I have an interest in long exposure photography and have recently discovered light orbs. This method uses a light source on a string which is spun with the camera on a long exposure time. I will not be going into details of how to on this instructable.
However I must give credit to Denis Smith for the inspiration as he is the Ball of Light creator. He has published several great tutorials on how to create the orbs.
The tool I have created is very basic and rough. The electronics probably (definitely) can be improved at a later stage.
Step 1: Equipment and Materials
- Soldering Iron
- Wire Strippers
- Electrical Tape
- Screw Driver(s)
- Drill/ Rotary multitool
- RGB LED(s) - I used 2x 3W High Power LED chips Amazon link
- Household LED lightbulb - I used a cheap £2 one from Toolstation but it is this type Amazon link See the next step as this item may be replaced by something else
- Male DC connector with flying lead - this is to connect the battery to the LED controller Amazon link
- RGB LED controller - Wired with inline controller or wireless (I started with a wireless controller and remote, however the controller I received was faulty so used a spare wired one I had) Wireless | Wired eBay link
- 9V battery (Square)
- 9V battery connector Amazon link
- Thermal conductive glue eBay link
- Heatshrink tubing
Note - Not all bulbs are made equal. The heatsink required in this project is cupped as opposed to flat. Flat ones could be used with some modification.
Step 2: Break Down Household LED Bulb
The real reason this is required is for the plastic diffuser and heatsink contained inside. There are probably alternatives for this item however I could not find/think of at the time.
To break this down I used small flat screwdrivers and pliers. Prising the metal cap from the base, removing the inner electronics and diffuser (be careful not to damage) and outer plastic casing. I also tried using a rotary tool with cutting blade to allow the diffuser to come loose, however I only found it useful for starting to get a lip to get the screwdriver under
This should leave you with a metal heatsink with LEDs attached and the plastic diffuser.
Remove the LEDs from the heatsink via the two screws and clean the top from thermal compound. This is now the main base to build onto.
Step 3: Prepare the LED Chip(s)
I decided on using two 3W chips in series. To make it easier the chips I used have 3 pins on each side, these can be interlocked and soldered in place.
At this point it is a good idea to test the LEDs to;
1) Ensure they work
2) Find +ve and -ve if they arrive with no documentation/indication
3) Confirm which pin is which colour
The controller I used has 4 channels with the colours (RGB) being negative and the other positive.
Using the RGB 4 core wire, solder the corresponding coloured wires to the pins. For the +ve solder one wire to all 3 pins. I would suggest using at least 3" of wire to enable easier connection later on.
Step 4: Prepare the Heatsink
To enable the unit to hide the wires from the LED chips I decided to drill 2 holes opposite each other in the flat face of the heatsink. This will allow the RGB and +ve to be run separate to each other to inside the heatsink.
To minimise pressure on the wiring I also drilled two opposing holes on the sides of the heatsink to allow paracord to passthrough.
Note; I forgot to take pictures of this process so the picture is of the completed unit.
Step 5: Prepare the Controller
As previously stated I first made a one with a wireless controller and then had to use a wired controller. I will detail both methods although they are effectively the same principles.
Both controllers use a DC in connector usually operating from 5-24v and is female on the board.
Remove the outer box protecting the PCB. A flat head screwdriver and a gentle prising should separate the box.
Make a note of the order of the wiring based on the colours of the wires as you will use the same order to wire the LED chip's pins.
De-solder the wires from the contacts and then re-tin the contacts ready to be soldered.
Slice the heatshrink surrounding the 4 pin connector to reveal the contacts.
De-solder the pins from the board and re-tin the contacts ready for soldering.
Step 6: Connect LED Chip(s) to Controller
Feed the wires from the LED chip(s) through the holes on the flat face of the heatsink so they come out on the inside of the heatsink.
At this point you can trim the wires to a suitable length that you can solder easily but also push the wires back inside to hide them.
Using the notes made earlier of the sequence of the wires, solder the wires onto the controller.
On the wired controller I used a small length of heatshrink to cover the contacts, being careful not to cover the buttons.
Note; Again I forgot to take pictures of this. Note that the +ve wire is run to the opposite side as the colours -ve.
Step 7: Connect the LED Chip(s) to the Heatsink
As the unit will be swinging around when in use I wanted the chips to be secure. I decided on using thermally conductive glue to give good heat conductivity to the heatsink and ensure the chip(s) don't move.
For this, simply apply some to the back of each chip and hold in place until the chips do not move.
Position the chips so the end pins are facing towards the holes drilled for the wires.
Step 8: Adding the Diffuser
I used a very low tech way to attach the diffuser as I had bare minimum supplies and tools.
I wrapped electrical tape around the heatsink until it was a snug fit in the diffuser and then applied more tape across the base of the diffuser and the heatsink.
Step 9: Connecting the Power
The main bulk of the unit is now complete. All that is left is power and paracord.
For the chips I am using a 9v battery as it provides a good amount of power to the chips without frying them. I previously tried 12v during testing however this tends to fry the red LED.
Connect the DC connector and 9v connector together by using either solder or crimps.
At this stage you will be able to test the whole unit.
Step 10: Add Paracord
Using a small length of paracord, create a loop through the holes drilled in the sides of the heatsink and secure with a knot. I also melted the ends and added some heatshrink to ensure that the knots would not come undone.
Attached to the top of this loop attach another length of paracord. I again used a knot, melted the end and added a cable tie for extra security.
I would suggest this length is at least enough to reach from your shoulder height to the floor to enable maximum size when creating the orbs.
The reason I added the small length of paracord is to negate any weight imbalance caused from the power and electronics.
At the end of the length I added a small amount of cobra braid to give the line some substance and grip and also a couple of knots at the end to ensure that the line will not slip out of my hand.
Step 11: Strap Electronics and Power to Paracord
To ensure the electronics are not under any pressure I made sure that the wiring is left with some slack.
Pulling the paracord taught, I slipped some heatshrink over the wiring and paracord. This should then keep the wiring in a solid position.
I also used electrical tape to attach the battery to the paracord, ensuring that there is some slack in the wiring to allow the connector to be removed easily when not in use.
Step 12: Completed!
That is the unit complete. As I said at the beginning, it is a very basic, low tech tool that could have many improvements.
The controllers enable multiple modes such as solid colours, flashing and fades.
Creating the orbs isn't as easy as first thought, they take time to get to be a perfect orb but this tool can be used in multiple ways as a light painting tool.