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Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED
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TOPIC: Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED
#45895
Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
I really got inspired by Richens' thread where he built a custom DF cavern piece integrating different colors light-emitting crystals.

I stole his idea and pushed it a little further: I made the crystals modular and I made their light-emitting properties to be fully programmable both in terms of colors and blinking patterns.

Here's the final result:

biowizard
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Last Edit: 2012/05/31 04:00 By biowizard.
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#45896
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Look very nice.
Now you just need a motion sensor of some kind, so the blinking increases as the players figures get closer and closer.. ;)

Will give a nice atmospheric feel to a game with low lighting i think.
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#45898
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Very nice!

Do let me know if you ever plan to sell any
;)
dandare
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#45904
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Excellent work! I would love to have some of those in my cavern setups. If you don’t mind sharing your secrets, and having me blatantly attempt to copy you, I would be very interested to learn how they were made.
Feymous
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#45905
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
First of, the material needed...

1 of the following (per crystal cluster pile):

-Small flat cavern rock (a set of 8 retails for $10 in the individual pieces section)
-Medium flat cavern rock (1 per cavern set, sets of 4 used to be sold in the individual pieces section, I got mine through ebay and by making a deal with Thraug in the Gaming talk section of this forum; Thanks Thraug! I hope you like your open water tile!)
-BlinkM smart LED (retail $12.95 each on www.sparkfun.com)
-Lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) battery 3.7V 200mAh 20C (I got 6 of them on ebay for $11 including shipping from Hong Kong)
-2-pin with Wires Micro JST Connector, spacing 2.5mm (I got 10 of those on ebay for $3.89 including shipping from Hong Kong)

You also need those:
-1 Arduino Uno open-source board ($29.95 from sparkfun)
-1 USB cable with standard B plug to hook the Arduino to your computer
-Li-po Rider (Lipo battery charger) ($12.50 with shipping from www.seeedstudio.com)
-1 USB cable with mini B plug to provide 5V from your computer to the LiPo charger ($1 with shipping from ebay).
-Soldering iron/gun + solder (borrowed from a colleague)
-variable-speed Dremel (every hobby enthusiast needs one!)
-Dremel diamond cutting disc (around $4 on ebay)
-SuperGlue (also called cyanoacrylate)
-Acetone (some nail polish remover are just that...)
-Blu-tack
-Epoxy Glue
-A bunch of different size crystals (do a "natural quarts crystal" search on ebay, choose them well! Make sure they are clear and you have enough of them of various sizes)
-Salt (the type which is very coarse and has the biggest grains)
-Green Stuff putty
-Matching Cavern Set paint
-A lot of patience, time and dedication (rarely for sale)
biowizard
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Last Edit: 2012/06/02 19:53 By biowizard.
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#45908
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
I don't have a camera that can do a video. Furthermore, the lousy camera I have only has automatic features and I do not have fancy filters. This is probably why I'm having troubles taking nice pictures of my crystals (they are strong light sources after all). Here's the best pictures I succeeded doing. These don't even come close to how gorgeous those crystals really are. I had to reduce the intensity of the blue light (through programming) from the LED to around 7% of the light output it can normally provide to make the following 2 pictures.





Despite my photography nightmare, I must say that the end result is much much better then anything I had imagined this project's end result to be. I'm having a hard time believing that I actually made those!
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#45910
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Gorgeous!!!

Do you take commissions???

:-)
Harneloot
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#45911
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
For me, one of the most fun aspects of "The Addiction", is seeing all the cool and creative ideas from my fellow DF enthusiasts. These are simply awesome Biowizard! I would love to see pics of them in one of your Cavern set ups one day.
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#45914
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Creating the crystal clusters:

-Take a small flat cavern piece and Dremel your way through the polystone (wear a mask, this is dusty) until all its top surface is gone and leaves way only to a gaping hole that shapes into a narrowing cone all the way through. The small flat cavern piece is at this step more like a "small cavern ring".
-Make sure that the end of all your crystals are either flat (use the Dremel diamond wheel here) or relatively clear (not turbid) so that the light will easily penetrate into them (you can test with an LED).
-Using Superglue/Cyanoacrylate, glue one crystal at a time upon the inside of the ring. Once again using an LED, position the crystal so that its end captures light best from an LED positioned at the base of the flat cavern piece. While the glue is drying (30 min) use blu-tack to hold the crystal in place.



-Repeat with plenty more crystals (one at a time) of different shapes and positioned at various angles until you cannot fit any more.
-A seen from underneath one of the crystal cluster, the end of each crystal faces a mathematical point situated at the base of the "flat ring cavern".



-When I glued those crystals together, I think I used too much superglue and this caused whitish deposits on the crystals. I learned that using too much superglue does just that and it explained how I ruined a few assembled minis. I also learned that these deposits are easily dissolved in acetone. I therefore cleaned the crystals with Q-tips dipped in acetone.
-To make the crystal clusters more solid, to capture the few ray of lights that were allowed otherwise to pass in between the crystals and to give a more natural appearance to these clusters of crystal, I decided to use epoxy glue. After mixing the 2 parts glue together, I've applied the glue in between the crystals on the top and I then sprinkled a few big grains of salts on it. These very small crystals of NaCl transformed the epoxy into some kind of concrete and it provided the faint appearance of the very tiny or broken crystals one can expect at the base of crystal clusters. Furthermore, it caught and diffused light coming from underneath with a beauty I did not expect!



This design for these Crystal clusters allows me to use them as is without any light source. They are not glowing in this way but the pieces are quite smaller...
biowizard
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Last Edit: 2012/06/01 01:45 By biowizard.
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#45915
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
LEDs & electricity:

LED stands for light-emitting diode. They are very small light sources that can last for thousands of hours. After reading Richens' thread, I stumbled about a special LED: a BlinkM (more info on them here). These LED are in fact 3 LEDs in one, a red, a blue and a green. As a computer screen, and by varying the intensity of electricity to each 3 light sources, these LED can produce any color (RGB colors). Furthermore, they come with a microprocessor that you can program to sequence which color pattern to use, for how long, at which intensity, frequency, fading speed etc... There a 4 pins on a BlinkM. 2 pins are used to provide an electric input and the 2 others are used to change the programming inside the BlinkM. To communicate with the BlinkM, you need an Arduino board or a device called a "LinkM" (I did not try this option). To learn more about BlinkM, you can read the quick start guide.

The hard challenge to create modular LED crystals (as Richens pointed out) is miniaturization of an electrical source. For as long as a BlinkM receives between 3 and 5 Volts (less: they don't light up / more: they burn) they will work! To hide a power source within the "thickness" of a flat medium cavern piece, I had to rely on lithium-ion polymers (LiPo) batteries. They are the most concentrated/compact form of storable energy and the little packets they are made of can be any shape. A LiPo battery generates 3.7V which is within the right range. Furthermore, they can also work up to 4.2V. More then that and they will burst into flames! This is why you need a special charger for them. Within all the LiPo chargers I found, the LiPo rider was the cheapest, easiest and it was charging the LiPo at 4.2 V, which is great because the closest the power source is to 5V, the brightest the LED can be. In my attempts at remembering my electricity teachings from high school, I remembered that by putting 3 coin cell batteries of 1.5 V each taped together in series, I could artificially create a 4.5 V battery. I did just that and it worked!! The problem was that 2 minutes later the LED stopped blinking. I then learned of the concept of "mAh" which is the capacity of a battery to sustain outputing that many milli Amps over a period of 1 hour. My custom battery was not dead, it just needed resting before being used again. Of course, this was not acceptable for my crystals. A BlinkM consumes a maximum of 60 milliAmps. After careful ebay searching for a LiPo with the right dimension to fit in the medium cavern piece I found a thin small battery with a 200 mAh output. With the LED set to blink and not to be ON all the time, and using only one of the 3 colors, I found these batteries boosted to 4.2V to last for about 16 hours, which is more then enough for most sane gaming sessions.
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#45916
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Assembling the LED medium flat cavern pieces:

I took the dimensions of the BlinkM, battery and wiring and precisely carved the underneath of a medium flat cavern piece with my Dremel.



Unfortunately, it left a few holes in the thinnest parts of the pieces. As I did not want the wiring, battery and LED to be visible, I covered the holes with Green Stuff with my lousy sculpting abilities (Stefan, you're the man!... sorry for poking holes in your art ;-) ).



I then undercoated the green stuff with dark green/grey and dry bushed it with a lighter paint to imitate the original painting scheme (I could have done better).



I then bent the 4 pins of the BlinkM so that they become more compact vertically. To do so, I plugged them partly in the Arduino board to give each pins an equal 90 degrees bent. This part is important if you want to still be able to reprogram them. I then soldered the 2-pin Micro JST Connectors (spacing of 2.5mm) at the end of the LiPo batteries to be able to plug and unplug the smart LEDs (this is my ON & OFF strategy). I know I soldered the red wire with the black wire but I had to do so for the JST connectors plugged to the BlinkM to occupy less vertical space. This is what it looks like from underneath:




I set the LEDs to the following RGB colors: 20/0/0 (red), 0/20/0 (green), 0/0/20 (blue), 15/15/0 (yellow), 0/15/15 (cyan) & 15/0/15 (purple, I don't why it showed up as white). A setting of 20 out of the maximum output of 256 shows how much brighter these strong LEDs can be! The final product without the crystal clusters sitting on the LEDs:

biowizard
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Last Edit: 2012/06/01 02:13 By biowizard.
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#45917
Re:Stand-alone Crystal clusters with programmable LED 2 Years, 6 Months ago  
Programming the BlinkM:

I know next to nothing in programming. I managed to edit a script available for free online that allows communication between you computer, the Arduino and the BlinkM. I'm not yet sure how I did it but it works. If anyone wants to try emulating this project for himself, I can paste here my programming scheme but I would not be able to tell why it works. In any case, this project was fun, creative and I had to learn the basics of applied electricity and electronics which you never know when it can become handy!

A picture of a BlinkM hooked to my Arduino:



Ninthgoose, Arcarius2001 They are indeed majestic in the dark! One day I will probably have a decent camera and post more pictures/videos.

Feymous, I hope I've been specific enough for you and did not discourage you with all the work necessary. There's a lot of technical hassles but once you get into it, you don't see the time fly.

Dandare, Harneloot I'm glad you would want some of those crystals for yourself! Unfortunately, I invested close to 10 full hours of my precious time per crystal clusters. Since I'm a professional that values his hourly wage to its just value, there's no way you can afford them from me. Also, I grew very fond of them. ;-) You're very welcome to make your own though and build up from what I learned and clearly described here!
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