For this Instructable, I built a LED-lit model of the Viper Mk. II from the new Battlestar Galactica series. The kit is manufactured by Moebius, I highly recommend their Viper Mk II kit and their Battlestar Galactica kit, they're both a lot of fun to do. I custom-designed and -built all the circuitry involved. There are lighting kits available, but they are expensive and not very impressive. I ran fiber optics from a number of different colors of LEDs to the cockpit to simulate gauges and readouts, I used three 3mm blue LEDs for each engine, and I used a flashing red LED for the wingtip lights.
Step 1: Parts List
Moebius Viper Mk. II kit
Assorted modeling paints
LR123A Rechargeable battery
Matching male/female audio plugs
.5mm fiber optics
.5mm drill bit (for the fiber optic mounting holes)
3 mm drill bit (for the LED mounting holes)
Plastic sheet (for the lower engine LED mounts)
Step 2: Building the Model
Building the model isn't too tricky, I just followed the directions. Electronics have to be mounted at the right stage, however, because it is impossible to open up any part once it's been glued. I painted it using standard modeling techniques. I used Testors Model Master paint, but most any kind of paint can be used. I used modeling glue for most of the plastic parts, but I used white glue for the fiber optics and the canopy, as the fiber optics can be damaged by any other glue and the canopy could be made cloudy by regular modeling glue. Decaling the whole model was pretty tricky, there were a number of places where the decals didn't quite give complete coverage, so I used a flat red Testors enamel to pain over the flaws. Another trick I employed was diluting the gloss white paint with some mineral spirits so it would flow better on the parts, but for the most part I was able to use the paint as-is. It is definitely an advanced model, but as long as you take it one step at a time it's not too tricky for anyone on Instructables, and it's a lot of fun to complete.
Step 3: Power Supply
For the power supply, I mounted a 3.6V LR123A rechargeable lithium-ion battery inside the fuselage. I connected the battery to a 2.5mm audio jack accessible from the outside. I also connected a 2.5mm male audio plug to a charger for this type of battery, allowing me to recharge the battery without taking the model apart, which is essentially impossible. There is a small pushbutton switch inside the nose of the Viper, which allows the lighting to be turned on and off using a pencil or screwdriver, but is essentially invisible unless you know where to look.
Step 4: LEDs
To drive all the lights in the cockpit, a series of LEDs were used. First, the long fiber optic strand was cut into lengths about 8" long. A narrow piece of heat shrink tubing was put onto one end of the fiber optics and shrunk using applied heat. A larger piece of heat shrink tubing was then put over this piece, and again shrunk using applied heat. Finally, a piece of heat shrink tubing was placed over both the front of the LED and the fiber optic bundle, then shrunk, holding the fiber optic bundle directly in the path of the LED's beam of light. A voltage drop resistor was soldered onto one lead of the LED. One power wire was soldered onto the other end of the resistor, while another power wire was soldered to the other lead. Heat shrink tubing was placed separately on the resistor and on the other lead, ensuring that they would not short inside the model. Finally, a piece of electrical tape was wrapped around the entire assembly, holding the fiber optic bundle to the LED and sealing and stray light leakage. This procedure was followed for each color LED in the cockpit and for the flashing red LEDs that illuminate the wingtip lights.
Step 5: Fuselage
The fuselage of the model contains the power supply and the LEDs that illuminate the cockpit, along with the fiber optics that run from the LEDs to the cockpit. I basically just crammed the LED-fiber optic assemblies in the back of the fuselage, and I glued the battery right in front of the cockpit. I used superglue to glue in the battery, but I'd recommend using a good epoxy, as the superglue I used actually broke off when I dropped the model. It isn't a problem, but the battery can rattle around a bit if I shake it enough. I glued the fiber optics into the corresponding holes in the cockpit with ordinary white glue, because many other glues can damage fiber optics. I chose the length as best I could to ensure that all the fiber optics and LEDs would fit in the fuselage. I managed to make everything fit, but it was an extremely tight squeeze. I ran some wires out a hole in the fuselage which didn't have any purpose in the model, and continued assembling the model according to the instructions. The wires I ran out the back power the engine lights. I also ran the fiber optics for the flashing red wingtip lights out the back, as the flashing red LED is stored within the fuselage.
Step 6: Cockpit
To light the cockpit, I drilled a set of holes using a 0.5 mm drill bit in a pin vise. A bundle of 5mm fiber optics were connected to each LED. The other ends of the fiber optics were glued to the holes using white glue, as many glues cause fiber optics to become brittle. Different colors of LEDs were used, along with an RGB LED that slowly shifts between different colors, which looks really cool in the cockpit.
Step 7: Wiring
To get wires to the engine lights from the fuselage assembly, wires were run out of an opening in the bottom of the fuselage and along the inside of a component attached to the bottom of the fuselage. Wires were run to power the engine lights and the flashing wingtip lights.
Step 8: Engine Lights
To light up the lower two engines, two piece of plastic were cut out to fit inside the engines in such a way that the model could still be assembled. Each piece of plastic had three holes drilled in it, and an LED was glued in each hole. The LEDs were soldered together in parallel, as shown below, and connected to the power supply. The pieces of plastic were then glued down to the inside of the engine. Holes were drilled through the engine nozzles so that they would pass more light. Three circles of regular printer paper were then glued to the inside of the engine nozzles to act as light diffusers. To light the upper engine, three holes were drilled through the engine detail component, and three LEDs were glued in.One thing that is important to note is that the back of the LEDs should be painted black to prevent light leakage, and the interior of the engine parts should be painted black to prevent light leaking out. The plastic used in this model is quite transparent to light leaking out from the inside, so if you don't take these precautions, the whole back of the Viper will glow blue. I accidentally forgot to do this with the upper engine, and so the whole upper engine assembly glows blue when the lights are on.
Step 9: Wingtip Lights
To get the wing tips to flash, a bundle of .5mm fiber optics were attached to a flashing red led. These fiber optics were then glued along the wing, and fit inside grooves that were carved into the inside of the wings so that the fiber optics could illuminate the wing tips. White glue was used to glue down the fiber optics to prevent the fiber optics from being damaged.
Step 10: Done!
Congratulations! Now you have a totally awesome LED-lit Viper Mk. II model!