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Mars Aqua on an Apex Controller

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Baghtal View Drop Down
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    Posted: November 04 2015 at 1:18pm
Hello! 

I don't do many build threads, and I tend to take a lot of pictures... Bear with me Big smile

I found these LED matrix lights on Ebay for around $80 a pop. and while they are dimmable on two channels, only via a knob on top. I wanted something my Apex controller could dim, not just turn on and off. Being new to the hobby I'm out of money, so I wanted to do this on the cheap!



I researched and researched and decided that with the 60 degree spread lenses two of these guys would give my 90 gallon tank a good coverage. EBay order put in and just a couple of days later here they are!

Basic Build is

0 - Assemble tools
1 - Take Apart
2 - Remove Analog Knobs
3 - Cut Square Hole
4 - Drill Screw Holes
5 - Mount Port
6 - Solder Wires & Test
7 - Dress Wires & Test
8 - Reassemble & Test

Step 0
First up is to get things together that I know i'm going to need.

Not pictured is the 3rd hand tool, soldering iron, screw driver, screws and more coffee.

Step 1
Stuff assembled, lets take the mounting screws out and pull the two sides apart!


Look now nice everything is inside! We can fix that for sure.


The drivers are the only things other than the screws connecting the two sides. I just need to cut the zip tie and pull these apart.






Step 2
Removing those analog knobs

Pull it off


Pair of pliers to unscrew the nut holding it on the frame


Looking at the inside


Pulled off just fine


I like how everything is Ziptied together


Makes it nice to cut apart. no lost pieces


I'll save this for another project...



Step 3
Make this round hole square


Using some files I got from Harbor Freight, I first made the hole larger using a round file


Move to a square file


About half way there...


little bit on this side, little bit on that side...


I worked from the front because this is what happens on the back-side. I cleaned it up with a pocket knife after I was all done.


Looking Good


So Close!


Perfect!



Step 4
Now for screw holes to mount this up...

I tried templateing this with a xerox machine, a piece of string. and a few other ideas. But the best I really came up with was just eyeballing it!
1/8 inch was the right size for me


Slow and steady wins the race


Again, needs some cleanup on the back-side


Screw hole was just a little off so i had to file the corner of the port out a little more -- still pretty close


Step 5
Mount the thing!

Fine threaded screws (They didn't come with my Ethernet port, I just happened to have some that worked)


One is in...


Looks Good!
(Did you notice this was the other side?)



Nice Professional looking apperance



Step 6
Connecting it all up

Remember those nice labels on the manual dimmer -- they told us what went where! Good thing I took pictures of it all!


Separate the On/Off wires from the Variable Voltage wires


These can just get connected together. The Apex will turn power on and off so this won't ever need to.


For the rest of the things.... I sourced a LOT of information on the internet and Apex' manual and testing on my own to finally come up with this:


Using that pinout guide I don't need the 15 and 10v rails, just the variable voltage lines.


Match the colors up...


Wire them all together.


isn't it pretty?



I don't have any pictures here, but TEST! Make sure everything is connected correctly here now.

Step 7
Dress the wires, Heat Shrink Wrap (Marine Grade!), and make it pretty.

Heat Shrink the on/off and tuck it out of the way


Should be safe over here


One at a time. I pinched the ends together also to make sure to keep out any moisture


Zip tie it all down...


Hey, that doesn't look too bad after all


TEST AGAIN!

Step 8 
Reassemble and Test
Put all the screws back together and close it up.


Plug one side into the Apex, the other side to Daisy chain them together


Isn't it pretty?!?



All done! Thanks so much for taking a look!


Edited by Baghtal - November 04 2015 at 1:33pm
I like to think that the moon is there, even when I'm not looking at it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baghtal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2015 at 1:20pm
Thoughts after the fact...

I have a flickering when I'm running both channels at full with both lights connected. The control voltage actually fluctuates up and down really quickly! I can watch it on my meter -- this is driving me crazy!

If I only run one light no problem. With both lights on I can set the max value at 85% on both channels the flicker goes away. Or if I leave one channel at 100% I need to drop the other to 55% before the flicker goes away. There has to be some way to fix this, I just haven't figured it out yet.

I also want to figure out a way to make these so they can keep the manual controller also. Maybe a switch? Would be nice to have Apex automatically take control and override the manual dimmer if there is an Apex signal... Hmm... daydreams....


Edited by Baghtal - November 04 2015 at 1:32pm
I like to think that the moon is there, even when I'm not looking at it.
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Krazie4Acans View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Krazie4Acans Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2015 at 1:44pm
I think if you read up a bit further on those lights you will find that the driver dimming control uses more current than the Apex is able to supply at full (or near full) output. This can be solved by having an op amp circuit between the Apex signal and the driver dimming wires. The Apex then controls the voltage and the op amp controls the current to allow it to supply more than the Apex can directly. That should solve the flickering and stabilize the voltage.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2015 at 2:17pm
What Krazie said. Krazie, would a BJT circuit work as well or am I confusing voltage with amps here?

Anyway and op amp would work for sure. Might want to use a optical isolator to buffer the interface between the sensitive circuit of the controller and the more robust circuit of the lights.

Kevin
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Krazie4Acans Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2015 at 2:26pm
BJT would work but is not my preferred method as it's not as stable under load. You want a voltage controlled voltage source which is why the op amp works so well. The opto isolator would be nice but probably over kill.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baghtal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 04 2015 at 4:20pm
Op Amps! Of course! I have been playing with Buck Converters trying to match voltages all day (Been a while since high school electronics course) I think I've even got a copule of them laying around... hopefully they are rated correctly.

You guys are my favorites :D
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baghtal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 10:33am
Op Amps are in. Voltage follower circuit built. and The lights are in and working!

I was able to use the driver already built into the lights to power the current for the Op Amp, and with the Apex voltage i'm now running both lights with no flickers!

Will post some more picture when I'm not at work, I finished at like 1:30 this morning. They look great! Thanks again for the reference Acans. My last electronics class was, well, never. High school had something similar but not really robust.

The OpAmps aren't full rail, so between 0% and 15% I can't really tell a difference. But I'm still pretty happy!

Next project is to make some with both manual control and the Apex plug-n-play ability.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Krazie4Acans Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 12 2015 at 11:01am
Glad that worked for you. I'm still not sure why you want manual control when you have them connected to your apex? I setup a couple of profiles and some virtual outlets so I can turn on picture mode and show off mode whenever I want.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baghtal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 13 2015 at 11:03pm
I work in IT for a living and my job security comes from the fact that computers fail. And while I would be rather grumpy if my Apex died, I would still want some way to play (er... manage) with the lights while getting it replaced.

What do you mean Picture Mode and Show off Mode?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Krazie4Acans Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 13 2015 at 11:25pm
Setup profiles on your apex that give you a specific percentage of light in each channel. For show off mode it would be blues at a pretty high intensity with maybe just a touch of white. Then picture mode would be set for more white and less blue so that when you are taking pictures you get a better pic. It also means that with just one switch on your apex you can pick one of those profiles at any time regardless of what the normal light ramp schedule is doing at that moment. Works really slick.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Krazie4Acans Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 13 2015 at 11:29pm
Manually running your lights if the apex failed is as simple as plugging in a pot with a 10v power supply into the network jacks you added and then using the pot to adjust the light level. Pretty simple setup and you can put it in the drawer until you need it and then just plug it in if your apex ever fails.


Edited by Krazie4Acans - November 13 2015 at 11:30pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baghtal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 14 2015 at 8:34pm
Yeah :D Right now i've got a "ramp up" "stay on" and "Ramp Down" profile for white. Same for blues, but also a "moon light"  setting (it's actually just power to it with no control, so it's all the way dim, but I have the profile there so I can play).

For manual controlling, i've got the wires i stripped out for testing before i finished it all, that's a good idea with the Pot on there i'll have to put one in. I still think it would look nicer with just a switch though. 

However things going the way they do, this is done and working. I don't think i'm too likely to get back around to playing again until somethign does break.

Thanks for all the help :D
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote PUFFY_SANCHEZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 25 2015 at 9:25am
Originally posted by Baghtal Baghtal wrote:

Yeah :D Right now i've got a "ramp up" "stay on" and "Ramp Down" profile for white. Same for blues, but also a "moon light"  setting (it's actually just power to it with no control, so it's all the way dim, but I have the profile there so I can play).

For manual controlling, i've got the wires i stripped out for testing before i finished it all, that's a good idea with the Pot on there i'll have to put one in. I still think it would look nicer with just a switch though. 

However things going the way they do, this is done and working. I don't think i'm too likely to get back around to playing again until somethign does break.

Thanks for all the help :D

Do you have any instructions with the op apms or what all you used?  I am very interested in trying this, but I have no electrical background.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baghtal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 25 2015 at 2:03pm
I got wrapped up in things and haven't put my build together for the rebuild yet. Thanks for the question because it made me sit down and do it!

The Op Amp's I bought for this were very cheap and shipped quickly, http://smile.amazon.com/dp/B00CL588O2. They actually have TWO circuits built in, but because I wanted the wiring to all be inside the case for each side I only used one for each channel.


First thing I did was open up the driver and VERY CAREFULLY measured the pins and SMD points on the board to see what was available. I found there was a contsant +12v supply available regardless of the state of the output of the driver. That gave me a 2v head room for the 12+ In on the OpAmp so i went with it.

I wrapped up the leftover wiring from the Patch Cabling wire for my line in. I didn't really need to use 4 wires like that, but I liked the look.



Soldering inside the plastic case here was hard. But I got a good solid connection. Be sure not to melt/short/break anything!



Not pictured here is that I then hot glued the wires there in place. 



Here's a diagram of the circuit -- coffee stains are a must with any project, right?

Note that the 2Out/2In-/2In+ I actually decided NOT to use. I used two chips one for each side rather than doubling up in a single chip. This lets me turn the power off to each side seperately.




See how nice the 4 wrapped wires look? Solder nicely! Don't keep the heat on the chip for long you can break things.



Other side of the chip.



Close up of soldered connections


Because I didn't have a board to mount this on and it's going to be floating freely inside the case for the driver I wanted to make sure it was sealed up tightly. take your time and build up little by little.



Doesn't look too pretty...



Okay, looks ugly. But pins are well sealed in there now!



Numbers on the Op Amp. Also left the top out to have some air flow. I ran it like this for some time and the chip never got more than a little warm. Probably more from my touching it than the circuit itself.  I didn't want to encase the whole thing anyway, just in case.



Connected up all the other wires, even those I'm not using for this circuit...


Pinch the ends too. Squeeze some goo out and seal it well!


Making things look nice means that things don't get stuck, or lost or break, and when/if you ever have to clean or redo anything it makes your life SO much nicer. Take your time, do things right.





Shot of the space overall once it's all done and put together.





Thanks! :D

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VdubReefer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 18 2016 at 2:52pm
I just did this with my wellpar ebay lights and my apex !! Didn't need the op amp tho,, however I having a hard time finding a happy Medan on my whites and blues what do you run yours at (%) ?? Also how big is your tank?? Sps or lps or mixed !? Thanks !!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Baghtal Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 07 2016 at 11:00am
Sorry missed the question in your post last month!

I've been playing around with light settings -- Most recently i've settled on
Blues I run at 100% for 11 hours
Whites I run at 30% most of the day with a "high noon" at 100% for 3 hours 

Run a mix of softies, sps, and lps. Tank is coming up on a year old and we have only been adding slowly. haven't specialized in anything for it yet.
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