Custom Lightsaber Project

Introduction

Let’s open this blog with a personal project I’m working on in my limited spare time:

A CUSTOM LIGHTSABER!

Yeah I know, I’m super original but I can’t help it. I’ve wanted one since I’m 5 so let’s get to it and make Past Jeff proud. I’ve actually started this project a few weeks ago but I haven’t done much and I kept going backward as I’m having a hard time finding the right electronics for the job.

Specs of the project

Right now, as I’m still a newbie in electronics, I just want it to be able to light up to a specific color (that can be changed thanks to an auxiliary button). When I’ll have a good setup and better understanding, I’ll see if I’ll try to add sounds and light effects based on movements but since it’s a bit out of league in terms of coding, I wanna start simple (never used audio amps and accelerometers/gyroscopes)

The Electronics

First thing I need to settle is the electronics I’m gonna use since it’s gonna directly impact the design (overall diameter for the battery pack):

 

  • 2 meters of Neopixels strips (WS2812 chips) (144/m or 60/m depending on the brightness needed)
  • A small microcontroller to control the neopixels
  • A couple of buttons to turn the saber on and off and selecting the color
  • A battery pack to power up everything

The core component is the Neopixels strip but they can drain quite a lot of current. About 20mA per pixel.

If I use a 800mm blade with 144led/m pixels, that makes about 110 pixels x 2 strips = 220 pixels total. 220 pixels * 20mA=4400mA=4.4 Amp

Same blade length but with 60led/m, 50 pixels x 2 = 100 pixels. 100 pixels*20mA= 2000mA=2Amp

This greatly limits the choices of battery so I initially went with a 4*AAA battery holder that would have house 4 NiMH for a total of 4.8V that could deliver roughly 2000mAh. I thought about using a phone powerbank (2000maH with 5V regulated) but the max output is only 1A.

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The problem with this build is that the battery pack that I planned to use (4*AAA in square, not like the schematics) is too big (31*31mm). Typical lightsaber hilts are about 28mm in diameter and 290mm in lenght. After a few online searches, I noticed that a battery type was quite popular for lightsaber makers: the 18650 Li-Ion battery. It’s has between 2000 and 3000mAh and operate at 3.7V. It’s small and packs a lot of mAh, perfect right?!

nitecore-nl189-2

Only problem is that the Arduino Nano operates between 6-20V… But luckily, there are other boards on the market, like the Adafruit Trinket 3V. It’s super small, got enough processing power for what I plan to do and will work perfectly with the Li-Ion battery. Only drawback is that I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to add an accelerometer/gyro + amp for sounds based on movement with this build.

adafruit-trinket-3v3

The Hilt

With the electronics sorted out, I decided to tackle the hilt. As usual, I decided to go with 3D printing so I opened up my 3d modeling software and started modeling the key parts and designed the casing around.

progress

 

 

HOOOOOOWWW

As you can see, I went with an original design. I searched online and took inspiration of designs bits I liked. The idea is to have a “core” that can be used a template for future build. Here’s the prototype and almost final look (may be subject to changes)

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The blade

So, I also need something to house those neopixels right? I decided to go with a D25mm plexiglass tube. Two strips, placed back to back, will be wrapped in foam and inserted in the sanded tube to have a good diffusion.

I’m still experimenting to see if 144/m strips are absolutely needed or if 60/m strips will be enough with clever diffusion.

 

 

And that’s it for this project so far! As said earlier, It’s a personal project I get to work only on week ends.

What’s next? I need to continue testing the blade to get the best diffusion and I need to order some Trinkets 3V as I only have Nano’s and 5V trinkets at home. When I’ll get that, I’ll be able to start soldering the electronics.

Stay tuned for more!

If you liked this, be sure to share it!

XOXO Jeff

2 thoughts on “Custom Lightsaber Project

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