Part #2: Materials & Manufacturing
The bill of parts is short and very much on the cheap side. Apart from the LED strip itself and included controller + infrared remote, we needed clear tubing for water and pressure protection, some sort of sealant for the tube ends, wiring, and soldering equipment for the joints. Subtracting the costs of things I already owned, the cost hovers around $30.
The list of materials is as follows:
- 5m roll of waterproof RGB LED light strip – $14 (http://www.ebay.ca/itm/360621112153)
- 10m of clear, flexible, plastic PVC tubing – $10 (http://www.renodepot.com/en/vinyl-tubing-06795460)
- 10m of 4 channel 22 gauge insulated wiring – $7 (http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00FQ4XUH0)
- 12V RGB light color controller + IR remote controller kit – $4
- 12V wall inverter with round plug tip
- Cylinder of clear Silicone bathroom & kitchen sealant
- Soldering station + roll of solder
The LED strips operate on 12V DC current which means absolutely no dangers of electrocution, making it ideal for our high risk project. The controller will accept any 12V source of the right polarity, able to provide at least 1 ampere of current. Essentially any 9-12V power brick lying around will suffice, the only obstacle is fitting it with the right circular tip. The remote control takes a small battery and operates on the same principle that any old TV remote does, this makes it ideal for our wireless, pocketable needs.
Although the LED strip is advertised on eBay as “waterproof”, according to the IP65 standard they are able to withstand “low pressure water jets from any direction”, and I have absolutely no faith that they would survive long term submersion in ice. Even more so, the solder joints are left completely exposed and a single short would either throw off the color control or disable the strip completely. That is where the plastic tubing purchased at Reno Depot comes in, before installation all the strips were first encased in the tubing and then the joints were sealed with Silicone.
Although I had watched my manager at MicroBytes solder a new DC power jack on my friend’s laptop’s motherboard, soldering was a foray into the wild for me, so I decided to invest into a cheap but good quality digital soldering station, named the Aoyue 937+ on Amazon for $55.90. This company makes Chinese knockoffs of the reputable Hakkor brand, but all reviews point to these being just as good quality imitations for a lower price. The investment is justified since I am certain it will pay off in my electrical engineering career.
I took rough eyeball measurements of the official Habs logo and decided that 3/5 of the strip should be devoted to the “C” curve, and 2/5 should be used to shape the 3 lines of the “H”. I cut the LED strip on the devoted copper contacts at the 3m mark, and peeled off the glue from the contacts. I chopped up the remaining 2m roughly 2/5 for each vertical segment, and the remaining 1/5 for the crossbar.
I exposed the central contact on both vertical “H” bars, and soldered all 4 on the first to a short wire which I then soldered onto the crossbar. Care was taken so that each strip would be pointing upwards, and so the contact on the vertical bar farthest from the center was soldered to a slightly longer wire than the nearest contact, and so on. After soldering wires to the other end of the crossbar, I cut a tube to length and put it through.
I soldered the loose wires on the other end of the crossbar to the center of the second vertical line, and then cut 2 tubes to the vertical line length and cut a notch in the center, where the crossbar is joined. Then I fished both ends of the vertical line through this notch in either direction, completing the “H”. I covered each delicate solder joint with copious amounts of glue from a hot glue gun to keep the narrow channels separate and protect against humidity and tension.
I soldered the main 10m feed wire to the end of the “C” strip, and tied this wire to a fishing line whose other end was attached to a heavy metal bolt. Using this weight I passed the fishing line through the rest of the tube, and used the fishing line to pull the wire through (the wire was used intermediately because the fishing line was too weak to pull the entire strip through). Finally the soldered wire was used to pull the strip through, taking care that the sticky side did not come into contact with the tube.
I soldered the loose end of the “C” to a spare 1.5ft wire, and cut a notch in the tube about this length away from the end (where the “H” is to be joined). After folding the loose wire end back into the tube, I grabbed it from the notch and soldered this to a corner of the “H”. Specifically at this point, I swapped the red channel being fed from the “C” and joined it to the blue channel on the “H”, so that the “C” can be red and “H” be blue simultaneously when the red channel is on. I also swapped the other 2 channels (green to red and blue to green) to conserve the multicolor effect.
I sealed the open tube tips by filling each with about half an inch deep of Silicone the entire diameter, and also filled the cut notches with generous amounts of Silicone, taking special care that the “T” joints on both sides of the “H” and joining the “C” and “H” were sealed all the way around. To unify the logo I held the wet glue on the ends of the “H” in contact with the “C” where it ought to go. Since the tube had conserved a memory of its rolled-up shape, I used various weights to hold the logo in place while drying, so that it would dry the right shape.
The 10m loose end of wire was fitted with a 4-prong plug compatible with the controller, and with a bit of additional tape and zip ties for sturdiness, this essentially completes the logo. A few temporary planks of wood, tape and some wire kept it from deforming during transportation, and so the complete package including controller, remote and power adapter was delivered to the rink.