That’s A Big Flashlight

Going camping? You’ll need an extra backpack to carry this flashlight along the way. On the business end you’ll find 500 five millimeter super-bright white LEDs, on the opposite end there’s ten times the number of controls you’d expect on a flashlight. At full power, the LED array pulls down 50 Watts, making us question the battery life of the unit. Check out the walk-through after the break. The LEDs are mounted on proto-board, making for some extreme point-to-point soldering. During the control demonstration there’s a background noise like a jet powering up, what’s that all about?

While this terrific torch brings a grin to our faces, we wonder if it wouldn’t do better as a vehicle mounted illuminator. Or if a microcontroller was tossed into the mix some creative code could make this a pretty powerful yet non-lethal weapon.


[Thanks Chris]

57 thoughts on “That’s A Big Flashlight

  1. While I really think this is cool, if he wants to take it to the next level it absolutely requires some type of reflector. Even LED flashilghts with reflectors don’t typically have the throw capability of an incandescent, they are more flood. A great majority of the light this thing produces is lost on the sides. Even a basic reflector could greatly enhance this light’s effectiveness.

    Despite this, this is an awesome project!

  2. This thing is too inefficient, take a look at the build pics, he is using a current limiting resistors on each LED; this is a waste of power, you are just dumping your battery charge into heat. He should have used a switching power supply instead of resistors.

  3. @LukeSkaff: My thoughts exactly. Guess he didn’t want to deal with heat dissipation issues in that enclosed space. Impressive as it is, there would be a much greater light output with a good reflector and some PWM.

  4. Although it’s kind of neat, the use of actual high powered LEDs would blow this thing away. 5mm LEDs aren’t very efficient. 8 HPLEDs probably could far exceed the light output of this thing, not to mention the availability of optics and reflectors to beam shape.

  5. For how much time it would take to do all of the soldering you would think the creator would think the design through a bit better. Even a simple reflector would skyrocket the effectiveness of this device. And why pack the device into such a bulky enclosure, unless this is just a novelty hack.

  6. @thatguy made a good point. You can probably get an equal number of lumens with a single car headlight with the reflector. So why waste your time on hacks that have no function when you could just as easily find something to make that is functional and cool?

  7. The whole “why didn’t you use higher power (Luxeon,Cree etc.) LEDs instead?” attitude from people bugs me, I got the same responses from my 300 LED front light I’ve made & put on my ebike.

    I like this 500 LED torch, made by someone wanting to have some fun in their own way, what’s wrong with that?

    My own reasons for making a front light with 300 3mm LEDs was;
    – I wanted it permanently fixed to my bike in place of the reflector, if you didn’t know what you were looking at (most people don’t) you’d simply think it’s a bit of a large reflector
    – the beamspread of 3mm LEDs is much nicer than 5mm ones for cycling because they smoothly spread the light out a bit more and are near the same brightness so you see a lot more of the road/trail
    – I power them from the ebike battery wnd all 300 only use 10 watts which is nothing compared to what the motor uses so it’s still bright when the battery can’t power the motor
    – if I used a few Luxeons or Crees I’d need collinators and a heatsink arrangement, increasing the bulk of the light considerably, as it stands the light I made is only about 1cm thick and gets slightly warm
    – using a Picaxe I can easily vary the brightness of the 5x 60LED strips the light is made up from, enabling me to highbeam those inconsiderate car drivers who don’t dip their headlights when passing

  8. REally fun project, The main thing is he built it, the way HE wanted to. Being a “button pusher” I love the controls. Having made the led conversion on one of my mini-mags, true the beam is less, but the spread is better, and the power consumption is WAY down, and a reflector wouldn’t be much help either, since leds transmit most of their light thru the domed end.
    Makes me want to dig out that big bag of white leds I have stashed in the drawer,,,,,

  9. It’s interesting that he actually went through with it and did all the soldering. I can’t fault someone for having some fun and building something a little nuts. Personally I would have went with Luminus Devices.

    In a package that large there is room to use long enough focal lengths to create a nice collimated beam using Luminus LEDs (large die sizes).

  10. It’s pretty silly for you guys to pick out ONE FACTOR (i.e. brightness) and make it the solitary metric for a project.

    Obviously using 500 LEDs results in a different radiation patter than pretty much anything else. Is it a desirable result? Quite possibly. What about robustness/redundancy, cost, etc.?

    Just because you can achieve one goal better a different way doesn’t mean that the project produce a net advantage for some particular purposes.

  11. Pondering on it I think I would not have put a resistor on every led, you can group them in series, also I would not have made a round front but a wide one since you have 2 eyes and generally have more benefit from a wider area as opposed to too much ground and air being flooded.
    Also since you can make any shape with 500 LED it seems a bit dull to make a circular shape, although you have the humor of having something that seems just a giant regular flashlight.

  12. This flashlight is bright, but thats all.

    -It isn’t watertight, so there’s no use for it in rough environments / outdoors. Has no glass in front of the LEDs => LEDs are ruined by rough handling.

    -The controls are crappy, who wants to operate 10+ switches to get a flashlight going.

    -Wastes alot of power in current limiting resistors instead of using a buck converter.

  13. First of all, awesome job.

    Second, why does everyone have to rip into projects like this?

    Yes, it would have been better with high power LEDs, yes he could have built a switching ps in it, yes he could have added a reflector…

    But that isn’t the point. The point is he took something simple, did the man thing to do, and added a zillion more leds than he needed.

    The point of this project is more one of those “because he can” things, rather than making the best solution to a problem. He wasn’t trying to make something to light up the most space with the minimum effort, he was building something excessive and awesome!

    Fuck guys, when someone makes something cool (albiet silly), consider the context before ripping into them.

  14. It would have been better if he used a few 10 watt LEDs.

    Though if I wanted to make a really ridiculous flashlight I’d use a HID lamp.
    You know the kind they use for grow lights for plants.

    The battery life would be terrible but it would turn night into day.

  15. This thing is awesome. At first I thought: why not just use high output leds? But the resulting light bazooka is just too awesome in its own way.

    One suggestion: Put a suitcase handle or something along the length of it, so one can carry it like a proper lantern. Or, failing that, a contoured shoulder pad for proper Bazooka style application.

  16. Personally I have to disagree with that any light is “lost” here, I like the wide field of illumination. A reflector that could reign in this wide angle is going to make an already unwieldy toy that much more unwieldly. Though the fun factor for the builder had to be high on their scale. I would like to see a high number of LED mounted on the outside of a cylinder to provide great campsite illumination. Most likely someone has done so already, and I haven’t ran across their project yet.

  17. And, one more thing. In my country, these super bright 5mm LEDs cost about 50cents each!( this is, euro cents). It’s really expensive to do something like this here!
    Besides that, this project is pretty cool. I like it, even if it lacks a switching power supply, Luxeon LEDs, solar generators, Google PowerMeter compatibility or whatever…

  18. Yep, this is a tres-cool extreme build, but me too; for anyone thinking of a similar build, some sort of efficient power control is vital.

    I built a single LED torch with a blocking oscillator inverter from an AA cell.

    * even a small amount of light can be surprisingly useful, night walking or poking around the back of equipment.

    * it is stunningly efficient. Despite being used and played with to death it gets over a year to a cell and sips it down to a fraction of a volt.

    As the number of LED’s goes up so using a few long series strings on higher voltages looks like the way to go for battery efficiency.

  19. joule thief circuits are cool :)

    interestingly the use of a small magnet lowers the switching frequency a bit, by saturating the inductor. this can be useful if you want to use the circuit with supercaps etc.

  20. That’s just awesome :) Looks ideal for a bicyclist that loves to solder :p

    For a few years already I’m using those cheap Chinese flashlights (bought a few of them once): about $8, watertight-looking aluminum case, two AA cells, 12 3mm LEDs. Perfect for slow walking, rather efficient due to a crude built-in inverter, and the design is simple. Why shouldn’t it scale up? Perhaps for a bicycle some 50 diodes would be enough. But still there are some issues:

    1) Decent diodes that push >10cd @15° are ludicrously expensive where I live, too :(

    2) The reflector. The Chinese are using no fancy paraboloids, just some kind of plastic trough with vacuum-deposited aluminum coating. Which is still better than nothing. However… Aluminized PET films: not difficult to obtain, easy to handle, but too transparent. A chunk of polished aluminum tin: from ubiquitous soda cans, may involve some electrical insulation, but still needs a lot of polishing (and local shops here even don’t know about polishing compounds). What else?

    3) Some small resistors are still needed if you want to be gentle on those LEDs — that is, to counteract voltage drop differences when connected in parallel. Nichia has an old appnote about that.

    And, of course, a switching regulator becomes mandatory when power climbs up.

  21. How about mounting just the panel of LEDs onto a yoke controlled by servo motors for X-Y movement. This could be a (relatively) cheap alternative to those expensive remote controlled automotive searchlights. With some extra work (and $$$) rather than using white LEDs, use RGB LEDs. Run it through a microcontroller to produce any color of the rainbow.

  22. when i was in India i saw flash light that was soo bright and light travel long long distance!!! i believe it was single led. it was brought from Saudi Arabia. USA has soo much light pollution. India at night is pitch black if there is no moon light. “can not see you hand in front of your face!”
    i am form Kerala state of india.

    they would love this. :P

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