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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey everyone,

So over the last few months i've been embarking on a fun but time consuming project. The project started out after I realized that i'll be in college in a year, and the only aquarium i can bring is a 10 gallon. I decided that I wanted the nicest, sleekest looking equipment and stand. The best and most enjoyable way for me to do this was DIY!!

The stand ideas came from looking at Jason Baliban's work, and other ADA stands. I liked the sleek look without the handles and so off I went. I didn't take as many pictures of the stand in progress as I would've hoped, but you'll get the general idea. The stand was made from MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and was painted with Valspar Primer and Valspar Satin Enamel. Yes you just read that right, i PAINTED with PRIMER. This was because it was the only spraypaint I could find that resembled the ADA color. Both the primer and enamel were in a spray can and proved to be quite the challenge. The primer's spray mechanism absolutely sucked and only further complicated things. In the end, the final coats looked great and matched the ADA color closely. I used Euro hinges and the joints were simple butt joints with glue and finish nails (it's a 10 gallon stand...). The only problem i've had is stability, being a 10 gallon size and on carpet, but it'll work.











The tank was simply a 10g that I de-rimmed per directions HERE and had a DIY thread HERE. It went relatively smoothly with only two hiccups. The first being that I leaned too hard on the first tank i tried and broke the side pane. No biggie, it was an old tank. The second hiccup was that on the new tank when i removed part of the back rim on the top, it took a little slice of glass with it. Lessons learned for next time i suppose. I trimmed up the silicone all over, even in the corners to give it a sleek "rimless" look.


Tank's dirty but you get the idea.

The conduit was pretty easy, used 1/2" EMT conduit from home depot ($1.50 for 10 feet or something ridiculous). I borrowed a pipe bender from my girlfriend's family and went to work. Took a few tries to get the pipe the way i wanted it, and actually a complete change in plans by the end of the bending. I had initially wanted an upside-down "U" over the tank, but decided on a partial curve over the top (you can see in the pictures). The conduit will be mounted on the left side of the tank with conduit holders. The light (which i'll get to next) will be mounted via an eyebolt in the conduit, to chain, to an eye bolt in the top of the light.



The light. Possibly the most exciting part for me, just came in. I ordered from Dealexreme.com, as their prices are the cheapest and they have the best selection. I went with THIS driver to power the LED's, CREE X-RE Q2 LED's as seen HERE, and a few cheap fans to help with circulation. I got a heatsink from heatsinksusa.com for about $35 and the order from deal extreme cost me $50. The shipping was free from DX but took a month.


Q2's


Unpacking the box!



I will be adding on to the light progress as i build it with detailed pictures and possibly step by step directions.

The tank is cycling right now with Aquasoil and soon some Seiryu stone will be added.
 

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Bravo, well done on that!
So the satin Enamel is what gives it the gray look? Also could you please add some instructions or a link on how to actually build the cabinet?
Good on you for choosing LEDs I'm collecting all the parts for my new setup now and will be using them too! 9 cool white xpgs and 9 xre warm white. I'm also gonna add 1 blue and one red for appearances. My tank will be a 25 gallon cube, and ill use a dimmable driver. Any plans for an arduino to control the lights or is that a non-dimmable driver you have there?
Looking forward to seeing more!

kind regards,
Sven

EDIT: oh and I found my leds here: http://www.rapidled.com/servlet/StoreFront
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks bamboosharkbark! The primer was gray, which gave it that look. The enamel simply gave it a satin finish as opposed to the flat finish of the primer.

The cabinet was a pretty simple design, just measure out how tall you want it and figure out what edges you want showing where. You can't see any edges on the side of my design because the side panels go from the top to bottom. The doors are mounted with Euro hinges and other than that you've got the top, sides, bottom and doors. Here's Jason Baliban's design for his. It's more complicated and in depth than mine, but some may like that better.

I don't believe my driver is dimmable, and frankly i plan on using the fixture height as the control for brightness. As for timers and what not, it'll just be on a single timer like any fluorescent light.

I should start assembling the LED's tomorrow, including tapping and applying thermal compound. I'll post some pictures of my progress.
 

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This is looking great Jason. May have to come check this stuff out sometime over the next week if your free. Also, I now have money to buy that 75G canopy off of you...so when you get a chance. :p

BTW his stand looks even better in person. Very nice job on it, minus the AWFUL paint smell when I first saw it...hehe.

Can't wait to see these LED's in action, how are you setting them up on the heat sink?
 

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The stand looks nice, absolutely. But I personally think that this design is obsolete. My reason to say that is a local artist that designs and makes aquarium stands herself. KimCadmus here on APC. Think fine European design using metal, wood, and glass. No spartan looking block of a stand like ADA's created somewhere in the late 90's I think.

The LED light is what excites me most too. One improvement of the looks of the ADA way of haning the light is to not use any wires to suspend the light fixture. You just attach the light fixture to the conduit. There is a way to make the conduit completely invisible behind the tank - you just position it right behind the side glass. Aligned with the back corner of the tank. The pipe becomes completely invisible when you look through the tank. And when you look from the outside you can't see it either unless you look directly from the side of the tank.

I've done that with a 2' long tank that had pretty thin glass and it worked amazingly well. I put an additional bend to the conduit so it can screw to the back of the light fixture. Now, I was using a T5HO bulb. But with LED there maybe a problem with the heat transferring from the heatsink to the conduit.

And for the light I have another idea worth exploring. I can't say it will work but you will all agree it is a good idea at least in theory. If it does work in real life we can do away with the heatsink and have only the LEDs and the conduit over the tank. Pretty slick IF it actually works. It is simple - you attach the LEDs to the conduit itself with the Arctic paste. Or use a thin heatsink wide enough to accomodate the LEDs so all of the LED surface is in direct contact with the skinny heatsink. Active cooling is done with a fan at the base of the conduit. The fan constantly blows air through the conduit. Will that air be enough to cool the LEDs I can't say. And in case the fan fails there needs to be an automatic switch that shuts off the LED's. Maybe something like that will work with only a few LEDs, but not with 12.

--Nikolay
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for the comments everyone. They're greatly appreciated.

Niko: I too thought a lot about the design of the stand, but i really wanted the stand to be just that. When you add other things and don't make it a simple box/stand, I think it takes away from the overall feel of the tank, especially if you're going with the rimless look. Just a personal opinion.

I had the exact same thoughts about the conduit as you did. I tried to think about ways to hide it, but in the end i think the way i have it is the best way to hide it. Being a 10 gallon, and since i'll be going with a minimalist approach to the aquascape, having the conduit attach on the back of the stand but on the side would still show through the tank. I don't plan on having a background on the tank either. Another problem i ran into is that my conduit bender makes close to 6" bends. On a 10 gallon tank this makes it impossible to get the bends in a place that i can still make use of the conduit for hanging lights off of.

My design for the lights was going to be very very similar to the ADA Solar I. The exterior design hopefully will look almost exactly like ADA's only with LED's under the hood. I simply liked the look of ADA's Solar I and wanted to replicate it.

As for your idea of mounting the LED's directly on the conduit, I think that's a feasibly idea, but I think the cooling might not be adequate. Plus i'm not sure how aesthetically pleasing it would be. Sure you're eliminating the common "fixture" and wires but...

Back to the fixture, I was going to be hanging it with wire but I'm still torn between that and you're designs of attaching the fixture directly to the conduit. Now with my current idea of the Solar I replica, I think wires would look the best. However if I were going with a standard T5 fixture, I'd certainly go with your design.

I'm going to work on the sketchup of the fixture to post here for comments, and possibly start assembling today.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Went and bought a 6-32 tap for the holes i need and some other general supplies. I wanted to test out an LED so i hooked up the driver to an led and plugged it in. POP............ Lost an LED. Driver isn't meant to drive 1 LED. Put 36W into one poor LED. Tested another one with three AA batteries, and DANGGGGGGG these things are bright. I don't think i'll miss the blown one. Time to start tapping!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Running tally:

Holes drilled and tapped: 5
Holes not yet drilled: 17
Broken taps @ $5: 3
Blood pressure: 210/80 jk.

UPDATE: Got all of the holes drilled and tapped, only broke 4 total taps.....

LED's have been tested and thermal compound applied and screwed down to the heatsink. Next step is soldering all the wiring together, attaching fans. Tomorrow i have to cut the fixture pieces and assemble!

UPDATE NUMERO DOS: SUCCESSSSSSSSSS!!!! Blew another LED, but had an extra. Light is bright. Got a pic with it over the tank, and it's the perfect amount of light. I'll probably order some lenses soon. Will post step by step pictures tomorrow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Here's some pics with some instructions:


Here's the underside of the heatsink with all the holes drilled and tapped for screws. If you see more than 2 screws or holes for an LED, its because i broke a tap on one of the holes. Or multiple holes....


Here's how much thermal compound i used. I chose the compound over thermal adhesive because it allows the LED's to be removable if I ever need to replace them. Had i used the adhesive, I wouldn't have needed to drill and tap (would have saved me hours of work).


Here's an LED with the thermal compound under it, and screwed down. (blurry but you get the point) I may have screwed the LED down too tight, you can see the compound squeezing out but oh well.


LED's pre-solder i believe. Looks the same after solder. I wired in series, which is + to -, + to -.


VIOLA!!!


Holding LED's over tank (much brighter now that tank cleared).

In summary:

1.) Drill/tap heatsink. I believe a heatsink is necessary with these LED's because they need proper cooling in order to get the maximum life. Fans are not necessary with this setup because it simply doesn't get hot enough to need them. At most the heatsink now gets slightly warm.
2.) Apply thermal compound. I used Arctic Silver 5 thermal compound from Radio shack. It's expensive but I want to get the max life out of these LED's.
3.) Put LED in place, spinning it as you place it to allow the thermal compound to spread out evenly.
4.) Place screws in tapped holes to hold LED down.
5.) Cut wires to size between LED's.
6.) Tin wires with solder, solder wire to LED. These LED's are mounted on a 'star' which has solder pads on it. Simply touch soldering iron to top of wire while it's on top of the solder pad. Solder will melt and join.
7.) Tin and solder driver wire and attach + wire to - on LED, and - wire to + on LED.
8.) DO NOT TOUCH ANY WIRE FROM DRIVER ON HEATSINK OR LED WHILE PLUGGED IN. I did this when i went to test it (one wire was soldered on, the other I held) and accidentally touched the free wire to an LED, which shorted out the LED. In total I blew 2 LED's on this project.

I plan on buying 'optics' for these LED's to direct as much light as possible down to the tank. I spent $50 on the LEDs, $30 on the heatsink, and $20 on miscellaneous stuff. Not bad for a light that will last >5 years.

I'll get working on the fixture and will show updated pictures as I go...
 

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Say, Jason can you take a picture of the tank when the water clears and save the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and the focal length? Also tell us the distance from lens to tank.

That information is usually stored in the picture file itself.

As you probably know this could give someone an idea of how bright these LEDs are.

--Nikolay
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Will do. I'll also set up a CFL for comparison. I can tell you right now the LED's are muchhh brighter and more natural looking than the CFL. I can hold the LED's up to a 15" above the tank and still have plenty of light. I'll probably mount them about 6" above.

The fixture is a pain, i'm trying to use flashing to get a similar effect as the ADA Solar I lights. The flashing bows out in the middle on the edge, i'll post some pictures later.
 

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After building my own LED light very similar to this one thing I would suggest is don't bother drilling and tapping holes to mount them.

Instead just drill some holes, and get self tapping screws made for hanging sheet metal.
The aluminum heat sinks are so soft compared to the screws that it's like screwing into wood. So much easier than tapping them all.

Also, when I mounted mine I used very small nylon washers to avoid shorting the LED to the heat sink.

I was very glad to have mounted mine using screws as I also popped one light.
 

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I was going to use flashing for mine as well.
Then it turns out my father had a piece of 1 inch, U channel steel the PERFECT size to mount my heat sinks into.
If I had tried to build it to fit, I'm guessing it wouldn't have fit as nicely.

I used slightly smaller heat sinks that I probably should have, so I added some fans, just to ensure long life from the lights.

Here is a link with a photo of my light.
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/introductions-greets/72882-greetings-mn.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Mr. Who, yours looks great! I hope mine turns out the way I hoped. The idea for the self tapping screws is a genius one. That would've saved me $20 and hours of time haha!

I just contact cemented the flashing onto the fixture, it's a really interesting design as you'll see soon. Once it's done being clamped, i'll paint it, drill the holes for hanging, and we'll (hopefully) be in business!
 

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Yeah, Self tapping screws are helpful.

Can't wait to see this in person. I've contributed my little bitty half by giving you some aqua-soil :D
 

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Mr. Who,

What do you mean by "used small nylon washers"?

Won't they melt from the heat?

--Nikolay
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
That's one thing I thought about Niko. Martin, your assistance with the AS is GREATLY appreciated :)

As for the flashing, it went without fault to my surprise. It mounted perfectly, and now all i have to do is paint and mount. Here's a question though: right now the flashing looks just like stainless steel, with the stand the color in the pics above. Do I paint the light satin black, leave it stainless color, or paint it the same color as the stand? I'll make my mind up by the end of the night but need some opinions.
 

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Like the stand for sure.

I've made a pendant shaped like the ADA before and although it seemed to look nice as bare metal when I installed it did not match the black stand.

Before you paint you should use a primer. Killz is fine and wipe off the metal with acetone or laquer thinner before hand (do not use paint thinner).

And do not use paint that will end up looking rough. They call it "textured". It looks very cool, but over time it absorbs fine dust that you can't clean.

Satin finish is best. Gloss looks cheesy.

--Nikolay
 
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