X-Labs hackerspace completes a big 2-year Tesla coil build

x-labs-tesla-coil-build

It’s a bit difficult to estimate the size of the Tesla coil from this picture, but look closely at the hand rail on the red-orange wall to the left and that helps. The 10-foot tall musical Tesla Coil project has been on-going for about two years. But the team at X-Labs — a hackerspace affiliated with the University of South Florida — finished it just in time for the University’s engineering expo later in the month. There’s some information about it to be found in the recent student newspaper article on the project. A lot more build details are found on the groups website, although that post is quite old.

You can’t call it a musical coil unless there’s a demo video, and that can be seen after the jump. What better to test the thing than by playing the Super Mario Bros. theme? We’re actually more partial to the Imperial March (it’s also fun to hear played on stepper motors).

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Wireless light bulbs with a Slayer exciter

slayer rocksWhile playing chiptunes, creating lightning, and illuminating fluorescent tubes with a homebrew Tesla coil is awesome, they’re not exactly the safest electrical devices around, and certainly aren’t easy or cheap to build. There’s another option open if you’d like to play with strong electromagnetic fields; it’s called the Slayer exciter and is simple enough to light a few fluorescent bulbs wirelessly off a pair of 9 Volt batteries.

The circuit for the Slayer exciter is extremely simple – just a single power transistor, a few diodes, and a couple of resistors. The real power for this build comes from the custom-wound transformer made from more than 100 feet of magnet wire. After plugging the driver circuit into the transformer’s primary winding and connecting a metal ball (in this case a wooden ball covered in aluminum foil), it’s possible to light up a four Watt fluorescent tube with a pair of 9 Volts.

You can check out a video of the Slayer exciter after the break.

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Modulator box connects iPod to Tesla coil

tesla-coil-modulator

This pass through audio modulator lets you playback stereo audio on two Tesla coils. But don’t fret, you can just use mono files if you only have one coil on hand. On one side there are inputs that connect to the audio source. The other side drives the Tesla coil, switching it on and off based on the relationship between a reference voltage and the audio signal. As you can hear in the video after the break this sounds great as long as you have the right kind of source audio.

The song played in that clip is the Duke Nukem 3D theme. [Daniel] started with a MIDI file and removed the chimes and drums to make the playback a little cleaner. The demo uses just one coil because the other was destroyed during testing when feedback between the two became a problem.

For some reason this reminds us of that singing Tesla coil hat. If you’re already on our mailing list (sign up in the sidebar) you know we’re getting pretty close to unveiling our own awesome Tesla coil project. It doesn’t sing… yet.

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Toorcamp: The Tesla Gun

We discussed [Rob]‘s Tesla Gun in the past. At that time, the build looked very impressive, but had not been fired yet. Fortunately, [Rob] got the device working and brought it to Toorcamp. He took the gun out every night and demoed the handheld Tesla Coil by having volunteers catch the streamers with a knife.

The gun uses a cordless drill battery for power, and a flyback transformer to generate the ~20,000 volts needed to drive the coil. The power electronics module was designed to be easy to replace, and [Rob] had extras at Toorcamp in case he burnt one up. [Rob]‘s build log is very detailed, and definitely worth reading through. It explains how he cast the enclosure out of aluminium, built a custom porcelain high voltage switch, and designed the power electronics.

While this build should probably get a “do not try this at home” label, he definitely created something unique. We’re looking forward to when [Rob] shows the gun off next.

MakerFaire K.C. sneak peak at ArcAttack’s new toy

I’ve been seeing videos of ArcAttack all over the web for several years now and hoped one day I’d be able to cross paths with them. When I heard they were going to be at MakerFaire K. C., I was determined to grab them and ask a few questions. As it turns out, they’re fans of Hackaday and were happy to talk. Not only that, but when I was asking what fun things they were building, their eyes lit up. “You’re going to love this” one of them said as he ran off behind the stage.  He returned with a device which was strapped to his body and spitting 5 foot long lightning bolts. He was right, I did love it!  They demonstrated this proton pack looking portable tesla coil for a while, shocking each other and random bits of metal, all the wile grinning like the fools we all are.

I know we’ve covered a portable tesla coil or two before, but seeing this thing in person,heading right for you,strapped to someone who might actually even be able to run faster than you, is pretty cool.

There is video (sorry, shaky) and a ton of pictures after the break. Enjoy.

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Tesla gun will probably kill something, sometime

After reading The Five Fists of Science, a retelling of ‘war of the currents’ between [Tesla] and [Edison], [Rob] knew he needed a Tesla gun, the sidearm of the story’s protagonist. Since nothing as stupidly awesome and dangerous as a portable Tesla coil has ever been made, [Rob] needed to make his own.

[Rob] started his build as any good weird weapon build begins: taking apart a Nerf gun. A new Aluminum sand cast body replaced the wimpy plastic body of the Nerf gun and after a few days on a mill, [Rob] had an aluminum Nerf gun perfect for holding the guts of a Tesla coil. The high voltage switch is made of porcelain, and the power supply is an 18 V cordless drill battery and a flyback transformer potted with silicone in a PVC pipe end cap.

[Rob] really has a remarkable build on his hands here, and certainly something no one else has ever tried before. While he hasn’t fired his gun yet, we’re sure we’ll hear about it on the nightly news when he does.

Nine not-so-easy steps to build a singing Tesla coil

We love a good Tesla coil music performance, but have never really considered building our own. After reading [TheHomebrewGuru's] guide to musical Tesla coils we’re still not considering it. Whether or not you’re going to undertake the project, his massive writeup is worth a look.

The tutorial begins at the beginning, with a bit of background on these devices, including what they are, where they came from, and the electrical theory behind them. From there it’s on to the build. This isn’t a go-out-and-buy it type of project. You’re going to need some ingenuity to hunt down parts that will work, and will work with each other.

The image above shows a partially built device, using sheet metal ductwork covered in foil tape as the torroid at the top. The column is wrapped in wire, forming the secondary coil, and the wooden base is ready for the installation of the primary coil. Electronics will be housed between the two wood discs of the base, with a TI Launchpad board driving the music part of the hack.

There isn’t a good demo video of this playing music. But you can get the idea if you look back at the head-mounted tesla coil which did a great job of pumping out the tunes.