Well, things are bouncing merrily along with regard to several of my hobby projects. Take my Capriciously Cunning Chronograph, for example. The last we saw of this was when I was pondering how to create the somewhat complicated back panel (see Makerarm multifunction robotic arm lends a hand ). I'm happy to report that the robot arm did a wonderful job of this, and the back of my chronograph now looks almost as good as the front! (See How did it get so late so soon?)
Also, my Caveman Diorama project is coming along in leaps and bounds, although we did run into a small stumbling block for a while. On the right-hand wall of the cavern we are planning on having a very tasty cave painting. We're also thinking of having a caveman standing on a tree-branch ladder creating the painting while a couple of cave kids stand at the bottom of the ladder looking up at him.
(Source: Max Maxfield & Mike Mittlebeeler)
Now, remember that we're working in 1/32 scale (which means a 6' man will be 2.25″ tall) and that I'm going to be represented in my Hawaiian shirt. My presence in the scene will be explained by an H.G. Wells-esque time machine ticking over in the corner of the cave. This also allows me to introduce some modern artifacts into the scene, including two or three floodlights illuminating the cave painting.
Right from the get-go, I was envisaging the old black stage floodlights from my youth mounted on tripods. Each of these lights will have a power cable coming out of the back, running along the floor of the cave, and plugged into a power-panel on the time machine.
The problem is this power cable. Each of my floodlights is going to contain a NeoPixel, which means I need three wires: +5V, 0V, and the Data signal. If the power cable were 10mm diameter in the real world, this translates to only ~0.3mm diameter in the diorama world. Contra wise, if we were to use three regular-size wires in the diorama world — resulting in a bundle ~4mm in diameter — this would translate to a ~128 mm (or ~5″) diameter cable in the real world, which would be totally unrealistic.
I was chatting about this with my chum, Rick Curl, who pointed me at an example LED Floodlight model on the Shapeways.com website. This model is short and stubby (in order to disguise the wires) and pretty representative of what's out there. Some alternatives I've seen look nice as far as the light itself goes, but the effect is ruined by the chunky-clunky wires sticking out of them.
And then we came up with a cunning plan — indeed, a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel. Our original idea was to use the three metal legs forming the tripod as conductors for the +5V, 0V, and Data signal. However, as I discussed in my recent Caveman Christmas column, we eventually decided to use industrial dispensing tips for the tripod legs. These are stainless steel tubes with an external diameter of about 0.8mm and an internal diameter sufficient to accommodate a piece of 40 AWG enameled copper wire.
By some strange quirk of fate, my friend Steve Manley in the UK has been describing all the stuff he's been creating using his 3D printer (see The 3D printing of prototyping jigs), so I asked him if he could help out with my floodlights, and he responded with the following preliminary implementation.
(Source: Steve Manley)
The final image above shows a test-print with three regular copper wires acting as placeholders for the legs. At the time this picture was taken, the industrial tips and Fresnel lenses we plan on using were winging their way to Steve. Well, I'm happy to report what I regard as being a total success. The image below shows an initial print of the floodlight with the enameled copper wires protruding from the bottoms of the steel legs.
(Source: Steve Manley)
Observe the plastic lens at the front of the floodlight. This is one of the spare Fresnel lenses left over from my BADASS Display project (Steve had to grind it down to ~6mm diameter). Also observe the slot at the side of the floodlight body close to the lens. There are four of these slots — one on each face — that will be used to hold the “baffles” (I'll show you pictures of what I mean in a future column).
Last but not least, the following image shows the floodlight painted and illuminated. In the final diorama, the three enameled copper wires will be hidden under the floor of the cave. However, we will also have a thin “power cable” coming out of the back of the light, snaking its way across the floor, and connecting into the time machine. This will complete the illusion for casual observers while leaving experienced modelers scratching their heads saying: “How the #### did they manage to do that?”
(Source: Steve Manley)
Steve has emailed the STL files for me to get my versions of these floodlights printed at Shapeways.com. Also, he informs me that a care package is on the way containing sufficient cut-down legs and ground-down lenses to create my three floodlights.
I don’t know about you, but I have to say that this project is starting to look very, very tasty. Now I'm looking on to the next problem, which is creating a three-seater version of the H.G. Wells time machine. Watch this space for future developments…