I've always wanted to make my own neon signs, but as I never felt like learning how to blow glass, I never got around to it. I was scrolling through Pinterest one day and saw "neon-esque?" signs made with LED strips.
They seemed cool, how much did they cost?
Doing a bit of Google-fu, I realized that the signs are just the LED strip wrapped in a silicone diffuser channel. Looking around my lab, I had some spare WS2812 strip cuttings that I decided I could use for this project. For the silicone tubing, I found it on Amazon.
I needed a backplate to mount the strips on, and I thought about laser cutting acrylic, but it turns out, a laser cutter doesn't cut things that are 90" long. Too bad. My school has a CNC router, so I drew up a design in Fusion and went in to cut it myself.
I got them cut out, but not without cutting straight through the bed. Turns out that they were just about to get a new CNC router. No harm done. The silicone came in, and I tried and tried to get the LEDs to go through it. Turns out I wasn't the only one having issues with this:
I really only needed short lengths of LEDs, so I just started to lay down the tubing on the design and measured how long each piece needed to be. Then, I cut the tubing, and the shorter lengths of the silicone made it much easier to handle. Some of the strips cross over each other, so they're split into two parts and are connected underneath (below)
To drive the LEDs, I connected them to an ESP8266 and linked them to Home Assistant using ESPHome.
For only $20, I'm really happy with how these turned out. To be fair, the adhesive sometimes falls off, and the whole sign goes to the ground, but really, who cares? They look great.