Combine a button with a pixel, and you produce a ‘Bixel.’ Combine enough of them, and you can create a large LED interactive display where each pixel can be pressed to change an animation in real-time, which is what the people at Maniacal Labs have successfully created.
The Bixel’s original design was to use arcade buttons with built-in RGB LEDs; however, that plan was scrapped as the cheapest buttons they could find were $2 a piece, meaning a 16 X 16 display would cost over $500, and that’s just for the buttons. Instead, they chose to use individual RGB LEDs taken from SK9822 strips and engineered a custom setup, which worked out well.
The Bixel build process was done by soldering the individual LEDs onto a custom 500 X 500mm PCB. On the sides of each strip section are a pair of tactile switches, while above and below each is a square piece of acrylic, with a 25mm hole cut into the top of each. Sandwiched between the two sheets is an acrylic button that engages the switches when pressed.
The hardware to control the display was done using a Raspberry Pi 3, which processes the inputs and display patterns and then passes it off to a Teensy microcontroller that tells the LEDs what to do. In all, Maniacal Labs employed 256 SK9822 RGB LEDs, 512 tactile switches, 256 1N4148 diodes, 600+ screws, stand-offs and nuts, 0.5Kg of solder, 12 hours of laser cutting and 300+ hours to design and build the Bixel. To see the complete process, head over to Maniacal Labs website found here.