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Ferris Wheel using 2 revolving controllers


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I built the above contraption last year for grins and to see if it was technically possible.

It's not pretty in the day time and was meant to view at night only and is integrated into my light show.

To see a wonderfull more true to life Ferris Wheel, go to GaryBo's thread under "My Christmas Wheel For Christmas".

The wheel is 8 ft diameter and is driven by 1 1/2 motor at two speeds and either direction.


Here, you can see the motor and reduction unit on the left. In the center are the slip rings. they are paired with the other pair on the other side. The revolving cotrollers have about an inch clearance in the enclosure.


Here you can see the wires coming out of the controllers and going into the 4 ft 1 1/2 pipe and then of course out the front to the wheel.

I didn't take any pictures during construction but will be happy to answer any questions.
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I'll do that in a day or two Brian. It'll be a link to just a short clip. The Ferris Wheel isn't the whole show so it isn't on all the time or for a full sequence or song.

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Thanks Jeff.

I can take pictures showing the details anytime. Tell me what in particular your interested in and I'll take some close ups and offer some explanations.

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Noticed an error in my description of the motor. It's a 1/4 hp motor. With a total gear reduction of about 140, it's more than enough to power the wheel.

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That's really cool. I've been toying with a ferris wheel/ Carousel for the last couple of years. It's on the "wouldn't it be nice" list...

Your design is outstanding though!!!Kudos!

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Really neat.

How do you keep the electrical connections intact while going in circles?

(or is that the magic?)

Oh duh -- the entire controller spins with it !!! Wow!!!

So how to the incoming electrical connection deal with it?

Or do you do 5 turns right, then go 5 turns left ?

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Thanks Evan.

This design is pretty robust and can handle 200-300 lbs easily on the wheel. It can handle much more but you would need to add weight to the rear to keep it balanced.

I considered making it a full scale Ferris wheel with cars and all but then I wasn't sure how to integrate it into a light show properly.

That's the dilemma here and it would be true of a Merry-Go-Round as well. Their neat and can be a nice visual in the daytime and nighttime but having the lights flash off and on with other lights in a show would be unrealistic, at least in my humble opinion.

This integration is without precedence and I don't have the artistic bent or skill yet to visualize such a thing. This is why I opted for the simple wheel for now.

By the bye, if another wire was snaked through the pipe such as a number 12 to act as a neutral, this could handle 64 channels using 4 controllers. The circuit boards would need to be removed from their enclosures and stacked but it's definitely do-able. I currently have difficulty fully utilizing the existing 32 however.

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Thanks Tay.

I did tell some people that it turned one way for a while and then unwound the other way but too many people believed it.

In the middle of the shaft are slip rings that allow 110v voltage to be fed constantly to the controllers while in motion. The LOR signal is fed to the controllers using LOR linkers. If you look closely at the rear of the unit, you can see one linker on one of the controllers and a stationary linker near the bottom.

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Brian Mitchell wrote:

That must look so cool at night. I hope you get some video of it so we can see it in action.

Brian, I crudely put togeather an animated only light show to demo the Ferris Wheel at http://www.kinseyse.com/fw-demo-1.wmv.

It's not data streamed so the download is long before it begins but it'll give you an idea.

I'm having problems with my ISP changing servers so I can't update it to a better version until later. I hope this will suffice until then.
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Jeff, here are some pictures for you to ponder.


The rings were cut from copper pipe, a union or coupler as I remember. The white insulator beneath is pvc piping. I had a machine shop turn these down. I tried to do it by hand but they turned out too rough. the number 14 wires were soldered to the backsides of the copper. The soldering has to be precise as there's little clearance between the soldered joint and the steel pipe. They can't touch, other than the ground wire of course.

You can see three wires in this photo but there are three more on the other side. two hot wires, two neutrals and two grounds that are joined in the receptacle box.

The brushes are also paired, the other three are in the rear. My reasoning here was that I wanted clean voltage to the controllers and if one brush for any reason hits a dirty spot on the copper commutator, the other will carry the load.

The brushes (6) I purchased at a truck parts store. I asked for the largest truck engine starter brushes he had. They were surpisingly cheap.

The brush holder assembly is made out of plastic that I cut with a band saw and drilled for bolts.


Here's a view showing the 3 of the 6 wires coming out from the commutator (or slip ring). The clamp shown supports the controller boxes on one end.


This view is the underside of the brush block. The brushes have two copper straps each. The brush blocks are adjustable and each brush has a spring pushing it against the commutator. I had to guess what size spring to use. Too heavy a spring and you'll prematurely wear out the brush, not a major problem but wearing out the commutator would be a real pain to replace. Too weak a spring and you may have voltage drops which the controllers would not like at all. The minimal wear visible on the copper is from last years use. I would guess the total run time for last year is probably about 20 hours which includes a lot of test time so at that rate the commutator should last forever or at least my life time.

I hope this helps a little.

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It's a tight fit but just to be safe I put hose clamps on each end to hold the PVC (insulator) from turning. The inside of each copper commutator has two wires soldered inside (opposite sides) as mentioned and the wire snakes between the pvc so there is no way the copper can turn (slip) on the pipe

The spring is between the brush's wires. I may need to send you a drawing here as it's difficult to explain. If it still doesn't make sense, I'll draw up something.

I've checked electrical suppliers for slip rings but didn't find anything that suited me or was within my budget. Note that the larger the pipe the larger will be your bearings and these aren't cheap. 1 1/2 inch pipe was the smallest size I found that I could snake 32 pairs of common extension wires through.

An explanation is needed here. I cut off the male plugs and pulled the wires through the pipe towards to rear and then inserted them into the controllers so the female plug in the front near the wheel was available.

If you want to reduce the pipe size to 1 inch, you might consider going with smaller wires and using one large neutral wire. Let me explain that. You could snake just 16 extension cords through the pipe plus say a number 12 electrical wire to act as a neutral. You would then use each extension wire for to channels. You would have to remove all plugs of course and hard wire everything together.


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Jeff Millard wrote:

All great ideas. I use shared neutrals in the cables I made for my mega tree. However, if I was to design a wheel that had the SSRs in PVC pods on the wheel, the only thing I'd have to snake through the pipe would be ribbon cable and a couple #12 cords to power them. The new DIO32 controller coming out would be just the ticket. I wonder if it would be possible to get the RS485 data through a set of slip rings without too much noise. That would remove the need to use ELLs. I also have a good source for used bearings. Now I have to drop this subject for a while. If I change directions from the stuff I currently have on my plate... I won't be ready for 2009. I'm so far behind with my upgrades to my display that I am skipping 2008. I made some big moves this year and had a half dozen things get in the way of getting it done.

Thank you for the information. I plan to visit a place in south Jersey called Fazzio's. It has new and used parts and all kinds of electrical, mechanical, industrial, thingamajigs imaginable. Anything the male mide would find interesting is located at Fazzio's. I saw a couple assemblys that might cover me where the brushes are concerned.


Hey Jeff,

I can't answer you about the possibility of passing a signal through my brushes as I've never looked at the power on a scope. A signal would have much less amperage also which might effect how much noise is generated by the brushes.

I've been thinking about your Ferris Wheel and the possibilities.

First, I'll assume that it'll be more conventional looking in that it'll be supported on both sides instead of one like mine. This has a lot of pluses.

Industrial slip rings tend to be of a design to go on the end of a shaft instead of the middle like mine. That means that you could put one on each end of the Ferris Wheel shaft, one for power (110v) and one for a signal.

You could then put the controller/s on the shaft itself or for a cleaner look, put it/them under/in one of the cars.

I pondered how you would drive such a wheel. You could wrap the wheel with a long bicycle chain and have a stationary motor at the ground level with a drive sprocket. There would probably be enough friction between the chain and the wheel that you wouldn't need to put a sprocket on the wheel which would be almost impossible anyway. You would need some guides to keep the chain in alignment and a spring loaded idler to keep tension on the chain.

Just some thoughts to ponder,

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For those that are interested, I've put a demo clip on my site at: http://www.kinseyse.com/FW_demo_1.ram

It's data streamed now but still a copy of a previous one that's pretty crude and without music.

I'm still trying to put together a good demo or maybe just clip a copy of my last sequence.


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