Being active in the evolution of emerging new and exciting technologies is rewarding and fun. Being involved in two at once is even better. The blending of 3D printing to produce functional and prototype parts, not to mention just making things we need around the house, has shown me that as this technology expands and improves in both cost and performance, it will eventually change how many things are made and brought to market. In almost every community, there are others that share this view, who meet to share their ideas, show off machines or products, and seek input for completing their own pursuits. Like it has been with the solid-state lighting universe, I am asked to present at these gatherings. The range of topics include exploring the practical aspects and economies of 3D printing, to specific examples of making a product combining LED sources into a 3D printed end-product.
Design 7 is a product I made up to demonstrate the process of bringing a design idea and functional end-use together in a form that could be made in a few hours, from design to finished product, using a desktop 3D printer and less than $10.00 in parts. In this specific case, the idea was for a small bedside table night-light in a form that was as fun when it was not in use, as it was when lighted up. Pressing the rocket nose cone starts the LED light “engine” creating a glow that works as a security or path light in a dark room, while when off, looks the part of a vintage rocket toy. For the purposes of the demonstration, I printed the model a couple of times to show different techniques, from printing in one pass using two colors of material (with inferior structural strength), to breaking the model apart to print the various components for optimized strength. The final model was then sanded and painted to create the finished effect.
The internal LED components came from a reading lamp purchased at a bookstore for less that $9.00, which was then dismantled for its LED, control, and battery holder. The LED was mounted into the rockets body, while the internals were incorporated into a removable internal sleeve to facilitate battery changes. In all, the total cost involved was around $18.00, including 3D plastic, and around 4 hours of work, after the design/model was created in SolidWorks. While the demonstration was successful, and well received, it did point out the one weakness in the entire 3D printing universe – the connection with 3D modeling software, and expertise in 3D design required to create novel end products from scratch. This, combined with the rather rudimentary and frequently poorly developed 3D printer software, is a greater roadblock to expansion of this technology than the actual printing hardware is at this time.
I found this little light on ebay at a lunch money price, so couldn’t resist. It started life as a Hamilton Industries (Chicago) lamp model 60, made in Japan in the early 1960’s. It used a 12V magnetic transformer and a resister to provide a dual level light control of its 20W signal lamp. The amount of light it put out was barely visible in the presence of any ambient light. Meanwhile, I had a cute little key-chain wireless remote controller for less than $14 from LED Supply that delivers PWM dimming and on-off control of 12VDC LED loads. I stripped the guts out of their kit and put them inside the base of the fixture. The little lighting head was about the right size for a 12V MR16 lamp, so rather than re-invent that wheel, I just retrofitted the head to take a bi-pin socket and planned to use a retrofit MR16 lamp to deliver the light I wanted. That ended up more of an issue than I expected. First, after testing of all the LED MR’s I had around, only one brand would operate and dim effectively when run on DC power. The rest were poor dimming on AC power, but on DC they were miserable. On the LED Supply remote dimming module, they were useless. The lamp I ended up with was a Philips Enduraled product, and it will dim down to around 10%.
The remote control is a bit of fun, as it has an antenna that works well with the antenna arm on the fixture, so they seemed a great match. I printed a holder for the face of the power supply (now control) enclosure at the base of the fixture to hold the remote, which makes it a simple panel controller when the remote feature is not needed. When the light is used to wash a wall or light art or some other function besides a desk lamp, the remote can be removed and control the fixture from across the room. The power supply is a simple 12VDC wall wart, while the base houses only the remote control electronics now.
The base looked in need of a bit of dressing up, so I printed a retro-turbo trim ring to surround the remote control mount on the SLA printer and painted it with VHT fake chrome to give it a sand-cast aluminum look. I also printed the same part on the FDM printer for comparison. I’m throwing in two images of the raw prints to show the difference in surface quality one gets between these machines. Obviously, for parts that include details that will be hard to sand and fill, the SLA process is superior. For parts that need to be strong and can be easily finished, the FDM is the go-to tool.
So, this little weak black egg ebay find has been transformed from a barely functional desk lamp novelty, to a bright, useful, remote controllable, dimmable, black egg turbo trimmed LED light novelty. I’m a fan of the 50’s and 60’s design aesthetic, so this one felt right and was fun to put together.
I am a task lighting fanatic. I use them everywhere, so am always looking for something new to add to my collection. In this installment, I am addressing the need for a light that is compact, delivers intense light (1,200+ Fc) with no glare or brightness, and high color accuracy. The application is pretty straightforward, from soldering station use where a magnifying glass is used, to fine detail work inside or on the outside of models. For good measure, I also wanted it to aim at the wall as a photo fill light, or straight up as am ambient fill light, and have a dimmer to allow me to set whatever level I want for the application in hand at the moment.
With all the practical specifications set out, I decided to let this design be expressive of the gadgetry involved. Let it all hang out. I also decided to incorporate the new Bridgelux Vero LED with its integrated Molex connector, and a Nuventix cooler, just to amp up the tech factor. This is where things got interesting. The Bridgelux array operates at 33.7V (500mA). The Nuventix cooler at 12V. I am powering the whole thing with a 24VDC wall wart power supply. That meant I needed to employ a boost driver for the LED and a buck (24VDC to 12VDC) power converter for the Nuventix cooler. I used Recom components to attain this, and used a cut up experimenters printed circuit board to connect these two to the power supply, the cooler, the LED and the dimmer control. That’s a lot of wires to find a path for, so I decided to leave them to roam free, let everyone see the components as well.
This is a style of design I personally enjoy, and have been doing since the 1980’s, where we made little 12V lamps with fiber optics, MR16s, halogen burners, or automotive headlamps, often suspended from structures made of building wire. In this case, the stand I found at a Goodwill. It was a table lamp, whose shade was gone, and socket was cracked. I liked the cast iron base and single post stand, so nabbed it for a dollar and tossed it in the pile with my other finds, waiting this moment to be put to service.
If you look at the head, the switch is a sliding action, on the left side of the head. Pull it forward to turn it on, push it back to shut it off. A hole in the side of the housing allows you to see the action inside. No, there is no reason for this, other than it seemed more appropriate than an off-shelf toggle or twist switch.
The light on the task surface is at 1,425 Fc, the LED is 3000K, 97CRI.
In playing with the Philips Hue system, we found wireless controls to be an effective means for solving lighting issues we have around the house. One area is the main stair. While the overhead track lighting system does a fair job lighting the art on the walls, it is a bit much when all we want to do is have a little light to navigate by. I also wanted to have the light turn on and off automatically, to provide a level of ease, and to get rid of the issue of forgetting to turn off the stair lighting on the way to bed.
Applying a wireless light, programmed to turn on-off and dim is a great addition, and an opportunity to create a new fixture while I was at it. The added feature of color changing to suit the lighting mode is a serious bonus and a lot of fun. Since the light from the stair itself is visible through a window facing the street, the effect of color here creates an interesting effect from outside as well. This design explores printing translucent materials for creating the shades, in addition to printing the rest of the fixture from ABS overall. The design itself is a bit freestyle, mixing a little Art Deco with Hi-Tech, influenced a little by American Indian… The light source is the Philips Hue A-style lamp, which has been modified through the addition of a bottom shade closure to hide the light source from below. The challenge with this design was to hide any direct view of the light itself, as at night the brightness was too great. I would like to have eliminated the cord connection, but tearing the stair railing apart to drill a wire channel through it was not on the agenda.
Now, we let the light run its program, and don’t have to remember to turn things off when retiring. We can also use the light to create a visual presence when we are out and away by setting different on-off times, color effects, etc… which from the outside, looks like things are moving and changing inside.
Interesting note about color in this application. The very low blue light level makes seeing things in the stair when no other light is present very easy, so the level can be set low. Yet, this setting is easily ignored, and does not feel like a light on in the hall. I’m not concerned about the blue color interfering with sleep or melatonin suppression in this application, simply because the total energy we are talking about is so low (<.1 Fc).
For this design, I incorporated the Philips Hue wireless control and RGB tape light into a simple fixture stand that can sit against a wall or in a corner.
The wands are mounted to a ball, machined from brass, that sits in sockets printed in ABS plastic. At the tip of each wand is a printed ABS clear plastic diffuser that extends the color just beyond the tip of the metal housing. The housing is a U-shaped aluminum channel that the tape light was installed into.
The mechanical arrangement allows the wands to be tilted and twisted to create different arrays, that, when mixed with color effects, create many different finished “looks” that can be easily changed and reconfigured, either by moving the wands or programming the colors.
The Philips Hue system utilizes a wireless hub (located in another room connected to our in-house WiFi network) to allow any smart device, iOS or Android, to control the effects. These effects include selecting basic color mixes using simple app software, or more complex scenes, and disco effects. There are at least a dozen apps available for the system now. I chose the Pro version of the app, that allows me to set up groups of colors (the wands use three separate channels, plus three others we have in the house). This allows each one of the individual wands to be controlled separately, as well as in a group. I also use another app, called Hue Disco, that includes fading mood washes and functions, as well as disco lighting effects that respond to music being played.
Color is an addictive addition to entertainment and feature spaces, that produces an impression of flow and movement that white light just does not deliver. In this case, I included the lighted tip on each wand to create a sense of origin at the top of each stem, which is many arrangements, creates a sense that the light is flowing out of the wand from the tip down, like water from a fountain. Since the wands themselves hide the light strips completely, there is little to break that illusion.
Arranging the wands and placement of the base creates the final effects, and sets the stage for the use of color mixes, blends, changing routines, use of disco effects to suit ones tastes. I personally like the slow color changing effects, which fade from one color to another within a pre-selected pallet. In the morning, the flowing of warm color blends was pleasant as the sun rose, while at night with the TV on, blue and magenta blends seemed a nice complement.
Since the wands can be re-arranged on a whim, it’s likely that I will move them around occasionally just to freshen things up, while the apps that control the color and effects give me plenty to tinker with in creating moods and color effects to suit the day, the season, or just kill a few minutes when nothing else is going on.
The images that follow show the wands arranged in different configurations, with the colors changed using a smart phone. I’ve come to find this a great deal of fun, and plan to apply it, and similar approaches into future designs in the 52/52 project. Wireless control is a fantastic way to control products like this, as it requires no wired switches, knobs or buttons. I also like being able to program this fixture and other lights in the house surrounding it to change on schedule, shut off automatically, and turn on/off for nightlight and security duty, easily and effortlessly.
This weeks project is a concept model exploring an organic form of twisted and tapering ellipses. The height is 24″, and it measures roughly 3 1/2″ x 2 3/4″ at its base. The design is intentionally simple, utilizing a single LED strip concealed behind a valence to one edge. Total power at full brightness is 5 watts, and output is roughly 400 lumens total. The interior is covered with White Optic material to create a diffuse soft edged luminance from within. There is a simple stem dimmer control at the base circuited in series to the light strip, and a two position switch to the side providing full-on / off / dim settings. This model is powered by a wall-wart 24VDC power supply.
This was printed on a 3D printer, sanded smooth and painted matte white. In a production version casting the body in ceramic with a matte glaze would render a more finished end product. Low power LEDs don’t require much thermal management, can be circuited with on-board micro IC current control driver, creating a very simple to assemble and economic end product. Even in this plastic concept model form, the costs of the entire assembly were under $200, with the power supply.
While not particularly visible to everyone in the SSL universe, over the past few years one area of interest in LED product development for me has been in use of 405nm LED light sources to cure various plastics materials. The advantages are lower power requirements and reduced overall heat in the cure zone over conventional fluorescent or HID light sources. This has been of particular interest in curing fiberglass resins manufactured by Sunrez. The typical demand is for between 200 and 1,000 µW/CM² at 400-405nm wavelength. The use of LEDs allows us to generate exactly that without the waste of visible light, and longer wavelength power the resins are not reacting to. In one project, we were able to replace a 1,500W HID light source with a 120W LED light system that produced faster cure times with less than 10% of the total power, and virtually no heat added to the heat generated by the resin’s exothermic reaction to the curing initiator. Since then, we’ve built 405nm light cure fixtures ranging from 1,200W to 25W.
In this case, I needed to cure 3D prints we generate on a Form Labs 1+ 3D SLA printer, and do so in an office environment without exposing other materials and occupants to UVA light output. The material used in the print process is acrylic based, with chemistry that is photo-reactive to 405nm. The actual prints are made using a UV laser source. When the part is removed from the printer it is washed in alcohol (91% IPA), rested for a few hours to dry the alcohol off, then placed in this cure cube for an hour or more, depending on the thickness of the final component. The end result is a hard first surface for finish sanding or painting, if necessary, and a more rigid part as a whole (less flexible).
The cube utilizes a simple aluminum housing, with FDM 3D printed top and bottom covers. The top cover houses a single Recom 500mA driver, slide switch and wiring terminal block on a Tasca LED driver circuit board.
5mm 450nm LEDs with a FWHM distribution of 60º, 25 per side and top (125 total), operating at 20mA each, mounted to custom circuit boards sourced at Express PCB. Each board connects the LEDs in parallel, while the boards are connected in series, resulting in a 500mA, 15.4V circuit, totaling 7.7W. The boards and internal exposed surfaces inside the box were then covered with White Optics 98 matte material to increase total light energy and diffuse The light energy at 405nm is roughly 600 µW/CM².
The bottom surface includes a glass plate where the product sits in order to make any possible stickiness of a part from adhering to the White Optic material below.
The housing was powder coated matte black polyester to make clean up easy and the box look nice. The overall interior dimensions of the box are 1″ larger than the total build volume capacity of the printer itself (5 x 5 x 6.5), as any over-sizing is unnecessary. This produces an optimal match between the location of the LED sources and any part the printer can produce.
The Cube is powered by a remote plug mounted 24VDC power converter.
The operation of the box is simple enough. The box is lifted up, the part is set on the base, the box is set over the part, and the light is turned on by sliding the switch to the on position.
Simple and compact is the order of desktop manufacturing, and this fits that model perfectly.
Testing so far has shown the cube can cure raw resin from liquid to fully hardened in less than an hour, and strengthens prints in that time or less. The heat generated from this arrangement is so small, there is no chance of any part being warped or affected by the process, other than the desired results of becoming stronger.
For parts to be left unfinished, that are desired to be used over extended periods, we coat the finished parts in either acrylic or polyurethane UV inhibiting clear coat, gloss or matte. This stops ambient room light or daylight exposure from making the parts brittle over time. I am building a second copy of this cube for completing extended testing of samples of the materials we are using to verify clear coat effectiveness, behavior of the print material over long exposure periods, and the behavior of these low cost LEDs over time. A commercial version of this cube could be made using more robust LEDs, but the costs would be significantly higher as well. In the current configuration, the LEDs only cost $0.60 each, so should they last a couple of years in use, replacement of the populated boards is a simple task, while the cost of higher power LEDs would have increased the cost of the entire end-product by as much as three times.
There is also an additional version of this same approach in using Red/Blue light sources for use in plant seedling starts. We’ve found tests with common rye and barley grasses, the time from germination to hearty growth ready for planting is accelerated significantly. Using an enclosure like this allows the plants to be exposed to intense light for extended periods of time (18 hours or more) without polluting the surrounding environment with the ugly light, just as the enclosed cube protects room occupants from exposure the the UVA light. In either case, the cube can be used in any room environment comfortably and safely.
So this gets us off the ground and is D1 of 52 in the series. As I’ve noted at the start, this is an exercise in making progress, and putting SSL to work. This is not a particularly exciting product in and of itself, but it is one that will be used regularly, which more than makes up for its lack of marketing sizzle for the masses – at least in my book.