five (pins 2, 4, 13, 14, and 27)
  • Expansion header: eight-pin header supports the Sensor Expansion Board or USB Serial Arduino Programmer, carries GND, EN, 3.3 V, RX0, TX0, IO0, IO25, and IO26

Pixelblaze V3 Pico: Minimal Size

  • Dimensions: 11 mm x 33.3 mm
  • LED strip mount: directly-solderable castellated pins and 0.1" header for 5 V, data, clock, and ground
  • Power supply: directly from the header, with an onboard 3.3 V regulator for the ESP32
  • Programming pads: six pads on the underside of the board carry GND, EN, 3.3 V, RX0, TX0, and IO0 for factory programming and can be hacked to support the Sensor Expansion Board

Pixel Rendering Capabilities

Pixelblaze’s rendering engine was built for speed, and in addition to a faster processor, Pixelblaze V3 brings some engine enhancements as well. Your patterns are compiled into high level rendering instructions that are then executed on one the ESP32 MCU.

Using included patterns as a benchmark, Pixelblaze V3 generates 48,000 pixels per second on average, and can drive up to 5000 pixels. For larger installations, multiple Pixelblaze controllers can be synchronized with Firestorm.

Frame rates vary by pattern complexity and LED data rates. Compared to V2, V3 is 1.6X to 4X faster, with an average speedup of 2.6X!

Pixel CountFPSPossible Applications
100300-600+Extremely fast/smooth animations, special effects, POV (persistence of vision)
100030-65+Beautifuly smooth animations
50006-13+Gradual animations, fading backgrounds, ambiance

Expansions & Accessories

Sensor Expansion Board

The Sensor Board makes it easy to write and use sound, accelerometer/tilt, or light to create reactive patterns. Frequency data, acceleration, and light data are fed directly into your pattern as variables so you can focus on using instead of formatting the data. No libraries needed.

  • 32 band frequency data, amplitude, and strongest frequency detection
  • 3-axis accelerometer, ±16 G per axis
  • Ambient light sensor, from darkness to daylight
  • 5 additional analog inputs

Output Expansion Board

Simplify wiring and power distribution for several strips, panels, or strings of LEDs with the Output Expansion Board.

For example, you can run 8 individual 8x8 LED Matrix panels without having to chain them together, or run a long length of APA102 strip and a string of WS2811 LEDs from the same system. Or build a volumetric cube out of 64 strings of LEDs stacking 8 Expansion boards from a single data line:

https://youtu.be/Z19zAtSXPRw

The Output Expansion Board drives 8 to 64 channels of addressable LEDs over a serial port from Pixelblaze, Arduino, or Raspberry Pi with 600 / 800 pixels per channel. It supports these LEDs (and compatibles):

  • WS2811 / WS2812 / WS2813 / WS2815 / SK6812 / NeoPixel
  • APA102 / SK9822 / DotStar

Each channel can have its own color ordering, and can support a mix of RGB and RGBW across channels or LED types, and any mix of length, up to 800 RGB pixels or 600 RGBW pixels per channel for the WS2812 / NeoPixel types, and 600 LEDs for the APA102 / DotStar types.

The expander protocol runs at 2Mbps and uses checksums to prevent corrupted data from being displayed. The allows up to 66k pixels/sec to be drawn, about twice the speed of typical WS2812.

Power and GND connections are also available per channel, and works great for lower powered applications (up to 3 A), and pairs perfectly with the 8x8 LED Matrix’s wired connectors!

8x8 LED Matrix

A grid of 64 beautiful SK6812 (WS2812/NeoPixel) addressable LEDs, perfect for pixel art, arranged in a 67.5 x 67.5 mm (about 2.7" square) 8x8 matrix. These have an input and output, so are chainable for larger configurations.

The LEDs are SK6812 (WS2812 / NeoPixel compatible) and can be used with any library or LED controller that supports WS2812 / NeoPixel.

How Pixelblaze Compares

Pixelblaze is leaps and bounds above low-end LED non-programmable controllers like the SP107E. Pixelblaze has better patterns than the low end controllers, along with customizability and the ability to write new patterns, and can be controlled over the network.

Compared to Arduino, Pixelblaze is much easier to set up, use, and program patterns for. The IDE is much improved over the Arduino IDE, and provides beginner-friendly features like immediate syntax feedback and runtime issues (like infinite loops or array out of bounds) right in the editor. The Pixelblaze language and animation API let you focus on writing animations.

Pixelblaze provides a unique live-coding experience that isn’t readily available elsewhere. This helps people get an intuitive feel for how mathematical expressions and code behave as they can see the results as they type, and is even being used to teach coding.

It is more approachable in both cost and usability than high end network / DMX LED controllers, and deployable as a stand-alone controller in places where higher-end network / DMX LED controllers would be too bulky, expensive, or unreliable over wireless.

Paired with the Sensor Expansion Board, Pixelblaze has unparalleled sound reactivity. Many sound/music reactive LED controllers are limited to amplitude reactions, or have limited frequency band information. With 32 band spectrum frequency data, Pixelblaze’s sound capabilities are more detailed than other stand-alone music LED controllers.

Pixelblaze V3SP107EViViDIY hardware + Arduino + fastLEDDIY hardware + WLED
Basic Info
Cost$35-$79 $25 $399 $24+ $24+
Size (V3 Standard)34.2 x 39.5 x 5 mm 85 x 45 x 22 mm 61 x 95 x 25 mm 51 x 22.7 x 7.3 mm + level shifters 51 x 22.7 x 7.3 mm + level shifters
Size (V3 Pico)11 x 33.3 x 3.3 mm
ConnectivityWiFi Client/AP Bluetooth Bluetooth DIY WiFi Client/AP
Easy to set upYes Yes Yes No No
User interfaceYes browser/mobile App only App only No / DIY Yes browser + app
Stats LED + ButtonYes, switch patterns and setup mode None None No / DIY DIY button for on/off
Using Patterns
Pattern selection previewsName + animation Number / image Name Only No Name only
Pattern sliders and color pickersYes / per pattern Limited Limited No / DIY Limited
Live preview in appYes, first 100 pixels, 30fps No No No Yes, up to ~170 pixels / flaky!
Internal pattern storage100+ configurable (~45 included by default) ~12 with color variations to create 200 selectable combinations 12 built-in DIY / fixed 113 built-in
Load new patternsYes No No Recompile + upload New versions only
Pattern sharing siteYes N/A N/A No / fragmented N/A
Pattern Editing
Live-code in real timeYes No No No No
Live syntax checkingYes N/A N/A No No
Runtime code errorsHarmless, highlights line N/A N/A Crash N/A
See variables liveLive var watcher N/A N/A printf to console N/A
Compile + upload timeSplit second N/A N/A 17-26 seconds N/A
Upload wirelesslyYes N/A N/A No / DIY OTA New versions OTA
Pattern languageSubset of JavaScript N/A N/A C / C++ C / C++
Animation APIIntuitive, use real numbers (32-bit) N/A N/A Integer APIs (8- 16-bit) ?
LED Support
Number of LED outputs1-64 1 3 1+* 1
Number of pixels2500/5000+ 960 900/1500 Any 1000+
Clocked LED support (APA102/WS2801)Yes Yes No Yes No, recompile required, not in released image
High Dynamic RangeYes with APA102/SK9822 No No No* No
RGBW supportYes Global only No No Yes
Logic level shifters for reliable flicker-free LEDsBuilt-in Built-in Built-in External External
Networking
Synchronize multipleYes with Firestorm No No Possible / DIY Yes
Control over networkWebSocket + Firestorm HTTP No No Possible / DIY HTTP, MQTT + more
Get/set pattern variables APIBoth variables and controls No No Possible / DIY Limited controls
Sound, Sensors, and Inputs
Sound reactivityYes amplitude + frequency + 32-band spectrum Amplitude only Yes 3-band spectrum Possible / DIY Amplitude only
Sound inputsOn-board mic + 3.5 mm jack On-board mic 3.5 mm jack Possible / DIY Possible / DIY
Use external pins/signalsDigital, analog, touch No No Digital, analog, touch No
Accelerometer3-axis 16G No No Possible / DIY No
Light sensorDark to daylight No No Possible / DIY No
Power and Safety
Input power5 V 5-24 V 5 V 5 V 5 V
Power from USBYes No No Depends Depends
Reverse-polarity protectionYes No No? No No
Over-voltage protectionYes up to 18 V 24 V No No No
Limit current draw methodConsistent brightness limit None None? Reduces brightness dynamically Reduces brightness dynamically
FuseNot included / External Not included / External Internal 4 A Not included / External Not included / External

Support & Documentation

Most of the documentation you’ll need is built right into Pixelblaze along with the tools! The pattern language and API documentation is just below the editor, ready to access at any time. You can also see the editor docs here. And for the mapper, here.

Documentation in the UI editor (click to expand)

Getting started is easy as well, and while we strive to make it intuitive enough to get by without a manual, a setup guide is provided {insert link to yet-to-be-written page to replace printed inserts}.

Examples included! Pixelblaze ships with ~45 patterns, which have been updated and documented with beginners in mind, including tutorial patterns. Plus the community is always adding more on the pattern sharing site.

Tutorials are also written directly into the live editor (click to expand)

Stumped about something, have a question, or just want to talk about LEDs? Check out the Pixelblaze forum, already active with many other Pixelblaze users!

Pixelblaze V2 on Tindie has outstanding reviews, many people drop by just to show appreciation for our support.

Firmware Source Code and Hardware Design Files

Pixelblaze’s hardware is open source. Pixelblaze’s firmware itself as a whole isn’t open source, though many of its components are.

The Sensor Expansion Board and Output Expansion Board are open source, both firmware and hardware:

Manufacturing Plan

The team is ready to roll out critical mass of Pixelblazes. We have the equipment, many of the parts, and a team that would love to crank out boards.

We design and assemble the current line of Pixelblaze and add-on boards, and V3 was designed for our manufacturing capabilities. We’ve manufactured thousands of boards of various designs.

Both of the V3 designs have been verified with limited pre-production runs to iron out any manufacturability issues.

Fulfillment & Logistics

All Pixelblaze V3 campaign orders will be shipped to backers using Crowd Supply’s fulfillment services. Once manufacturing is complete, we’ll make a bulk shipment to Crowd Supply, and from there the packages will be processed and shipped to individual backers. For more details, please have a look at this guide to ordering, paying, and shipping.

Risks & Challenges

Building hardware always involves risk. Sometimes a goblin army raids your wizard tower and your arcane scrolls are stolen. Sometimes a band of miniaturized orcs practices axecraft on the wiring harness in your manufacturing equipment. Sometimes a kraken sinks the ship of wireless modules before it can make it to port. Things can happen, and 2020 isn’t over yet.

We have contingency plans in place to handle most of these sorts of things.

  • The PCB design is tested, and a small batch of 100 or so production boards have been made of both designs.
  • While we've thoroughly tested the software and firmware, it's likely that a bug or two will make its way into the shipping product. Pixelblaze can be updated securely over the air, and we plan on releasing fixes and new features over time.
  • Many of the components and PCBs come from overseas, and there is always the possibility of supply chain issues with component availability or pricing. We have already sourced many of these in preparation for a sizable first batch.
  • As we proceed through the campaign, we’ll share more details about our assembly and testing process through our updates.

Funding ends on Dec 17, 2020 at 03:59 PM PST (11:59 PM UTC)


Credits

Hencke Technologies

Hencke Technologies, Inc. is the company behind the ElectroMage and Pixelblaze product lines. We are a product design and manufacturing company in Vancouver, WA that specializes in LED and IoT technology.


Benjamin Hencke

CEO of many hats

Chris "TP" Blue

Production Specialist

Jeff Vyduna

Pixel Enchanter

See Also

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