Repairs, progress…

Labor day gave me time away from the labor that pays so I could do some labor on the controllers. I was able to fix the 3 bad triacs I mentioned in my last post. When I had it apart I replaced 2 additional triacs that were on the same bank with the CHN912 date code for a total of 5 replaced. After fixing those and re-assembling the controller the 17th channel wasn’t working. In my diagnosis I found that it was simply the optocoupler. Whew! I was hoping I wouldn’t have to take it apart again.

I was able to pull down the RPM E1.31->DMX Bridge for diagnosis as well. As I was hoping, the wall-wart I was using only read .48 volts so I figured that was the problem. A new wall-wart and the board appears to be working just fine again so it’s remounted up high.

I also cut CAT-5 for the extensions from the E681 controller to the pixel strips along our roofline, however they likely won’t work. I plan on purchasing some 18/3 to use instead as I’ve heard good reports of that stuff working. I think it will work better with the waterproof connectors I purchased anyways, so it’ll be win-win with the only loss being that I have to spend a little more money.

It’s going to be a long year…

I’m getting a sinking feeling that with all the things we’re adding this year the complexity is going to cause us a lot more trouble than last year. In our inaugural show last year we had no hardware failures and once things were all up and running, the only issue we had was a couple GFCI trips during some storms.

This year I already need to replace at least 3 triacs on a 24 channel controller (1/8 of the controller is dead) and now it seems my RPM E1.31->DMX bridge also needs repair and we’ve only begun a few simple tests!

Wish us luck!

August Updates

We’re now officially in crunch time. Between now and setup time we far less time than we have to accomplish. Mega tree is being worked on, a new surprise is being worked on, songs are chosen, sequencing software has been selected, and pixel work will be starting soon. Stay tuned for updates as things are built.

Mega Tree

The flag pole was erected and parts were purchased for the construction. The things left to be purchased are ground stakes and the center pole material (although hook head, pin, guy wire material, etc. has been purchased). The controller that’s planned for this also needs 3 channels replaced because they have the infamous CHN912 triacs that need to be replaced. While I have it apart, I may replace all CHN912 date-code triacs to sleep better at night.


Let’s just say that our surprise has the word “mega” in it, is a slight twist on something only a few others we know of have ever done, requires it’s own 24 channel controller, and will require it’s own 15 amp circuit.


These we’ll keep a surprise, but we have 13 songs chosen with only 2 are the same songs as last year that will be entirely re-sequenced. We likely won’t get to all 13, which is one of the reasons we are keeping this as a surprise as well.


This year we have chosen HLS as our software due to it’s low memory/CPU footprint, relatively well supported pixel handling, RGB support, and quick bug-fixing turnaround time. We have just begun the arduous process of sequencing and in addition to learning a new tool, we’ve added hundreds of channels (each pixel is 3 channels). We definitely have our work cut out for us.


Last year I used my custom solution to control our pixel strands as “dumb rgb” strips. This year we’re using a SanDevices E681 controller for individual pixel control. At the end of last year there was some initial testing done for the pixels, but they’ve been tied to the rafters and untested since. Hopefully soon the pixel extensions will be complete so further testing with Nutcracker and HLS can progress.

That’s all for now, keep checking back for updates between now and ssssshhhhhhowtime!

One More Time!

Well after a handful of suggestions from Mike and the DIYC community, I have re-spun the PCB without resistors and without a top plane and a couple other changes.

Here’s a list:

  • All traces are on top without using a polygon for a power plane.
  • Bottom is not cut by any traces (other than the version text) since all traces are on top.
  • J1-6 is no longer ground
  • No 45° angles coming off non-round pads for under-etching.
  • Trace from U1-8 to decoupling C1 is very short.
  • Removed resistors and reduced size after testing breadboard reliability without resistors.
  • Squished the U1 placement silkscreen so it’s not on the solder pads


Hephaestus BOB v0.2

Version 0.2 has been made. For good design practice, my friend Mike Lane suggested I get the decoupling cap as close to the power pins as possible. He suggested a 90° clockwise turn of U1 and moving C1 below to be near the power pins to increase the effectiveness of the capacitor. Here’s the result to be reviewed.