RGB DMX Pixel Based Dripping Icicles
To start you want to build your "KEYSICLES". Each of these is 7 pixels long and the construction on these is a little bit different than all the other pixicles. Since pixels run in numerical order we have to connect the end of the first 7 pixels to the beginning of the second 7 pixels. Same thing to run from the end of the second 7 to the beginning of the third seven, and so forth. To start, cut a 7 pixel section of your strip. Add 2" to that measurement and cut your 1/2" PVC to length. Now, for my setup I knew I needed three of these KEYSICLES so I cut three pipes to the first length. While you're at it, you want to cut more sections for your 3 pixel and 5 pixel sections as well. Just as before, measure the cut strips then add 2".
Next we want to prep the top of the KEYSICLES. Measure down 1 1/2" from the end and drill a 1/8" Hole. I slowly rotated the drill towards the bottom of the PVC pipe to get an angled hole. Next you want to turn the pipe 90 degrees and drill another 1/8" hole perpendicular to the first hole about 1/2" from the end of the pipe. After drilling the hole, cut a notch from the end of the pipe towards each hole.
Now, I mentioned that the KEYSICLES are wired a little differently than all the other PIXICLES. Here is one area where we will do something differently on these than we will on the rest of the units. Because we have to connect the end of these strips to the beginning of the next these will actually have 2 "outgoing" pigtails. One is a duplicate of the incoming line (pixels 1-7) and the other is a continuation (pixels 8-21 and on). In order to accommodate two lines one of these holes needs to be enlarged. I increased the hole size on one side to about 3/8" and widened the notch. Do this for all three of the KEYSICLES, you can leave the shorter 3 and 5 pixel PIXICLES as is.
Now we want to notch the top caps. We'll need 9 of these total, the three for the KEYSICLES need to have the larger 3/8" hole on one side. Make sure they match the larger hole on your PVC pipe. Do these the same way, drill the hole first and use your multi-tool or saw to cut the notch through to the end. Again, we want these about 1/2" from the bottom of the cap. Just make sure they are consistent!
I found that the easiest way to do this was to produce these pigtail sets en mass. I do them all the same way at the same time. It's time consuming and repetitive, but it makes it much easier to assemble later and no loose connections. Start with a male and a female pigtail, solder each of the four wires together. I cut off the exposed wires on the pigtails so I had about 1/2" coming from under the insulation. After each pair is soldered I added back on a small piece of wire, the one I cut off. This gives us a "two into one" set. Cover each of the joints in heat shrink and hit it with a torch. I also cut all of my strips to length at this point. I used 3 of each length, 3 pixel, 5 pixel, and 7 pixel KEYSICLES. After your strips are cut, you can measure and cut the remaining PVC pipes and drill them as before. This "assembly line" method savedd me a LOT of time later on.
To prep your pixel strip, use an exacto or utility knife to strip back the silicone covering from the four solder pads. Make sure you start with the "incoming" side of the strip as most pixels are directional. They won't work if you hook them up backwards. Pre-tin each of these solder pads so they will easily attach to our pigtails. Slide the 2 into 1 pigtail into the end of the pipe and through the angled hole we drilled earlier. Solder each of the wires to the strip matching up the correct wire colors to the corresponding pads. I'm using my standard wiring method, refer to the How-To for DMX Wiring and for the Protocol Converters for that information. Following my standard Black is Ground, Green is Clock, Red is Data, and Blue is 12V Power. To finish up, we need to weatherproof this connection. To do that I used a little hot glue around the hole and across the wires. Make sure you run it over the edges and all the way up to the silicone membrane on the strip. I found that hitting it with the open flame of a lighter helped to gloss it over and remove any air bubbles afterward.
STEP SIX - Keysicles only
Here is where our KEYSICLES will differ from the standard PIXICLES. Because they need to "pass on" the pixel information, we have to add a connection from the bottom of the strip back up to the top to run on to the next KEYSICLE. To Start, strip and tin the leads at the bottom of the strip to prepare to solder on a lead. I used my Dremmel to make a small notch at the bottom of the PVC pipe as well. Next I took one of my 10' long 4 core extensions and cut off the male end. (you can re-use it as a pigtail) Strip and tin the ends of the extension so it's ready to solder as well. Starting at the top of the tube, begin feeding the extension down and behind the existing pigtails toward the bottom of the pipe. Push it through enough to give yourself room to work. Solder the ends of the extension to the pads at the bottom of the strip following the same wiring diagram as before. Slowly pull the extension back up the tube and pull the wires down into the groove.
STEP SEVEN - Keysicles only
When you have finished the three KEYSICLES, go ahead and finish the three and five pixel long PIXICLES using just a standard two into one pigtail as before. These won't need the return pigtail as they will only repeat the pattern from the KEYSICLES. Because they only use a single set of pigtails they don't need the larger hole on one side. When you have all of them soldered and assembled it's time to put on the end caps.
To cap off the top, run a little hot glue around the notches above your pigtails and slide the cap down over the end of the pipe. Be careful to line up the notch on the cap with the notch on the pipe. Again, I used a rubber mallet to get it to fully seat and ran a bead of hot glue around the bottom of the cap. I deliberately chose not to glue these using PVC cement because I didn't want it to be impossible to remove if I ever had any problems with them. Also, try to be consistent with which pigtail (male or female) is on the left and which is on the right. It's makes it less confusing too assemble them later
Now it's time for assembly. Because I stuck to my wiring diagram and used my 4 core pigtails I have an incredible amount of versatility when it comes to spacing on these and what placement will be like in the display. Anything can plug and play almost anywhere and by using a larger extension I can space things pretty far appart. Basically, the only thing to keep straight is that from your pixel controller or protocol converter you MUST connect to a KEYSICLE first. Anything that connects to the regular pigtail down the line from the KEYSICLE #1 will operate in unison with it. Next connect your second KEYSICLE #2 to the longer extension pigtail from KEYSICLE #1. This carries the later channels (pixels 8-21 and on) through KEYSICLE #1 and on. Again, anything that is connected to the regular pigtail on the KEYSICLE #2 will operate in unison with it. Lastly connect KEYSICLE #3 to the longer extension from KEYSICLE #2. This brings the last of the channels (pixels 15-21 and on) through the first two KEYSICLES to the last one AND it allows you to connect other ws2801 Pixels downline from your PIXICLES so you can still use the other 107 RGB Channels available on your protocol converter. Just connect them to the longer extension on KEYSICLE #3.
In this example I am using the $16 Protocol Converter to run these so I am stuck with beginning the pixels at channel #1. For the price this is definitely something that I am willing to work around. This same build could be done with a CCR controller and 6803 Strip as well so your setup inside of LOR is going to be different depending on your pixel controller. Because each of our KEYSICLES is 7 pixels long and there are three of them, I created three groups of 7 pixels each. Each of the cascading fades in this sequence is one "drip" down that group of PIXICLES. By having three different groups and spacing them as I intend, I can get the same "random" effect you do with traditional meteor tubes... However. By lining up the cascades (like you see at the 5 and 12 second marks) I can get all the PIXICLES to drip in unison! AND because they are full RGB, they can do these effects in ANY color. Each group can be a different color and you can even do multiple color within the same effect. Think a white meteor drip with a red tale!
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