LED lighting for use in miniature tanks

LED lighting for use in miniature tanks

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Novice, built a model for a popular wargame.

I built a modular tank using magnets for multiple variants from 1 kit.

I hope to add some LEDs (max of 20 3V) & fibre optic lights on the vehicle and fibre optics for laser sights or panel lights etc.

For the fiber optics, I plan to make sealed boxes/packets with a grommet in each to allow a 3mm LED to be fitted, 1 for RGBW colours with the fiber optic cables for each colour ending inside the box/ packet. All sealed up and blacked out to stop light leakage to the main body. Probably heat shink or acrylic resin seal. I’ll need 2 of these 1 for main hull lights and one for the turret for the sights.

Been looking at a 4056 USB charging board to be hidden behind a panel as a way to charge the battery pack in the main body of the vehicle battery pack.

For the battery pack, I hope to be able recycle 18650 batteries from an old laptop battery pack for the project.

I don’t know where to start, how to work out what battery power I’ll need, if I can step it up if needs be. I’ve read a badly fitted LED can burn a system out. Should I find something to protect the circuit?

Is it worthwhile buying pre soldered LEDs with resistors and leads already done?

I read that LEDs are best wired in series, I’ll hope to use the magnets to transfer power between modules either to charge individual battry set ups (enough room depending on the size of the battery required, I have several batteries from rechargeable pocket items e.g. ear buds battery pack/storage) or simply to continue power to the lights running through the section (1 mag + ve, 1 mag -ve ) The space is approx 30mm x 70mm x 160mm of the top of my head, may vary 5 mm in some cases, I’ll clarify if required. The LEDs are going to be fitted about the body.

The battery pack, charger, a fiber optics box, and power transfer (hopefully magnets where possible to maintain the modular set up of the model) will be in the base, the rest will involve wiring the LEDs to the various modules. Anyway thats the brief outline, please ask if I’m unclear.voltageresistorstp4056modellingShareCiteEditFollowFlagedited 17 hours agoJRE48.1k88 gold badges7474 silver badges129129 bronze badgesasked yesterdayJim Brown1111 bronze badge New contributor

  • 1Hi fren! Is this your first electronics project and do you already know how to program microcontrollers? Oh wait is this a non motorized model tank so you just need to know how to select, power and wire LEDs and battery circuits? – K H yesterday 
  • 1Can you try to boil this down to an actual specific question? And please add a schematic. – Elliot Alderson yesterday
  • 2Can you drill a hole in the LED ? to epoxy a plastic fiber optic line or fishing clear line. If can be a 3mm or 5mm LED. Black heat shrink works well,. Using a 3.7V Battery you can use an efficient 5mm LED at 10mA with 0.7V/70 Ohm in series for each LED. – Tony Stewart EE75 yesterday 
  • 1Also remember a diagram is worth ten good descriptions and a thousand average descriptions, so maybe add a diagram of what you’re planning. If you want some form of wireless charging, you should look up the measurements on DIY Qi charger pads as you might find them too big to put more than one into a project. – K H yesterday
  • Ah, you seem to be asking too many questions at a time, and I lost count how many, when I finished reading the third paragraph of your question. Let me suggest to eat the big elephant byte by byte, in three byes. And I would suggest to begin with the LED part. / To continue, – tlfong01 yesterday   
  • It would be nice for you to give us a link to a picture of the “very popular war game” and perhaps a photo of your yet to complete “mobular tank”. In the mean time I will search my junk box to find those LED, single and in trips, lying there collecting dust. I cannot upload too many picture in comments. So I would try to write up a yet to complete answer and place my photos there. – tlfong01 yesterday   
  • One more thing. I don’t understand what do you mean by “F/O box and px transfer hopefully magnets, ..”. Do you mean to transfer charging laptop battery energy wirelessly, from magnet to magnetic lipo 18650’s? That is a bit too advanced to me. Perhaps you can clarify and hope other ninjas here can help. Anyway, I now go to my junk bins for LEDs. I will be back. See you later. Cheers. – tlfong01 yesterday    
  • I am back. I found quite a bit of lonely LEDs lying in my junk boxes, doing nothing. I will now take photos and introduce them to you, and we can chat and see which one of them should go first to give us light. Ah, you need to let me know if you are using Arduino or Rpi and if you know how to blink a boring red LED. Can I assume that you know how to use a multimeter and tell which end of a LED is anode and which end cathode? I am thinking aloud, so sorry for all the typos. – tlfong01 yesterday   
  • Now I found some 1W LEDs (Appednix B). The ordinary LEDs you have been playing take only 5mA to at most 20mA. But thees 1W guys can take up to 350mA, so are blindingly dazzling. I will give a link to a newbie friendly tutorial later, about this 1W LEDs. They are not strong guys actually, their big brothers can take 1A or up to 3 or 4A. But my experience is only with these little 350mA guys. – tlfong01 yesterday   
  • Now I have also found 12V LED strips. I think this is the easiest for newbies to fit to their cars and tanks. 7 Things to Know Before Buying and Installing 12V LED Strip Lights – Taylor Scully, 2019dec, 426,876 Views ledsupply.com/blog/7-tips-before-installing-led-strip-lights – tlfong01 23 hours ago   

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1 Answer



  1. There are many types of LED and LED strips. For newbies, I would recommend to start off with 12V LED strips (Ref 6), which is the easiest to DIY. For ninjas, I would recommend WS2812 RGB LEDS, which is a bit tricky to handle.
12v led strip

  1. To DIY 12V LED strips, first thing first is to study the inner circuitry and workings. I would recommend to read the tutorials by WaveFormLighting (Ref 8). It is only after we know what is going on inside the strip, then we can do fancy things such as dimming, using tricks such as PWM (Pulse Width Modulation).

  1. Talk is cheap, let us now study the schematic (Wait a second. Have you already read the tutorials by Components 101 and WaveformLighting? :)) and see how we can light up the real thing: the 12V LED strip, and later dim it.

3.1 Now I have cut a 3 LED segment from my half a meter long green strip, and now going to solder wires and test it with 12VDC.

green led

3.2 I found the green LED strip is too bright at 12V. I tried to lower power supply to 7V and found the LED dimmed to more pleasing to my eyes. I know a better way to dim is to use PWM, which the trick I will use pretty soon.

3.2.1 12V full brightness

grn 12V

3.2.2 7V dimming

grn 7V

  1. Testing R, G, B, Y strips together

So I have separately test 4 R, G, B, Y LED strips. The OP can use 3 LED strips or 6 LED strips, or even longer (but in multiples of 3 LEDs). The strips have 3M adhesive tapes at the back, so it is easy to just peel off the protective surface and stick the sticky strip to any smooth surface. It took me less than three minutes to stick four strips on a proto board, and use 12V to light up them all at once, as shown below.

rgby test

5. Dimming LED strips using PWM

  1. I am thinking of using 7/8 channel ULN2003/2803 500mA sink drivers to switch the power on/off the LED strip.
  2. Then I can use a cheapy 555 timer module to generate square pulses of difference duty cycles, as PWM signals to input to the ULN2003/ULN2803 drivers to DIM the LED strips.

Note: Using ULN2803 8-channel driver and NE555 timer, we can test PWM dimming offline, during prototyping stage, without using Arduino or Rpi. I think this offline testing approach is more time efficient for newbies, who are slow in programming.

/ to continue, …


(1) Tank classification – Wikipedia

(2) 1W LED Tutorial – Components 101

(3) MBT tank series – Fandom Games

(4) Norgencian Army – Fandom Games

(5) M1A2 US MBT Tanks Army WW2 High Simulation GUDI 6101 Military Series Educational DIY Building Blocks toy for Children Boys Gifts – AliRadar US$46

(6) 7 Things to Know Before Buying and Installing 12V LED Strip Lights – Taylor Scully, 2019dec, 426,876 Views

(7) 12V LED strip catalog (total 60 pages! :))- AliExpress

(8) LED Strip Light Internal Schematic and Voltage Information – WaveformLighting

(9) ULN2803A 8-channel 500mA Darlington Transistor Arrays Sink Drivers – TI

(10) 555 Timer Module Catalog – AliExpress

(11) When and Why do LEDs Need Current Limiting Resistors? (And why use CCS (Constant Current Source)? )- WaveformLighting


Appendix A – WS2812 RGB LEDs

Appendix A - WS2812 RGB LEDs

Appendix B – 1W 350mA LED, without heat sink

no heat sink LED

Appendix C – 1W LED with heat sink

heat sink led

Appendix D – MBT (Main Battle Tank) – Wikipedia


MBT (Main battle tank) – Tank classification – Wikipedia

Advances in tank design, armour, and engine technology allowed tank designers to increase the capabilities of tanks significantly, allowing vehicles to undertake multiple roles on the battlefield.

This could be accomplished without always resorting to heavier designs, although weights did gradually increase. High explosive anti-tank (HEAT) ammunition was a threat to tanks and could penetrate steel armour thicker than was practical to put on a tank. Advances such as the British-designed Chobham armour limit the effectiveness of weaker HEAT rounds, but the vulnerability still remained.

On 7 November 1950, the US Ordnance Committee Minutes (OCM), order #33476, ceased utilizing the terms heavy, medium, and light tanks and redesignated tanks by the gun system, e.g. 90 mm Gun Tank M48 Patton, etc. with heavy gun tanks (120 mm or 4.724 in), medium gun tanks (90 mm or 3.543 in), and light gun tanks (76 mm or 2.992 in), although these gun terms were often still shortened to simply heavy, medium, and light tanks.

The term “main battle tank” (MBT), in the US, was first generally applied in 1960 to an all-purpose tank, armed and protected as a heavy tank, but with the mobility of the medium tank (the introduction of M60 Patton). The MBT would form the backbone of modern ground forces.

United States Army M1A2 Abrams main battle tank, fitted with reactive armor, as per the recent TUSK refit.

Many Cold War MBTs evolved more or less directly from late World War II medium tank designs. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, a generation of purpose-designed main battle tanks appeared, starting with the British Chieftain tank. These vehicles are less obviously influenced by wartime templates (the Chieftain, for example), weighing as much as a World War II heavy tank and possessing far greater firepower and armour, while retaining the mobility of the previous Centurion design. Similarly, the US M1 Abrams series, the German Leopard 2, the British Challenger 1, French Leclerc and Russian T-90 tanks are all main battle tanks. The defining feature of the main battle tank type is neither its weight, mobility, nor firepower, but instead the idea that only one type of tracked armoured vehicle is required to carry out the roles of breakthrough, exploitation and infantry support.ShareCiteEditDeleteFlagedited just nowanswered yesterdaytlfong012,00211 gold badge77 silver badges1414 bronze badgesAdd a comment

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