Pyrotechnic Star Machine

Star_Pump_Cutaway

[Robert McMullen] designed and built this fascinating, fully automated, pyrotechnic star pump (Google cache). It was made as a project requirement for his engineering program — The inspiration? He also happens to be a member of the Olin College Fire Arts club.

Let’s backtrack for a second. What is a pyrotechnic star any ways? They are the pyrotechnic pellets that make up the heart of all projectile type fireworks. Usually either a metal dust, compound or salt, they are what makes the pretty colours and “stars” of the fireworks. Only problem? If they aren’t made right they can be rather dangerous. Luckily, [Robert] chose one of the safest methods: pumping. The basic concept is that the star mixture is damp as it is pressed into a cylindrical shape, and then cut and dispensed, ready for use after a drying period.

The machine is a very slick mechanical contraption that is even a bit mesmerizing to watch. There’s lots of info on his blog, and even the technical drawings and Solidworks files are available! If this all seems rather familiar, [Robert] built a similar machine that creates waterproof fuses.

Stick around after the break to see it in action! Unfortunately we regret to inform you… blowing up of the stars is not included.

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Network-controlled fireworks launcher

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[Thomas] and his friends wanted to ring in the new year by setting off some fireworks. To keep a safe distance and have a little fun they built this network controller launcher (translated).

the image on the left shows the build in its unused and pristine state. But by the end of the celebration it look a bit melted and burnt. Still, for the first revision of the system it ended up working pretty well.

We’ve seen several remote fireworks launchers that burn up resistors to light the fuses. But this system is much more reusable. The image on the right shows the heating elements which light the fuses. Younger readers might have no idea what they’re looking at, but every automobile used to come with at least one of these electric cigarette lighters. Just drive 12V through them and they get burning hot relatively quickly. That’s where the car battery on the base comes into play. It is connected to the lighters using some mechanical relays.

In the food container attached to the side of the launcher you’ll find a Raspberry Pi which provides the web connection for the system. [Thomas] wrote code which uses a webpage with some bomb icons as buttons. Check out the video after the break to see him demonstrate how fast one of these lighters will glow red after pressing a button on his smart phone.

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Wireless fireworks controller includes several safety features

fireworks-controller

[Craig Turner] wrote in to tell us about the wireless fireworks controller he just finished building. It has eight total channels and offers the kind of safety features we like to see when working with explosives.

The image above details the launcher side of the project. The project box houses an Arduino which is powered by a 9V battery. To enable this base station the key lying on top of the project box must be inserted and turned to the on position. To the left is the 12V battery which is used to supply the igniters via a set of eight relays. In the demo video after the break [Craig] is using nichrome wire to demonstrate, but we’ve even see projects that actually burn up resistors to light the fireworks.

The system uses RF12 wireless modules to communicate with the control panel. That also has an Arduino, along with a number pad. After switching on the power the operator must enter a PIN code before the system will allow any of the fireworks to be launched.

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Wave that roman candle around without risking your digits

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Some people don’t mind missing a finger or two, but we’re quite attached to all of ours. That’s why we’ve never held on to the fireworks after lighting the fuse. [Dzl] and his son wanted to be (at least somewhat) safe while still having that kind of fun. So they built this rig which lets you wave around a roman candle from a safe distance. It’s not strictly limited to one type of firework either. You can see there is a PVC barrel which will send a bottle rocket off in whichever direction the thing is pointed. As you’ve guessed, a test run is shown off in the video after the jump.

The rig is build from laser cut nylon parts. Don’t fret if you lack the equipment to automatically reproduce this. It’s not that hard to fabricate these types of parts by hand. And the motors that make it go are just hobby servos rigged for continuous rotation. [Dzl] did add external potentiometers for position feedback.

This is a tame way to celebrate the New Year, which is nice if yesterday’s project was a bit too hard-core for you.

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A resistor’s fiery death used to launch fireworks

Check out this control center which [Awesome0749] built for launching fireworks. From the looks of his stash he’s going to be doing quite a bit of celebrating. The control console is clean and offers some safety features, and he just upgraded to an interesting ignition technique.

He’s using CAT5 cable to connect to the fireworks. At the top of the enclosure you can just make out the edge of the almond-colored wall plates which offer three jacks each. The two keys on the controller must be turned on to power the device. There is also a safety toggle switch in the middle.

The ignition is cause by running 70 VDC through a 1/4 Watt 24 Ohm resistor. As you can see in the demo after the break this results in flames quite quickly. One other thing we saw in the demonstration is that only the LED for the button which is hooked up comes on when the system is armed. We didn’t see a schematic, but he must have wired this so the system checks for continuity to ensure there’s something wired to the business end of the button.

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Surplus bazooka converted to shoot firework artillery shells

bazooka_fireworks_mortar_launche

[Mark] and his friends love fireworks, but got tired of the traditional ground-launched mortar rounds, so they decided to spice things up a bit.

A while back he purchased an Army-issue bazooka at a gun show but didn’t use it for much, so it sat unused for about 10 years. He dug it out of storage, then hit up his local hardware store for a few lengths of PVC piping. He cut the pipes to size and then used his 3D printer to build a couple of parts to securely mount the PVC pipe into the bazooka’s shell. With his standard tube, he can shoot 2” mortars from the bazooka, but says he can add a second nested length of PVC to allow for smaller rounds.

Obviously this sort of setup can be quite dangerous if it is mistaken for actual weaponry, or if your fireworks were purchased from some guy’s trunk at a highway rest stop. [Mark] and his friends have taken some precautions when they use the launcher, but this is still clearly a risky enterprise.

That said, we think its awesome, and if anyone has a spare bazooka sitting around, feel free to send it our way!

Continue reading to see the bazooka fireworks launcher in action.

[Correction]
Not a bazooka, it’s an AT-4. Thanks to those who pointed it out.

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Bottle rocket POV video

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It’s a holiday weekend, and much like you, we’re taking a bit of time to relax and kick back a few drinks while we mingle with friends and family. Obviously, one of the bigger events this weekend plays host to is the fireworks show put on by your city or your drunken neighbors.

Roman candle wars aside, have you ever wondered what the 4th of July looked like from the fireworks’ point of view? We did, and so did [Jeremiah Warren], who put together an awesome video showing what really happens after you light the fuse and run away like a little girl.

The dizzying video was shot using a pair of key chain cameras that he strapped directly to the rockets before launching. It’s pretty entertaining, so be sure to check it out if you have a few minutes to spare.

This probably doesn’t quite fit the criteria to be considered a hack, but with explosions and the crazy point of view video, we had to pass it along.

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