Fail of the Week: [Chris] vs. The Gorn

This week, [Chris] tips the scales but ultimately fails. He’s on the road, hacking through the Great White North and improvising from a poorly-lit echo chamber that happens to have a vise.

Knowing nothing about firearms (do you believe that?), he decided to build a BB cannon out of pure scrap. Several kinds of sparks fly, starting with a Hitachi drill-as-lathe and ending with a tiny cupcake sparkler. [Chris] proceeds to bore out some redi-rod by eyeballing it and offers helpful tips for course correction should you attempt same. Having centered the cavity, he drills out a tiny hole for a fuse.

His first fuse is of the crushed up match head paste variety. It burns kind of slowly and does not launch the BB. Naturally, Plan B is to make napalm glue to adhere Pyrodex pistol powder to paper. As you might imagine, it worked quite well. The wadding was singed, but still no joy. After packing her full of propellant, it still didn’t explode and merely burned out the blowhole. So, what gives? Insufficient barrel length? Should have used bamboo instead of redi-rod? Didn’t want it badly enough? Give us your fodder below.

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The Unity ‘Candle’ With A 30 Foot Flame

candle

[Quinn]‘s friends were getting married, and while the couple wanted something like a ‘unity candle’ ceremony, they though simple candles were entirely unimpressive and ultimately not very entertaining for the guests. They decided a unity fireball would be a much better representation of their relationship, and were lucky enough to have a good friend that could build one.

The design of [Quinn]‘s unity candle consisted of a control box with two key switches, a giant button, and the gigantic propane fueled candle set well back from the bride, groom, and guests at the ceremony. The candle itself releases the entire contents of an accumulator tank over a hot surface igniter, creating a thirty foot fireball without a visible pilot light, or the loud jet-like sound you would get from a traditional ‘poofer’.

As with all giant fireballs in front of an audience, safety was of the highest concern. [Quinn] didn’t use a full propane tank for this build, instead, a new, purged, and never used tank was used as an accumulator, storing just enough propane for one giant fireball. All the valves, regulators, and plumbing were rated for LP, and [Quinn] even filled out the proper forms and got the local fire department to sign off on it. It’s safer than [Caleb]‘s Mario fire flower, but you still shouldn’t try this at home.

Video of the ceremony below.

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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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6 foot tall fire breathing piranha plant from Super Mario Brothers

 

I always thought it would be cool to build a giant fire breathing piranha plant. I never really came up with an excuse to do it though. Eventually, I just decided I didn’t really need an excuse, and thus it was born.

The plant itself is pretty much just foam and cardboard. You can see the construction process in the video, it was really easy, but a little time consuming. I wanted to go with a bit of a crazy, hyper stylized look, so it is covered in veins and has these insane looking wrinkly lips.  The plant itself would be a fun thing just to have around the house. Actually, I may turn it into a lamp.

The fire systems were very much trial and error.

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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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LEGO ball mill

This is a ball mill used for refining materials into a fine powder. [Jpoopdog] built it in two parts, a base and the tumbler chamber. The base itself is build using LEGO wheels as rollers. The motor and controller from an NXT kit is used to drive the rotation, with programming to stop the mill every so often so that the raw material can cool down. That’s important because this can be used to make substances like aluminum powder, an explosive substance sometimes used in pyrotechnics. We don’t recommend producing your own explosives (or making your own propellant) but if that’s what you’re after [Jpoopdog] did build in a safety feature. The chamber,which is constructed from PVC, has a fail safe to prevent an explosion. A hole has been drilled in the end cap and plugged with hot glue. In the event the milling material starts to overheat the glue will melt and alleviate the built up pressure.

The Serpent Mother

serp-mother

The Serpent Mother is certainly an appropriate name for this 168foot long snake fire art installation filled with enough goodies to impress anyone who is into flame effects. [The Flaming Lotus Girls] were allocated $60,000 in May of 2006 to bring this art project to Burning Man. A team of nearly 100 people worked together at a furious pace to pull it off. The collaboration of skill-sets is unfathomable between the metal art, firmware, software, LEDs, and propane design. The primary flames consist of  41 “poofers” along the spine of the serpent each one capable of delivering a 8′ tall flame. Tucked away near the tail is a egg that makes use of methanol and boric acid to create a massive green fireball. When the egg is open nobody is allowed with 150′ of the project. The brain that runs the beast is nothing more than a RS-485 network of humble ATmega8s. The microcontrollers are wired with XLR cable and chatting at a 19200 baud. Max/MSP is used on a laptop to control flame patterns. Here is a enjoyable write-up and video. We particularly enjoy the bit about the strange looks the team got when purchasing 50 stun guns.