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Thread: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

  1. #1
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    Default DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    I picked up some 60/1m led strip with the intent to build some kind of meteor tubes/icicles. I found the cost and shipping for the premade ones wasn't great, and even buying the 4-3-4 tee's or the clear tubes from somewhere like Ray wu ended up costing even more mostly due to the shipping cost. I would still like to attempt some version of these however, based on those commercial designs. I know community member BWINTER came up with an awesome home made version, but it really was a custom job for his specific setup and relied on custom designed boards and ethernet cable along with raspberry pi's. Although I would be interested in giving them a shot, probably wouldn't try his version until next season so I could tinker and adapt them for my use.

    Still, his ideas cross referenced with commercial products like Ray's at least give some inspiration for a starting point. I have heard that semi translucent or white pex pipe (not the coiled type) does a decent job standing in for the "clear tubes" or "milky tubes" sold. Much like they are used on arches as a defused light effect. Trying to picture to picture this however....the defused light really suits the arches for how they are used, but for meteor tubes/icicles, it seems like the effect is much better when the individual pin point led's are only slightly diffused, but still somewhat sharp. I guess that helps with the dripping effect? Any thoughts or ideas for this? Feedback from experience or hearsay?

    The idea I had was to go double sided for each tube/icicle. 30 down @ 0.5m, then 30 on the reverse side. I'm not sure if I could just epoxy seal the top and bottom of the pipe or tube or whatever I go with, or if I would have to fill the entire tube to seal it properly.

    Now, wiring, this is where I'm hesitant. I could run a thicker feed wire and tap into it to feed each icicle, and power inject as needed. The data line will obviously need to through the 60 led's/pixels, then rejoin the wiring up top until it drops for the next icicle. If I did it again, I would probably get the tee's, but I've already paid and had my ray wu order shipped for this season. I'm a little concerned about the stress and strain of the wires having to basically act like structural support, and picturing icicles draped over a tree branch blowing back and forth in the winter storm winds. Any suggestions for this? Ideally, I would rather be able to kind of hang them on tree branches at possibly different heights rather than have them really close together in a line on roof trim.

    I'm all for experimenting

  2. #2
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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    Setting how I control them aside, there are some very practical things that can be done--and applied to however you chose to power/control them!

    • 1/2" PEX (Sharkbite) tubing works great! I actually strongly prefer it over anything else ("clear tubes" or HDPE or whatever). You can buy in 10' stick (straight)--do not buy a coil and attempt to straighten.
    • I played around with filling them with expos-resin. DO NOT go that route. Instead, simply cap the bottom with a normal 1/2" PEX end-cap. For the top (this is where you get super lucky), use a cable-gland (I'll need to verify exactly which size). This lets you pass whatever cabling you chose AND the gland actually screwed into the PEX (was a perfect fit).
    • Yes, you want the LEDs back-to-back (both going the same direction down, with the VIN/DI/GND at the top). I would recommend that you also use 1/2" CLEAR (not white) shrink-wrap tube around the LED strips, once you have them back-to-back.
    • Cable-choice is important. Use an outdoor rated cable (not some flimsy CAT-5 that can't withstand the wind/cold/etc). That will be more than strong enough to support the icicle/gland/LED/PEX.
    • Now, the most important part--how do you connect them all back together? That's very important, as well (which is why I'm using my control/power module)--but there are certainly other ways...

    I can provide more details on what I'm basing my recommendations (there's a rationale behind it, but didn't want to bore you). Of you if you have other questions, just let me know!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    Also, naked strip LEDs (and most lights in general) are hideous to view directly (this is an established fact, dating back to A Streetcar Named Desire). Makes me feel like Iím driving by a smoke/head shop.

    Strip LEDs need to be well-diffused, or used to illuminate a surface (not directly viewed). Use some means to diffuse.

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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    Quote Originally Posted by Bwinter View Post
    Also, naked strip LEDs (and most lights in general) are hideous to view directly (this is an established fact, dating back to A Streetcar Named Desire). Makes me feel like I’m driving by a smoke/head shop.

    Strip LEDs need to be well-diffused, or used to illuminate a surface (not directly viewed). Use some means to diffuse.
    Its funny you should say this . I mentioned something to this effect awhile back .

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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    And it certainly bears repeating!!

    Seems so much focus is spent on the technical (controllers, networks, communication protocols, etc), and little-to-no discussion on aesthetics.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    Quote Originally Posted by Bwinter View Post
    Also, naked strip LEDs (and most lights in general) are hideous to view directly (this is an established fact, dating back to A Streetcar Named Desire). Makes me feel like I’m driving by a smoke/head shop.

    Strip LEDs need to be well-diffused, or used to illuminate a surface (not directly viewed). Use some means to diffuse.
    Just to be clear, I wasn't meaning to say I thought the bare LED's looked good. I was trying to say that normally, I would always want the diffused look with strips because it's ugly with the bare pin points often, BUT, that I wondered if the specific meteor tube effects looked better or benefited from a slight diffusion instead. As a single case use scenario. It was after noticing that most of the examples of those in icicle mode, there is certainly some diffusion, but you can typically make out a little more of the point of light rather than it being a wall of color. The only thing I could theorize why this would be, would be that the specific effect may benefit from a little more sharpness, but certainly not bare strip. Probably a big part of that is personal taste, but even more of a factor would have to be the led density. I would have to imagine 144/m vs 60/m would be a substantial difference to the look

    meteor2.jpgmeteortubes1.jpg

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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    Anything can look good in a promo-pict.

    Strip LEDs simply donít benefit from seeing the individual pixels.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    Quote Originally Posted by Bwinter View Post
    Setting how I control them aside, there are some very practical things that can be done--and applied to however you chose to power/control them!

    • 1/2" PEX (Sharkbite) tubing works great! I actually strongly prefer it over anything else ("clear tubes" or HDPE or whatever). You can buy in 10' stick (straight)--do not buy a coil and attempt to straighten.
    • I played around with filling them with expos-resin. DO NOT go that route. Instead, simply cap the bottom with a normal 1/2" PEX end-cap. For the top (this is where you get super lucky), use a cable-gland (I'll need to verify exactly which size). This lets you pass whatever cabling you chose AND the gland actually screwed into the PEX (was a perfect fit).
    • Yes, you want the LEDs back-to-back (both going the same direction down, with the VIN/DI/GND at the top). I would recommend that you also use 1/2" CLEAR (not white) shrink-wrap tube around the LED strips, once you have them back-to-back.
    • Cable-choice is important. Use an outdoor rated cable (not some flimsy CAT-5 that can't withstand the wind/cold/etc). That will be more than strong enough to support the icicle/gland/LED/PEX.
    • Now, the most important part--how do you connect them all back together? That's very important, as well (which is why I'm using my control/power module)--but there are certainly other ways...

    I can provide more details on what I'm basing my recommendations (there's a rationale behind it, but didn't want to bore you). Of you if you have other questions, just let me know!

    A few things:

    -"both going the same direction down". To clarify, are you meaning to have both sides with signal flow direction top to bottom? I had originally been assuming I could do 30 down, then the next 30 going back up to re-connect to the main distribution line to continue on to the next icicle. My thinking was that this could simplify things and keep the data signal going, and I could simply adjust the patching for the flip side in Vixen so it treated it as if it was two top to bottom sections or mirrors. That could be problematic for all I know, but by all means, anybody throw in your two cents. That's what I'm here for

    -That's a great idea with the shrink tube to help seal and also keep it together and uniform. Is there any issue with the shrink tubing getting a yellowish tinge like most stuff like that after being outside? Does the shrink kind of compress the sides of the strip inwards since it shrinks uniformly as a circle?

    -What type of cable gland were you using with the pex? There is so bloody many types of different sizes, types, styles etc.....It's the kind of thing that isn't exactly a standard use to attach one inside a pex pipe meant for special pex rings with brass fittings as backing and used for fluid distribution. It feels like the kind of thing that would be incredibly stupid to order online unless you know lol. Definitely a candidate for physically checking it at brick and mortar normally.

    -I would absolutely use some thicker AWG outdoor rated cable. Both to hopefully minimize Voltage drop and to give it more strength. The question is, what size is the right one? lol. A nice 14 awg cable would be decent, but I can't imagine that being great for attaching to those tiny sensitive copper pads.

    -re: connecting and supporting everything...That was one of the main areas I was seeking experience and feedback for. I guess the very very rough picture I had was the data dropping at the icicle, 30 led's down, 30 up, like a loop before the data line continues on to the next icicle. Power inject as needed in between icicles. Again, just a rough mental picture. See attached, brutally badly drawn example

  9. #9
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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts


  10. #10
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    Default Re: DIY meteor tubes/icicles without ray wu Tee's or other parts

    Quote Originally Posted by XmasinVancouver View Post
    -"both going the same direction down". To clarify, are you meaning to have both sides with signal flow direction top to bottom? I had originally been assuming I could do 30 down, then the next 30 going back up to re-connect to the main distribution line to continue on to the next icicle. My thinking was that this could simplify things and keep the data signal going, and I could simply adjust the patching for the flip side in Vixen so it treated it as if it was two top to bottom sections or mirrors. That could be problematic for all I know, but by all means, anybody throw in your two cents. That's what I'm here for
    Yes...but that then means the LEDs (on the front and back) will have different addresses for the same position. Theoretically, it is possible to model this correctly. But it's much easier to just have a single line of thirty-LEDs that are simply mirrored on the front and back.

    Quote Originally Posted by XmasinVancouver View Post

    -That's a great idea with the shrink tube to help seal and also keep it together and uniform. Is there any issue with the shrink tubing getting a yellowish tinge like most stuff like that after being outside? Does the shrink kind of compress the sides of the strip inwards since it shrinks uniformly as a circle?
    Yellowness generally comes from UV damage--but the shrink-tube is inside the PEX tubing (thus protected). Haven't seen any problem/degradation yet (after two years). The shrink-tube isn't strong enough to deform the LED strips. But it does lock them in place and hold them together (can't rely on the adhesive on he back of the strips....that doesn't hold after awhile with the heat).

    Quote Originally Posted by XmasinVancouver View Post

    -What type of cable gland were you using with the pex? There is so bloody many types of different sizes, types, styles etc.....It's the kind of thing that isn't exactly a standard use to attach one inside a pex pipe meant for special pex rings with brass fittings as backing and used for fluid distribution. It feels like the kind of thing that would be incredibly stupid to order online unless you know lol. Definitely a candidate for physically checking it at brick and mortar normally.
    Standard cable-glands. PG7 (standard size-chart) is the 12.5 mm thread, which screws perfectly into the 1/2 PEX.

    Quote Originally Posted by XmasinVancouver View Post

    -I would absolutely use some thicker AWG outdoor rated cable. Both to hopefully minimize Voltage drop and to give it more strength. The question is, what size is the right one? lol. A nice 14 awg cable would be decent, but I can't imagine that being great for attaching to those tiny sensitive copper pads.
    14awg--why?!? WAY too thick. You only need to power a single icicle--not a distribution-board.

    Quote Originally Posted by XmasinVancouver View Post

    -re: connecting and supporting everything...That was one of the main areas I was seeking experience and feedback for. I guess the very very rough picture I had was the data dropping at the icicle, 30 led's down, 30 up, like a loop before the data line continues on to the next icicle. Power inject as needed in between icicles. Again, just a rough mental picture. See attached, brutally badly drawn example
    Yup, you have to manage your data-line (taking into account the weak data-signal off the LED strips), and you have to manage 5V power requirements. Those icicles do consume a reasonable amount of power AND 5V doesn't travel well. My system takes care of all that for you....

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