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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With a new 140ltr Opti-white aquarium replacing my old 125ltr and a complete redo of my lounge to a very minimal modern appearance I thought I would make a new luminaire to match the cabinet and other furniture in my lounge.

The MkII version was still working well after 3 and a half years. It hasn't been ditched. All the electrics and LEDs have been re-used in my emersed cupboards meaning that now all 11 of my aquariums are lit by LED.

Originally I was looking for a slimline unit and planning on either using MDF (painted white) or using some steel sheet that I have left over from another project. First I found the TMC modular mounting with the tiles and thought something similar but then.........I stumbled upon the 'Vitrea Bridge' and instantly fell in love with it.



With the Vitrea costing circa £1000+ for my size I decided to try and do something myself whilst using the Vitrea's design to house my electrics. Mine will have much less LEDs and wiring is a lot cruder. I will be using 3 seperate plugs each going to a driver that runs 6 x 3W. A total of 18 x 3W LEDs. Of course mine won't have the controller or anything techincal either.

Rather than a glass sheet I will be using acrylic.

So with the design decided upon I drew up a plan of where I want the LEDs over the tank and then came to the measurements of the acrylic piece I will be needing.



The Opti-white is 80cm x 40cm and the acrylic are for the lighting is 60cm x 28cm. Adding 3 cm to each end to fit in the 'brackets' I ordered a 12mm thick piece of acrylic with the dimensions 66cm x 28cm.

When the acrylic sheet arrived I set to work on it, drawing out the LED positions and then routing some 21mm holes for the lense holders to fit in.:)



 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
The holes now routed ready for the lense holders I started to polish the edges of the sheet as well as the holes that I just routed.

The pictures below show how the sheet looked from P240 right through to P1200 and then using some car scratch remover. You can clearly see my keyfob through 28cm of acrylic. Even through the full length of 66cm you can see through it although very distoted.

Also all the lense holes are now looking great through the edge of the acrylic sheet.











 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The lense holders are positioned ready to be placed. They won't be pushed in until all the wiring is done because there is no clearance for wires on the rear. This means I file out an area on the rear of each lense holder where the solder joint and wire will be.

The LED series are soldered together. Each wire is fed through some sleeving to make it a little tidier. Then the now filed lense holders are inserted into the acrylic sheet. In the last picture you can see on the right of the acrylic sheet the long heatsinks and drivers that will be used.




 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
With all the electrics now wired up and tested (sorry no photos of it working) It was time to line up the heatsinks. Because the LED stars have to line up perfectly with the lense holders I am using a thermal adhesive on the rear of each star and then pushing the heatsink down onto the stars whilst they are in position.

You can see just how slimline this unit is. The MDF above and below is 18mm. There is a 2mm or so gap between the heatsink and the acrylic which means you do see some of the 'ugly insides'. I will be adding a piece of aluminium strip attached to the front heatsink to hide this gap. This strip will be the depth of the heatsink + 2mm to hide the gap. It will look like it is part of the heatsink.


 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The heatsinks are now stuck to the back of the stars and looking good. The aluminium strip is not added yet. This unit looks really slick already and you can see how so with it on top of my fruitbowl.

I now set about designing my brackets. These will be made in 3 sections:

The first and second will be a sandwich of 3 x 12mm pieces which are 28mm wide, the same width as the the acrylic sheet.

The first of these sandwiches has the centre piece 3cm set back from the top and bottom pieces and will take 3cm of the end of the acrylic sheet.

The second of these sandwiches has the centre piece 2cm set back from the top and bottom pieces and will slip over the rim of the aquarium.

The third piece is the curved 'arm' that sits at the front rear and centre between each sandwich.




 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The 3 sections are now cut and they are tested structurally. By that I mean that they are merely placed into position with no glue at all. The sandwich placed on the rim. The angles placed on the bottom sandwich and then the acrylic sheet with the upper sandwich is rested on top.

It stands up perfectly merely from the downward pressure of the acrylic sheet and it's electrical content. So the pieces are glued together and the whole unit is left to set in position. This will also make sure that there is no warping. It would be very annoying if when set this unit wobbled. I would rather have to work on the brackets afterward if they don't line up perfectly in terms of my planning. The most important thing is that the sandwiches are in the correct places..






 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I've now started on shaping the brackets. A lot of sanding involved. Once I have the smooth curves sorted I will be adding wood filler into the corners where the angle meets the sandwich so that I can get it to flow from each section into another.




 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
After my last reply I decided to fit the unfinished brackets to the unit just to see how it looks.

It's pretty much finished in terms of the actual unit however the brackets still need a little filling work and painting plus the 'power cord' is not seated into the bracket yet. On the right hand bracket the cord feeds into the right hand bracket on top of the acrylic and then comes out of the back of the bracket. In these pictures you can see the 'power cord' trailing over the front of the light unit.

Also the aluminium strip on the front heatsink hasn't been added yet so you can see the 2mm gap between heatsink and acrylic. I think it looks cool so far.

So nearly there bar the cosmetics :)



 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Over 2 years since this LED unit was finished it is now finally in action. I should add that during the year I altered the wiring in the unit.

Originally I had wired it to work as 3 seperate sets of 6 LEDs from left to right. That meant I could turn the left 6 on, then the centre 6, then the right 6 and create a sunrise and sunset effect.

However I decided to do away with that idea and go for a bit more flexibility with what I can use the light for. I wanted to be able to use more or less light over the tank if I wanted and for that I need the lights to be in linear banks across the length of the tank rather than only having the flexibility of having one side turned on with the rest of the tank in the dark.

So now the central row of lights are on 1 driver and the front and back rows are on a seperate driver. This means I can use low light by just using the central bank of LEDs or medium to high light by using just the front and back with the central light turned off or I can use super high light by using all 3 rows.

The luminaire is now in action over my 140 litre aquarium which is in it's initial 4 weeks DSM stage. I am using all 3 anks of LEDs and will probably continue with all 3 when I flood the aquarium as this will be a hi tec setup with full CO2 addition.






 

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Wow when I started reading this article my thoughts were this project is opening up a whole new bucket of worms. But as I read through it and saw your photo's you worked through everything fantastically. This lighting fixture looks fantastic.

I do have some thoughts though.

1. In my past experience I learned not to use MDF in my fish room. The reason is that when water penetrates through any needle holes the MDF wants to swell. What did you use to seal the MDF to prevent this. Also did you consider making these side brackets out of acrylic or Polycarbonate?

2. You mentioned you used a total of 18 3 watt LED's. Dependent on the driver this means you have up to 54 Watts of LED light. Your tank is basically a little over 30 gallons and I have found that with the newest LED's out there X-PG2's 1 watt per gallon is edging on excessive. But more important the selection of the color of the LED's will drastically effect the plant growth and amount of algae blooming in the tank. So may I ask what current you picked for your drivers, and what color or colors you picked for your LED's?

3 Would be great to see some pictures after the tank is planted for about 3 months. Any hope of seeing these?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
1. In my past experience I learned not to use MDF in my fish room. The reason is that when water penetrates through any needle holes the MDF wants to swell. What did you use to seal the MDF to prevent this. Also did you consider making these side brackets out of acrylic or Polycarbonate?
I had considered acrylic but it is very hard to cut and bend. I may have to try it in the future if something goes wrong though. I weighed up the risks and am hoping that the vast amount of acrylic spray paint that the mdf soaked up will have sealed it to some degree. It soaked up loads before they started to look white.

2. You mentioned you used a total of 18 3 watt LED's. Dependent on the driver this means you have up to 54 Watts of LED light.
Yep. potential 54W

Your tank is basically a little over 30 gallons and I have found that with the newest LED's out there X-PG2's 1 watt per gallon is edging on excessive. But more important the selection of the color of the LED's will drastically effect the plant growth and amount of algae blooming in the tank. So may I ask what current you picked for your drivers, and what color or colors you picked for your LED's?
The tank is actually 144 litres/38USG (if filled to the top) so nearer to 40USG. I would think I will be filling it to about the 36USG mark :)

These aren't the newest LEDs though. I did most of this project in 2012 and it has been a slow waiting process to build some motivation to get on with this scape. lol.

I know the Cree and Bridgelux fans will give a collective 'meh' or 'pffft'. These are the ebay chinese luxeon3 copies. I find they are much better than people say. When I made my first luminaire in 2009 they weren't brilliant. Looking at the LEDs you could see there were slight colouration differences in the LED or its die. very very slight tint of yellow in some, very very slight tint of blue in others. Not noticeable looking at the tank. I only noticed looking at photos I'd taken of the luminiare itself.

I think I remember that these LEDs require 700ma

By the time I made the Mk2 in 2010 they had mastered that problem and the LEDs were also brighter.

This unit is the Mk3 :)

In terms of current I'll have to read the driver labels. Like I said I did most of the work in 2012. All I did last month was alter the wiring. I'll post the current details later. I assume I am under-powering in terms of ma if not wattage itself but can't remember off the top of my head.

In the post of mine above this one I detailed that I had altered the wiring. I now have flexibility of using 1 row, 2 rows or 3 rows whereas before it was wired to be more of a novelty thing with series from left to right letting me stagger a sunrise/sunset effect from one side of the tank to the other.

So now I can use the centre row on its own (potentially 18W/0.5WPG based on 36USG) or I can use just the front and back row (potentially 36W/1WPG) or I can use all 3 (potentially 54W/1.5WPG.)

3 Would be great to see some pictures after the tank is planted for about 3 months. Any hope of seeing these?
I have a journal started for this scape:
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/journals/104106-colorado-140-litre-opti-white.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Taking the specs of the stars as they are on ebay at the moment as follows (they may well be better now than they were in 2012 although I doubt it. They will have been focusing improvements on better technologies)

Each LED emitter = 3W
Voltage = 3.4V to 3.6V
Current = 700ma
Lumens = 170-190LM

So the drivers are:

The front and back row series is powered by a meanwell 48V 700ma driver.
The centre row series is powered by a chinese generic 12-21V 650ma driver.
Both drivers are AC input that convert to DC.

So that should mean (by my probably incorrect calculations)

The front and back row are potentially 36W if run at full.
So voltage to run 12 LEDs on full = 12 x 3.6V = 43.2V so unless the driver is using 4.8V for itself then that base is covered. The ma is the same so no loss there. So I assume that the front and back rows are running on full power circa 36W :)

The centre row is potentially 18W if run at full.
So the voltage to run 6 LEDs on full = 6 x 3.6V so we shall assume that the driver takes its power from the AC and outputs 21V. That leaves us .6V short of current for the LEDS.
So 21 / 21.6 = .972222 * 18 = 17.5W.
The driver is 650ma where the LEDs max requires 700ma. 650 / 700 * 17.5W = 16.25.

So the front and rear rows seem to be running on the full 36W whereas the centre row is running underpowered slightly at 16.25W totalling 52.5W

Guys with electrical knowledge will be able to correct me if I am wrong on these :)
 

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This is easily one of the nicest DIY LED setups I've seen. I hope that MDF holds up over time for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thought I would add some pics of it working over the flooded scape:



My daughter is more interested in the light than the scape. lol:
 
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