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Author Topic: String and Strip Blade Facts, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions FAQ  (Read 1183 times)

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Online EXAR KUN

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STRING and STRIP BLADE FACTS and ANSWERS to FAQ's



For those lightsaber enthusiasts familiar with the 2005 and beyond Master Replicas and Hasbro lightsaber replica toys, you already know what a string blade is.

It's the type of LED ladder system employed in these blade tubes that allows the light to climb up and down the blade tube for realistic 'movie-like' lightsaber blade effects. Some early versions were made up of electroluminescent paper in multiple segments, and later versions use (usually) 64 LEDs in segments that light up the blade in sequence.

Of course these mass-produced lightsaber props did not have the brightness and sound quality we were all looking for, so some individuals took it upon themselves to produce higher-quality versions of these props. Individuals like Makoto in Taiwan created their very own sound board and LED driver hardware to power extra-bright string blade lightsabers for sale to the community, and later; in 2012, Erv from Plecter Labs created the Crystal Focus LS, which became available through Plecter Labs in France to power string blades with the awesome sound and functionalities of the powerful Crystal Focus board which was already by this time the premiere and highest quality soundboard and LED driver for lightsabers available in the world.

Using the power of Plecter Labs technology, string blades could finally reach their full potential not only in brightness, but also in the sound they could produce in conjunction with the special blade effects a string blade offered. The even lighting of a string blade is due to the fact that there can be more than one hundred small (3mm or 5mm, sometimes larger sizes as well) high power LEDs running through the length of the blade. We call this a 'component blade' because it is made up of several components. When powered correctly, the string blade setup can be the brightest and most evenly lit of all lightsaber styles available in this galaxy.




Over the years, the Crystal Focus sound board and LED saber driver became even more powerful, and subsequently went on to grow in more iterations and more features, but the Light String driver version was discontinued. Saber Time (which is my speak for 'time' in the saber world) was ever accelerating in the years following the first introduction of the Plecter Labs CF LS. No longer was Saber Time slower than actual time... it was snowballing ever faster in the wake of the introduction of a new Star Wars movie series spearheaded by the buyout of Lucasfilm by Disney.

With this announcement, Saber Time accelerated into Hyperspace, and many more options began to appear on the saber horizon.

Individuals throughout the world became more and more involved in the hardware and software development of lightsaber products.

A few of these engineers developed string blade boards or mods for their current boards that were able to convert to string blade/component blade functions.

Niagon, of NEC, has a mod for the Igniter board that allows for the use of 4 segment string blades. Obi1 (protonerd on the Arduino forums), in development with folks on the Arduino forums has created a universal soundboard option called the DIYino and that has spun off into several interations. Profezzorn on these forums has developed the Teensy, a powerful board that has many functions and many possibilities as well.

Both the DIYino and the Teensy are open source boards, which means anyone in the community can write coding and share their work with saber lovers everywhere through the DIYino and/or Teensy. This software sharing allows the user to customize their effects like never before. For string blades, this means unique ignition patterns, unique power-off blade sequence, and customizable blaster and aux effects. For pixel technology... this means that your dreams are your only limit... anything you can imagine can be done with your lightsaber blade. If you can dream it up and program it into the software, you can share your unique customized software with your saber friends and they will be able to see the same effects on their lightsaber that you created. Examples of what can be done include Kylo Ren type 'unstable' blade effects, Fire and colored fire, lightning... basically any kind of blade effect you desire are now possible with pixel blades and open source programming.

The focus for the time being, and into the foreseeable future; as far as string blade lightsabers and component blade lightsabers are concerned, is going to be pixel LEDs. Pixel LEDs are individually addressable LEDs that are computer controlled RGB and can change colors and do various manipulations of the light and effects with near endless possibilities.

Some of us that love the brightness and versatility of the segmented string blade will continue to place the component string blade at the top of our 'saber wants' list. For others, the user-friendly and customizable pixel blades are going to make it to the top of the scrutinizing lightsaber enthusiast's list.

For more information on string blades and pixel blades, I've compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Some of the answers here aren't simple, so I'll answer the best I can so that all the information can be stored in one place, and also these questions give me a chance to go into more detail about certain aspects of string and pixel blade technology.




Frequently Asked Questions (And Their Answers)




What is a string blade?


A string blade is a lightsaber blade made from many small Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), rather than the 'flashlight' style that is the most popular type of lightsaber prop. The string blade is made up of segments of LEDs; usually six, which are wired in series and in a numbered sequence so 'scrolling' is possible upon ignition and retraction so that the blade looks like it springs from the hilt emitter like in the movies, and then when retracted, it appears to disappear back into the hilt.

The benefits of a string blade is that the light is even all the way up the blade tube. Rather than the light being emitted from the hilt, as in standard LED sabers, string blades can have more than 100 small LEDs all through the blade all the way to the tip so that the entire blade has consistent and even light, whereas sometimes on a standard LED saber you will see the light diminish in the middle and be brighter at the base and the tip, where the base light is stopped or reflected back.







What makes a string blade special?


String blades have effects that standard LED lightsabers cannot perform. The best trick a string blade has is the ignition and retraction of the blade. This feature makes the prop feel very realistic, and is the feature that is most notable on a string blade. You can program your soundboard/LED driver board to perform various ignition and retraction patterns.. it doesn't always have to be simply up and down!

Another cool feature is more realistic blaster bolt deflection. On a standard LED lightsaber, the Flash on Clash feature is activated when you depress your aux button and a blaster deflect sound plays. On a string blade, your Flash on Clash string will activate for a predetermined amount of time (same as a standard saber), but a segment of the six-segment blade will flash or disappear to give a more dramatic laster deflection effect. This can be set up to be a random segment that reacts this way, or a preset pattern.

The most dramatic feature is the Flash on Flash capability of a string blade. By wiring a second parallel string of a single color inside your blade, you can utilize the Flash on Clash full capabilities of a string blade. Seventy or more white (or other color) LEDs quietly reside in the blade... invisible to the eye... taking up almost no space in there... but when a clash occurs, the burst of light from the FOC string is dramatic indeed.




How is a string blade made?


A string blade is made up of segments of LEDs. First, you must decide what color your blade is going to be. There are many options here... just with LED color alone there is Purple, White, Red, Blue, Green, Amber, Aqua, Orange... and when you add Photonic and Enhanced blade tubes from The Custom Saber Shop... many more colors become possible. For instance, if you choose a Photon Green blade tube and tip from the Custom Saber Shop and get Blue LEDs for inside your blade... you will end up with a really bright 'Neon Green' blade that is unique to the Photonically enhanced blade tubes. Another tweak that can be accomplished to tune up your 'right' color... is to use a day blade colored tube from the Custom Saber Shop which tints your LED color with the color tone that is the blade tube itself. For example, you could use white LEDs in a blue day blade and you'd get the white light trying to come through but tinted blue because of the blue transparent blade tube and corresponding tip. Using this method, you can come very close to the realistic 'white core' look from the movies that everyone is after. I've created my favorite color using this method which I call 'Viridian Green' which is superbright white LEDs inside a green day blade from the Custom Saber Shop.

The most universal way to make a string blade is from six individual segments of a certain number of LEDs. To keep the LEDs in good health, you'll need to choose which battery solution you'll use and build your segments to work well with your battery. For instance,... if you were to use a 7.4 Lithium Ion battery pack for your lightsaber string blade build, then you will need to apply the datasheet info for your particular LEDs to figure out how to build your segments. Each segment must be able to handle the output that your board will apply to each segment. If your LEDs power max rating is 3.4v, then you'll need to use 'Seriallel Class II' to wire your blade which will apply two mini segments of LEDs to every one main segment for your blade. This would mean (using our 3.4v example) you would actually need to build 12 mini segments, then combine them in Seriallel Class II for a total of six segments when you're done.



Here is an example of some segments being made before I cut the legs off. You can see on the bottom right of this photograph that there are some mini segments that eventually make up a full segment (one of six you need at the end)


This is an example of a fully realized 'Seriallel Class II' segment made up of blue LEDs


In this photo, you can read the output of my Desktop Power Supply to the segment at 6v, which is slightly underpowering these 3.2v LEDs because they are in Seriallel Class II wiring which now has a max rating for this segment of 6.4v. The CF LS will be adjusted for use with this blade by setting a lower factor in the drive setting of the SD card. Instead of adjusting the drive setting of the board, resistors or rectifier diodes can be used.



In this small bin, you can see 5mm LEDs that were filed down to remove the long 18 degree lens they had. The optimal range for the lens on an LED for string blade purposes is 45 to 120 degrees. These LEDs you see here are purple LEDs that started out with a tall 18 degree lens which I sanded down to get close to the diode, so that even more LEDs could be stacked in each segment. This allowed me to put between 10 and 20 more LEDs in the blade for an increase in intensity of over 10% light output





Here you can see another example of mini segments before I cut off the legs that aren't necessary anymore. Only certain legs will remain to tie the segments together, and then 2 will be joined together to form one Seriallel Class II segment



To connect the LED strip you make to the Deltron DIN plug, first, you should trim the DIN plug housing to be less than one inch. Cut it just above the screw hole for the Phillips head screw. You will also need to snip the metal brace so it does not stick up out of the shortened DIN housing that you cut. This DIN plug is the Deltron 6100 8 Pin plug as recommended in the Plecter Labs manual for CF LS 6.5. This plug can be used for any string blade system that requires up to eight pins. The eight connections are for segments 1-6, The common positive, and the eighth and final connection for the optional Flash on Clash negative.



Sand down your rough dremel cut with a piece of sandpaper and use your hand file to rub off any sharp metal on the inside of the DIN plug so they don't snag your wires.




Poke your wires through the DIN plug to get ready to solder them to plug base... which is the pin part of the plug.




After you connect the pinned part of the DIN plug to your housing that you cut, screw in the Phillips head screw and tighten it down to the brace that came with the Deltron plug Slide on your foam tube (I recommened Makoto's foam tube for one inch blades, and KR/TCSS foam for 7/8 inch blades. MR foam is a good substitute for Makoto foam, and MR foam can even work for 7/8 inch blades.






How many LEDs are in a string blade?

Depending on the size of the LED's you're using, and the length of the blade you're trying to achieve, there can be a varying number of LEDs from string blade to string blade.

For Seriallel Class II, you'll have 12 mini segments that will make up 6 larger segments of the overall main blade. Perhaps 9 LEDs per mini-segment (12 of them) will achieve a blade length of approx. 34 inches including your blade tip and DIN plug bottom if you're using 5mm LEDs. If you're using 3mm LEDs, the number of LEDs in your mini segments and blade overall would greater since the LEDs you are working with are smaller.

I don't leave any room in between each LED. When I make my blades, I butt the LEDs right up against each other for a very even and powerfully bright blade. Other makers may leave a space, but in my opinion this  just leaves you open to corncobbing or shadow spots.

For Seriallel Class III, three mini-segments per segment is required so you will need to change the math as to how many LEDs are in each mini-segment.




Will you drill out the blade tip for better illumination?
Yes. I drill out both a bullet tip and a rounded tip to push LEDs actually into the blade tip for a more fuller tip.


Can specialized blade colors be made for segmented style LED blades?






Which lightsaber soundboard drives a string blade?






« Last Edit: April 30, 2018, 09:13:43 PM by EXAR KUN »




I'm afraid the deflector shield with be quite operational when your friends arrive.

Online EXAR KUN

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Re: String and Strip Blade Facts, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions FAQ
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2018, 01:00:39 PM »
What is a strip blade?


A strip blade is a lightsaber blade made up of pixel strips. Pixel LEDs are individually controlled RGB LED diodes that are capable of nearly unlimited RGB functions in real time. The best pixel strips have the least amount of material (PCB) and the most amount of pixel LEDs. One example is the Adafruit 'skinny' strips of 144 LEDs per meter on a white backing. The 144 LEDs per meter is a nice amount of LEDs with very little space in between them... and the skinny white strip backing is not very noticeable inside your blade.






How is a strip blade made?

A strip blade is made using multiple factory-made pixel LED PCB strips. The best ones to use at the present time (and the only ones I will use) are the 144 per meter variety. This means... quite simply... that in a meter of the PCB length there will be 144 LEDs present. Depending on the style and make of the strip, there will be the smaller LED diodes (the 3535 size) or the larger 5050 size. The larger size diodes are on a thicker strip, and those thicker strips will be cut down a bit (long ways) to reduce the side shadows that are more apparent on the thicker PCB style strips. The upside to the 5050 strips is that because the LED diodes are larger, they actually sit closer to each other on the PCB strip, so it appears there are more of them than there is on the 3535 strips... even though the number is the same at 144 per meter.

We will not need the entire meter... because only Darth Vader can handle that super long blade! So I will cut down the strips to your desired length of blade. Most people find a length of blade that compliments their height. A good rule of thumb is the distance from your fist to the floor when your arms are at your sides. That way, you'll be able to swing the blade around without it bashing the ground as it passes.

The first thing is to remove any waterproofing material on the blade strip (if any) and then cut the strip to the desired blade length, keeping in mind that there will be a blade tip on the end, and that we will also drill out the blade tip to accommodate a pixel or two to achieve a fully lit blade tip.

Next is wiring the strips to your connector... usually that will be a TCSS style connector unless the customer requests a different type of connector for their saber.

Once the strips are tested on my bench tester, I will encase the strips in plastic for diffusion and isolation. Then, fuse the strips together (once electrically isolated) back to back to each other and test the blade assembly again on the bench.

When I'm happy with the performance of the blade on the bench, I will diffuse the assembly further and encase in a Makoto or MR or KR Sabers foam closed cell tube.

Inserting into the blade tube is the last step, along with the application of the blade tip and testing again... only glueing the blade tip to the blade tube when things test well. Sometimes there will be a nylon diffuser tube from TCSS as the second-to-last step, and sometimes not. It depends on the foam's diffusion and if the blade can accept the 1" nylon diffuser or not.

When completely assembled, the blade is strong and ready for action.



Some diffusion layers going over the LED pixel strips



This is one type of plug that can be used. It's an audio connector from Deltron.

The Custom Saber Shop connector is the standard one:




I drill out the blade tip for extra illumination. One or two pixels will sit inside the blade tip to evenly light the tip.




What if I want a Neopixel blade made from individual LEDs like the old segmented string blades? Is that possible?


Yes, there are 5mm RGB pixel individual LEDs available. These can sometimes produce a smoother blade because there is no PCB strip to cause shadowing, but these blades are more time-consuming to produce than the strip blade type. Each LED must be placed along the blade length which ends up to be about 100 LEDs or more. Coding for this type of pixel is different from the strip LEDs, so if you are using strip pixels as accent LEDs in your hilt, they won't match up to the 5mm style in the blade. So therefore if using individual LEDs such as these 5mm, you need to use the same ones as accent LEDs also if you want to achieve the same blade color and accent LED color.




How is a pixel blade made from individual pixel LEDs?








What are 'Photon' or 'Enhanced Blades'?

Photonic tubes were researched and developed by the Photonic Bladesmith on this forum in conjunction with Vader's Vault and The Custom Saber Shop. The Photonic Bladesmith researched and developed a technique used to treat the blade tubes themselves with a chemical enhancement to excite the ambient light to make the blade appear brighter than normal.

First developed to enhance green colors using blue light as a base, the photonic enhancements eventually came to red, amber, and blue colored blades. These newer colors of amber, red and blue do not have the same level of color enhancement capability of their green counterpart, but they do enhance light to a degree for that color range. I.E. red colors enhanced in a Red Enhanced blade tube, blue tones are enhanced when blue light shines through the Blue Enhanced, and gold light is magnified when using the Amber Enhanced tubes and tips.

Vader's Vault offers complete blades for in-hilt LED lightsabers, and The Custom Saber Shop offers the Photonic and Enhanced blade stock and blade tips for the DIYer who wants to construct their own blade. I too get my supplies from The Custom Saber Shop to build pixel blades with Enhanced or Photonic tubes and tips on them.



DIFFUSION



« Last Edit: August 13, 2018, 12:20:35 PM by EXAR KUN »




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Online EXAR KUN

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Re: String and Strip Blade Facts, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions FAQ
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2018, 01:01:01 PM »
i
« Last Edit: February 12, 2018, 12:29:05 PM by SpaceWindu »




I'm afraid the deflector shield with be quite operational when your friends arrive.

Offline shaolintao01

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Re: String and Strip Blade Facts, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions FAQ
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2018, 10:44:07 AM »
HI Spacewindu, cogratulations first for your job!
Now to speak about ledstrings, Shtok customworks has posted something on his FB page about cutting the strips :
http://www.facebook.com/ShtokCustomWorx/?hc_ref=ART17zrwHR11Yq3AEJ_1DRtq-sMYHfj-DE-ZKu-0GewdwbHItzsyHGi4epsB8Hul6VE&fref=nf
Have you ever tried this and what do you think about this ?
A french fan  :wink:
Star wars and marshall amplifiers addict

Online EXAR KUN

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Re: String and Strip Blade Facts, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions FAQ
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2018, 01:01:05 PM »
HI Spacewindu, cogratulations first for your job!
Now to speak about ledstrings, Shtok customworks has posted something on his FB page about cutting the strips :
http://www.facebook.com/ShtokCustomWorx/?hc_ref=ART17zrwHR11Yq3AEJ_1DRtq-sMYHfj-DE-ZKu-0GewdwbHItzsyHGi4epsB8Hul6VE&fref=nf
Have you ever tried this and what do you think about this ?
A french fan  :wink:

Thank you!

I just saw that post earlier today.

yes, anything that can allow you to reduce the amount of material in the blade (that isn't light-producing) the better. However, I would still suggest you go with the 'skinny' strips for your blade as they are less width even after cutting the wider strips. I would say only use the cut-down wider strips only if you are having trouble obtaining the skinny version. Like for instance I just got a shipment that was supposed to be skinny but is the normal width. I may experiment by cutting these down since it is not worth returning them. Even still I have re-ordered skinny strips because overall I think they are superior.

It is interesting that the LEDs are closer together on the cut strips of the wider version... I do like that fact and will experiment to see if that is indeed a good compromise.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2018, 01:03:00 PM by SpaceWindu »




I'm afraid the deflector shield with be quite operational when your friends arrive.