Build a smartphone ring light with a 3D printer and $60 in parts

4
Build a smartphone ring light with a 3D printer and $60 in parts

Why it matters to you

If you like to get a hands-on look at how gadgets work, this smartphone ring light offers some insight if you have some extreme DIY skills.

Ring lights offer nice, even lighting with minimal shadows — and now you can design one for your smartphone. That is, if you have a 3D printer and some mad DIY skills.

The project comes from Adafruit, a company that designs electronics specifically for learning — and for crafting DIY rigs like the ring light. The light will cost around $60 in parts, excluding the cost of a 3D printer and materials.

More: 3D-printed miniature camera sees the world the way a bird of prey does

The project uses RGBW LED lights, which produce more accurate colors without needing to custom set a white balance. Unlike inexpensive selfie ring lights on the market, this DIY surrounds the entire smartphone and uses a tripod mount for hands-free shooting.

The Neopixel Ring Light isn’t a use-a-milk-carton-as-a-flash-diffuser sort of DIY — it involves soldering, electrical circuits, and minor coding. Like other Adafruit projects, it’s designed both as a learning experience and to produce a usable gadget.

The light uses two different types of Neopixel kits. That lighting is connected to an Adafruit Trinket micro controller. The unit is powered by a lithium battery that slides into a lipo backpack, also an Adafruit Trinket.

The circuits, batteries, and lights are all wired into a frame that’s 3D printed. The print file is designed for the latest iPhones, but adjusting the print file could adapt the light to other models, since the smartphone simply snaps into the printed base once everything’s wired up. The base is designed to snap the smartphone in “screen out,” so the light is for the front-facing camera, not the rear one. The files take about five hours to 3D print.

With the parts in and the mount printed, the DIY takes some soldering, wiring, and a good old-fashioned screwdriver to put it all together. A standard-size tripod ring mount on the back allows you to use that light for hands-free selfies, videos, and other shots.