Tron costume fits nice and snug

We’ve seen our fair share of Tron costumes and props, but much like [Sean-h] points out, they are usually pretty bulky and baggy. He’s gone a slightly different route by starting with a wetsuit instead of bulkier items like leather jackets. The lighting is done in the same manner we’ve seen before, copious amounts of EL wire and EL tape. The additional layers of this costume were made from foam, so they could be fairly form fitting as well.

[Sean-h] points out that there are some downfalls to his design. The wetsuit, while looking great, gets pretty hot while indoors and the foam layers have a tendency to detach if you move around too much. We think it looks great though. Good job [Sean-H]

Building a sound reactive EL panel and learning something in the process

We’ve seen a lot of builds using electroluminescent wire, usually in the realm of costumes and props. Unfortunately, most electrical engineers don’t deal with blinking and dimming EL wire and panels and any tinkerer trying to control electroluminescence doesn’t have a lot of resources on how to control EL stuff. [ch00f] wanted to fill this knowledge gap, so he build a sound reactive EL panel driver and learned a lot in the process.

Nobody really knows how electroluminescent wire and panels work on a molecular level, but [ch00f] did know that changing the direction of an electric field will cause the EL material to glow. Changing the frequency of this electric field will change the EL material’s brightness, so all [ch00f] had to do was make a variable-frequency EL driver – something that’s a lot harder than it sounds.

We won’t bore you with the details because we  couldn’t do [ch00f]’s write up any justice. We will skip to the end and tell you [ch00f] was able to make a sound reactive EL panel after a month of work that included making his own transformers and doing a whole bunch of math. You can check out the video of [ch00f]’s [Tony Stark]-esque EL panel after the break.

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EL wire piping on a party couch

If you’ve been putting off that reupholstering project here’s a little incentive to get started. Adafruit now has some electroluminescent wire which is perfect for use as piping. They’ve outfitted a small sofa with the glowing material and we think it looks great whether switched on or not.

The installation process is really quite easy. The EL wire is covered with clear material that provides a continuous tab running the length of the wire. This can be stapled on like you see in the image above, or sewn into a fabric seam. So you could take an existing sofa cover, remove all the stitching, and sew it back together with the EL wire replacing the original piping. The video after the break shows how simple the process is.

This will be a nice complement to that Daft Punk table we’ve been meaning to build. Continue reading “EL wire piping on a party couch”

High Voltage Hacks: All About Electroluminescence

Although many might not know it, electroluminescent materials use high voltage, and thus qualify for our featured topic. Many may assume that these sheets work in the same way as LED lights, using low-voltage DC power.  This, however, is not the case, as they need around 100 volts of AC current to allow them to light up.

For a battery-powered solution, this means converting the battery’s DC power to AC. Adafruit has a good tutorial about working with EL wire and powering it up using a portable inverter. One should obviously be careful to properly insulate any clothing using this material as being shocked is generally not fun.

The video after the break is pretty long, but is well produced and will give you a good background of EL use. If you don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to this, be sure to at least skip to 2:43 to see one of the coolest EL shirts we’ve seen. Continue reading “High Voltage Hacks: All About Electroluminescence”

Color changing EL wire

All EL wire drivers use a resonator circuit to supply power to the EL wire. It’s an efficient system, but [Paul] noticed that there was some color change when powering different lengths of wire off of the same driver. He realized that this is because of the changing frequency of the resonator circuit, so the only reasonable thing for [Paul] to do was to build a color fading EL wire driver.

The circuit used to drive the wire is very simple. [Paul] used a Teensy board to switch two transistors and produce AC current. This is sent through a step-up transformer which powers the EL wire. It was necessary to use aqua or ‘Tron blue’ EL wire for this build because of the clear wire jacket. Many colors of EL wire have a fluorescent jacket – much like a fluorescent light bulb – that changes the color produced inside the wire to something different. [Paul] says the color change is subtle, but unique.

Of course the build is nothing without a video of the color changing EL wire. Check it out after the break.

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Pinewood Derby Cars Have Come A Long Way

Get your graphite and hike a wheel, [Aron Hoekstra] writes in to completely embarrass us with some excellent pinewood derby cars.    In the pursuit of that extra something [Aron] consulted with his sons who came up with some cool ideas for cars, one Tron themed and the other basically a Wiimote with wheels! The official Pinewood derby rules say nothing about electronics, so as long as nothing helps the block-o-wood travel down the track faster, anything goes. This means you are free to load up whatever cool lights you want, but will have to earn your robotics merit badge some other way.

[Aron] Starts the builds by carving out the shape of the cars, each feature a hollowed out cavity underneath to accommodate the batteries and electronics. For the Tron Light Runner car, one continuous EL strip weaves in and out of the derby car’s body, and a single AAA battery runs the driver. [Aron] notes that it took around five feet of EL wire to cover the little car, which is two more than the driver is rated for. Fortunately the extra little bit of additional wire had little effect on its brightness.

The Wiimote car has detailed 3d buttons, a breadboard with a linear regulator,  and PIC 16F628 driving  blue LEDs.  For the majority of the time the PIC simply runs a chase routine for the four LEDs, but [Aron] went through the trouble to program in the Wiimote’s start-up sequence!

Shown above the [Hokestra]’s work is my older brother’s pinewood derby car (top left) and my… potato rocket… thing… (top right)  from many many years ago. I now seriously regret not considering LEDs! Although I think all that existed then was red,  green and IR.

Check out videos of the [Hoekstra] bros’ cars after the jump!

Continue reading “Pinewood Derby Cars Have Come A Long Way”

Wireless electricity enables next generation of annoying packaging

Yep, these cereal boxes light up. They’re using a new branded-technology called eCoupling that provides electricity via induction, which means the shelves have a coil with AC power running through it. The “printed coils” on the boxes allow inventory control and data exchange presumably thanks to a low-power microcontroller. But in the video after the break you can see that the printed lighting on the boxes lets them flash parts of the box art as a way to attract customers’ attention. We’d bet that they’re using electroluminescent materials but we weren’t able to get find specifics on how this is done. We just hope advertisers don’t start rolling noise-makers into their packaging.

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