Workbench Spot Light

The camera I added recently gained a new boom mounted partner, a Luxeon Rebel powered spot-light. Consisting of three 200+ lumen neutral-white Rebels, the spotlight puts a lot of light onto a spot on the workbench. I’m going to pick up a diffuser optic for the collimator so it’s not quite such a tight spot. I used a paint striping gun to reflow these little guys; surprisingly my solder paste from 2007 still works!

Before reflowing

Driving the Rebels is a 1a Buck Puck from LEDdymanics. It regulates a surplus unreglated 12v wall wart down to a safe current for the LEDs. I’ve added a potentiometer to the driver’s dimming input, giving me a little control over the amount of blinding from the light. The little circuit board uses a 5 position Molex connector to provide power to the LEDs and a cooling fan. I recycled a smallish northbridge heatsink fan to keep the leds happy.

I’ve rigged up a temporary mounting solution using a T and two more elbows.

Mint Tin Bike Light Continues

As the (normal) bicycling season draws to a close for my latitude, I’m nearing completion on my bicycle taillight project. I sent out a few weeks ago for some professionally fabricated pcbs and as usual, they look great. There were a few bugs that were entirely my fault, but nothing serious enough to stop the pcb from doing its job.

bicycle taillight pcb assembled

I added two “features” to the pcb before sending the design out, both of which were untested in the initial prototypes. The main feature I wanted to have was “motion detection”, so the taillight would shut down should the bike become idle for a period of time. No need to be wasting precious photons while the bike is leaned up against a tree or parked in a bike rack. Motion detection is provided by a roller ball switch, intended to replace the old fashioned mercury switch. A tiny gold plated ball rolls around in a plastic and metal cage, completing electrical circuits during its travel. The light’s micro-controller recognizes these impulses and continues to let the light function. As soon as the tilt switch stops changing state, resting as either a short or open circuit, the uC begins a count. When that count totals some arbitrary number, the light returns to a standby mode with the SMPS in shutdown. The uC then watches the tilt sensor for the state to change again and upon a change, resumes the previous operational mode.

The second feature is a battery minder circuit. Using a 2.5v precision reference, the micro-controller samples the battery voltage using its on board ADC. The idea is to detect a weak battery condition and operate the SMPS at a lower duty cycle, to make the most of the remaining power. The assumption here is that some light is better than no light in terms of safety. One of my pcb bugs lies in this circuit. The Microchip 12F683 uC I selected for this project is an 8 pin device. Its voltage reference pin is also multiplexed with the programming clock. In my design, I had made the error of connecting the vref pin directly to the voltage reference output, which is biased with a 1k resistor to the Vdd rail (bat +). So effectively, I have a very strong pull-up to 2.5v on that pin. This made programming the PIC impossible as it could not detect clock transitions. I will try salvaging these PCBs by changing to a 10k or 20k bias resistor on the reference, or cutting the trace leading to the Vref pin and soldering a 10k+ resistor in series, since we don’t need any current on that pin, just voltage.

Once I polish the code a bit more, I’ll be looking for a few folks to send a sample units to in exchange for reviews and feedback, down the road I would like to sell these either as a kit or a pre-assembled unit.

Fresh PCBs

I just received these FedEX on Tuesday, fresh from China via Colorado.

taillight stack small

headlight stack small

The first stack of boards is the prototype taillight driver, sporting a tilt switch for motion detection. The second board is a pretty similar design, with a bigger inductor and more compact layout. The intention here is to run a trio of Lumiled’s Rebel leds at 0.5 to 1w each off 4AA batteries, for a compact self contained headlight. More details on that idea later!

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!

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

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!

Capacitive Sensing Continued

Hello readers from MAKE: as well as all other readers 🙂

My prototype touch sensor worked so well, that it hasn’t needed much changing. I sent the design off to Custom PCB, and less than a week later, I had a pile of circuit boards waiting for me.

I changed the layout around a little, mostly adding a 2×8 header for accepting a ribbon cable style connection. The header combines power, ground and outputs into a single connection, making it easier to connect to the main board of my larger project (sprinkler controller). Each touch output is paired with a ground wire, which I suppose makes it more resistant to interference. The caps I used this time are polyester film 220 nF, doubling the amount of capacitance compared to what was used on the prototype.

Yes, the ugly piece of plexi is still ugly. Don’t worry, it will be hidden from view. In the final configuration, this board and its plexiglas spacer will be inside a plastic project box. I’ll have a laminated “keypad” overlay affixed to the outside of the box so I can see where the buttons are. The spacer will be flipped around, going on the solder side, giving me enough clearance to flush-mount the sensor with the wall of the box. Flush mount is very important, as even the slightest air-gap will ruin the proximity sensing effect.

Nothing much to see solder side… a few smt passives set options on the chip, as well as decouple and filter the incoming power. The big resistor limits current for the meager power led which no one will ever see once the board is in use.

I’m very close to finishing the larger irrigation control project, hopefully sometime this week! Thanks for reading!

Capacitive touch sensing

Presenting “6buttons”; a simple six button keypad based on the QProx QT160 charge transfer proximity sensor chip.

More details to come later, wanted to get some pictures and video online tonight.

simple schematic – i plan a “backpack” pcb which will provide some visual feedback, a clicking noise and translate the six outputs into an i2c bus device.

the brains of the operation, this chip does all the work. special mylar capacitors are required for it to work properly. i tried cheap-o ceramics with terrible results. the orange thing is a 10mhz resonator.

the “buttons” are printed out on plain paper, using the silkscreen layer from my pcb layout program. the capacitive dielectric is provided by the FR4 pcb material, the paper and a 1/8th inch thick layer of plexiglas; I guess you call that a multilayer capacitor!

the sensors are simple copper rings, which radiate the electrostatic field this chip uses to sense proximity. a ground plane pour around the IC helps to minimize cross-talk between sensor channels and prevent stray fields from detecting proximity around the chip itself. the capacitors near the chip also sense proximity and will need to be shielded with aluminum foil or something.

forgive the craptastic music in the video!

edit: also read Capacitive Sensing Continued