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Offline alwaysfixin

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looking for a straight answer......
« on: March 16, 2013, 11:01:08 AM »
Hi, I'm sorry if I'm posting in the wrong place, but I keep getting directed here as the source of those who know......
I've been searching all over the sight for answers to some general technical questions, but I can't find the information I'm looking for, and I keep getting stonewalled with jargon and brand references and such that I have no idea about.  And I should be studying for my respiratory national board finals right now instead of researching light sabers, so I kinda need it fast and straight from someone who knows their stuff.
I'll try to keep it brief:  I built a light saber a long time ago - 50 led's sequentially lighting up and back down the blade with a slider control.  This was all totally from scratch and before anything like it was on the commercial market.  I'm still not sure if anything quite like it is on the market.  I made it for my oldest son for Halloween, (because what WAS available at the time was LAME), and I never had time to make it perfect, but the prototype is all there and working and fairly cool. 
Fast-forward a few years and I'm now wanting to build one for my youngest son.  But I know there have been some changes in technology, FX sabers appeared on the scene, this forum, the whole saber hobby genre came to be, etc...etc...  It's been a while.  I want to make a similar sequentially controlled blade, but cooler!  Brighter, thinner, Brighter, smoother, BRIGHTER.  After all, the first one I made can only be seen for miles, I want it visible from SPACE!
So finally to the questions, and I'm sure I'm about to sound REALLY ignorant;  What is the common practice for making sequential blades these days?  I can't find any posts about it newer than 2010, and those were pretty vague.  What kind of controllers?  Are there any controllers available capable of sequentially lighting that many LED's?  I saw a force FX in Wally-World that had all of a 10 LED sequential blade.  Do higher quality FX sabres have a larger number of LED's sequenced.  I know you can parallel together all you want, but mine had 50 individual steps for the blade operation, and in slower activation it still looks a bit choppy, so I can't imagine having less than that.  Does anyone make blades like that?  And if so, what's the basis of operation?  I'm not asking for anyone's top secret schematic or anything, just a 'what's out there these days' kind of thing.  Anyone making an LED alphanumeric array and driving it with a stamp? 
I see a lot of people lighting up a lot of LED's, but there's something missing.....
Ultimately I guess I'd like to make a sequential component blade that uses 1/2 watt or better LED's, or maybe small and a LOT more of them.  And yes, battery power and cooling would be major issues.....but if it's not pushing the limit, what's the point?
If anyone could help me out I'd be eternally grateful, as would I'm sure anyone else with the same crazy ideas.


Offline STARKILLER

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Re: looking for a straight answer......
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2013, 11:13:08 AM »
Honestly, there is no silver spoon for this as a quick answer. Component blade tech is not widely used in the hobby as it has some limitations that we don't really care for. There is however the Crystal Focus LS, which is made especially for component blades. Makoto also makes and sells component blades and soundboards for controlling them. You're not going to find anyone using 500ma LEDs in a component blade. That would be 25 watts of power (i.e. heat) inside a poly C tube. I think it would melt. The bright LEDs that are currently used in the few component blades that people have made are insanely bright. The number of 'segments' is what you're referring too, whether it be 6,7, or 10 segments. These are 'banks' of LEDs soldered together and controlled to give the scrolling effect. Sorry, but there isn't a way to separately control 50-75 individual LEDs. The progressive scroll of the CF-LS will give a greater and more organic scroll effect as each segment 'progressively' fades in and out into the next segment on ignition/retraction. There's just SOOOOO much that goes into this particular set up that there just isn't a "magic pill" to get you everything you need to just print it out and go to town. If you want plug and play, you would be better off buying a Makoto set up. If you want DIY, well.....you gotta DIY.


Oh, and pics and a vid of your early efforts would be awesome! :D


Offline Goodman

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Re: looking for a straight answer......
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2013, 12:28:58 PM »
"alwaysfixin", welcome to the Forums. To echo what Starkiller already said:

1) Makotosai (YouTube "Makoto lightsaber") produces assembled component blades (common cathode), soundboard/drivers, and also complete lightsabers. He is in Asia, responds quickly to emails, and his tech is very bright.

2) Erv (www.plecterlabs.com), aside from his many other popular products, offers a soundboard/driver for component blades, the aforementioned CF-LS v6.1. You will need to build your own blade (common anode)


May I also ask why you want a component blade? If it is maximum brightness you're after, certain modern single LED sabers can be made very satisfyingly bright, with the only "downside" compared to component blades being the loss of the "scrolling up and down" effect when powering the blade up/down. A direct drive SSR90-Green at 6A (~25W), for example (although no sound :) could take an eye out! Or even driven at 3A via a Crystal Focus v6's main LED pad is great (and full sound). Or a Quad-Rebel GGGG (seriallel @2A), which can be driven with a board as inexpensive as a Petit Crouton 2.0 and 7.4V 14650/18500/18650 packs.

Of course, if you want a component blade, then that's perfectly fine, too.
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Offline hedgehog1

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Re: looking for a straight answer......
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2013, 12:39:56 PM »
If I might ask you to ponder this question for a moment:

Are you building this saber for you, or your son?

I know that sounds odd - but here is a practical reality.  For most kids, the order of importance for a saber is this:

1) Can my friends and I beat each other senselessness with it and not have it break?
2) Is it bright enough to use day and night?
3) Does it make noise?
4) Is it easy to fix so Dad won't get mad when I do manage to bust it?

For most adults, here is the order of importance for a saber:

1) How cool looking is the hilt when on display?
2) How cool are the blade effects when it is on?
3) How cool are the sounds?
4) Does it have lots of detail and flashy hilt lights?

Notice that the lists don't overlap all that much.  Kids are happiest with a rugged and fun toy.  Grown-ups Adults want lots of showy pizzazz.

If you are really building this for your son, go with a rugged and reliable design.  Something like the Nano Biscotti  Sound board, a single swap-able Li-Ion cell for quick battery change and a bright single LED that fades up and down for power-up and power-down but REALLY puts on a show once the blade is powdered up.  For a kid, this is heaven in a saber.  All the pluses outweigh the power-up, power-down being a simpler fade effect.

Four yourself, you are looking at a very different technology to get what you are after.  Some of it, you will have to create from scratch using a programmable micro controller (like an adruino nano) and addressable LEDs, perhaps a custom made clear flexible circuit board to slide into the blade and lots and lots of cash.  You will never want to duel with this saber, it would be for show only.

It is this practical reality that has most of us using the single LED  for most sabers.  If you want the saber to last in a kids hands, keep it simple and rugged.  For one you plan to baby, go fancy and fragile.

Offline alwaysfixin

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Re: looking for a straight answer......
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2013, 12:35:56 PM »
Thanks a million for all the help guys!  Finally some of the answers I've been looking for.  You all raise some very good points to think about too.  I guess my projects do tend to be at least as much about figuring out the technical challenges as they are about a cool costume prop for the kiddies.  Naturally if I just wanted to give them something to go beat against a tree I'd put a LOT less time and effort into it.  I figure when they're about 8-10 they can start to figure the difference, and I thought they could have fun with the appearance side and making it look cooler as they get older.  Though the first one didn't seem to care much.
I've been giving my next project some thought, and I do find the challenge interesting.  I have some ideas, but naturally getting everything to fit in the space available, not overheat too quickly, (active cooling seems inevitable), and actually run on less than a car battery, seems to be the main challenges.  I thought about using a micro-controller last time but it just got too complicated.  If one could get one controller to do everything in one processor, (blade, sound, effects, etc...), that might be interesting.  Has anyone put a bluetooth sender into their sound card and a receiver in the stereo system?  That might give some awesome HUMMMM. 
I'll get some pics/video up one of these days soon.  Just the real world is rather jealous of my time these (and most) days.  I think my son probably left the battery pack dead long enough by this time that it won't charge anymore.  He's 18 now and has other priorities.  Such is life.
Thanks again guys!

Offline Goodman

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Re: looking for a straight answer......
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2013, 12:41:04 PM »
Regarding wireless sound, yes, Erv from Plecter Labs does have a module with a digital radio transmitter, but it is currently Out Of Stock.

https://www.plecterlabs.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=23&products_id=58

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Offline Sunrider

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Re: looking for a straight answer......
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2013, 02:46:50 PM »
  If you want to be able to see it from 20k feet and beat it against a tree go with a green SSR90 and drive it to 7 amps. This can be done with effects.  2 x NCR18650 Batteries will work.  Check my Praxis build for more info.

Offline WEDGE ANTILLES

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Re: looking for a straight answer......
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 10:04:14 AM »
Quote
I saw a force FX in Wally-World that had all of a 10 LED sequential blade.  Do higher quality FX sabres have a larger number of LED's sequenced. 

the original MR force-FX sabers had 64 LED's in the blade;  the smaller Yoda had 72 LED's;  the new plastic 'ultimate' sabers at wal-mart have about 12.

Quote
mine had 50 individual steps for the blade operation, and in slower activation it still looks a bit choppy, so I can't imagine having less than that.

for the 64-LED blades, the controller would ignite them in sequence, in blocks of 8 at a time.   there were only 8 individual steps for the 'power-on' animation. 
they do not ignite individually in sequence, giving 64 steps of animation.  (as yours did, giving 50 steps).   
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