Makergear M2: Platform Lighting

Adding a strip of white LEDs under the X stage helps shed some light on events atop the M2’s build platform; this was very nearly the first improvement after getting the printer, but somehow I’ve never written down where that nice white glow comes from.

This view shows the strip from below, looking up from the -Y direction in front of the stage:

White LED strip under X axis frame
White LED strip under X axis frame

I originally screwed the wires into the terminals from the hulking 12 V Dell laptop brick for the platform heater, but then I had to unscrew the wires whenever I moved the M2 and I didn’t like sharing the connectors with those huge conductors. Now the LEDs are in parallel with the extruder fan (which runs continuously), sharing the FAN1 screw terminals inside the electronics case.

The M2 firmware uses PWM to cut the 19.5 V supply from a much smaller laptop brick down to roughly 12 V RMS for the fans, but that isn’t such a Good Thing for LEDs. The strip has 120 Ω resistors that drop about 2.4 V at 20 mA from a 12 V supply, leaving 9.6 V for the LEDs (at about 3.2 V each). Running from 19.5 V means the resistors will see about 9.5 V and pass nearly 80 mA, four times the nominal rating, during each PWM pulse.

Based on those measurements, the light output doesn’t go up by nearly a factor of four during each pulse.

I plan to add a 12 V supply to the LinuxCNC box, probably by recycling the 12 V brick from the M2, which will get the LED current back down to a reasonable level. With any luck, they’ll survive this mistreatment and not carry a grudge.

You could, of course, just power the LEDs from a separate 12 V wall wart, but that adds Yet Another Thing when I carry the M2 to demos.