LED Prototype Test Run, Thoughts

Got the LED wheel out for the first full test run this week. Avi Pryntz-Nadworny did the honors and it rides great! He took it through the paces from waltzes to muscle-ups to coin spins. There are lots of pics and video to sort through, and I’ll be posting more over the next week or so.

Click on this image to play the video, and scroll down for more thoughts:

It was great to finally see the thing in action! After months of design and modeling various pieces in different ways, it’s all working together as planned. But, I’ve already got a list of revisions for the next build (I’m starting on two more after next week).

1) More Power! – I’ve been trying out various batteries, and not settled on a final type yet. For this test run, I just used 6 AA cells to simplify things. The entire wheel might pull about 18 amps at full brightness, but with the AA cells I definitely wasn’t getting half that. Add in that we had it running for well over an hour, and by the end of filming the wheel was starting to look pretty dim! A friend pointed out some tiny yet power packed lithium cells today though. I’ve ordered those and will be trying them out soon.

2) LED spacing – This build has both rows of LEDs placed facing outwards, away from the center of the wheel. This means the center of the wheel isn’t directly illuminated by the LEDs I was trying to keep the LED holes as far as possible from the bolt holes. The bolt holes are the most points in the wheel, so it’s good to have a lot of solid material around them to spread out their load. That said, I want to bring the LED holes a little further out onto the sides of the wheel.

3) Wiring and connectors – The prototype has Cat5 cable supplying power and the data signal. This is just what I happened to have plenty of lying around. The entire electrical harness was done in one piece just to save the labor of terminating all those ends. The next build will use a heavier gauge wire and modifed P4 power connectors between the sections.

4) Lights on the inside – A big goal is putting some lighting on the inside of the wheel to highlight the performer. These may be controlled separately from the rest of the wheel. Not sure when this will get implemented though, it may not be until Halo.

5) Inserts – The prototype uses aluminum inserts which have been cut and ground down to allow space for the LEDs and wiring. These have held up great so far, but I worry about metal fatigue in the long run using aluminum. I’ve been experimenting with steel inserts but still need to find an efficient way of machining stock for them.

6) Patterns! – Obviously this is going to be a major piece. These will improve over time though, and I can start really digging into this once the basic hardware/mechanical issues are taking up less of my head space.

I’m hoping to implement some of these changes in the next couple weeks and have even more stunning videos to share! Thanks for looking 🙂

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