Monday, July 21, 2014

OFBC: Design and First Prototype

Note: This is part of the Project Write-up for OFBC: One Fluorescent Beer Coaster

Circuit Design

I began the search for parts to fit the Instructable, and I realized I had a lot to learn about each part.  To match the circuit, we searched Frys, Radio Shack, ebay, Mouser and many others online. For an unproven design, going with an unknown module and supplier wasn't an option. Instead, we found all the components we needed on Adafruit.

  • Lithium Ion batteries must be matched to their charger to avoid dangerous heat and combustion incidents.  Capacity is determined by the Amp-hours rating.  The LEDs I was targeting were a max of 350mAh, so I looked for batteries had to be over 1000mAh to get the targeted 3 hour run time.
  • The charger choice was mostly driven by battery choice.  We didn't feel like we could provide a mounted Micro-B port in the time available, but a charging circuit mounted to a full sized USB plug was a good substitute.  With the shell, we would provide an easily removable bottom and 'mouse hole' to allow the charger to live outside the case.
  • Most LED projects online mention heat at one point or another.  To get ahead of this concern, we opted for a heat sink-mounted super bright LED.  This same LED bead was seen on ebay without a heat sink, but we didn't want to screw anything up due to inexperience and opted for the more expensive package for the first run.
  • The Driving Circuit was a simple buy, and the choice also dictated our resistor purchase.  The key value from the MOSFET we purchased was Gate Threshold Voltage.  The voltage drop across R2 with the battery we bought had to match this value.  Using V = IR, R = V/I = 1.5V / 350mAh ~ 4 ohms.

Materials List

Name Description PID
Battery Lithium Ion Polymer Battery - 3.7v 1200mAh 258
Charger Adafruit Micro Lipo - USB LiIon/LiPoly charger - v1 1304
LED 1 Watt Cool White LED - Heatsink Mounted 518
Driving Circuit N-channel power MOSFET - 30V / 60A and NPN Bipolar Transistors (PN2222) - 10 pack 355 and 756
Resistors 100K and 3.5 Ohm Resistors Already Owned

Components, Breadboards and Protoboards, Oh My!

Once the materials were in hand, the breadboard went well.  It worked the first time!  While we waited for batteries to charge, we used a simple brick of 4xAA batteries.  The beauty of the driver we chose is that it can drive LEDs using any voltage source over the target voltage.

Using the breadboard and schematic, we attempted a protoboard version of the circuit.  This was a complete mess, and it took us a lot longer than it should have.  However, by the end of a single prototyping session, we turned a jumble of components into a working light.  One high/low note happened when we wanted to minimize the number of connections but didn't have the right resistor for R2.  We twisted two resistors together to get close to R2's 3.5 Ohms and put them through the same hole on the protoboard.  Instant parallel resistor!

Conveniently, the whole project fit under a Ziploc Container lid.  A little bit of hot glue, another section of protoboard with a hole in the middle, and charged batteries got us our first complete prototype!  It was brighter than the equivalent cell phone flash and had excellent diffusion through some purpose-bought Smirnoff Ice.

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