Figured I'd Put This Out There - I'm Developing An Led Fitting For Potential Sale.

Discussion in 'Equipment / DIY / Reviews' started by KoNP, Dec 30, 2016.

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  1. KoNP

    KoNP Member

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    So I've noticed there's a bit of a gap in the market as far as reef lighting goes. At one end you have the ultra-cheap arrays that are only good for very small tanks with non-demanding corals, or freshwater tanks. At the other end you have "high end"/expensive fittings like the radion and similar, which are more suited to larger tanks and higher budgets.

    The only thing that really exists for the "middle of the road" tanks that isn't really pricey is the DIY route. Problem with that is it can be tiresome tracking down all the bits and pieces, some people don't have the patience or the skill, and finding materials can be really hard if you're looking for something too far away from bog-standard. Then you have to consider how you're controlling the light, power source, etc. Then you have to enclose the damn thing.

    Enter my WIP fitting. It's going to be a 4-channel LED enclosure suited for small-to-medium tanks (I'm building the prototype around a 140-liter cuboid tank) with an integrated PWM controller. All you have to do is plug in the 36v power supply to the control box and connect the fitting to it, and it's good to go. The control box and the light enclosure itself are going to be 3D-printed, probably in flame-retardant ABS for safety (potentially polycarbonate, I'm assessing the viability) which will more than likely be vapor-finished for strength and aesthetics. It will have an adjustable lens. The fitting size is quite small too - a hexagon 120mm at the widest point.

    I'm scouring the internet for material suppliers so I can keep the cost as low as possible, which keeps the final price low as well.

    Now you might be asking "why bother"? Well, see my second paragraph. One of the major barriers to this hobby is expense, and one of the big areas of expense is lighting. Given my access to production equipment (don't scoff, a 3D printer is technically a production tool) and tools, my intelligence, and my enjoyment of making/building things, I figure I could at least try to address what I see as a missing "middle of the road" option.

    I'll keep everyone posted on my progress.
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  2. RobbieMVFC

    RobbieMVFC Member

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    Sounds like your hell bent on getting LEDs?
    The bigger question is what type of corals do you intend on keeping?
  3. KoNP

    KoNP Member

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    I already have LEDs. And a functioning reef tank.

    This is about giving people who might be time, patience or budget-limited, a better option than what currently exists.

    This isn't about debating the pros and cons of different lighting methods. As far as I'm concerned, LEDs are superior for reasons of efficiency, running costs, and controllability. They're proven to be at least as effective as the other options.
  4. RobbieMVFC

    RobbieMVFC Member

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    Fair enough. There used to be a thread somewhere on here about DIY LEDs
    .
  5. MagicJ

    MagicJ Moderator

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    What sort of price point are you aiming at?

    I have been using DIY LED's and Arduino controllers for many years but recently changed over to some commercial fittings as my DIY efforts didn't look the part with my new Redsea Reefer :rolleyes
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  6. KoNP

    KoNP Member

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    Probably somewhere between the 250 to 350 dollar mark, depending on material costs. Fittings gonna have 28 LEDs, around 110 watts total. For comparison the radion xr15w pro is supposedly only 75 watts, 21 LEDs, and just under 600 bucks depending on where you go. Kessil lights are a little more powerful but once again, up around 600 bucks or more, although they do have those cool densely packed LED chips. As far as I can tell neither of them have a graphical controller built in - mine's gonna have a 16x2 LCD screen on it. Also, custom circuit boards for the drivers, controller and a custom MCPCB for the LEDs (all of which I've already had fabricated).

    Could I ask for more? Yeah, maybe, but why bother if I'm trying to appeal to budgets conscious folk? Also, due to the 3D printed nature of the housing, it's not gonna be as "perfect" as one of the sheet-metal-and-acrylic-laser-cut-and-polished enclosures on other commercial fittings. Could I go that route? Yes, but the price would jump as a result. However the advantage of 3D printing is custom colours and a reasonably malleable design, as well as a lower final weight.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
  7. Sam Parker

    Sam Parker Moderator

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    Plan sounds great, now to get it producing some solid results and looking like something that someone would pay for (big gap between acceptable DIY quality and what someone will pay 60% of competitor pricing for). I will watch with interest, good luck!
  8. KoNP

    KoNP Member

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    Oh yeah, absolutely. That's why I'm expending the time and money to get the circuit boards professionally fabricated, as opposed to going the home self-etched route. I know how to solder the individual LED emitters to the MPCPBs as well, instead of having to use stars and wires.

    Like I mentioned before, the only thing that would be a bit "rough" is the 3D printed components. But it's my experience that people are actually quite impressed with what 3D printers can produce these days with a minimum of effort - and with the right plastics, things like acetone polishing (which I mentioned before) become possible.

    It'd be 60% of competitor's pricing for an arguably more powerful product - although I'm gonna refrain from saying "they suck, mine's better" because that's too close to libel, as well as not really being true from several perspectives. The products I'm competing against aren't BAD by any stretch of the imagination - the Radion is a friggin awesome light fitting. But they're prohibitively expensive for a lot of people. That's what I'm aiming to compete against.
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  9. MagicJ

    MagicJ Moderator

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    Just something you might want to consider ...

    16x2 LCD screens are a bit 'old hat' these days - a touch screen TFT LCD screen is a much better option but a bit more expoensive and a pain to program.

    The majority of people have a smart phone these days - which has a nice touch screen :) Getting them to provide the screen reduces your costs and makes the enclosures much simpler.

    An ESP8266 (similar to an Arduino Nano) has enough processing power to control the LEDS and has wireless capabalities - you just need some web page programming ability !!
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  10. KoNP

    KoNP Member

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    Yeah, but I'm aiming for simplicity and affordability. Depending on how successful the whole thing is, I might look at making a bigger version 2.0 with a touchscreen or something.

    16x2 might be "old hat" but they're still useful enough to show up on new devices. Probably because they're really easy to code for and integrate into your product or project. If you only have a limited amount of information to display and interact with, there's no benefit to going a big full-colour touchscreen TFT. It's nice, but it's also overkill.
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  11. ReeferRob

    ReeferRob Solidarité

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    There seems to be a resurgence of stand alone units here in The States. My advice is to keep it as simple as possible, but make it user friendly and the ability to upgrade as needed or funds become available. The one thing I can't seem to get across to the Chinese is the need for a gradual ramp timer like the Typhon controller offered by Steve's LED, LOVE their systems.

    I don't know how a lot of people here do this hobby with the price of lighting. When I set up the lighting on my 4mx1mx600mm tank will be in the $6000 range and that's my wholesale price.
  12. KoNP

    KoNP Member

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    The controller I'm making is heavily modeled after the typhon. Same basic functions, bit of tweaking here and there, and fully integrated into this light system. You're dead right when you say it's beautifully simple and user friendly. The upgradeability is something I'll have to look at. Maybe in a second iteration.

    And yeah your comment about the cost is exactly why I'm doing this.
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  13. MagicJ

    MagicJ Moderator

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    I'm no expert, but happy to offer some assistance with the Arduino programming if required ...
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  14. daveH

    daveH Team Leader

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    This is something I really want to follow.
    A couple of years ago I put together a DIY led light unit for my 60cm Cade and programmed it using Arduino (with much help from @MagicJ ).
    The leds were top quality Cree's from the States - the usual white and blues along with a couple of Ocean Coral Whites, UV and Hyper Purples. All my corals were stunning under this combination and had great growth.
    The cost to put it together wasn't high at all, probably around 450 all up.
    The thing is I haven't been able to find a set of commercial lights that can touch the 'pop' I got from that unit, which I am finding disappointing.
    I would love to get into designing a DIY unit again, sleaker than the previous and less bulky in the power and control.
    I love being able to control my current lights on my iPhone and that's what I would be trying to achieve.
    My son is now getting into writing Apps so maybe something might come together.
  15. newbiereef

    newbiereef Member

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    or you ran out of time ;-)
  16. KoNP

    KoNP Member

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    Heh, I appreciate the offer, but that's the part that's already 100% finished as far as I can tell.

    This fitting is gonna contain the standard royal blues and whites, but also blue (480nm) high-efficiency photosynthetic red, green, cyan, and 430nm violet. I basically looked at a whole bunch of information regarding photosynthesis, and tried to hit all the peaks I could outside of the standard rb/white combination. Hopefully this allows for good growth as well as colouration.

    As far as controlling it via a smartphone - I'm gonna look into that, maybe as a "premium" option down the track or something. For the moment though - high simplicity, low cost.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2017
  17. NiCd

    NiCd Lead Moderator

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    I stand to be put in my place if there is something like this already out there like this but what about a light "inspired" by http://littlebits.cc/ , whereby you offer a diy solution where customers can do a professional and fully customize an product something that can look good without too much knowledge or skills

    You can upgrade/downgrade at any time, choose between budget Chinese and top line cree leds, noisy arse cheap fans vs silent ones, add a blue tooth module, wifi or your touch screen etc. Because you are doing 3d printed housings offer 32 different coloured housings built to order etc.

    You can set up recomended packs for different corals, a built by budget option, have an option to have it built and delivered if you have no diy knowledge.

    I dunno just throwing that idea out there into the mix
  18. KoNP

    KoNP Member

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    Beyond my scope (and means) at the moment. I'm just one dude with 2 3D printers and my smarts. Focusing on one configuration and then expanding/modifying it at a later date is far simpler logistically and financially than making the "ultimately customisable" type products you've mentioned. Additionally, something like that would cause the cost to take a rather large upwards jump - completely negating the point of this whole thing in the first place.
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  19. MagicJ

    MagicJ Moderator

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    Not really - @daveH and @somethingfishy76 convinced me of the merits of the Ethereals :)
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  20. newbiereef

    newbiereef Member

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    oh i ended up with 30 gen 3 pros

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