Wireless fireworks controller


[Tuckie] sent in his wireless fireworks controller. The electronic parts are off the shelf – a 12 channel relay board and remote provide the guts. He used a rock tumbler to mill the black powder needed to make the detonators. A combination of the fine ground black powder, nichrome wire and ping pong balls makes up the business end of each detonator. When a channel is selected with the remote, the relay is activated, current is sent to the detonator which is taped to the firework fuse.

27 thoughts on “Wireless fireworks controller

  1. There’s actually encoding that is done on both the receiver and transmitter by jumpering the same pads either high or low, so rf interference actually isn’t that big of a deal (I just didn’t bother to include that detail in my article, as interference hasn’t been an issue for those that have used this setup in the past, including myself).

  2. with any wireless pyro system the biggest problem is preventing early ignition. look up LaMeitre or Surefire systems. they use a specific addressing system to prevent stray RF’s from “Accedentaly” sending the wrong signals.

  3. another way to keep it safe would be a 10-30 second delay, so after the “go” message, a buzzer starts beeping and tells you that in X seconds it’s going boom. then if you had an emergency kill switch, you could just press it if the wrong message got sent.

    What would be overkill, but still really cool, is if someone built something similar to those electromechanical “padlock” type machines that control detonation of a nuclear bomb. So the controller is activated, and has to move some mechanical doo-dad left, right, and left again to physically touch a switch. granted the real ones are microscopic, the same concept still applies.

  4. one more thing – wouldn’t static discharge be an even greater risk than an accidental RF trigger ? does the thing have a grounding rod ? It’s entirely possible that in a dry climate (where you shouldn’t be using fireworks anyway) if you walked through grass you could build up an electrostatic charge. If it somehow decided to go back to ground via the detonation wire, it could ignite the detonator as an added bonus. I would guess it needs an earth-grounding rod, but maybe someone with a better background in analog circuits could weigh in.

  5. a good idea would be to connect both ends of the terminal block to the common terminals of a dpdt relay, and short the nc contacts together (connect the no contacts to 12v/common). therefore, if one of the wires comes in contact with the 12V source somehow (or even esd discharge as mike has suggested above), a complete circuit will not form. just an idea for an extra bit of safety :)

  6. I found out the hard way that steel wool makes a very lousy ignition material. Sometimes it lights, but sometimes it does not. Usually it takes a spark to get it going, and the only way to get a spark is through motion (brushing the wire against the wool.) Just running current through it didn’t always ignite it. And for this application, you need something very very reliable.

    His homemade electric matches are brilliant, but milling the black powder seems very dangerous. (Yes, he took good precautions, but still…) I wonder if he could purchase finer grained powder? (I’d personally rather spend nice, safe money on model rocket igniters.)

  7. Just a note on this article: In pyrotechnics, a detonator usually refers primary high explosive device used to set off a secondary high explosive. What he is doing is lighting fuses / lift charges with igniters, not heavy blasting.

  8. I have done pyrotechnics in theatre in the UK. There is one rule that states that devices should not be controlled via a digital signal (i.e. DMX) or via wireless whatsoever – every pyro should be wired directly to its controlling switch. I for one would be concerned about using this. However I do think it is a great project and that it has plenty of potential.

  9. electronic matches can be purchased through any pyro specialty company for a dime a dozen. your model rocket igniters are the same thing with smaller leads and a smaller charge.

    @Larry
    Here in the states we do have many dmx and other digitally controlled pyro systems that we use but every one that I have ever used has an e-stop somewhere in a controllers hands.

  10. Off the shelve components for a wireless fireworks controller? Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me, you already have to go through a lot of trouble to make a wired solution “safe”…there is really no reason to take the risk of going wireless if you don’t have a professional multi-thousand-effects firework distributed over a big place.

    Combined with the homemade e-matches this can go very-very-very wrong. Looks nice though ;-)

    ps: Milling blackpowder??????WTF?????DON’T DO THAT!!!! I hope the article means the components…

    If you really want to make these matches just use some normal crackers, they are fairly safe to open and provide enough to make lots and lots of these, you don’t need much blackpowder anyway…selfmade most of the time isn’t worth the effort (and the danger), you have to build a ball mill, get the ingredients and spend hours to get it right. Wasted time/money if all you need are some gramms………..

    Oh, and safety Sam says:
    * Wear goggles so you can enjoy your eyes if something lights accidently and burning chunks of blackpowder go airborne.
    * When messing with dissolver do it outside or with the windows wide open. The evaporation aren’t healthy and might be flamable if the concentration is high enough.
    * Beware the carpet, static e is your enemy.
    * Blackpowder might ignite due to friction, be aware of that. If you ever get to the idea you have to compress bp DON’T rub it around.
    * Last but definetly not least: Check the legal situation in your country before messing with fireworks…@my place (germany) creating this e-fuses would be illegal. Hell, even opening the cracker is a violation of explosives law. The certified (legal) e-fuses/fuses are quite expensive but at least they are guaranteed to stand a certain current for a certain time so they won’t light due to static electricity, induction or something else Murphy might think about. When it comes down to paying some bucks extra or (maybe) hurting somebody while messing with selfmade stuff………….anyway, just have respect when handling with explosives and highly flamable stuff. Thousand times nothing happens and then somebody gets hurt because you thought you had to save some $.

    Anyway. If you are adequately carefull when messing with them fireworks are great fun ;-)

    1. Self made isn’t worth the effort?

      You have become lost, kid. You are on the wrong website. This is a place for people who believe the opposite of you. You need to go to facebook.com.

  11. ANY electronic detonation system is a BAD idea, especially one that’s homemade. Anything can go wrong and it’s best that you leave pyrotechnics to the experts lest you get injured/killed.

    Take it from me – I thought it’d be a great fourth of july stunt to make a loud noise using some black powder. I thought I was better than the explosive because my wireless detonator had good design (not enabled until 30 seconds after power on, specific remote sequence), but something went wrong, it went off in my face, and now I have eight less fingers than I did before that brilliant idea.

    Seriously folks, some people WILL get the idea that devices such as these make high explosives “safer” somehow because you’re supposed to be miles away when you trigger it. Freak accidents DO happen and when it comes to explosives you can’t afford it. I hope those of you reading this will keep this in mind when coming up with ideas for entertaining your guests with pyrotechnics.

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  13. Hey! i find an easy detonator to make is to take 4AA’s, sodder and glue them together to make a 6 volt battery- dont like wasting 9v’s-

    and for the detonator take one end of a wire, wrap it in a perfect sized amount of loose (seperated to spread apart) steel wool, put that in a section of cut drinking straw, push another wire into the oposite end, tape wire ends to starw on outside for quick interchange of detonators, then pinch one end off and tape it, fill the whole thing with small fireworks powder, seal other end an voila- it makes a pretty good bang on its own- especially if you compact then press paper wads against the second end.

    And i dont find steel wool at all unreliable, as the powder in this thing sifts through it, the finest stuff becomes 1st to contact the sparks- making it very effective, in the center of a pipe bomb this is a cool device.

  14. there’s extra security on there .. didn’t you see the locks on that briefcase???

    most wireless systems are poopoo .. I’ve shot the keyfob one from china and a couple others.. wireless technology is ultimately compromised by RF or other transmissions that are common with a large event (eg. fireworks display)

    Personally, I prefer to touch the probe to the pins … It’s a much more gratifying experience anyway…

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