All of the lights

The past few days have been frantic with last minute assembly. Peter’s house has morphed into a flurry of painting, soldering, wiring, and programming.

Last night we fired up the display with all 6 LED arrays and 2 of the magnets. Apologies for the poor image quality:

What’s that thing about time and money?

After spending about 12 hours painstakingly soldering three prototype LED boards to illuminate the tank, my tally was as follows:

  • One completely soldered board of RGB LED lights, 80% of which I accidentally burned out when I carelessly tested an electrical connection and bypassed a necessary resistor
  • One completely soldered board of RGB LED lights which contained some kind of hidden (to me, at least) short or broken connection that didn’t allow the blue LEDs to illuminate
  • One half-done board that I just gave up on.

Enter a rapidly approaching deadline and the novel concept that I can exchange “money” for “goods.”  I went online and did some research on DJ lighting and discovered that the cost of purchasing significantly cooler and more useful LED boards, while expensive at first blush, was much less expensive (if my own time is worth anything more than $8 / hour) than building them myself.

So I ordered a basic LED wash panel and you can see a short video of it below.

Amp build is complete

Yesterday John and I had a marathon session to build and test all 4 amplifiers. We added larger thermistors after the rectifiers so that the current draw doesn’t blow the fuse. John also added some lines into the program to allow us to turn on the magnets from the computer, thereby also limiting our current draw.

Now we just have to build a case to hold the electronics.

New logo!

Our friend Beth made us a new logo.  It’s awesome.

We’re going to get T-shirts made.  Leave a comment if you want one!

Final magnet design, (almost) final amp design

This weekend, in a marathon session of effort, we were able to create the almost final versions of both the magnets and the amplifiers for each one.  This video shows the 6 ohm magnet we made with the new winder; the new amp that we made (greatly simplified design), and a temporary stand.  You can see that the magnetic field is significantly larger than previous videos: this is ideal because we want the edges of the fields to interact with each other.

Lights are also prototypes but we’ve settled on going a different route for lighting: a package is on its way to my house right now that should solve this problem.


Stand build continues

Finally there’s a part of this project that isn’t entirely new for me.  We’ve been winding test magnets, soldering prototypes and fooling around with arduino code for so long that I’m getting used to all three but for the first time in a while, I’m doing something that I not only have done before, but that I already have the tools for.

Here’s the top getting roughed in:

And here’s Neil affixing some trim to the exterior of the box

And here’s the first coat of primer on the plywood.

The goal here is to conceal the wood grain (not as easy as I had thought) so that we can apply a finish.  Still not sure exactly what, but whatever it is shouldn’t look like it’s on plywood.  I’m thinking something that looks like Magnicians would use it; like cast iron or stone or something.  We’ll see.

The internets are filled (as usual) with conflicting and confusing information on the best way to conceal the grain.

  • Priming and sanding; some sites recommend, others say no because the soft wood will always wear down faster.
  • Resin (like with fiberglass); goes on smooth but it may crack or bubble
  • Affix stiff, clear plastic sheets (like Lexan, I assume).
  • Use body filler and ‘sand before it dries’ … that just sounded like too many new variables in the equation.

The plastic angle seems like it might work but would be a bit of a pain to cut and also provide perhaps too smooth of a finish to go with the spirit of Magnicians.

We’ll see.  Further bulletins as events warrant.


Tank stand buildout

We built the stand for the tank last night. Goal was to make something that could support the 550 pounds of water in the tank when full but also not be so heavy and unwieldy that one person couldn’t lift it and move it around.

We used my favorite light construction lumber: the 2 x 3.  For compression strength (weight bearing straight down on the length of the board) it will be fine, even with a heavy tank, and they are cheap and lightweight.  For shear strength, we used 11/32 plywood with one smooth side.  We roughed it out with heavy duty construction adhesive and finishing nails; once the tank is on top of it (and on a nice, level surface) we will re-inforce all the joints and seams with deck screws.  I’ve used this technique in the past: the construction adhesive is remarkably strong and the finishing nails simply serve to hold it all in place while the glue sets; then, when the weight of the tank (probably at half full) is bearing down on the whole stand, it will “level out” and then we can add the deck screws as the final (and primary) fastener.  Then, once the weight is removed, the wood will be locked into the best position for being level the next time we fill it up and put it someplace.

The overall shape is 30″ high (standard table height … any higher would have made tipping a concern) and there is room for a 6″ ledge on the back side: enough to hold or conceal any wiring or piping that needs to reside externally from the tank.

Next up is the tank top, which will hold the lights and the magnets.

Mega Fail

Killed my PC last night when we accidentally sent 24 volts through the USB port.  Gonna need to get a new PC (that one was old anyway) and a USB port surge protector.

Amplifier PCB Layout

Here is my first attempt at PCB layout using Pad2Pad’s layout software.  It doesn’t look half bad if I say so myself but then we’ll see when it come back whether it works or not.