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Offline darthmorbius

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What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« on: September 11, 2008, 04:00:18 AM »
After looking around the forums a bit, I have noticed that there really isn't a topic that covers exactly what makes a saber a saber.

So we will be covering a few of the basic components of that which we call an FX-Saber.  I hope that this topic will help the newer initiates to our hobby/lifestyle/whatever you may call it.   :)

Then comes the topic title's main question: "What's in a saber?"

This is specifically for LED lightsabers because EL is basically archaic now.  I know that my comment here may bring down an angry mob, but let's face facts here.  You see more LED based builds than you do EL builds these days.  Both types have their merits, but for the sake of this topic we will be sticking to LED based systems to remain on topic.

Without Further Ado...




What are the basic component requirements of an LED lightsaber?

This is a question that I have seen a LOT in my time on these forums.  There have been many answers to this, but they are always saber specific, and never really summed up in a generalized manner, and most of the time not all in one place.  So here is the Low-down, Barney-style breakdown in layman's terms.

POWER SOURCE

Every electronic device requires this. Everything from an electric toothbrush, all the way up to the Space Shuttle uses them.  Of course we are talking about BATTERIES.  The battery is what stores the electrical charge that is used to power the whole thing.  Without them your saber would be just another pretty paperweight sitting on a shelf to look neat.

Choices in batteries range from cheap dollar store alkalines, up to the newest LiFePo smart cells.  We aren't getting complicated here so we will save the discussions on battery composition for another topic, because that deserves it's own discussion FORUM alone.

Basically, your battery type, size and output are going to vary depending on a lot of factors:
  • Type of LED used
  • Type of Driver Circuitry used
  • Whether or not there is sound
  • Hilt size / internal space available
  • Personal preference
  • Rechargeable or non
  • Battery output
  • Battery Chemistry...etc

High powered LED

The next thing is your LED choice. There are many High powered LED units available on the market today, and many more on the horizon.  LEDs have become one of the most efficient artificial light sources available in the world, and have been adapted in many ways to serve as more than just indicator lights on your stereo.

You cannot go outside in a civilized area without seeing them: Traffic lights, Vehicle headlights, LED signage, Police cars, Airplanes, kid's shoes, movie theaters, fountains at your favorite theme park, casinos, gas stations, *FLASHLIGHTS* etc... They are EVERYWHERE now. Even the little eye on most Television remotes are IR (infra-red) LED emitters (though a lot of companies are moving to Bluetooth and Wi-fi remotes now).

Enough about their uses in other things though, we are concentrating on "Luxeon" sabers.  I used Luxeon in quotes because that is a specific BRAND of high powered LED that is made by Phillips.

There are many other brands of these types of LED, and they all serve the same general purpose to us.  TO MAKE OUR SABERS ALL SHINY-BRIGHT!  8)

The LED is what brightens our day when we hit the power button on our "Elegant weapons of a more civilized age"

Most LED's used in sabers are mounted on a "star" PCB, though some use just the emitter itself.

As with batteries, the discussion of types will require it's own topic, and there are many of those right here on the Fx-Sabers forums.  However, your choice of LED will affect just about every other aspect of your saber's construction, so it is definitely something to research and consider your options in mass before deciding on exactly which one to use.

Focusing optics

Every saber that you want to look nice when lit MUST have them. There are two industry standard optics that most people will recognize, of course there are other alternatives but these two are the most well known.  The Collamitor Lens with holder, and the parabolic reflector.  The purpose of these is to focus the light emitted from the diode (nice play on the meaning of L.E.D. eh?) down the blade to illuminate your saber. Sure, you can get away without one, but the saber just won't look as nice as one containing some sort of optic.

LED heatsink

As with all electronic devices, when voltage and current flow through conductors, some amount of heat is produced. Such is the case with a high powered LED, and believe me, THEY CAN GET REALLY HOT! especially higher wattage LED's. To counteract this, and to help cool the circuit, a heatsink is required to dissipate some of that heat away from the LED. 

Most heatsinks are usually made of aluminum or copper, and can be as simple as a slug of metal, to as elaborate as a multi finned, custom machined work of art.  All that should really matter is that you will most likely need one because it will help prolong the life of your LED. Heat=BAD MOJO so do someting about it! ;D

Method of Driving the LED

There are four main categories here:

  • "Direct Drive" - This is a method of hooking an LED directly to a battery and switch with no other components to regulate current and voltage.  With this method, you must exercise extreme caution not to overpower the LED too much or you risk damaging or destroying it. Most LED manufacturers discourage this method for High-powered LEDs, but if done properly and limited to the safe specifications of the component, can look quite nice. You must be pretty precise about your battery output for this to work properly.
  • "Resistored" - This method utilizes a properly rated resistor to dampen the current flowing to the LED. This method is safer than using "direct Drive" but not as efficient as using a dedicated driver. Resistors have a nasty by-product of heat caused by the energy they restrict. The unused current must go somewhere, so it is dissipated as thermal energy.  Think of them as you would a muffler on a car; they restrict the flow of current much like a muffler restricts the flow of exhaust gasses from an internal combustion engine.
  • "Dedicated Driver" - This type is preferred for use with LEDs since the circuit actually regulates the voltage AND current in one complete package, and helps preserve your battery life over the charge cycle.  Most specific SABER Drivers are of a PWM (Pulse Wave Modulation) type, and are comprised of different components that regulate the flow of electricity. For this reason, they are usually rated to run at a specific range of amperage, and can generally operate in a range of up to 24V input.  Buckpucks are an example of a  standard driver, as Corbin's and Erv's drivers are PWM.
  • "Soundcard / Driver combo" - This is the "HOLY GRAIL" item category in our hobby.  These types are what most people are familiar with. Be it Hasbro (bleh), MR (Meh), Ultrasound (Now we're talkin'!), or Crystal Focus ("OMG! I think I just filled the cup!") They all do pretty much the same thing.  They run the LED AND the make all those cool, whooshy-clashy, hummy sounds we all know and love.  NOT a requirement really, but everyone wants them...

SWITCHES

Turns the saber on and off.


Speaker

We all know what these are... No need to really discuss it.  They are only required if your saber has sound...
Captain Obvious strikes again!  :D

WIRE

If you don't know what a wire is, you have no business owning electronics...EVER.  ;D

This is what you connect all of your electronic components with.  ;)

The wiring used commonly in sabers will be sized from 22-30 gauge multi-conductor (stranded) wire. anything larger or smaller will cause you grief (of course unless you work for AMD or Intel and happen to be a precise robotic piece of equipment, just completely insane, or your parents are Hill giants and your hilt requires 4" rigid CONDUIT inside to house the power supply cables.)  *And you all thought I was going to keep the serious air about this topic! ;) ;) ;)

Blade Holder

This is what holds the blade securely in your saber (novel idea eh... who'da thunk it! ;))

A blade holder is typically high impact plastic (in the case of MR sabers), or T-6 aluminum (almost everything else).  The dimensions should Ideally be 1" (actually a fraction over for proper blade fitment) Internal diameter with a  2" Socket depth.  This can vary depending on application, but those dimensions are the most widely used in most sabers. Outer dimensions will be based on the Internal dimension of our next part on the list...

THE HILT BODY

Besides the sound selection (if included) and color / intensity of the LED, this part is where people can express their creativity or lack thereof (c'mon you know it's funny), personality, passion for tradition, or wild display of anarchy.  This is the most visual part of the main body of a saber.  This should be the last stop for your electronics to rest in.  Sure it's good to visualize what design you want, but it is extremely important to decide on your electronics set up and take that into MAJOR consideration before machining, carving, forging, summoning, or transmuting your hilt.

The hilt typically consists of three main components: Emitter, Pommel, and main body.  This can be adorned with all kinds of decorative or functional "Greeblies" (meaning extra stuff), painted, stained, baked, dragged through the mud, dropped, airbrushed, plated, anodized, scorched... you name it.

THE BLADE!

I think that it should be OBVIOUS that you are not going to be having a REAL beam of light that can cut through metal pop out of an LED emitter any time soon, so you are going to need something with substance to beat on Jedi with... (Sorry... that's the Dark side in me talking!)

This means that you will need to acquire some polycarbonate tubing and some sort of diffuser to make the light nice and even, and a reflective tip.  You have a lot of choices in this area, so just look around the community here on the forums to see what kinds are out there.

I hope this helps a little, and that no one gets too offended with my strange sense of humor showing through in this post.

Enjoy, build lots of sabers, be safe, and have FUN!

PEACE OUT!
~Darth Tyranus

« Last Edit: September 11, 2008, 04:08:14 AM by DARTH TYRANUS »

Offline Sidneyious

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2008, 05:18:30 AM »
Good work there DT!

Offline Firith Tar

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2008, 10:16:10 AM »
Darth Tyranus your wealth of knowledge always astounds me, you write complete and accurate information that all questions are addressed and all answers are revealed… and impeccable timing as well I might add… as the days of my first MHS are approaching.
There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out

Offline eastern57

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2008, 11:43:06 AM »
OUTSTANDING, MY GOOD MAN!  It's thorough and entertaining, yet short enough for ADD not to kick in  ;D

I like how you've categorized the driving methods.  Give me a call is you ever want to be a high-paid courseware developer  :D

You're the only other person that I've seen to use the "Holy Grail" reference ;)

Offline Bin Adam

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2008, 02:07:12 PM »
Peace be upon all,

Wow, that was a great post! Thanks for taking the time the write that up I need to copy-n-past that into a Word doc so that I don't loose the reference.

That "faster than the speed of stupid" really got me going though  :D

Bin Adam
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Offline GENERAL GRIEVOUS

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2008, 03:31:51 PM »
Wow DT thanks!  That would have been really helpful to me like 18 months ago, so I KNOW it will help many people in the future!  Let me be one of the first to thank you on their behalf! ;D

Offline ASAJJ VENTRESS

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2008, 04:50:04 PM »
Peace be upon all,

Wow, that was a great post! Thanks for taking the time the write that up I need to copy-n-past that into a Word doc so that I don't loose the reference.

That "faster than the speed of stupid" really got me going though  :D

Bin Adam

And we all know how fast that can be!  :D

Seriously though, thanks.  This makes me appreciate my toys a little more!  Not saying I can make any of my own, but this will help me decide what to buy in the future.


For everything you gain, you lose something else.

How "Freedom of Speech" works:  you have the freedom to say whatever you want, BUT you also have the freedom to suffer the consequences

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Offline Jedi Tom

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2008, 05:06:58 PM »
That is good work DARTH TYRANUS, you certainly know alot about sabers, that is very useful to users on the forum. :)

Offline Big Boss

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2008, 05:43:44 PM »
ALL HAIL LORD TYRANUS


"One must die and one must live. No victory, no defeat. The survivor will carry on the fight. It is our destiny... The one who survives will inherit the title of Boss. And the one who inherits the title of Boss will face an existence of endless battle."-The Boss

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Offline Ishi-Goturi

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2008, 06:13:01 PM »
"SIC SEMPER TYRANUS!"

 :D
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Offline BEN KENOBI

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2008, 06:19:47 PM »
 ;D

Thanks for taking the time to do this!!Good job teacher!! ;D

Offline Ramaditya

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2008, 09:57:21 PM »
Outstanding! This is my first time knowing the component inside and outside the "weapon" I love so much!

Perhaps you can explain more about where the sound card located?
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Offline darthmorbius

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2008, 10:16:39 PM »
Outstanding! This is my first time knowing the component inside and outside the "weapon" I love so much!

Perhaps you can explain more about where the sound card located?


Certainly!

In the case of most sabers, specifically the Force FX line from Master Replicas. The sound card is located just about in the middle of the hilt.  Between the battery pack and the blade holder.

For reference, I will use the Anakin Skywalker saber.  The Band that the power switch is located on is a perfect reference point for where the sound card lies in the hilt. It is directly under that band.  When you take the battery pack out, there are four pins inside.  Those are connected to the plastic housing for the sound card.

Basically all Force FX from Master Replicas have the same orientation of the sound board.

Offline Ramaditya

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2008, 08:11:50 AM »
Outstanding! This is my first time knowing the component inside and outside the "weapon" I love so much!

Perhaps you can explain more about where the sound card located?


Certainly!

In the case of most sabers, specifically the Force FX line from Master Replicas. The sound card is located just about in the middle of the hilt.  Between the battery pack and the blade holder.

For reference, I will use the Anakin Skywalker saber.  The Band that the power switch is located on is a perfect reference point for where the sound card lies in the hilt. It is directly under that band.  When you take the battery pack out, there are four pins inside.  Those are connected to the plastic housing for the sound card.

Basically all Force FX from Master Replicas have the same orientation of the sound board.

Thanks! Yes I can imagine that.

PS: Perhaps you could make a post how to install a sound board easily (or if you have already done that). I will wait several months until I've got enough knowledge and bravery to plug out my own saber to learn...
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Offline Darth Matth

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Re: What's in a saber? (You might actually want to read this!)
« Reply #14 on: October 01, 2008, 12:10:57 AM »
I'm waiting for the courage to open my MR Obi Wan ROTS.

I thought of buying the DIY kit from Ultra, but I want to make it a Lux V, and that doesn't go with the MR soundboard.
I don't mind replacing that soundboard with the Ultraboard 2.0 I've ordered besides the one that goes to Darth Tyranus for my Overlord.
The Obi ROTS is a bit dim compared to the loudness of my Anakin ROTS.
I also have to search for a bladeholder with Lux V LED that fits into the Obi ROTS.
As I'm bussy with that, I also better put in a new batterypack and use the premium speaker that completes the ultraboard very well.

I really like the hilt and love to see and holding it without the blade as an option.

But for all of this I still need more courage and search for some knowledge too.
How to open it without damaging the whole thing for example.



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