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First year with rgb! Need help and opinions


sonoma
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I am a 6 year vet using LOR this will be my first year moving to RGB and dmx.Everything up to this point is going great, I have set many sequences to the RGB channels tested all sequences with DMX dongle and all is great. Here lies the problem, I was considering using flexible light strips as outlines for the windows and doors, I ordered a single led light strip from LOR as a test  and began measuring and cutting the strip to the length that was needed, after trying to solder the strip together with right angles I noticed that alot of the rgb's were not making the connection needed to complete the circuits. After closer examination of the strip itself I noticed that the strip was made of some kind of paper with copper connections, I believe that when the heat was added it was somehow burning the connection all the way through the paper material thus not allowing the the circuit to be made. "With that being said" has anyone had any success using strip lights or should I just spend the extra $$$$$ and go with individual nodes? 2nd part of this question; I have tried the strip lights from LOR, are the ones from holiday coro any better? I appreciate any and all suggestions, Thank You         

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I'm going to do the same this year with RGB dumb strips for the windows. I've got the strips now. I've not yet attempted to cut and connect them which I have to do. Usually when working with anything sensitive such as traces, a small wattage iron is best and use flux to flow the solder easier, therefore less heat. Now, as I said, I've not yet attempted to cut and solder these but will shortly. If you've burned the traces, you'll need to replace the traces using a very small gauge wire, effectively bypassing the burned areas. To do so, easy on the heat, flux. Use ISO Alcohol to clean up.

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I cant speak about your strips, but mine seems to be made of something like Mylar a heavy plastic. I agree with what dgrant said about a low wattage iron and plenty of flux. Make sure you clean the tip often and just melt a small ball of solder on the tip to wet it before attempting to solder any thing. This wetted tip will help transfer heat to the wires or copper pad. I do not know how you where trying to make this 90 degree solder joint. But you will need some small wire to make the jump. There is no way you can do this without some small wire. Personally I think I would get some solid 22 ga wire. Strip it and form it to make the actual turn while the strips are already going straight. Solder the wires to the strips with no cross overs. Now your going to need to seal the wires and keep them from shorting to each other. As for me, I suppose I would just butter up the wires with the non-stinking RTV. I found it at home depot over where they have the plexy glass.

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I buy my ribbon from Ebay.  I personally recommend stranded wire because the wire bends easier and applies less stress to the ribbon.  The newest ribbon I recently got for my fishtank has a harder coating than the silicon,  Seems to be a bit more rugged against the weather, but it's a royal pain in the butt to get to the solder pads.

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I'm going to rgb myself this year, and condering the same thing, cutting the ribbons and installing them around windows(haven't purchased them yet):

Does it seem possible to solder small mating connectors to the ends of the cut ribbons? I do this at work a sometimes on delicate assemblies, inclluding flexible pcb's and it usually works. May have to strain releif the wire and/or connectors.

Again, I haven't actually seen or cut a ccr yet, but it seems like it might work.

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http://i1293.photobucket.com/albums/b595/boydchristmaslights/StripCorner_zpsbc95fa63.jpg

 

All good suggestions above. As another option though, I found this works quite well.

 

The reason I used more wire is, (see attached photo) last year I created dumb strip 5 sided stars, 8 of them, yes 80 times 8 solder joints, give or take. It took a week of a couple of hours a day and a whole Saturday to complete. I then attached the strip components onto each star, tested, (all was working properly) and then set them aside as a completed project. So, when set-up time came for the 2013 show, I pulled out all of my completed elements for the display including my cool new stars. A couple or 4 full days of setup plus a few evenings after work, I started wiring all controllers to the elements, again including my cool new stars. Once all setup was complete and all controllers wired and powered, time for a test. 4 stars did not work at all and the other 4 had several sections of the strip not lighting. Now I'm in troubleshooting mode.

 

To make a long one short, I discovered, while in storage, and the shorter wires I used (~3") coupled with the steep angles for the stars, the wires had pulled loose from the strip and taking the pre-tinned copper coating with it. Well with my soldering ability, I could not solder the wires back to the strips. With the copper removed from the pad, and me not being able to repair them, the strips went in the trash, and I had to resort to plan B, Coro stars from HolidayCoro. In 2014, those same stars will be used but will have the basic, 3 LED modules, 20 per star so no soldering except a pigtail to the already existing wires.

 

Just something to consider. The modules are a bit more expensive, but they are less fragile and will give you almost the same effect.

Edited by Ron Boyd
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http://i1293.photobucket.com/albums/b595/boydchristmaslights/StripCorner_zpsbc95fa63.jpg

 

All good suggestions above. As another option though, I found this works quite well.

 

The reason I used more wire is, (see attached photo) last year I created dumb strip 5 sided stars, 8 of them, yes 80 times 8 solder joints, give or take. It took a week of a couple of hours a day and a whole Saturday to complete. I then attached the strip components onto each star, tested, (all was working properly) and then set them aside as a completed project. So, when set-up time came for the 2013 show, I pulled out all of my completed elements for the display including my cool new stars. A couple or 4 full days of setup plus a few evenings after work, I started wiring all controllers to the elements, again including my cool new stars. Once all setup was complete and all controllers wired and powered, time for a test. 4 stars did not work at all and the other 4 had several sections of the strip not lighting. Now I'm in troubleshooting mode.

 

To make a long one short, I discovered, while in storage, and the shorter wires I used (~3") coupled with the steep angles for the stars, the wires had pulled loose from the strip and taking the pre-tinned copper coating with it. Well with my soldering ability, I could not solder the wires back to the strips. With the copper removed from the pad, and me not being able to repair them, the strips went in the trash, and I had to resort to plan B, Coro stars from HolidayCoro. In 2014, those same stars will be used but will have the basic, 3 LED modules, 20 per star so no soldering except a pigtail to the already existing wires.

 

Just something to consider. The modules are a bit more expensive, but they are less fragile and will give you almost the same effect.

from your photo, seems like it should have worked.

Since these seem so delicate, I wonder if epoxing some perf board underneath each connection would have given it some extra support

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http://i1293.photobucket.com/albums/b595/boydchristmaslights/StripCorner_zpsbc95fa63.jpg

 

All good suggestions above. As another option though, I found this works quite well.

 

The reason I used more wire is, (see attached photo) last year I created dumb strip 5 sided stars, 8 of them, yes 80 times 8 solder joints, give or take. It took a week of a couple of hours a day and a whole Saturday to complete. I then attached the strip components onto each star, tested, (all was working properly) and then set them aside as a completed project. So, when set-up time came for the 2013 show, I pulled out all of my completed elements for the display including my cool new stars. A couple or 4 full days of setup plus a few evenings after work, I started wiring all controllers to the elements, again including my cool new stars. Once all setup was complete and all controllers wired and powered, time for a test. 4 stars did not work at all and the other 4 had several sections of the strip not lighting. Now I'm in troubleshooting mode.

 

To make a long one short, I discovered, while in storage, and the shorter wires I used (~3") coupled with the steep angles for the stars, the wires had pulled loose from the strip and taking the pre-tinned copper coating with it. Well with my soldering ability, I could not solder the wires back to the strips. With the copper removed from the pad, and me not being able to repair them, the strips went in the trash, and I had to resort to plan B, Coro stars from HolidayCoro. In 2014, those same stars will be used but will have the basic, 3 LED modules, 20 per star so no soldering except a pigtail to the already existing wires.

 

Just something to consider. The modules are a bit more expensive, but they are less fragile and will give you almost the same effect.

from your photo, seems like it should have worked.

Since these seem so delicate, I wonder if epoxing some perf board underneath each connection would have given it some extra support

That photo was showing a friend how to do it properly. The ones that failed for me were using about 3 inches of wire only. That's the reason the wire pulled loose. If I had done it the way the photo shows, I would have not had any problems.

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I cant speak about your strips, but mine seems to be made of something like Mylar a heavy plastic. I agree with what dgrant said about a low wattage iron and plenty of flux. Make sure you clean the tip often and just melt a small ball of solder on the tip to wet it before attempting to solder any thing. This wetted tip will help transfer heat to the wires or copper pad. I do not know how you where trying to make this 90 degree solder joint. But you will need some small wire to make the jump. There is no way you can do this without some small wire. Personally I think I would get some solid 22 ga wire. Strip it and form it to make the actual turn while the strips are already going straight. Solder the wires to the strips with no cross overs. Now your going to need to seal the wires and keep them from shorting to each other. As for me, I suppose I would just butter up the wires with the non-stinking RTV. I found it at home depot over where they have the plexy glass.

Mr. Max:

Everyone says to use low wattage soldering iron. All I have is a soldering station that I can adjust the heat. I reading that for electronic, which seems to be all over the board, from 650  F to 750 F. What is meant by low wattage? Low temperature? If so, what is low? I was planning to use the same Dumb strips around my windows too. Thanks

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Low wattage is usually so that you don't have too much heat available at the tip. Larger wattage irons usually have larger tips too and in this case, you need very small tips. Adjustable are nice since solder melts around 700 Deg depending on the type. I don't remember the exact melting temperature this moment but keeping the power down to just the bare minimum amount of heat needed would be best in this case. Nice thing about the adjustable's is that if you need a hair more heat, you can dial it up a hair! Who needs a 750 watt Weller soldering gun when working with something equivilent to 30-36 gauge traces. Smaller is better when it comes to soldering small stuff. 

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Ron,

Got it.

Did you do the windows on your avatar photo the same way?

No, those are CCPs. I will be changing them to 2811 modules this year and using the CCPs for a matrix.

Edited by Ron Boyd
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re: soldering iron temp:

I use an adjustable one also: for normal soldering of pcb boards, I use a small 1/16 tip at a temp of about 725 degrees.

 

There is a tradeoff of tip size vs temp, you can use a larger tip with a smaller temp depending on what your soldering.

Sounds like for these, a small tip with a cooler temp would be required. You can set the iron at 650 and try it, but don't keep the iron on it too long or you can damage the trace even at a cooler temp. Tin the trace first, use flux, and then solder the wires to it

One problem with a lower temp I have found, you tend to keep the tip on the part too long.

 

Soldering is a skill that can takes some practice.

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 wmilke

 

I do have a number of tips. Seems like everything from a pin point up to about a 1/4" tip. I have soldered wires and a few items on a pc, but nothing like this foil type I'm herein that these RGB strip have. Guess I'll just have to give it a try.

 

Thanks 

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20 or 30 watt would be in my mind a low wattage iron. I suppose I will tell you what I would do if I had a variable heat setting type of iron. Start off with the smallest tip (sounds like your came with different size tips). Determine what is the lowest temperature you can dial in that the iron will melt the solder. not crumbles it. Solder has to melt to a shiny liquid. Then turn it up about another 30 or so degrees to take in account of the heat sinking the leads will draw off.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It is best to mount the ribbon to some sort of substrate, use 18g stranded wire as the largest to solder to the ribbon.  Pigtail it to 16g wire for longer runs.  Make the substrate longer than your ribbon so that you can wire tie the pigtail to the substrate so that the ribbon doesn't get any flexing during setup/takedown/wind.  If you solder first and then mount the ribbon, the solder pads may get stressed while you're screwing around trying to get it mounted.

Edited by scubado
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