Hacklet 43 – Flashlight projects

Mankind has always looked for ways to light up the night as they walk around. Fires are great for this, but they aren’t very safe or portable. Even kept safe in a lantern, an open flame is still dangerous – especially around cows.  Enter the flashlight, or torch if you’re from the other side of the pond. Since its invention in 1899, the flashlight has become a vital tool in modern society. From patrolling the dark corners of the city, to reading a book under the covers, flashlights enable us to beat back the night. The last decade or so has seen the everyday flashlight change from incandescent bulbs to LEDs as a light source. Hackers and makers were some of the first people to try out LED flashlights, and they’re still tinkering and improving them today. This weeks Hacklet focuses on some of the best flashlight projects on Hackaday.io!

light1We start with [Norman], and the LED Flashlight V2. Norman built a flashlight around a 100 Watt LED. These LEDs used to be quite expensive, but thanks to mass production, they’ve gotten down to around $6 USD or so. Norman mounted his LED a custom aluminum case. At this power level, even LEDs get hot. An extruded aluminum heatsink and fan keeps things cool. Power is from a 6 cell LiPo battery, which powers the LED through a boost converter. It goes without saying that this flashing is incredibly bright. Even if the low-cost LEDs aren’t quite 100 Watts, they still put many automotive headlights to shame! Nice work, [Norman].

light2A tip of the fedora to [Terrence Kayne] and his Grain-Of-Light LED LIGHT. [Terrence] loves LED flashlights, be he wanted one that had a bit of old school elegance. Anyone familiar with LEDs knows CREE is one of the biggest names in the industry. [Terrence] used a CREE XM-L2 emitter for his flashlight. He coupled the LED to a reflector package from Carlco Optics. The power source is an 18650 Lithium cell, which powers a multi-mode LED driver. [Terrence] spent much of his time turning down the wooden shell and aluminum tube frame of the flashlight. His workmanship shows! Our only suggestion would be to go with a lower profile switch. The toggle [Terrence] used would have us constantly checking our pockets to make sure the flashlight hadn’t accidentally been activated.

light3Harbor Freight’s flashlights are a lot like their multimeters: They generally work, but you wouldn’t want to trust your life to them. That wasn’t a problem for [Steel_9] since he needed a strobe/party light. [Steel_9] hacked a $5 “27 LED” light into a stylish strobe light. He started by cutting the power traces running to the LED array. He then added in an adjustable oscillator circuit: two BJTs and a handful of discrete components make up an astable multivibrator. A third transistor switches the LEDs. Switching a load like this with a 2N3906 probably isn’t the most efficient way to do things, but it works, and the magic smoke is still safely inside the semiconductors.  [Steel_9] built the circuit dead bug style, and was able to fit everything inside the original plastic case.  Rave on, [Steel_9]!

If you want to see more flashlight projects, check out our new list on Hackaday.io! That’s about all the time we have for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Monster 100W LED Flashlight Produces a Whopping 8500lm!

100W LED Flashlight

[Yannick] got a hold of a 100W LED diode recently, and like any self-respecting hacker, he just had to turn it into a ridiculously over powered flash light.

The tricky thing about these diodes is that they need a high amount of DC voltage, anywhere from 32-48V typically. [Yannick’s] using a 12V sealed lead acid battery coupled with a 600W constant current boost converter which ups it to 32V at around 3.2A. He also managed to find a giant aluminum heat-sink to keep the diode from getting too hot. A 120mm fan helps to keep the heat sink nice and cool, which allows the light to be run constantly without fear of burning it out. But just in case he also has an Arduino monitoring the temperatures — oh and it provides PWM control to adjust the brightness of the light!

To focus the flashlight he bought a proper lens and reflector which can be mounted directly to the diode. At full power the LED puts out around 8500lm, which is brighter than almost all consumer projectors available — or even the high beams of a car!

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Deadbugged LED Strobe

89201403972533359 [Steel 9] was looking around for a LED strobe light for reasons unknown. He couldn’t find any that he liked, and when that happened, he did what any normal person would do – make one himself.

[Steel] based this build around a Harbor Freight 27 LED flashlight. This flashlight is just that – a simple switch to turn the LEDs on and off, a button, and from the looks of things, not even a single current limiting resistor. A masterstroke of engineering, surely,

The added circuitry consists only of a pair of transistors, a few resistors, a capacitor, and a pot. Yes, [Steel] is too cool for a 555 chip, It’s just a simple multivibrator circuit and none of the component values are very sensitive.

[Steel] got exactly what he wanted without even having to break out a breadboard. Since he just deadbugged all the circuitry, he’s also reusing the plastic enclosure of the flashlight. That’s a win in any book.

Hack a Mag-Lite to be Rechargeable

rechargeMaglite

Most tools sport rechargeable batteries these days, but there’s no need to toss that old flashlight: just replace the cells with rechargable ones!

[monjnoux] had a 3-cell D-sized MagLite lying around—though you could reproduce this hack with a 2 to 5 cell model—which he emptied of its regular batteries and replaced with some 11000mAh NiMHs from eBay. The original bulb was also tossed in favor of a 140-lumens LED.

After disassembling the flashlight, [monjnoux] set about installing the new parts. He replaced the original bulb with the LED, soldering it into place and securing it with hot glue. He then drilled a hole in the body of the flashlight for a DC socket. The charger he purchased is adaptive, detecting the number of cells and adjusting its voltage accordingly. It had the wrong connector, though, so [monjnoux] simply chopped off the end and soldered on a new one. For a hack that comes in at 40€, it’s definitely a cheaper alternative to the official rechargeable model: which costs 80€. And with a duration of 7 hours (though it’s unclear whether this number reflects continuous use), it likely outlasts the official model, as well.

Scratch-built Smart Flashlight

scratch-built-smart-flashlight

This flashlight has a face; one of the many tricks which [Hobbyman] included during the development process. The smart flashlight build turned out to be a great way to practice so many different aspects of product development.

It was envisioned as a light for use when walking or biking that could do more than just light your way or flash on and off. Of course we know it’s really just a reason to spend way too much time in his lair. He started with the electronics, driven by a PIC 16F88. The 5×5 LED matrix gives him just enough to work with for patterns and rudimentary text. The prototype is wrapped up into a pretty tight package which leaves enough room in the 3D printed case for 4 AAA batteries. As the project progressed more and more features were added in. The most current offering includes a temperature sensor as well as the ability to react to ambient sound. See for yourself after the break.

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Hack a Solar Garden Light Into a Flashlight

solargardenflashlight

While browsing through his local dollar store, [Taylor] came across a suspicious looking rock that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a solar garden light. He scooped it up, took it home and cracked it open, modding it to function as a handheld solar flashlight.

Inside was a pathetically small 40mAh rechargeable battery, which he upgraded to a more standard rechargeable AA. The garden rock came pre-built with its own boost converter to kick up the voltage for the LED, but it was fairly dim. We’re guessing [Taylor] didn’t bother reverse engineering the converter and instead simply did some trial and error, but he managed to increase the LED’s brightness by slapping on a different value inductor.

As fun as it may be to have a rock for a flashlight, [Taylor] decided to cobble together a custom case out of a spare USB charger, making a battery holder and adding a pushbutton. The result is a handy solar flashlight that takes around five hours to charge. Check out some other custom lights: a lithium-powered PVC flashlight or one with a snazzier aluminum body and interchangeable heads.

Giving a crank flashlight a super capacitor overhaul

crank-flashlight-supercap-overhaul

[Caleb] was given a tiny LED flashlight which has a crank used to charge it. Unfortunately it wasn’t holding a charge, and constant cranking didn’t work very well either. He cracked it open to find a single lithium button cell. Instead of using a drop-in replacement he soldered in his own super capacitor.

The stock device is remarkably simple. It uses a standard DC motor as the generator. It’s connected to the crank using a set of gears, with the two red wires seen above connecting it to the control board. Four diodes make up a bridge rectified and apparently feed directly into the battery. No wonder that cell went kaput!

But this orientation isn’t bad for using capacitors. They can be charged directly and the switch which attaches the LEDs to voltage doesn’t interfere with their operation. The last problem was making room for them in the case. [Caleb] considered a few different approaches, but ended up just heating the plastic enclosure until it could be deformed to make room for the additional parts.