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I have 300 LEDs that I want to animate. 100 in group A, 100 in group B, and 100 in group C. Group A will be on all the time. I want to blink/alternate between group B and C. I'm a software developer and new to electrical engineering so I'm not sure how to power that many LEDs. I know I would need 200 x 20mA for 4A or potentially 6A if all the LEDs are on when it's transitioning.

How would you do it? One big power supply? Microcontroller, yes/no? Multiplexing?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How fast/complicated is the blinking? And what kind of LEDs are they? (A datasheet would be good). \$\endgroup\$ – uint128_t Jan 15 '16 at 3:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I ordered the LEDs, hopefully they come with a datasheet. I want it to blink pretty quickly, maybe 4 or 5 times per second? \$\endgroup\$ – chrislondon Jan 15 '16 at 4:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is your problem? Are you able to animate one group, one LED, nothing? Where do we start? Your current sums are reasonable, assuming 20mA per LED, and yes, if they draw that much current, you will have to supply it. If you don't, what happens will be down to the detail of your supply and circuit. I've just bought a strip of WS2801 controlled RGB LEDs (fleaBay), to play with purely in software. If you haven't got any hardware yet, you could do worse than prototype with those. Multiplexing works as well! \$\endgroup\$ – Neil_UK Jan 15 '16 at 6:36
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You could raise voltage and decrease current by putting several LEDs in series.

For example, say, if the dropout voltage of the LEDs is 3V, then you can power the whole thing from, say, 15V, having four LEDs in series and a resistor to limit the current (for 20mA that would be 3V (remaining from 15-4*3) / 20mA = 150 Ohm). Then you have 25 such bundles in each group leaving you with 500mA a group, 1-1.5A altogether. (Same power consumption but easier to handle, e.g. cablewise.)

The whole group can then be switch with an N-channel MOSFET driven by a microcontroller. When pin is low, LEDs are off, when it is high, they are on. (High = well above FET's gate threshold voltage, but that is usually around or below 1V for the FETs that are rated for 1-2A.)

If you have 3 pins on the microcontroller for this, you don't need to multiplex.

Don't forget to:

  • Add a pull-down resistor to the gate of the MOSFET to have everything turned off when the microcontroller is not driving the pin (e.g. when powering up).
  • Leave enough remaining voltage at the LEDs for the resistor to be at least 100 Ohm, so noise/variations in input voltage, dropout voltages, resistor values, etc. don't show.

example schematic

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