FireHero: Raspberry Pi Controlled Pyrotechnics

Fire Hero 3

To put on a live pyrotechnic show at a music festival, [Chris] built the FireHero 3. The result is remotely controlled flames shooting up to 100 feet in the air.

The system is controlled by a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino. A server runs on the Pi and allows a remote computer to control the system. The Pi sends commands over serial to the Arduino, which switches solid state relays that actuate the valves.

There’s also some built in safety features: the system won’t boot unless you have the right key and RFID tag, and there are pressure transducers and temperature sensors to ensure the system is operating safely. A CO2 actuated valve can quickly stop fuel flow in an emergency.

Vaporized propane creates the fireballs. The vapor is created by heating the supply tank in a hot water bath. An accumulation tank stores the vapor and custom built manifolds distribute it to the various flame cannons. At each cannon, a silicon nitride hot surface igniter (HSI) is used to ignite the flames once the valve is opened.

After the break, watch a video the the FireHero making some flames.

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Almost building an engine from hardware store parts


You can build a surprising amount of stuff from parts you can pick up at a hardware store. Sometimes, though, getting a project built from sections of pipe is very, very difficult. That’s the case with [Lou]’s hardware store engine: despite an inordinate amount of cleverness, he just can’t seem to get an engine made from pipe fitting to work and is now asking for some ideas from other ingenious makers.

The engine uses regular oxygen and propane tanks you can pick up at Home Depot with torch heads soldered onto half inch pipe. The fuel and oxygen are mixed in a T fitting until a grill igniter sets the gas mixture ablaze pushing a cylinder down the length of a copper pipe. The cylinder is attached to an aluminum flywheel that also controls the opening and closing of the oxygen and propane valves as well as switching the grill igniter on and off.

Right now, [Lou] can get the engine running, but only for one stroke of the cylinder. He’s having a bit of a problem turning this into a working motor. If you’ve got any idea on how to make [Lou]’s engine work, drop a line in the comments. We’ll throw our two cents in and say he needs a valve on the exhaust, but other suggestions are always welcome.

Single-column Rubens’ tube

Here’s a fiery project which [Patrick] calls his Pyro Jam Can. It’s the simplest Rubens’ Tube build that we can think of. For the uninformed, a Rubens’ tube uses flammable gas to reveal wave forms passing through the supply vessel. In the past we’ve seen projects with multiple columns, which very clearly show a standing wave. But this version lacks the resolution for that, so the wave is seen as a modulated flame height.

You can see the propane feed tube coming into the can from the right. This keeps the gas flowing steadily, but a diaphram on the bottom of the can made of a latex balloon allows for modulations in flame height by pushing the gas through the aperture a bit faster than it is flowing. A speaker in the base bounces sound waves off of the diaphragm for the effect seen in the video clip after the break.

We wonder if the can will ever heat up enough to melt the balloon on the other end?

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Burning Man 2011: Christopher Schardt’s Garden of Rockets

This is one piece I regret to have missed this year at Burning Man, however I certainly heard tales from any one who stumbled across it. [Christopher Shardt]’s Garden of Rockets consists of three kinetic fire art pieces with spinning propane rockets that you can control!

[Christopher] decided to incorporate his Burning Man 2010 project, 4pyre², which is a 12 foot pipe with opposing propane fueled rockets on each end. Onlookers can control the amount of propane fed to the rockets and twist the pipe they are attached to causing the whole thing to spin around like an out of control fire hose. Accompanying 4pyre² is  PyreGoRound, and  Pyroticulation which are two variants on 4pyre²’s concept of spinning rocket bars. [Christopher] was lucky enough to have his project materials funded by Burning Man, but added three thousand dollars (!) in propane to the mix out of pocket.

Check out a video of the project after the jump, and [Christopher]’s site for details and schematics.

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Burning Man: Pirate Ship Sports Arduino Powered Flame Sails

The 2011 Burning Man festival starts in just a few short days, and with that we have an excellent mutant vehicle accessory that no insane desert dweller should be without. An Arduino powered fire cannon sequencer! [Paul] was asked by Lostmachine’s [Andy] to spice up the flame effects on their Priate Ship mutant vehicle and provide a cool looking fire show that represented the ship’s sails.

[Paul] tossed together a hand full of arcade buttons, switches, and an LCD display to control eight 12V Solenoid valves tasked with switching on various regulated propane sources that throw some brutal looking flame effects. The controller combines a Teensy 2.0 with a custom board that contains eight P-channel MOSFET circuits. Flyback from the coils is handled through zener diodes, and the IRFR5305s are sized quite above and beyond what is needed for the 12v solenoids. With the heat, dust, and chaos of the desert one can’t be too careful. [Paul] even tosses in RC snubber circuits just to prevent things from getting too out of hand. Of the twelve arcade buttons eight are used for manual over rides, and the remaining four arcade buttons, knobs, switches, and the LCD display are all connected to the Teensy to handle the sequencing. [Paul], sadly, will not be able to make it out to Burning Man to troubleshoot the sequencer, which is a cause for some concern throughout the build.

It just so happens that I leave for Burning Man this Friday, and have an 18″ by 18″ Hackaday QR Code that will mark my area, see if you can find me out there! Also check out a video of the sequencer controlling what is easily a 6 foot flame bar after the jump!

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Forget that boring old fire pit, build a Flame Tree instead!


Maker Faire is a great event to attend not only because you get to see all sorts of cool designs and machinations, but because you can participate as well. At Maker Faire Bay Area 2011, maker [Brett Levine] put together a fun and interactive display he likes to call the DIY Flame Tree.

The concept is pretty simple, and he says everyone who participated got a pretty good kick out of lending a hand. Each participant was given a piece of copper tubing and allowed to bend, twist, and sculpt it to their liking before using a drill to add holes wherever they pleased. They were then allowed to choose where their portion of the project would be mounted on the existing tree.

With everyone standing a safe distance away from the display, [Brett] pumped it full of propane and lit the various sections on fire. In the video below, you can see that the display was blown around a bit by the wind, but we imagine it would look pretty awesome on a still summer evening.

Even if you’re not into this sort of art, you have to admit that it certainly beats a boring old fire pit!

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Propane Tank-ard

[hpstoutharrow’s] new instructable is a neat idea on how to re-use those single use small propane bottles by turning it into an insulated canteen. Once the bottles are emptied through normal use, the safety valve is popped loose and allowed to vent. There are also comments on the article that suggest that the bottle be submerged to ensure all gas is gone, and we think that is wise too.

Once safe to work on, the bottom is cut open and the stem is cut off leaving a empty shell, a soda bottle is shrunk down by boiling water inside of it for a little bit, then is fit inside the propane bottle. The top of the soda bottle is held in place by an O-ring, the safety pressure hole plugged up and the whole thing is filled with spray “expand-o-foam” locking everything in place and adding insulation.

Though using a thermoplastic bottle as its liner does not invite hot beverages to the party, it seems to do the job just fine for cold drinks, and it makes for a interesting conversation piece out on the campground.

Join us after the break for a quick how-to video.

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