Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mad Scientist at work

I am creating again.  I am elbow deep in metal shavings, silicon bits, wire, and JB Weld.  It is time for another set of LED bike lights.  I made a set of bar lights and helmet lights a couple of years ago when LED DIY (Do It Yourself) lights began to be turned out by hobbyists all over the country.  At the time, a high end set of bike lights was typically HID based with a big batt pack and very expensive parts.  But the LED changed all that and allowed for smaller batts and smaller and lighter lights with looong burn times.  LEDs are very efficient that way.  And they were embraced by a few brave and curious folks and so the 'modding began.  Human kind loves to tinker and improve things, do they not?

So, at the time the new commercial LED lights were still darn expensive...$250.00 or I built my own set of bar/helmet at a cost of $130.00 all in.  Yes, they were not as slick as the store bought ones, but they were bright and simple with a high/low bar mount that put out 400 lumens on high and maybe 30% of that on low...good for climbing...and a helmet light that was a one-button clicky 200 lumens deal.  Both were built from those little 5 dollar flashlights you see on the counter at the auto parts store, gutted, and then stuffed with high power LEDs, drivers, and wires.  The batt pack was 10 AA rechargeable cells.

But LED technology has moved on fast and even the batteries have taken huge leaps in size and capacity.  So the new lights will be at least twice as many lumens and will be half the weight.  The new Cree XML LEDs are more efficient (less Vf) AND put out more lumens per mA then the ones of a year ago.  The batts will be half the size and just as powerful.  Sweet.

The funny thing is, I can do it cheaper if I just pulled out the credit card and hit the Buy Now button.  Yep, now I can buy a commercial/premade light cheaper than I can build one.  Thank China for that one. The Magicshine shown at left, and others that have followed, have been a game changer allowing you to get at the 800 lumen range for 80 bucks or so all included...charger, etc.  The thing is, the cheapest components are often used here so long term may not be the best results, but hey, if you get two seasons out of it, then you can just pick up the new version for even less, most likely.

So why should I build?  Well, it kinda is like building your own bike from parts rather than buying it whole.  You typically spend more in a custom build unless you really get some bro-buddy or eBay deals/steals.  I get this light to be just the way I want it within my own limits of construction, at least.  No lathes or mills in my garage, so I am using square alu tubing and scrap I had around the garage.  Some work with a cut off saw and file, JB weld, some Lexan from the scrap pile, and wire scavenged from work from the toss-it bin, then add in some store bought components and hopefully I will be in the light zone with a new torch set that I made for myself.

And really, that is the real issue here.  I made it myself and for some reason, that appeals to me, even if it does not make practical sense.

Now, if I only would get an answer to that ad on Craig's List for a laboratory assistant.  I thought folks were looking for work?

Wanted:  Laboratory assistant needed for a local Mad Scientist.  No prior experience needed, but must be shorter than I am and have the inability to look me in the eye when I speak to him.  Groveling may be required.  Hunchback optional, but is a plus as is being bi-lingual in Hungarian.
Apply here with qualifications and any references.  Address reply to 'Master'.

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