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BLONDIE "Rapture" Man-from-Mars flashing glasses

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For those who remember Blondie in their hey-day, many will also remember the Man-from-Mars flashing red eyes behind RayBan sunglasses in the "Rapture" music clip.

Below are two shots lifted from the clip on youtube, one of the "Man from Mars" and the other Clem Bourke, the drummer. I have highlighted the flashing eyes (and intend to replace these shots with full-res shots taken from my own DVD when I get back home).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHCdS7O248g

For the Sydney concert on Thursday 2012-12-06, I decided (at the last minute) to make my own version of the glasses that would attract attention during the song "Rapture".

For something just to look weird walking down the street, two high-bright leds operated by a hidden flashing led would suffice, but when one wants to be seen against the intensity of stage lighting something stronger would be required. I also decided on Green instead of Red, because:

1. The brightest green LEDs I could get were 64.4 Candle;
2. The brightest red LEDs I could get were only abut 24 Candle;
3. Even at equal brightness, the Green will cut through whereas the Red would be lost.

This instructable has many photos and "micro" steps as I was still learning to use the new camera intended for the concert (I got 144 photos!). I will also discuss other options that were considered along the way.
 
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Step 1: The control circuit

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This is the only decent shot of the circuit board, as it was a kit. As instructions come with kits, I see no point in duplicating them here.

As I was only using LEDs, I would have preferred to use a standard "multi-vibrator" circuit that has two transistors, however, time did not allow the luxury of going through catalogs locating the correct value parts, and among the kits available there was only this Alarm Dasher Flasher which, because it is part of an educational series, is based on a 555 timer.

As this circuit would handle anything from 6V to 24V, I seriously considered replacing the power Transistor with a 4A version to run genuine colored brake-lights. I dismissed this idea due to heat--I didn't fancy burning my eye-lids. So, I ended up with a nuclear power plant being used to boil an egg.

As I was still considering the use of real light bulbs the use of an 8 * AA carrier was compulsory, and I already had the AA cells.

If I had never considered light bulbs, a single 9V battery could have resulted in a much smaller box. The circuit board is held in position with "BluTack".

The width of the box was convenient for the battery-pack, and the rubber bands around it stop the pack from sliding in either direction. By centering it, the box is more balanced than if all the AA cells were placed at one end.

Step 2: Choosing the Switch

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The switch was very carefully considered. I wanted something that was not easily knocked (like a cheap toggle switch), but which would clearly show off/on status. It occurred to me that travelling on public transport with a large box that had a small blinking LED on it may attract the wrong attention from paranoid security people.

Again, as I was not working at home with all the right tools, you can see that the hole for the switch is a very rough hand-cut with an under-sized drill bit. I wasn't overly concerned about this because once the switch was fitted, no one could tell the difference anyway.

The panel socket is a safety feature. If the cord to the glasses was entangled or suddenly yanked, a damaged plug and socket is better than wires ripped out of a board.

Step 3: Sourcing LEDs

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Originally, I was going to use the heads of cheap $10 LED torches with cellophane filters.

Disassembling the torch is relatively easy, as the wanted bit (LED board and reflector) is held in the head by a threaded ring. There are two holes diametrically opposite each other for tightening or loosening the ring. Once free, it can be easily "unwound" with a meter probe in one of the holes. The LED housing and front plastic lens then just fall out.

Each of these torches runs on 3 * AAA cells, meaning that the LED modules run on 4V5.

After de-soldering the battery springs, the heads were taped into the sunglasses with the cellophane. By the time enough cellophane had been added to make them RED, they were decidedly too dull, and so the replacement of those LEDs with brighter colored ones was made in accordance with the points made in the Introduction.

The Green LEDs were chosen as they were the brightest and Green is more attention-grabbing than Red.


Step 4: De-soldering Disasters

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Another reason for having not shown more of the circuit board is demonstrated here. The soldering iron that I was using was too hot and lifted solder track faster than I could get the solder to the joint.

Instead of mutilating two torches, I actually destroyed three. The first de-soldered board was a woeful mess because I just didn't work fast enough. In the second photo, that is not a blob of solder on the under-side. It is a solder pad!

Step 5: Replacing the Unwanted White LEDs

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Just to be polarity-safe, I left two LEDs on each board. The center LED had stretched leads, so by the time one had properly prepared the Green replacement, the position of the outer LED was a useful guide to ensure that the polarity of the center LED was correct.

You'll also note that because the leads under the center LED are splayed, it doesn't sit flush with the board. Therefore, each Green LED was aligned carefully to sit just above the board to remain on the same level as the center LED.

Step 6: How to Destroy a Pair of $400 Oakley Limited "Collector's Edition" Sunglasses

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No. I'm kidding. Although my preferred eye-wear is Oakley (as opposed to Debbie Harry's choice of RayBan), I had been caught with a "knock-off" pair which were of no value, and they are the ones I destroyed.

Originally, I tried the non-destructive approach of taping them behind the lens (as done with the cellophane) but found that because these wrap around the eyes, the LED modules pressed into my eyeballs.

Cutting a larger hole into the lens so that each module could be positioned through the lens was considered but time was running out and attaching them to the outside was the quickest way to get across the finish line.

Two small blobs of "BluTack" were slipped between the LEDs to hold the reflector back in the correct position.

Step 7: Wiring Up the Frame

As you can see on this particular Oakley model (Oil Rig), there is plenty of gap in the hinge for threading the cable. Not only did this help make things tidier, it also acted as a strain relief.

The two LED modules were wired in series (Remember 9V supply and 4V5 modules), and attached to the front with more "BluTack". The wires were then taped down inside the lens to prevent eye damage, along with the small piece of tape above the ear to carry the cable away to the control box.

Step 8: What next?

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This was the final result in the audience at the concert. Note that for the purpose of the photo, the lights were "on", not flashing. Each flash was so short and intense that it was like a camera strobe going off.

As the purpose for building this has expired, what to do next, and/or what would I have done differently?

Ultimately having come up with the use of LEDs instead of high-current bulbs, I would have settled for a much smaller box and 9V battery.

If time had allowed, I would have drilled individual holes in the lens for the LEDs.

Given the extra brightness, I will probably return the LED modules to their original torches and leave them green.

As the circuit board is intended for motor vehicles, I think I'll use it in my new one with a large panel of red LEDs connected via the cabin light.

I already have bizarre plans for the fake Oakleys--cruel and hideous things that I would never do to a genuine pair...

The lens from the glasses now has drill holes in it. So something of almost zero value has been used for a brief novelty and I'm sure I'll come up with something else equally corny.
dude you look like jack black!
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Treknology (author)  liquidhandwash2 years ago
You're not the first person to suggest the similarity.
samc123452 years ago
Kiteman2 years ago
Looking good - how well could you see out of them?
Treknology (author)  Kiteman2 years ago
Because they were arranged by line-of-sight direct vision was impaired but, peripheral vision was excellent. I still wouldn't try waving down a bus...