How to design your own LED strobe light

Written by wolfram donat
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How to design your own LED strobe light
Use a strobe light to check stamp releases for defects. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

A strobe light is a light that flickers on and off faster than the human eye can detect. This can have the effect of "freezing" fast motion so it can be seen. Common strobe light applications include ultra-high speed photography, artwork and even as additions to a dance floor.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Arduino
  • Bright LEDs
  • Wires
  • 5-volt battery source

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  1. 1

    Download and install the Arduino software. This application runs on your computer as a type of software compiler and allows you to create programs (called sketches) that are uploaded to the Arduino board. Arduino hardware and software are open-source environments for basic electronics modelling and prototyping.

  2. 2

    Connect the Arduino to your computer using an available USB port.

  3. 3

    Attach the anode (positive leg) of an ultra-bright LED to pin 13 of the Arduino. Attach the cathode to the GND pin. Ordinarily you would attach a resistor before the anode of the LED, but because the Arduino does not use enough current to damage the LED, a resistor is not necessary.

  4. 4

    Start a new sketch in the Arduino software called strobe.pde.

  5. 5

    Paste the following code into your sketch:

    int led_pin = 13;

    int on_time = 100;

    int analog_value_multiplier = 15;

    int minimum_delay = 500;

    int strobe_delay = 0;

    void set-up() {

    pin Mode(led_pin, OUTPUT);


    void loop() {

    strobe_delay = minimum_delay + 10000 * analog_value_multiplier;

    digital Write(led_pin, HIGH);

    delay Microseconds(on_time);

    digital Write(led_pin, LOW);

    delay Microseconds(strobe_delay - on_time);


    This code sets the output pin as 13 and sets an initial on/off delay for the strobe at 500 milliseconds. You can adjust the values of the variables as you see fit, depending on your desired application for the strobe. It then issues on (HIGH) and off (LOW) pulses to the LED after the predetermined delays.

  6. 6

    Upload the code to the Arduino. Once the code has installed, as long as the Arduino is receiving power from the USB cable, the LEDs will flash quickly enough to create a strobe light. You can use any 5-volt source to power the Arduino, using the appropriately labelled pins, if you wish to package the strobe in a portable housing. After the Arduino is programmed, it retains that program and executes it until its memory is wiped.

Tips and warnings

  • The circuits above are either original designs or modified public domain so they can be used at leisure.

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