Intro: Omnidirectional Signaling With EL Wire
The objective of this Instructable is to create an EL Wire beacon / indicator. EL Wire, or Electroluminescent wire is a thin copper wire coated in a phosphor which glows when AC current is applied to it.
- Knife or scissors
- flexible plastic hosing (I always knew it as the stuff I used for aquarium air hose)
- Glue or Rubber cement
- Electrical Tape (maybe heat shrink)
- EL wire & power source (90v @2KHz)
EL Wire - 1 5' segment ofCool Neon EL wire (High Bright Standard 2.6mm)
Step 1: Determine the Needed Length of EL Wire
Less is more
When we first started playing with the EL Wire, we found the length of the wire
had an impact on the overall brightness. The first application we experimented with was an animated EL Wire sign.
We started by feeding the excess EL Wire behind the back of the sign, but eventually
trimmed the excess. Trimming improved the overall brightness of the EL Wire. Of course we waited to cut until after the entire sign was laid out to ensure we didn't cut too much off. So depending on your project and how much you need to conserve resources,
this step might make sense later on, but our recommendation is to determine closely how much EL wire you'll need for your project, measure twice and cut once :-)
Images on this page show another project we tried out...we had access to a laser engraver, cut a gouge deep enough to insert the EL wire, and lit it up with the supplied battery pack...makes for a nice glowing desktoy/paperweight!
Soldering is possible
Don't worry though, with EL wire it is possible to solder together segments together, so should you cut a segment too short you can add length back to it.
Step 2: You Can't Push a Rope
Can't push a rope
You know the old saying, you can't push a rope, well we gave it a good try. It turned out the EL wire
we got wasn't certified as waterproof (there are versions of EL wire available which are waterproof)
We wanted to experiment with some applications that would require the wire to be somewhat waterproof, so to address the issue, I wandered down to the local hardware store and picked up clear vinyl flexible tubing (the kind used for aquarium air supplies)
I selected tubing that would allow the wire to feed into it.
At less than $.40 a foot, I asked for some excess to be trimmed later.
Next I straightened the tubing and wire as much as possible.
I anchored the far end under a table, to help hold it straight.
Next I fed the wire into the tube. It slid through for about 8 inches before becoming stuck.
I twisted the tube to help the wire along. and started feeding the wire in smaller segments.
This helped keep the wire from kinking too much. It seemed to become stuck periodically, this became frustrating.
Twisting along the length of the tube seemed to help straighten it out and move the EL wire down the tube.
Eventually, about 1 ft from the end I found a spot where the internal cavity of the tube changed, there must have been a crimp or a deformity in manufacture.
I tried a variety of stretching and twisting on the hose. However, the EL wire would not pass.
I decided against lubrication as I didn't know how it would effect the finished look.
I was able to get a smaller wire all the way through. But was unsuccessful at pulling the wire past the same point.
Since we had enough length we decided to simply cut that section of the tube off
Finally sealed it the end of the tube up with a dab of glue
This should make the wire more water resistant.
Step 3: Set It Up.
Experimental EL Wire Application #1. Omni-directional indicator
By suspending the EL wire over a space, EL wire can identify a space below it.
Advantages, the EL Wire glow can be seen from any direction, it's waterproof and if bumped it will simply flex out of the way.
Experimental EL Wire Application 2. Electronics Harness Trace
In a critical wiring application, EL wire might be embedded at different points in a wiring harness system to help diagnose connectivity problems. While debugging wiring issues, a technician can now easily trace where a wire bundle goes. The EL wire will glow up to the point where wiring has failed due to a poor connection, bad soldering or even a fracture from falling space debris. The hosing gives some extra protection and even glow to the EL wire while allowing it to be tightly bound to the wiring harness bundle. It can also provide some illumination for quicker inspection.