NeoPixel based face mask. (Image credit: splat238)

 

I think we all thought about this, in some way or another. Good ideas versus great boils down to actually making it happen.

 

What is a design project you’ll get more use out of these days than a face mask? A user on instructables.com has posted detailed instructions for your own DIY LED face mask, which both animates with randomly chosen color and manages to act as any other cloth mask—keeping you and others safe. The project uses an airsoft mesh half mask as the base and WS2812b LEDs, or Neopixels, which allow the user to create almost any effect they can imagine, with the right coding.

 

The project does require some SMD soldering and access to a 3D printer but is otherwise designed to be quick and inexpensive. The instructions even offer two build options: either using a single Wemos LiPo Button Combo board and the other with two different PCBs, a Wemos LiPo Charger Combo board and a Triple Flat tactile button board. The recommended controller for the LEDs is the esp8266, which features more memory and processing speed than most common Arduino boards.

 

The actual construction of the mask is essentially done in a few separate steps—attaching LED strips to the interior of the mask, assembling the controller, securing the control box, wires, and mask straps, and uploading code. All of the steps are outlined in detail, with images, by the designer, who has also uploaded code for 40 different effects. The control box and a few elements used to secure wires within the mask are 3D printed, although the part files are also freely available. The control box itself uses three buttons. When using the provided code, these are used to cycle to the next effect, turn effect rotation on/off, so when off an effect will repeat indefinitely, and to adjust brightness.

 

Both the single- and double-PCB options are posted along with the parts needed for each, although it is noted that single-PCB was a more stable design. It’s also important to know that the power source is an external LiPo battery, which can be dangerous if mistreated. Once the mask is fully assembled, it will cover both nose and mouth and should serve to trap moisture as well as any cloth mask, though you may want to wear a more standard mask for the sake of safety. The LEDs are not particularly visible in direct sunlight but are definitely a fun flare when in the shade or indoors.

 

 

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