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Picture of Bright Luxeon LED Bike Light
This instructable describes the construction of a bike light comprising three 3W Luxeon LEDs. This project had three main goals. 1.) Make a light suitable for use in 24-hour mountain bike racing. 2.) Use readily available material as much as possible. 3.) Offer the details to the community and invite any and all comments. I originally published this project at this site: http://www.racedaynutrition.com/features/bikelight.aspx
 
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Step 1: Basic Hardware

Picture of Basic Hardware
Pictured here are some of the basic hardware items required for this project. On the left is a 5W halogen light from a VistaLite system (ca. 2000) from which the handlebar mount will be salvaged. At top are radio controlled helicopter motor or "280" size motor heatsinks. The other items follow the goal of using readily available material: 3/4" copper plumbing caps, 1" corner irons, and a 2" long binder clip. See Step #3 for a parts list.

Step 2: Electrical components

Picture of Electrical components
Pictured here are some of the specialty electrical items necessary to make any high quality Luxeon LED light. The two small toggle switches are available at your favorite local electronics supply store. The funny-looking things in the lower left are 2009 Micropuck LED drivers. Add these to the shopping cart when you order the Luxeon LEDs. Finally, the syringes on the right are tubes of Arctic Silver two-part thermal epoxy. This epoxy is the most exotic part of the project. See Step #3 for a parts list.

Step 3: Parts List

Below is a list of items required for this project.
Quantity - Item Description - Suggested Supplier
3 - Luxeon III Star, White, Lambertian - ledsupply.com
3 - Luxeon III Star Optic Holder, White - ledsupply.com
2 - Optics, Collimating 10 deg - ledsupply.com
1 - Optics, Narrow beam 15 deg - ledsupply.com
2 - High-Output Micropuck Drive Module - ledsupply.com
1 - Arctic Silver Premium Thermal Epoxy - ledsupply.com
2 - Micromini toggle switch - radioshack.com
3 - Aluminum Heat Sink for 280 Motor - trossenrobotics.com
3 - 3/4" Copper Plumbing Cap - Local Hardware Store
1 - 1" Corner Irons (package of four) - Local Hardware Store
1 - 2" Long Binder Clip - Local Office Supply Store
1 - Tazmanian Devil House Key - Local Hardware Store
Miscellaneous Hardware - Local Hardware Store
Miscellaneous Electrical - Local Hardware Store
Salvaged Handlebar Mount

Step 4: Key components: Durable housing and heat sink

Picture of Key components: Durable housing and heat sink
This is the key element for the whole DIY bike light. Luxeon LEDs, especially 3W and higher, require supplemental heat dissipation. Without proper conductance of heat away from the diode, it will overheat and fail. At the very least, the LED will operate with reduced efficiency. It just so happens that a Luxeon Star LED fits conveniently inside a 3/4" copper plumbing cap. It's quite possible that the cap alone will provide enough heat dissipation for 1W Luxeons. For 3W and above the additional aluminum heat sink can only help.

Step 5: Soldering Skills

Picture of Soldering Skills
You'll of course need a soldering iron. As you might expect, soldering requires some skill. But don't worry, with just a little practice anyone can learn the process. For some extra help getting started, take a minute to watch the Soldering Tutorial video at Makezine.com: http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2007/01/soldering_tutor_1.html
Always wear safety glasses when soldering. Molten metal + Eyeball = Bad. Enlist the help of acid paste flux where appropriate.

Step 6: Destroy office supplies!

Picture of Destroy office supplies!
At last, a chance to unleash your aggression on office supplies! Measure and mark locations to mount the toggles switches. Position the clip in a vise and drill until your heart's content (or until there is a hole). In this case there will be two switches: one powers up the top LED, the second adds power to the bottom two LEDs so that all three LEDs are on. For different ambient light and riding conditions it is useful to have some control over illuminating your path.

Step 7: Starting to take shape

Picture of Starting to take shape
In this step, take a moment to fit the 1" corner iron into the clip. Push one toggle switch through the existing hole (you will probably have to enlarge it) and mark the corner iron for drilling a second hole. Did you know the binder clip was invented in 1911 by Washington DC native Louis E. Baltzley? Drop in at Wikipedia for a little history lesson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binder_clip

Step 8: Fit it together

Picture of Fit it together
Get an idea of how to position the Luxeon Star and optics holder inside the copper cap. You'll want to put holes in the side of the optics holder with the most vertical surface area. In the photo, this is the side lined up with the gap in the heat sink.

Step 9: Marking holes for drilling

Picture of Marking holes for drilling
Check the alignment between the LED housing and the binder clip. Mark the binder clip at the point of contact with the copper cap. This mark will be where you need to drill holes in the clip. Three holes are required per LED housing: two for the screws and one to feed the wires through.

Step 10: Insert, align, mark, remove, drill, repeat

Picture of Insert, align, mark, remove, drill, repeat
Modifying the copper cap is an iterative process. Before modifying the cap, place the Luxeon Star and optics holder inside. Decide where it would be most appropriate to drill holes for the screws. Remove the Luxeon and optics holder and drill the screw holes in the cap. Now reinsert the Luxeon and optics holder and align according to the steps above. Mark the optics holder, remove, drill optics holder. Reinsert, add screws, and decide where it would be most appropriate to drill a third hole for the wires. Remove, drill hole & you get the idea.

Step 11: Drill baby, drill

Picture of Drill baby, drill
I know what you're thinking, "How am I going to fit three holes in this thing?" Trust me, there's room. In fact, if you look closely at the photo, this particular cap was generous enough to accommodate a half dozen holes! The point is, if you're not happy with the position of the holes, just rotate and try again. Don't forget to file down the rough edges before moving on. The insulation on the wires will thank you later.

Step 12: Pretending to be a machinist

Picture of Pretending to be a machinist
Here the builder is fantasizing that when he drills the next copper cap, the holes will actually be in the same positions as the first. Do the best you can here. To the amateur, small drill bits bend and wiggle all over the place when drilling on the outside of a cylinder. Allow yourself some loose tolerances and you'll have no problem.

Step 13: Fun with grinding

Picture of Fun with grinding
Put on your safety glasses and fire up your favorite grinder. In order for the top LED housing to fit on the binder clip properly, two fins of the heat sink must be ground off. With aluminum, this task takes little time. The photo at right illustrates that precision grinding is not a requirement.

Step 14: The Sphinx

Picture of The Sphinx
Perfect fit! With two heat sink fins removed, the top LED housing is ready to be mated to the binder clip.

Step 15: Let there be light

Picture of Let there be light
Solder lead wires to the LEDs. Wear your safety glasses and make sure you haven't had too much coffee. You'll need steady hands for this task. Actually, the Luxeon Stars are designed with generously sized, pre-tinned contact pads making this step easier than you may think. (Note: "generously sized" is a relative term.)

Step 16: Wiring diagram!

Picture of Wiring diagram!
The wiring diagram! This was adapted from the Micropuck Applications PDF referenced in the next step. The diagram pictured here is the way this bike light is wired. Click here to see a larger image: http://www.racedaynutrition.com/images/bikelight/wiring_diagram_fullsize.jpg

Step 17: Buck/boost configuration

Picture of Buck/boost configuration
The Micropucks are wired in parallel in order to properly power 3W Luxeons. In the LED driver world, this particular parallel config is known as "buck/boost." It offers a wide range of input voltage (1 - 7V) and will effectively power the LEDs until the battery is exhausted. The parallel buck/boost config nearly doubles the current over a regular boost config, but sacrifices some efficiency. Click here: http://www.ledsupply.com/docs/MicroPuck-Applications.pdf to visit an excellent document prepared by LEDdynamics, Inc. illustrating applications of the 2009 Micropuck. The configuration used in this project is described as "Two 2009s in Parallel, Buck/Boost."

Step 18: Prepare for epoxy

Picture of Prepare for epoxy
Connecting the Luxeon Star to the cap is important for two reasons: One, you dont want the LED to fall out. Two, you want heat generated by the diode to transfer to a heat-dissipating object. Epoxy is used in this project because it eliminates the need to drill more holes in the copper cap and it offers a lot of heat transfer surface area. As you know, most epoxies like a clean surface area in which to bond. Clean the cap by putting a drop of rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab and wipe away any dirt and/or oil.

Step 19: Attached forever

Picture of Attached forever
Mix up and apply some thermal epoxy and smoosh the LED against the inside back of the copper cap. If you're using Arctic Silver, or any similar product here, I'm confident you read the instructions. Check your receipt and you'll know why I am confident you read the instructions. This stuff ain't cheap. You don't want to mess up. You think a gallon of gasoline is expensive? If you were to buy a gallon of Arctic Silver, it would set you back $9834.50. (No kidding, $12.99 for about 5ml) Oh, and among other things, it's photo-sensitive. So don't leave it exposed under the florescent lighting of your workbench all afternoon. So, why use Arctic Silver? Because Section 2 of the Arctic Silver instruction manual states, "There is a very good chance that any components you attach with Arctic Silver Thermal Epoxy will stay attached forever."

Step 20: Relax!

Picture of Relax!
Take a break after adhering the Luxeon Stars to the copper caps. This will allow time for the epoxy to sufficiently harden and for you to relax after the stress of working with the most expensive glue you'll ever handle. Next, slip the wires through the optics holder, insert the #4 screws, and see how everything fits.

Step 21: Snug fit

Picture of Snug fit
Mind the gap. If it hasn't occurred to you already. Everything in this light comes together pretty snug. Before going any further check to see that the LED leads are not touching the screw. This could lead to a short or at least an LED that doesn't light. If the wire is not touching the screw but looks close, it might be wise to drop in some non-conducting epoxy between them. But, before you do that, read the next two steps.

Step 22: Bend a washer

Picture of Bend a washer
The O.D. of the optics holder is a bit smaller than the I.D. of the copper cap. If you fit the LED housing to binder clip, the optics holder will be off center. Avoid that issue by inserting a thin washer between the optics holder and the copper cap. Bend the washer to fit.

Step 23: Insert washer

Picture of Insert washer
Slide the curved washer in between the optics holder and the copper cap.

Step 24: Coming together

Picture of Coming together
Proceed with the steps above until you have all three LED housings assembled and ready to bolt to the binder clip. Take your time and think through each step. When ready, pull the leads through the previously drilled holes in the clip leaving some slack on the LED side. Use the #4 screws to attached the housings. Using thread lock compound here is a good idea. Shape the wire in the optics holder in order to accommodate the optics.

Step 25: Stuff it!

Picture of Stuff it!
Connect the Micropuck according to the wiring diagram in Step #15 and stuff it inside the clip. For this project, the two Micropucks were intially epoxied together. However, in order to accomplish this step, the pucks had to be seperated. It's a tight fit and it's only going to get more cramped!

Step 26: Locate your magic wand...

Picture of Locate your magic wand...
Connect the toggle switches according to the wiring diagram in Step #15. Using acid paste flux really helps to get the solder to bond to the switch leads. Don't forget to slide heat shrink tubing on your wires ahead of time. When finished, cover any exposed wire or switch leads with non-conductive epoxy. Next, locate your magic wand and get ready to mount the switches inside the already-packed binder clip.

Step 27: Almost finished!

Picture of Almost finished!
Behold! The switches magically insert themselves into the clip! Oops, how do I edit out the binder clip handles from the photo? Seriously, this is a tricky step. It's nearly impossible without prying open the binder clip. What better way to open the clip than to use is as it was originally designed? With the lights bolted on, the clip will only open partially. But, that is all that is needed to finish this step. Patience is the key. Don't forget to add a drop of thread lock compound to the toggle switch threads.

Step 28: Pièce de résistance!

Picture of Pièce de résistance!
To protect the internals from the elements, the bike light requires some kind of rigid, triangular-shaped piece on the front. What could be more appropriate than a Tazmanian Devil enameled house key? After a few minutes work with the grinding wheel, the head of the key was shaped to fit the opening in the clip. Also picture here is some hardware required to attach the handlebar mount. The neoprene washer may be used to help waterproof the opening in the front of the clip. For some positionability of the light, use salvaged bicycle brake pad washers. They are curved to allow a bit of a swivel motion before tightening.

Step 29: Salvaged handlebar light mount

Picture of Salvaged handlebar light mount
In this photo you can see how the salvaged Vistalite handlebar mount is attached to the corner iron.

Step 30: Done!

Picture of Done!
The bike light is now fully assembled. Well, except for batteries and a battery connector. I'll leave that up to you. In this photo the lenses are snapped into place. On the top is a regular 15 degree lens. The bottom two LEDs feature 10 degree collimating lenses.

Step 31: Old 5-Watt halogen illumination

Picture of Old 5-Watt halogen illumination
5-Watt halogen light (shown in step #1) powered by 6 Volts. Photo taken at a distance of 20 feet with 1.3 second shutter delay.

Step 32: Single 3-Watt Luxeon illumination

Picture of Single 3-Watt Luxeon illumination
Single 3-Watt Luxeon III with 15 degree lens powered by 6 Volts. Photo taken at a distance of 20 feet with 1.3 second shutter delay.

Step 33: All three 3-Watt Luxeon illumination

Picture of All three 3-Watt Luxeon illumination
All three 3-Watt Luxeon III's powered by 6 Volts. Photo taken at a distance of 20 feet with 1.3 second shutter delay.

Step 34: Recommendations

1.) A Luxeon III Star can handle 1400 mA. The High-Output MicroPucks used in this project combine for 700 mA. At 700 mA, a single Luxeon III Star has a luminous flux of 65 lm. Use Super High-Output MicroPucks for a combined 1000 mA output. At 1000 mA, a single Luxeon III Star has a luminous flux of 80 lm. Brighter light, same price!

2.) Reposition the handlebar mount to some point beneath the light. This will help balance the weight and should allow you to swivel the light without using brake pad washers as described above.
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Hi, I am building a battery powered LED torch with 4X1.2V 1200mA batteries, and 3X3W LEDs I am trying hard to find a driver which could do the job of connecting them together

the LEDs I have are,
LED, HIGH POWER, 5000K, 70CRI, 275LM
Series: LUXEON TX
LED Colour: White
Luminous Flux @ Test: 369lm
Forward Current @ Test: 1A
Forward Current If Max: 1.2A
Forward Voltage @ Test: 2.86V.

could you please help me what should be the specifications of the driver??

amdivoff4 years ago
if that is your garage im totally jealous! so much space,half of mine is taken up by boxes:(
s3ntinel4 years ago
Awesome design - I based my 2 light design from this, plus a 3-pole 4-way rotary switch allows for wide, narrow, wide+narrow in parallel, wide+narrow in series (super bright off-road only - traffic will flash!)

Fitting into the copper cap was a little tricky, especially keeping bolt heads clear of lenses - I had to file down the bolt head and particularly the nut. I'm running a 10xNiCad 1800mAh C-cell pack (i.e. 1.8 Amp hours total), which does indeed give well over an hour, and fits nicely into a bottle cage. When the voltage drops too low for both in series (they dim considerably), it's easy to switch to a single bright beam with plenty of further time left. Saved huge amounts thanks to supply by a friend who services medical equipment!, but finding a charger for a 10 cell NiCad pack was harder (ebay).

Future upgrade would be to use NiMH or LiPo to reduce the weight.

My pictures on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/49238647@N07/sets/72157623837257712/ - I've also added a bit more silicone sealant since then.

Top tips - don't pre-test LEDs without a heatsink - one lens came unstuck; drilling caps without a vice is painful...
 and u might want to make the leds weather proof maybe some type of protector and clear silicone or something just as idea
wouldn't i be able to use a micro puckbuck per led? 
I too have the same 15 degree lens but I don't undrestand how to open the lens? Could you please help me out.   
marc925 years ago
I'm hoping to build something similar to this, and I have a few questions. Because I would like to use a bike dynamo (at 6v, 3w, 500mA) to power this, I am unsure how to safely configure my 2009 Minipuck converter for maximum efficiency. It would be powering a single 1W Luxeon white LED. Can anybody help me out?
you probably want to add a voltage/current regulator in there (and while you are at it a battery or a supercapacitor), because the minipuck probably cant handle the current and voltage from the dynamo when, for example, you are going down a hill. even if it has the ability to take a vareity of input voltages, just to be safe i would put a regulator in there.
marc92 marc925 years ago
Moreover, does the 2009A know what voltage to supply the LED's with, or is it a function of the input voltage? None of the documents I have read said anything regarding this.
rodeobob5 years ago
If you use a centre punch to mark the holes and pilot drill with a (sharp) 1/8 or smaller drill bit you should be able to reproduce the holes accurately. Use an offcut of bar stock or pipe that the cap slips over mounted in a vice as an anvil.
slindblom6 years ago
This is brilliant. I'm very tempted to build this, but I'm wondering if you could give some tips on how to set up the battery pack suitable for riding ~3-4 hours. Thanks!!!!
I made this light and run it off a 4.8v battery. made up of four AA NIMH. This lasts me about 1hr with the three heads going. I just finished making a battery pack eith 4 times the amount of batteries (still 4.8v). This should go for over 4 hrs easy.
kwschofi (author)  slindblom6 years ago
Slindblom:
4 x AA NiMh batteries with >= 3000mAh should get you the 3-4 hours.
pablosartor5 years ago
just made your light. It is amazing. good work. Drilling the clip is insane, drilled my finger twice. It was worth the pain THANKS!!!!
what did you use to power all of this?
neuromonkey6 years ago
Would someone post the total parts cost for this project? I'm searching the listed sites for the parts, but it's taking a while to find them all. Poor or no search functions!
its all going to mount up to about $110
krapez6 years ago
I ordered from ledsupply.com and payed with mastercard... all done in few seconds... all OK. For shipment i used Fedex expres... 3 days and package was in my country in Europe.
I just oredred from ledsupply.com, don't pay with paypal, i ordered and they didn't redirect me to the paypal website to confirm with my password and username, I'm waiting for them to send me an email about my unpaid (or sohuld I say un-payable) order. If you don't mind paying by credit card, do so, it will save you a lot of trouble.
I ordered from them and got the same problem, upon e-mailing them about the issue, they informed me to go the paypal.com and send a payment to orders@ledsupply.com for the total amount of my order. My order has already shipped and should be here soon. Hope that helps.
thanks, I thought they were going to emial me, but it's probably better to be proactive.
lfryling6 years ago
Any idea of roughly what you spent on this project? I've got some old BLTs that I could refurbish. I think it would be alot brighter with your system.
Arnie10666 years ago
NIce instructable, i might try this, but with lower power LED's. I'm not convinced your circuit diagram is correct though, it looks like your taking the +ve side of your supply voltage to the negative side of the LED's Is this a typo or something peculiar to these specific lights? ie normal LED wiring... (+) --|>|-- (-) sorry cant draw it better :)
kwschofi (author)  Arnie10666 years ago
Arnie- Good question. The LEDs and drivers in this build feature "buck/boost" wiring. Buck/boost wiring has inverting topology where the output voltage is of the opposite polarity as the unit. This configuration allows for a very wide range of input voltages. According to the ledsupply.com Micropuck applications guide (PDF), this Micropuck arrangement works well with voltages between 1 - 7 V. This comes in handy when you might be using your light for various applications requiring different battery packs. One drawback is that this configuration is less efficient than standard "boost" wiring.
panstar16 years ago
very good work ! there are drill bits that can drill through the metal clip ease ,it was called cobalt bit I had bought it for a few dollars. It takes the hassel of drilling through hard metals or a cement bit could work also. I used for drilling through some stainless steel ,very good stainless steel when i was making a knife a while back. the stainless I was using came from a band saw blade which was from a lumber mill. They had to use a plasma cutter just to cut the blade up , a oxy acet torch was not even hot enough !!!
nelelr6 years ago
this is a dumb question. But can u use this technology to make a light for a car or truck heaDlight or wouldn't it go far enough?
dll9326 years ago
Nice instructable, thanks! One thing I might add: acid core solder is for pipes and fenders. Rosin core is safer for electronics.
Agreed. Your connections will likely fail as the water in the air combines with the acid to form pits on your copper. Or, you could clean it up with some alcohol. Oh lovely alcohol, is there anything you cannot do?
It is always good to preclean before soldering, but the function of flux is to help conduct heat and to keep air out, so there's no oxidation.
Not exactly, DLL. But very close. Flux is there to help prevent oxidation that is formed when the metals in the solder and wire and/or circuit traces heat up. It also cleans off any oxidation already present on any of those materials when the actual soldering is taking place. And it also is a mild degreaser which cleans off the oils your fingers put onto the wire to allow solder to stick. I used to do a demonstration when I was teaching kids how to solder by taking a wire and cutting it in half. Stripping the ends off with a set of wire strippers, and then twisting the wires with my fingers in both hands. On one, I simply tried to solder wire straight to them. It would stick in some places, but not in others. That is the oil burning, and turning into carbon--which nothing will stick to. On the other, I would wipe a quick swipe of a flux pen--and the solder would stick perfectly. A lesson that they all could see, and they used flux ever since. For all my soldering work, I always wash my hands with a very strong soap--getting as much oil off as I can, so that it will transfer onto my projects as little as possible. But I am paranoid like that. :P
Well put-I stand corrected.
kwschofi (author)  Spokehedz6 years ago
Crashing into rocks and trees encourages the connections to fail too. dll932 & Spokehedz - thanks for the advice. My next build will be done with Rosin core.
chalky6 years ago
NOTHING SHORT OF GENIUS! You could actually make and sell these little baby's,i for one would buy one:)
Be careful when applying arctic silver adhesive to electrical components, it is not electrically neutral. For a thermal epoxy that is electrically neutral and much cheaper, try Arctic Alumina adhesive from the same company.
jmengel6 years ago
kwschofi- Hey, nice light. It looks like great minds think alike. I spent some time recently in the plumbing section of my hardware store and came up with the same 3/4" pipe caps for holding a LED star board. I wrote up an Instructable on the experience as well. In my case I used 3 Luxeon Rebels on a single star and enclosed the buck puck. Do you find that the heat sinks on your light get hot? Have you run the lights without the heat sinks? Did you glue the heat sinks to the copper or otherwise provide a thermal compound to fill any voids? I really wish there was some more fin area on those RC motor heat sinks. Thanks for sharing your project!
kwschofi (author)  jmengel6 years ago
Yeah, I saw your light too. Nice job as well. The copper cap is such a convenient housing for the Luxeons, isn't it? Copper has high thermal conductivity and the cap provides protection for the diode and the optics. The aluminum motor heat sink does a decent job of shedding heat. It only gets warm to the touch. The heat sink fits tightly to a 3/4" cap without any mods like bending/crimping, but you could add thermal adhesive for optimum heat transfer. I'd probably use thermal grease just because I'd want to be able to remove the heat sink if the diode ever failed.
mdj8176 years ago
At this point, it seems like you're more blinding the drivers than letting them know you're there :-D
jeff-o mdj8176 years ago
Nah, not even close. At a total 240 lumens, you're not even close to the 1000+ lumens produced by a car's headlights.
Jarl jeff-o6 years ago
Yeah, but the 1000+ lumens is carefully aimed to not blind other motorists. The light from this just goes everywhere.
jeff-o Jarl6 years ago
Ah, but he used 10 and 15 degree optics, so the light is quite focused (more than I'd prefer, actually).
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