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Twin High-Power LED Motorcycle Headlights

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Picture of Twin High-Power LED Motorcycle Headlights

This guide shows you one way to make a pair of high powered LED headlights for your chopper, hog, crotch-rocket, cruiser, scoot, or just plain motorcycle.  The design uses readily available copper fittings for the housing and some bronze threaded rod for the mounting.  Each motorcycle install may be different than that depicted here but the general idea is applicable.  Similar techniques are detailed in some of my other instructables linked below.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Improved-high-power-LED-bike-head-light-with-integ/
http://www.instructables.com/id/High-power-LED-bike-head-light-with-integrated-hea/
 
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Step 1: Materials

The bill of materials for this build is :
1x: 12" of 5/16"-18 threaded bronze rod ($13.59)
http://www.mcmaster.com/#94995A475

2x: 1-1/4" standard copper coupling w/o dimple stop ($3.48)
http://www.mcmaster.com/#5520K206

4x: 1-1/4" standard copper cap ($2.19)
http://www.mcmaster.com/#5520K47

1x: 1-1/4" heavy duty Type K copper pipe 24" ($25.31)
http://www.mcmaster.com/#50475K17

2x: Neutral-white Cree XM-L star ($11.14 Cree Part# XMLAWT-00-0000-0000T50E4)
http://www.ledsupply.com/creexml-nw260.php

2x: Carclo 26.5 eliptical lens ($1.59)
http://www.ledsupply.com/10049.php

2x: Carclo 26.5mm lens holder ($1.59)
http://www.ledsupply.com/10496.php

1x: BuckBlock 2100mA driver ($19.99)
http://www.ledsupply.com/0a009-d-v-2100.php

4x: Bronze 5/16"-18 machine nuts ($8.40 for 25)
http://www.mcmaster.com/#93439A620

1x: Cable gland with strain relief ($2.64)
http://www.mcmaster.com/#69915K48

Misc consumable items:
Lead-free solder for copper pipe (~$18.00 for 1 pound of solder)
From any hardware store

Conductive epoxy for mounting LEDs (~$35 for a 14g kit)
http://cableorganizer.com/mg-chemicals/silver-conductive-epoxy.html

Regular epoxy for sealing, can use clear or filled (JB Weld e.g.)
From any hardware store

6 feet of 2 conductor stranded wire of at least 22 gauge
http://www.mcmaster.com/#71335K51

Silicone RTV for sealing lens to body
From any hardware store

Tools needed:
Hacksaw
File
Sandpaper
Drill
Drill bits (1/2" and 7/64")
Propane torch
Vise
Common sense: Build safely, saws can cut you and torches can burn you.
slicknick32274 months ago
I'm in the same project except I'm putting my LEDs into a street fighter style headlight assembly this gave me a good idea were to by nicer more powerful LEDs instead of radio shack plus I will wire two seperate circuits now just in case on goes always keep the wheel turning I like your style of rat bobbers! It's awesome to see outside the box. And not mainstream style
MasterErik5 months ago
142$? Guess if you have some of the equipment. Good for a steampunk bike!
Cool. Very nice. WAY over my head though!
ctaylor292 years ago
Quick Question,
Does the Buck Puck work as a resistor or do you need put one on the leads?
(I'm trying to do this myself right now and I dont want to fry my LED)
:) Thanks!!!
jmengel (author)  ctaylor292 years ago
The buck block is a constant current driver. If you wire the LED and power to the buck block as indicated in the datasheet you will be fine and will not need an additional resistor.
Love this on so may levels.

Quick question, how was the fit on the optics with the XM-L Stars? I have been looking around forever to find good optics and holders for them that are in stock.

jmengel (author)  John Culbertson2 years ago
The optics holder fits fine and is designed to fit any star board. The optics are designed to work with any LED, as long as the correct holder height (focus) is used. The optics holder available at LEDSupply.com is not designed for the XML LED. The stand-off legs on the holder, effectively focal length, is varied for the various LED designs. In looking at the Carclo datasheets though, the holder for sale at LEDSupply.com is only off from the recommended XML leg length by 0.1mm or so which I thought was close enough. In practice it looks to be close enough as the lenses perform well on the XMLs.

The lens and holder fit to the copper housing could be tighter though, but barring custom machining something it was as close a fit as I could get. Once more optics options are out there for the XML more housing possibilities will emerge.
dlemke2 years ago
Need to have a way to change lights in case of a burn out or malfunction. It is a real leg wettin experience to have both high and low beam burn out at 80 mph on a curve at night. I didn't see any back-up circuit for this option, since it is wired in series. Trust me, if it is on a motorcycle, it will need repair. They are very hard on lights and everything should be made to be servicable. On the bright side, this is an awesome idea and I'm sure many people will take advantage of it on custom bikes. You may even want to write in to that show, "Biker Build Off", if it is still running. They would need to modify them, and have a way to service them, as would anyone using this setup. You could also reduce the cost greatly by using a regular outlet for the copper supplies, as they are available at any home improvement store and McMaster Carr is expensive.

I also think you could use these as driving lights in addition to a regular headlight, like on a Harley Dresser, which has small driving lights on the side of the big headlight, and that would keep it legal in most states. Switching would be an option of the owner, but using a auto sensing switch from a Caddy would be a cool addition to your idea. That would auto dim the lights when someone came your way, although a lot of people didn't like them, as they would auto-switch when getting false readings from billboards, etc, but a key item, would be a proper digital delay to keep them from switching too quickly. Now you got me fired up, and I can see a whole lot of good things that can be done with this type set-up.

Thanks for the cool idea.

Dan
jmengel (author)  dlemke2 years ago
Also, I find that McMaster.com is the same price or lower for most of the copper parts. That and you can buy various grades of copper (thin or thick wall) as well as the 1 1/4" inch pipe in smaller 24" sections. Home Depot only sells it in 8' lengths ($$$) which is more than I want or need.

For example, the 1 1/4" coupler is only available with a stop at HD and sells for around $6. A 1 1/4" coupler without stop is only $3.50 at McMaster. Your mileage may vary.
jmengel (author)  dlemke2 years ago
Redundancy is a good idea. The original single bulb headlight did not have any however and my opinion is that the pictured LEDs and driver circuit will outlast the bike. You could use a driver in each pod and be effectively wired in parallel to the 12V headlight wire. Since the cost of the driver was a big part of the overall project cost, and the efficiency of the driver drops from 90% to 80% when running 1 rather than 2 LEDs in series we decided to put the pods in series on a single driver. Time will tell.
ZoDo2 years ago
Heh heh...you made it look like Wall-e :P
Nice
wdsparrow2 years ago
I think I'm pretty ignorant here. Someone please help. I have never understood why someone would use a LED driver circuit? Doesn't a driver circuit push the consumed power above LED rated power by pulsing it? You would never want pulsed headlights on a motorcycle because it's hard on the eyes. And running above rating will shorten the life of the LED which means failure on the road. Why not just use 12 volt DC current through a larger number of LED's and a resister? It's a cool instructable regardless of my confusion.
The reason you would want to use a driver with a high power LED is that they supply a fixed current supply to the LED.

Generally the only time a driver would be pulsing would be if you were dimming the LED via PWM, as long as the frequency is high enough the flickering is not readily visible.

The problem with using just a resistor is that the current the LED draws is then directly tied to the voltage. The current increase/decrease can be quite extreme with just a small change to the voltage, I assume that the power supplied by the battery on a bike isn't that smooth (as it's being charged)...but that's just a guess.
Thanks!
Nice Instructable! Can you post a picture of the whole bike? I'm sure many people would like to see it. Your pictures are great!
jmengel (author)  maxstevenson2 years ago
Thanks for the feedback. We'll see what I can do on the pics. I am also working on a set of side-by-side beamshots comparing the bike headlights to a typical car headlights. Stay tuned.
jmengel (author)  jmengel2 years ago
See step 8.
k0k0s792 years ago
Can you please add a night shot of these on the road to show their efficiency?
Dstrcto k0k0s792 years ago
I second this, please do
jmengel (author)  Dstrcto2 years ago
See step 8.
cway562 years ago
Harley has a set of them.. Cha Ching.
http://www.harley-davidson.com/gma/gma_product.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524448775792&default=none
marcintosh2 years ago
I'll just leave this here -

https://www.kisantech.com/index.php?cat_id=2

LInks to a commercially available headlamp modulator. I had one years ago (1982?) on a CB650. I was never run off the road in city or rural driving.

I found this interesting as well

http://users.snip.net/~WCLAMB/MODULATOR.HTM

(has a link to above too). Poster lists legal and official federal guidelines for headlight modulation. I would double check, just because that's the kinda guy I am.
M.
BTW- 'ible looks great.  Might just be the start of a steampunked bike.
owenbrau2 years ago
It's good to see the DOT catching up with technology finally. Can't wait for stock replacement for universal applications.
Nice Idea Dear ,,
Now i am thinking to purchase New BIKE :)
to do this types Experiments ;)
What about the beam pattern? or are these designed as spotlights?
jmengel (author)  I am in the shed!2 years ago
These use an elliptical lens. 44x8 FWHM.
Bilby2 years ago
Nice instructable!

Looks like... hmm. At a guess, '75 CB450? This would be an awesome headlight cluster for my '73 CB350 cafe if I ever get it together.

As a proponent of never-enough-illumintion when it comes to riding, I can see a double-stack of these on each side, two with the slit lens arranged one higher then the other, and two pin spots. Low beam could have the lower-aimed slit lens illuminated, while high beam could have the other three illuminated as well. Not only would visibility be much higher but it would look even more hard core :D
jmengel (author)  Bilby2 years ago
Close, it is a CB550. Thanks for reading.
baratacus2 years ago
That's an amazing amount of light. I can't wait for your photos of the beam comparison to a standard headlight! With the sphere, does it matter whether or not you have the beam focused on the sensor? Or is the reading taken from just the bare LED and no focusing device?
jmengel (author)  baratacus2 years ago
The intent of an integrating sphere is that the sensor does not image any of the light output from the lamp directly. Thus, the sensor is off axis and an internal baffle/shade used to ensure all light imaged by the sensor is reflected off of the internal walls.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrating_sphere
owenbrau2 years ago
Just so you know, LEDs are not DOT approved for headlights, so this would not be a road-legal mod.
Maybe not everywhere: Metro Transit in Seattle is starting to run LED headlights on some buses here. They have been traffic lights for years.

Using schedule 40 copper would be better for the high power leds you can get now; heat is totally their enemy. I would use thicker stuff so it could be threaded as well, I do not want to rely on thermal epoxy.

For a bit more surface area [heat sinks are rated by this, not just mass] I would solder up some fins radiating out around the housing, so air flow past will radically help remove the heat.

Lenses and or reflectors may be good too; 10 watt led's cannot be looked at directly without being blinded. DOT approved or not if a cop is blinded driving by you he's gonna nail you for it. Still- its absolutely time we start using LED's and getting over the learning curves. My porch light is 49 1/3 watt [they call em half watt but 3v @ 100ma ain't a half watt] straw hat led's in series on a 2oz copper dual sided board; 16 watts, it fluoresces the neighbor's license plates 2 houses up as it makes it easy to see the deck out front. its 16 watts max.
jmengel (author)  kscience2 years ago
The 2010 Toyota Prius (among other cars) is available with LED headlamps. The lenses shown in my Instructable are not DOT approved however.

The shown lights exhibit very little output droop with time (heating) in still air indicating adequate heatsinking. Past lights built for bicycle use with 3 LEDs in a star show significant (~10-15%) output droop when in still air.
rch owenbrau2 years ago
Actually, LED's are approved for headlights now. Harley Davidson sells an LED headlight now. http://tinyurl.com/4foyxlf
However, I doubt if there is any way on earth that this instructables' headlights would ever be considered DOT approved.
rwon2 years ago
These look great. Is it possible to get a properly legal high and low beam? Even if that isn't possible, they'd make terrific driving lights.
jmengel (author)  rwon2 years ago
Right now the limitation is lack of availability of optics for proper projection and cut-off.
FYI, Harley has real LED headlamps and auxiliary lights.
http://www.harley-davidson.com/gma/gma_product.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524448775792&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302514675&ASSORTMENT%3C%3East_id=2534374302514675&bmUID=1316442738300&bmLocale=en_US
jmengel (author)  fastm3driver2 years ago
Thanks for the heads up. Pretty pricey, although DOT approved.
daveand52 years ago
what about state requirements for out put and aiming??
Those headlights look like they have conical beams, i.e. no cut-off. In many countries these will be:
a) Illegal
b) Very inefficient, because much light will be in the wrong place, whether in the air  (dazzling) and not on the road, or the wrong part of the road.
c) Dazzle oncoming drivers, because of a) and b).

This is why headlight design is the way it is and why headlight beams are the shape they are.

These may be OK for off-road use, but if you use these on the road, you can expect to be stopped by the Police and probably fined, possibly have your vehicle seized. It's also likely that your M/C will fail any periodic roadworthy test required by the authorities and is likely that illegal lights will invalidate your insurance. Especially likely to be discovered when a collision occurs or at a vehicle stop.

Nice Instructable, but those thinking of doing this also need to be aware.
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