Introduction: 3-D Printed-Light Pipe Arc Reactor

About: Working with an interest in Space Exploration and Sciences, I am a highly motivated worker, tinkerer, and aspiring Astronautical Engineer that wants to continue my education and job experiences to help further…

Hello Everyone!
I know this is a bit late for Halloween but I figured better late then never. I present to you 3-D printed Light-Pipe Arc Reactor! Utilizing 3-D Printed Parts from my Flashforge Creator, I designed and built an Arc Reactor that I feel captures the original awe of Tony Stark's box of scraps. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: As of this moment, I am in the process of building my second reactor of this design, as such, many of the photos are mixed between the one I have already created, and the one i am in the process in creating. Over the course of the next few days I shall update and post relevant pictures to the actual construction process

My original idea behind this Arc Reactor was to build something that truly was unique, as there are probably over 9000 different Instructables on how to build a Iron man Arc Reactor. As such, I discovered something on Sparkfun that I felt would make for a great looking Arc Reactor. This was Light Pipe. Light Pipe is a product that Sparkfun Electronics sells that is sort of like a Fiber optic line, except that it leaks light along its clear tubing (For an idea of what it looks like out of the reactor please refer to the picture above). After my initial fascination with how cool this pipe looked I realized that this tubing could be used for the outer ring of light for an Arc Reactor. Thus began my project to make the Light-Pipe Arc Reactor. 

After many trials of the lower assembly that holds the Light Pipe, I finally was able to Print the necessary parts to finish the reactor, It should be noted that I understand not everyone has access to a 3D printer, and as such I may be able to print them out for you depending on your location. 

Step 1: Supplies

Besides the whole, having a several hundred dollar 3D printer deal, the rest of the supplies are rather straightforward. they consist of the following
  • Electrical Tape
  • Electrical wire, both red and black
  • Copper wire (the thicker the diameter the better, as you'll have to do less wrap arounds)
  • 9 Volt Battery and Battery Snap
  • 150 Ohm (2) and 330 Ohm Resistors(1) 
  • Blue LEDS
  • Light Pipe Clear core ( you will need 2ft of 6mm diameter )
  • Light Pipe White core for those of you who want to try it 
  • Solder
  • Face Mask ( for dangerous particulates )
  • Hot Glue
  • Small amount of wire mesh
  • Computer
  • Diagonal Cutters
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Soldering Iron
  • Dremel Tool with cutting attachment
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • 3D printer

Step 2: 3-D Parts

This step simply acknowledges the 3D parts and I have posted the .STL files for anyone who wishes to print the pieces

The 3D parts are split among 3 major groups
  1. The Upper Assembly, which includes the Middle Ring
  2. The Lower Assembly, which holds the light pipe
  3. The Cover plate, which is a new piece of the reactor that I created as an after thought to help ease mounting the reactor on your chest to wear. It should be noted that as of now i have not finished the cover plate.

Step 3: Electronics

For the actual description of how the LED'S get attached to the reactor, please refer to step 7 

The electronics for this project are very simple, and only require a basic understanding to complete.
A few things to remember.
  • LED's are polarized, the short length of the lead is the Negative (or ground), while the long one is Positive.
  • In the given schematic, the resistor values that are calculated are 150 ohms and 330 ohms, for the purposes of this project, I used a 110 ohm resistor and stuck with the 330 ohm resistor. 
  • good solder connections are very important, always test the continuity of each joint before covering anything up or moving on. 

So in this schematic there is simply a 9 Volt power source being wired to 5 LED's in Parallel. When wiring the positive side of the LED's it helps to use red wire, as to mark what they are, conversely we will use black on the negative side. In each LED "string" there are two LEDS ( except for the last one ) where the negative side of the first LED is soldered to the positive side of the second LED. The resistors can be added to either the positive of the negative side of the circuit, but for our purposes i just soldered it to the negative side. Last part is to solder the positive side of the 9 volt to the positive side of all the LED "strings" and the negative side of the 9 Volt to all the resistors. Provided the solder joints are good and polarity was carefully watched, all of the LED'S should light up! 

Step 4: Upper Assembly

The Upper Assembly is relatively easy compared to the Lower assembly, as it lacks the necessity of bearing any forces. It's completion has 3 major steps
  1. Painting
  2. Cutting and Painting of Wire mesh
  3. Coiling and attachment of Copper Wire
  4. Final Assembly
For painting, you'll need two colors, Flat Black and Chrome Silver. I used some Testors enamel paint and it turned out fairly well. The middle ring and almost the Top part get painted black with a smidgen of silver on the center slanted ring ( please allow sufficient warm drying environment as the paint can take a few days to completely dry. Apply as many coats as needed to obtain a complete coat. 

For aesthetical reasons, we cover the center opening with some wire mesh. Simply take the mesh, gauge the radius of it (should be about 2 cm) and cut it to form. Then paint it with some silver paint and then hot glue it to the underside of the part.

Again for aesthetical reasons we will coil some copper wire in 3 segments and place it around the painted top part. Simply take a small diameter object (like a pen or drill bit) and wrap the copper wire around it about 11 times. Leaving a little bit of wire at the ends, cut 3 segments and curve hooks onto the ends. Using the hooks attach the segments to the pylons on the top part of the assembly. Use Hot glue to hold hooks onto the pylons. 

Once the Wire mesh is complete, and the coils are attached, the last step is to glue the middle ring onto the top part by putting dabs of hot glue on the three pylons. Once done, the upper assembly is complete!

Step 5: Lower Assembly, Part 1 : Installing Light Pipe Into the Lower Assembly

This step is for the installation of the light pipe into the Lower assembly, it should be noted that you must take EXTREME CAUTION while doing this, as the light pipe is a pain to bend and there are a number of smaller portions of the reactor that are susceptible to easily breaking. 

The first thing to do is paint the lower assembly with a god coat of chrome silver, let that dry for about a day!

Next thing to do is cut the 4 segments of light pipe, each segment has to be approximately cut to 11.2 cm, any shorter and it may not catch the holder, to long and you will not have room for the LED's. Fortunately, too long can be corrected with some trimming, just be sure to not cut it too short. 

Once they are cut, it is time to install them, again i must state that extreme care must be taken not to damage the lower assembly, ( rest assured, I am working on a stronger version ).
First lets take a look at the lower assembly, I designed the part so that there are two clear end, which are the ends with the supports on the top. Start by inserting each segment individually, with one end inside of the support, thread the pipe carefully into the other slots by holding onto the other end, going in at a 45 degree angle you should be able to slip the other end of the pipe into the support on the opposite side of the reactor. Doing this individually you will be able to get all 4 segments into the array without damaging it, though usually there will be excess material inside of the slot where our LED's go. Not to worry though it is something we can trim

Using a Dremel tool with a cutting attachment, carefully trim the inside of the slot so that you maximize the amount of space for the LED's

Once it all looks good, the lower assembly is done!

Step 6: Lower Assembly, Part 2 : Copper Coils

Just like in any Arc Reactor, there are those strange but consistent copper coils around the outer ring of light. So for the next step we will apply some electrical tape, followed by the copper wire wraps. 

Firstly, take some electrical tape and cut a length of about 12 cm, then cut it in half by the width. You now have two 12 cm lengths to use on two of the coil sections. Next is to take that length of tape and wrap it around each individual section in the array, it should end up looking something like that is in the picture. 

Tape up all of the sections except for the two area where the light pipes end, we still have yet to install LED's. Once that is done, then it is time for the copper wire. This is a VERY tedious part as you have to thread the wire through and through, many many times. In any case, I start by cutting a 2.6 ft section of 30 gauge wire and start the wrap by taking a small dab of hot glue and attaching it to the bottom, ( see photo for reference ). After that, it's just a matter of wrapping the wire around as many times as you can until very little to none of the tape is visible. Rinse and repeat for the other 7 segment and you are golden.

The last two coils are done after the LED's are installed, the process is pretty much the same, except for a few electrical wires that need to be pushed to the side so that you can wrap the tape around. 

Step 7: Lower Assembly, Part 3 : Installation of the LED's

Explanation Inbound!

Step 8: Final Touches

The last few things you have to do are rather simple and they consist of . . .
  • Installing the Center LED
  • Preparing the Cover plate
  • Assembling the two halves of the reactor. 

Installing the Center LED is best done before assembling the two halves and can be hot glued in place.

The cover plate is something new that I am just adding to the whole prop. It allows easy attachment to your body and contains certain portions of the arc reactors light. It require a coat of Silver paint and has some straps on it to go around your body. It is almost finished and I will be adding as a step shortly. 

The last part is to hot glue the two halves together, by putting some dabs of hot glue on the support columns on the lower assembly, you can put the top half on and complete the reactor. 

Attach the 9 Volt Battery and Enjoy!

Thanks for reading, within the next few days i shall be updating the instructable to include more details on the construction process as I finish my second reactor. If anyone wants some of the parts 3-D printed, message me and we can hash out the details. 
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