Instructables

The OGNITE Flameless Candle - Beta Kit Version

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Picture of The OGNITE Flameless Candle - Beta Kit Version
Today we are going to build the beta version of the Ognite digital candle. If you have the version that was distributed at the 2013 MakerFaire in NYC these instructions will still work except that you wont get the fancy debug screen in the last step. 

The Ognite is an experiment in using the *least* technology possible to solve a problem- in this case replicating the visual essence of a candle flame.  It does this using only 40 LEDs and a single chip (and the box those come in). That's it- no circuit board, no resistors, not even wire. The total parts cost is $1.17.

You can find out more about the Ognite at...

http://ognite.com

Before you start, I want to warn you about a few things...

1) The Ognite is currently a work in progress and not a finished product. Please do not attempt to build this version unless you are looking forward to working though some of the rough spots and sharing your ideas on how to make everything better. Otherwise, sign up for updates on the Ognite.com website so I can let you know when the final version is ready for public consumption!

2) In the rush to get everything ready in time for MakerFaire, I totally screwed up a pile of chips with corrupted software. About half of the kits distributed at MakerFaire had these sad chips, and if you got your kit on Saturday then your chip is definitely one of them. You can still go ahead and build with the sad chips and things will sort of work, but the flame doesn't look nearly as good as with the proper software. You can always piggyback a good chip onto your built Ognite at anytime to upgrade to the latest software.

3) This is project is hard. There are lots of tiny and fiddly bits that have to get aligned and soldered. This is not a good project to try if you are just learning to solder or you get easily frustrated. That said, if like a good challenge than please read on!
 
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Step 1: What you will need

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dunnos12 months ago
Oh my god I need one of these :o
edwin_n12 months ago
OMG I Loled when I saw this at maker faire. Working on second one now. Congrats!
Absolutely phenomenal project. Your writing style is great and your instructions are simple. Even though I wasn't at MakerFaire, I found myself wanting one of these kits to follow along. I've soldered up LED matricies before but you've presented such a wonderful and clean way to do it! Congratulations on a fantastic project.
Gwolf12 months ago
Excellent project, blew my mind at MakerFaire
DrWass27 months ago

I tried to contact you after the maker faire in ny last year.. but must have been lost in the ether. Anyway, I think a dab of "conductive " glue would work great on the battery. Yes, its another thing, but you already use solder. Maybe you can replace all the solder with conductive glue, then you wont need an soldering iron etc.

starting to get real minimal...pliers, cutter, conductive glue, and your parts!

ps. the chip you gave me at the show had the wrong program in it. How do I get the correct program into the chip or replace chip good program?

keep up the good thoughts..

drwass2

aliasjanedoe9 months ago
This is so brilliant. I must have one! :)

Idea for possible improvement: include a sheet of something for diffusion which can stand in front of the LEDs. I know it's another item, but it could add that little bit more realism. Just try draping a tissue over it to see what I mean.
DrWass211 months ago
Have you tried "conductive Glue" to take care of the battery problem.
You already use solder so why not glue!
I don't know how solderless versions works but conductive glue there also would work!
ps
saw you at maker faire 2013 NYC
astral_mage11 months ago
u said there be no. or circuit board an your using one? also if u included a ic socket. the ic chip could be replaced an upgraded as necessary as well.
bigjosh (author)  astral_mage11 months ago
The socket would cost more then the entire project!

Luckily there is no need for extravagant DIP sockets - you can upgrade your Ognite to the latest firmware anytime via the backpack method shown here!

backpack.jpg
teknojo11 months ago
Have you considered setting up a solar cell (the same surface area of the box) with a li ion battery set up? Allow the sun to charge it during the day and become "candle light" at night?

I know that adds to the complexity of the project, but it would be nifty to take sunlight and make it into candle light.
EET198211 months ago
Pretty cool idea. Thanks for sharing :-)
DragonDon11 months ago
Way cool. Can't wait till I try my hand at some sort of LED matrix setup!
astral_mage11 months ago
oh nooos we have a dead bug now!!
astral_mage11 months ago
use a dip socket thier cheaper that the chip . oh the way wat the orientation. wich way is the half moon pointed to?
mrshirls12 months ago
Where is the video of the "flame"?
bigjosh (author)  mrshirls12 months ago
I've tried, but no camera that I own can figure what to do with a bunch of tiny bright lights all randomly making millions of very, very brief (on the order of 1 microsecond) flashes. Your eyes, of course, just see the flame... :)

I hope to get a javascript simulator up on the website, but some things you really just have to see in person...
riff raff bigjosh11 months ago
Maybe set the camera to "manual" and experiment with longer exposure/shutter times?
jgreenburg11 months ago
This is clever, I enjoy minimalist projects involving electronics.

I like that you used a chip, but is there a way to do this with a simple oscillator and some kind of random generator? (zener diode over flow maybe?)

It would add more components but reduce the necessities to build it. i.e. programming
jgreenburg11 months ago
haha, At least your honest.
Lance Reichert11 months ago
Where can I get one of these kits?

How much current does it draw? I'd like to replace the commercial batteries with a stack of eight copper-clad zinc pennies. (The seven interfaces each produce about 0.7 V.)

Lance ==)----------------
bigjosh (author)  Lance Reichert11 months ago
Check out...

http://ognite.com

...for more info on how to get one.

I *love* the idea of using the existing cardboard with pennies to make a pile battery, but I don't think it would be able to generate anywhere near the (even small) current needed. The Ognite draws about 20ma@3v when an LED is lit.

Thanks!
maggiemcfee11 months ago
My idea for the battery problem is to make a battery box within the battery box and add a small strip of thin metal to the kit (the current box would need to be slightly larger so as to accommodate it). This way the outer box will force contact between each metal stip and the LED wire contacts. Here's a general outline image http://maggiemcfee.com/rubbish/batterybox.png
rangerweavere11 months ago
Where ca I get one of these?
This is so awesome!!
bigjosh (author)  rangerweavere11 months ago
Check out...

http://ognite.com

...for more info on the project!

-josh
kewpiedoll9912 months ago
Very detailed and great instructable, with terrific photos. One question: In step 6, you say "When you finish with Row 4, you are going to side on the bridge as shown." Did you mean "slide"?
bigjosh (author)  kewpiedoll9912 months ago
The bridge has a slot cut in the middle of it and the matrix board fits into this slot. It is a tight fit, so you have to slide the bridge down to the middle of the matrix board. LMK if this is not clear and I will come up with some better way of explaining it. Thanks!
No, no, it was only unclear because you said "side", not "slide", up above in the text.
bigjosh (author)  kewpiedoll9911 months ago
Apparently that typo was as invisible to me in comments as it was in the text... :)

Fixed now. Thanks for the (multiple) heads up!


alcurb12 months ago
I can't seem to find the demo video for this project. Where is it?
Dream Dragon12 months ago
Looks like an interesting project, and I see that there's a few things that you still need to iron out before you can call it a finished product.

You are looking for ideas to improve the battery holder? How about using a piece or a couple of pieces from a soft drink can/beer can instead of aluminium foil? That would provide better support and be more robust.

A real candle flame only really moves when there's a draught or some other movement. If you added a small spring (like you might find in a pen) and a pin you could make a tiny vibration sensor that could be used to input values to the processor that might help generate a simpler "flame".

I really like and appreciate what you are attempting to do here, and I look forward to hearing about further developments.
bigjosh (author)  Dream Dragon12 months ago
Can chunks would work too, but one of the main ideas of the project is to use the *least* amount of stuff possible, so I'd like to find a solution that only uses the parts already in the kit.

I'd love, love, love to make the flame reactive to the environment. Maybe instead of a spring, having a rod somehow hanging free so that it can touch another part when pushed by wind? Or maybe use the chip's ADC to sense the capacitance of the hanging part?


It could also be possible to have it react to changes in ambient light by running the existing LEDs in photo diode mode.

To do either of these, I need more code space (4K is currently 100% used up with just playing the flame image). Would love help from anyone who can come up with a more code efficient way to generate the flame to free up room for these and other features!

Thanks!
Ok, I see where you want to go with it and I really like it. I hate the normal kind of flickery candles that use "Music Chips" and just flash one LED in response to the current generated by the music, but a SIMILAR solution could be used here.

Coding is definitely not my strong point, I struggle with the electronics sometimes, but it seems to me that you really need to loose the video and work with some kind of internally generated "flame". At the kind of resolution you are working with a simple triangle would be close enough. If the centre of the bottom row (1,3) is the BOTTOM POINT of the triangle, you only need to define the other two points. If you think of the grid of LEDs as two groups of 5x5 (yes the two groups would overlap) you may be able to define BOTH points using the same pair of numbers.

e.g.

Define "a" as a random number between 0 and 5
Define "b" as a different number between 0 and 5

Make "top point" x = a + 4, y = b

Make "bottom point" x = b, y = a
OR
Make "bottom point" x = 5 - b, y = a
OR
Make "bottom point" x = b, y = 5 - a
OR
Make "bottom point" x = 5 - b, y = 5 - a

Does that make sense? You may want to define a third variable to decide which bottom point set to use, and I honestly don't know how you address the pixels in that particular application, but with any luck that'll give you a start.

As for making int "environmentally reactive" I think you'd need to find make or add a sensor of some kind. Detecting ambient light is certainly interesting, but probably not very useful for a device that gives OUT light. Detecting Capacitance is also a clever idea but would only apply if you the capacitance changed often (as in the example you mentioned).

Adding a mic may very well give you LOADS of options for environmental sensing, but would also add to the component count and complexity of the project.
bigjosh (author)  Dream Dragon12 months ago
I see two possible great new features that could come from environmental light sensing.

First would be on/off control. Right now the only way to turn off an Ognite is to take out the batteries. Luckily Ognites run for weeks (soon to be even longer), but if the Ognite, say, automatically turned on when it saw darkness and then automatically turned off an hour later then the batteries could last years. You could also possible turn on your Ognite on demand by just waving your hand over it to create a shadow. I think that would be cool!

Second would be to possibility of using Ognite's twin light sensing/generating abilities as an inter-unit communication mechanism. With Ognites being so cheap, it might be desirable to have *lots* of them, and it would be really cool if they could all automatically discover and talk to each other to synchronize their flames into a choreographed display!
bigjosh (author)  Dream Dragon12 months ago
I've played with many algorithms for generating the flame. The most promising are physics-based and model the flame as a set of moving particles, which many people have done impressive work on. (Google "particle simulation flame").

Unfortunately, while all these models look *great*, so far I haven't found one that looks *real*. The flame looks like a game flame, not an actual flame. Your brain knows the difference. There is something special about the motion of the real flame that is not yet captured in the models (at least the ones I've played with). When you look at the Ognite, something about it just *feels* real. It is almost magical, especially when you remind yourself that the illusion is being created by just 40 blinking dots.

I'm hoping that someone can help me find a model that will replicate that magical *real* feeling, but until then I'm sticking with the video.

There is another sort of opposite approach to flame generation that I am also interested in. I call this "parametric" flame production. Rather than starting at the bottom with a physical model of a flame, it starts at the top with lots of real-life flame videos and statistically works its way down looking for patterns that describe the actual flames. The hope is that you can find a finite set of flame "modes" and "transitions" between those modes that are present in real candle flames, and then just store these rather than the whole video. Done right, it could capture that "magic" realness while still allowing for very efficient storage and even spontaneous generation of a non-looped flame.

Thanks!
One additional thing, would it be easier to put the "H-Bar" on one side of the card and the "V-Bar" on the opposite side? It might help to clarify instructions and improve the separation of the different sides of the circuit.
bigjosh (author)  Dream Dragon12 months ago
I have a table full of prototypes doing just that!

On the solder version, it is very hard to get the LEDs close enough to the card while still leaving room for the soldering iron to get in there.

Having the h-bar on the front of the card *does* work on the solderless version.

Thanks!
AJMansfield12 months ago
The solution: solder directly on the batteries, of course! Use two spare bars to solder the three batteries together in the correct order, and then all you have to figure out is the contacts that connect to the chip...
bigjosh (author)  AJMansfield12 months ago
I've tried and it just doesn't work well for me. I can fuse weld onto the battery terminals and it works great, but I fear that there is a (small) segment of people don't have their fusion welders handy... :)

Play with it and let me know if you can get it to work!


Thanks!

-josh
More likely, your soldering iron is just too cold. The iron is not just for melting the solder; the point is to get the work piece hot too, and in the case of batteries, you need the iron to be pretty darn hot to be able to heat the terminal up fast enough to solder before something else melts or bursts. Seriously, just crank the heat up a little and it should work fine. (The other possible problem is the solder type; the easy solution is to just use some lead solder for this part).
svarghese112 months ago
Those three batteries are not sufficient for the 40 LED's you've put... Need to find a larger power source...
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