Painted Taillights

A little quick work with the rattle can this weekend “finished off” my revision 2 and revision 3 bike taillights. Revision three is nearly the ‘final product’ but still lacking some automatic control circuitry that I want to implement, and a few tweaks to the firmware to make it simpler to use.

painted bicycle taillights

I haven’t mastered cutting a straight line with the dremel yet, once the cutting wheel bites into that thin steel it goes the direction it wants to go!

I also painted the circuit boards, masking off each LED lens on the 2×8 array so they’d stay nice and bright. I also masked the smt button, the switcher and the contact springs on the battery clips. I probably didn’t need to mask the switcher – I wasn’t sure what the paint would do it it, seeing as how it’s handling quite a bit of power at a high frequency.

I’ve also posted some new videos to my youtube channel – nothing too exciting. There’s a naked revision 3 doing its thing and a side by side of 2 and 3 post paint job.

Mint Tin Bike Light 3

I completed PCB revision three of the mint tin bike light on Tuesday, but due to lack of batteries for the camera, no pictures were taken! Luckily I’ve found and recharged a second set of batteries and the camera is once again operational.

Feature-wise, this revision adds nothing over the previous light, all the changes are in board design. Firstly, the artwork was redone using polygon pours instead of straight point to point wiring (traces). The revision two switcher was running pretty warm, mostly because it didn’t have much copper to dump the heat into.

The switcher’s ground pin is now tied directly into a very large copper pour, as are the Vin and Switch pins. Using a burning finger temperature probe, the chip remained at or below Tbody even operating in constant on mode at full power. Compared to the revision two board which saw the switcher running quite hot in constant on mode.

The current sensing resistor was moved a lot closer to the feedback pin. With a feedback voltage of 190mV, the tiny resistance of the trace was actually affecting output. Shortening the trace to roughly 1mm has helped a great deal.

Finally, the layout for the battery clips was fixed, and generous polygon pours were drawn around the pads. The spring clips are now soldered down very firmly and hold the batteries quite well. I have yet to take this unit on the trail, so we’ll see if a rubber band is required or not to retain the batteries while bouncing along.

I plan on making one more prototype before sending the design off to Custom PCB or Gold Phoenix. I think I’ll eliminate the battery clips on the chance excessive force could cause one to separate from the laminate and severely damage the pcb. I also want to try a board that hosts both driver circuit and LEDs. Additionally, I plan to add a tilt / vibration sensing switch (roller ball switch), so inactivity of the bike can be detected and the light switched off to save on batteries.

Thanks for reading!

Under the Sea

The previous “I Feel Dirty” theme was getting a bit old, so I decided to change things up! This is “Under the Sea”. I notice it is formatted for 1024×768 instead of 800×600. What do you think about that? I run a high res on all my personal monitors, but working in the IT business, I know low res is still popular with a lot of people, even if they have big monitors. If I stick with the wider format, I’ll resize some of my recent pictures so they match-up with the text.

Given that broadband adoption continues to rise world wide, I’ve increased the number of posts displayed from 3 to 5. My feeling on the small number is my posts tend to have lots of pictures, and I like to minimally compress them as possible to maintain good quality. People on slower connections or slower devices might have trouble downloading several megabytes of data to render a page. I have an old pentium 3 laptop that despite my broadband connection struggles to view some modern sites. Drop me some feedback if you find more is better, or if it’s too much.

A friend pointed out that I have several unanswered questions in the comments for some of my posts. This website is my blog, a place to record my thoughts, and in the process, share them with the public. I don’t view it as a discussion forum. I welcome comments, criticisms and feedback. You can certainly post a question, and as long as it is relevant and makes sense, I’ll approve it as a comment, however, please don’t expect an answer. Really good questions usually receive a response either here or via email. If you want a discussion or debate on something you see here, pop on over to Linear’s forums:

Snapleds Continued

I finished my first snapled array, and they are damn impressive! I was expecting slightly better performance than the superflux, but was blown away. I haven’t come up with a method of comparing the two yet, as I don’t have a light meter. A side by side with the reflect signs outside the house would be nice, but it’s raining cats and dogs right now!

lumileds snapled vs 3mm superflux

Here’s a size comparison of the snapled versus a 3mm superflux led. Both have a body measuring 7.6mm, but the snapled has those huge contacts, and a much heavier internal structure compared to the superflux. The 5mm snapled lens also looks huge compared to the superflux.

Hand soldering the snapled smt style is fairly easy – this connection lifted up on me because I was pressing down on the opposite side. Soldering the rest I just placed the led and then slid the iron in next to the contact without touching it, then fed in the solder, which sucked the contact right onto the pad like it’s supposed to.

The finished product, before washing. Once I decide on a layout I like, I’ll probably have some boards made and will try reflowing these either in a toaster over or on a skillet.

Lumileds Snapled

I don’t have much to say on these, other than I scored a bunch from Future for a seemingly great price.

lumileds snapled

These appear to be HEAVY DUTY leds, destined for the automotive market. They’re discontinued now, as Lumileds is pushing the all mighty rebel for every application under the sun.

Apparently lumileds marketed these leds strictly as automotive indicator grade leds. Their design guide shows a stop light made of six of these leds, spot welded in a 2 x 3 array to heavy solid aluminum buss bars instead of a typical PCB mounting. I won’t be doing any of that, but I did draw up a layout in Eagle and came up with a 2 x 8 array for my mint tin bike light.

This board is etched and waiting to be cleaned and assembled, more pics to follow!

Mint Tin Bike Light Continued

Nothing much new on a technical note. I do have a new pcb layout ready to iron on to some blank copper, should get that done this weekend. I ordered more switchers and LEDs from Future on Wednesday. Originally I was excited, the estimated delivery date was 8/21. However, it has now been pushed to 8/26, oh well!

Here are some new pictures, and some video worth posting in the blog:

2010 Trek 3700

This is my new 2010 Trek 3700 Mountain Bike… I’ve upgraded to alloy pedals and a super tough downhill rim for the rear wheel. I had been buying cheap-o department store bikes, on average two or three per year and trashing them basically riding on streets and trails. So I wanted to upgrade to something that should hold up a bit better.

Same composure, dialed down the flash output and decreased the shutter speed a little.

Video “tour” of the bike with both lights going.

Strobe effects demonstration on some reflective signs near my house. Sorry for the wind noise, a storm is rolling in!

Mint Tin Bike Light

I started this project a little more than a year ago, but shelved it because it wasn’t working right and I didn’t have the correct components. It was a seasonal project that would have little use over the winter, so I sort of forgot about it.

This year I’ve been going on a lot of bike rides with friends, sometimes on public roadways, sometimes after dark. My bike has a nine watt 500 some odd lumen headlight, which makes it easy to see where I’m going, and definitely makes me visible head on. The tail of my bike however still has the stock reflector, plus the little reflector stripes in my shoes, not exactly high visibility. Not wanting to pale in comparison to the headlight, the taillight is a three watt 140 lumen beast powered by three AA rechargeable batteries.

The light is based on a boost converter from National Semiconductor, the LM3410. I’m using the 525kHz SOT-23 version, the LM3410Y. Originally I had trouble with the chip self destructing, as discussed on the Linear1 forums. It was hypothesized either the inductor was underrated or the diode was too slow. Ordering parts for another project later in 2008, I bought some better inductors and diodes, which more closely resembled the specs of parts used in National’s web bench simulator. So, lacking sufficient rear light, I rekindled this project and have a “working prototype” that’s gone on two rides with me so far.

bike taillight schematic small

The basic function is fairly simple. The 3410 is a constant current boost (step-up) driver. A small inductor is used to ramp up the input voltage, from 3.6vdc nominal to 15.4v at approximately 200mA. The current is monitored by a one ohm resistor. A pair of output capacitors help smooth out the ripple and an input capacitor helps the batteries cope with the high demand current (as high as 1.5a in some cases). I’m using nickle metal hydride batteries, which have a rather low internal resistance – they’re designed for high demand applications and when fresh, barely sag at all under the load.

bike taillight pcb layout small

Originally I had planned on carrying the batteries directly on the PCB, using some through-hole spring clip battery holders I found in the Sparkfun library. However, AA batteries must be bigger in Colorado than they are in Michigan, because using Sparkfun’s layout gave me about a quarter inch gap between the spring and the battery. The pads were also woefully undersized for physically mounting the clip and holding it securely enough to survive the stress of batter insertion and extraction. So I dropped their layout and drew my own that looks exactly like it, but is based on measurements from a real AA battery.

Along for the ride is a Microchip PIC microcontroller, the 12F683. It provides a bit of user interface for the light, creating different blink patterns as well as putting the light into a “stand by” mode, with the switcher shut down. I’ve programmed several blinking patterns, and somewhat organized them into “modes” which I can select using the little button.

A year ago, I didn’t have any sort of enclosure in mind. The led array was assembled on a ‘standard’ sized protoboard, so I probably thought about using a plastic or aluminum prototype enclosure. However, this year, I was thinking it would be a nice fit for a large mint tin. After printing out some mock-ups and messing around with battery configurations, I settled on using three batteries and having the electronics crammed into one side of the tin with the led array mounted in the lid of the tin. This setup might have worked, except for the battery snafu. I’m using a plastic three cell holder right now, and the extra thickness it adds is preventing the lid from completely closing. It closes enough that the light is easily held shut by some big rubberbands, and it survived bouncing around under my seat for two short rides. The next revision will have the battery situation resolved and I might have a better mounting solution by then too.

Overall I’m very pleased with the outcome of this project. I have more parts on order to make a few more lights for my other bikes and friends, and I want to experiment with other array configurations and colors. There are a two videos of the light on my youtube channel, but they’re nothing to get excited about.

Thanks for reading!