Build #3 Update: Mar 29, 2013 - Batch #2 Assembly Progress, cont...

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Build 3 Shipping Tally to Date (as of 4/27):
Taillights: 51
Headlights: 15
On deck for batch #2: Key B., Jim C., Bruce G.

Update Jan 15
OK, time to start a new "thread." The old one was getting a bit long.

It seems that the consensus so far is that stainless hardware may be preferred over the black-oxide. I'll try to get my hands on some and post some pictures to see what you think. Either way, if you're reading this, and you're one of my pre-paid customers, let me know if you have a preference.

Well, instead of making any progress last night, I had the pleasure of doing a police report and salvaging what was left in the trunk of my car after somebody decided they should help themselves to my stereo equipment. Unfortunately, my other hobby (slash illness), after cycling and building bike lights of course, is putting together nice audio systems. Needless to say, they walked away with a few bucks of hardware, but anyone who's attempted a high quality car install will know that the real pain is the hours lost in the tuning process. Oh well, such is life, and perhaps a bit of needed perspective on the things that really matter in life.... now back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Update Jan 16
Made some good progress last night. For the 11 headlights that I've been working on, all the power boards have been mated up with lids and installed into the housings. The only tasks remaining are to solder the last two power wires to the LED boards, modify the lens covers, install front face and lens o-rings, install lens cover, and finally, install the lid. Waiting on the new Stainless Steel fasteners that I ordered today.

Update Jan 17
Thanks to a little snow today and the typical "panic and shut everything down" mode in Huntsville, I was home early today and got a little more time to work on the lights. The group of headlights that I'm working on now have been functionally tested are finally ready for the lens cover and lid to be installed. Although about as much fun as sitting in the dentist chair, I finally sat down with the belt sander and 30+ lens covers to remove the 0.005" interference problem on the top side. Feels good to have that done. I'll probably take the Dremel and buffing wheel with a little plastic polish to the top surface just to make it a little less obvious (although barely noticeable now). I also got the stainless hardware from McMasterCarr and have installed it in a few comparison shots here for you to look at. The stainless on the lid spoils the look just a little for me, but just barely. Otherwise, the other screws on the extender bar don't seem to stick out too badly. In the comparison shots, you can see where I've mounted two separate extender bars in each of the offset mounting holes on the underside of the headlight. Before I finalized your order, I'll confirm which type you'd rather have.

I'll be out of internet contact Friday the 18th through the 20th. Thanks again to everyone for hanging on through the process, with delays a plenty! Have a great weekend!
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Update Jan 26
Got two more sets of lights ready to ship tonight. Got all the extender bars for the headlights assembled. Also received the rest of my color filters from Robert. The fluorescent green seems to have almost an identical visual effect as the yellow, but perhaps slightly more efficient (bright). The amber is also good, and looks more like the color of a car's turn signal. The Red and Dark Green are pretty much worthless as there is way too much attenuation. In fact, as the light encounters "optical resistance" going through the filter it would actually very quickly melt the green or red material. Not so with the lighter color filters.

Update Jan 27
Well, here's a novel idea. Thanks to an idea from one of my existing customers, I tried running the DS-500 off of a 4x AA pack (6V nominal). It won't run the light on level 5. Max current draw is just too high for the alkalines and the forward drop becomes excessive, causing the light to shut off. But on level 3 (still brighter than the Dinotte 400R), I've been running successfully for over 3.5 hours now. Pretty cool. So, if you were to be doing some serious trekking, where recharging wasn't an option over a span of many days, building one of these little adapter packs might just fit the bill. Of course, it does require a quick modification to the voltage threshold levels, but that takes all of about a minute. I set the medium warn at 4.5V, low warn at 4.0V and cuttoff at 3.5V. All you need is a $2 battery box from Radio Shack and a magicshine extension cable to sacrifice one of the ends.
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Update Feb 6
Finishing up the last few headlights this week, and also working on getting more orders packed up and shipped. Just have a couple of custom modified taillights to finish up now before moving on to batch #3.

Received my new batch of battery packs just a few days ago. I unwrapped one pack so I could verify that the manufacturer had built them to specification. To my knowledge, these are the only packs of their kind, using Panasonic 3100mAH, 18650s. First impressions are that it's a very solid design. This was a new PCB design using a quad MOSFET output which cuts the forward voltage drop nearly in half under full load (< 0.2V drop at 1.2 amp load). The cell balancing bleed-off resistors were also adjusted to dissipate less power. After leaving the battery on the charger for at least a day after the "green" light had come on, I measured the voltage of each cell. The first good measurement showed that the cells were not being over-charged. The maximum cell voltage was around 4.3V and the maximum difference between cells was around 8mV. After a few hours, all the cells had dropped to 4.2V (nominal full charge) and the balancing circuit had cut the maximum difference down to 2mV or less. Continuing to measure after a few days, I'm noticing that the self-discharge rate is extremely low, on the order of a few milli-volts over 3 days.

Update Feb 12
Have finished up all the batch #2 lights (except for one custom taillight... this is yours, Jim), and am down to getting orders packed up, especially the international orders. I try to get as many of those together at once so I can make fewer trips to the post office, which has become an increasingly painful experience with all the cut-backs and long lines. Speaking of which... "everyone" in Huntsville is hanging in a state of limbo, waiting to see what will happen with the Sequestration deadline on March 1. It's possible that we may get "sent home" for a while, at which time I will happily turn my part-time light building job into a full-time job until all the funding mess gets resolved. A large percentage of Huntsville is heavily funded by the DOD, and at this point, no-one really knows what is going to happen. Stay tuned...

Update Feb 26
Slow, steady progress fulfilling the last of the international orders (first order to Singapore going out today). Sorry for the delay guys! Ran out of finished battery packs, so I'm now in the process of adding connectors and sealing up a fresh group of packs for you. Talked to Cateye this week about the elusive H-27 spacer, which has been on back-order since last October. Looks like they will be delivered to Cateye (from Japan) this week! These will allow me to build out the remaining lights for you guys that I've confirmed but not billed yet. My approach for the upcoming set of lights will be to make smaller batches, finish the hardware FIRST, then request payment. I'd much prefer to have the hardware ready to ship when I receive payment than to have to make you wait while I hold payment.

Update Mar 29
Well, it's been a while since I've updated the blog here! Seems like this last month has been the month of NO free time for lights. Soccer, spring break, taxes, car repairs, etc.... It's the unfortunate reality of trying to do something like this on the side. When family needs arise, lights naturally have to take a back seat... BUT, I'm actually starting to make some progress in the form of battery packs, and for you last five guys on the batch #2 list. I have great hopes to get several in the mail on Saturday. Jim, your custom mod taillight is almost done.

Also, Francis, over at MTBR gave me the link to a little known taillight review video that he did recently, which includes the DS-500. Here it is:
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