DIY Headlamp Project

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DIY Headlamp Project

Postby LukeM » Apr 30, 2010 10:46 pm

I got fed up with what was available on the market so I decided to make a winter project out of building a custom headlamp. Turned out to both cost more and take up more time than I ever anticipated but it was an awesome learning experience (way too much reading on the internet) that I'm really happy I went ahead with. The results I think at least give the high end commercial headlamps a run for their money, and in some ways one-ups them. The main goals with this project were in no special order:

    Rugged/Waterproof/Reliable
    Bright enough to be useful in supplementing strobes for cave photos, or even be used by itself for more confined shots. Also, able to dim to a reasonable level for hanging out/eating, etc.
    Options for both wide (right 2 leds), narrow (left), and combined beams (using the rotary switch)
    Neutral to warm color rather than the standard blueish led's
    Repairable/upgradeable without too much trouble - able to be visually inspected while in a cave.
    Good efficiency and therefore good battery life
    Cost around $100...ended up costing around $200 including the fancy battery and various shipping costs from all over the world
    As compact as possible while meeting the above goals

I pretty much achieved all these goals except for the cost and possibly the low brightness not being quite as dim as I'd like. Also, I would always like a less bulky headlamp, although it's not as bad as some I've seen. It seems to be pretty waterproof from my limited testing. It's pretty much a short section of 3"x2" Aluminum tubing with an aluminum plate on the back and thick acrylic on the front, all sandwiched together with 4 machine screws and some gaskets.

It puts out about 700-750 theoretical lumens on it's highest setting, and about 30 lumens on the lowest. On high the LED's are being driven over spec, but they're mounted on a pretty big chunk of aluminum so they should be fine as long as I don't keep it on high for a whole trip. I haven't actually done real life testing for the runtime on the battery I have but it should get about 5 hours on high, 24 hours on medium, and 4 days on low according to my calculations. It definitely heats up pretty well when on high, although it seemed to have been on high for a good chunk of time during the drive out to a cave the other day (whoops) and though it was hot, the thermal protection didn't seem to have kicked in. The li-ion battery I'm using is a little overkill so I'll probably swap that out for one that's 1/2 the size/capacity/battery life. Still plenty of juice for just about any trip.

For those who are interested in the more technical stuff it uses 4 Cree XP-E R2 bin Led's and the hipFlex driver from TaskLED. I can't praise this driver board enough. Many of the settings are programmable, like max output, thermal protection temp, warning voltage, cutoff voltage, and you can mess with the lighting modes. I was going to get a cheaper driver and just make it work but I'm glad I went with this as it allows for a lot of flexibility should I want to change anything somewhere down the line. Also, George from TaskLED offers some of the best product support I've ever experienced. (and I needed the help!) The headlamp has some level of built in redundancy in the fact that it has 2 separate and independent strings of LED's. If one led goes, disabling a series string, (probably not the most likely failure mode, although it could happen) I can switch from wide to narrow beam, or vise versa to resolve the issue.

Tried it out in a cave for the first time the other day and was very pleased with how it worked. I don't think I'll really trust it fully till I have a few more lengthy trips with it. The big button is super easy to manipulate and the rotary switch is a great way to switch between beams. Overall, I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. :grin: If you have the time and the inclination I would definitely recommend building a headlamp to anyone leaning in that direction. I had only the most basic understanding of electronics (like...what I learned in middle school) when I started, and still only understand just enough. If it were't for the Internet and the various light modding/building communities out there I never could have conceived of doing this.

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Re: DIY Headlamp Project

Postby fellglenn » Apr 30, 2010 10:55 pm

Sweet deal dude. When making something, the prototype is always expensive. Keep it up!
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Re: DIY Headlamp Project

Postby NZcaver » May 2, 2010 3:44 pm

Good job! :wtg:
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Re: DIY Headlamp Project

Postby JR-Orion » May 4, 2010 12:51 pm

Very nice. If they don't sell what you want, make your own.

:kewl:

What color temp did you go with on the LEDs to get the neutral to warm look?
Letting the days go by / water flowing underground
Into the blue again / in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones / there is water underground.
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Re: DIY Headlamp Project

Postby LukeM » May 4, 2010 3:52 pm

Thanks for the comments everyone.

JR-Orion wrote:What color temp did you go with on the LEDs to get the neutral to warm look?


They're the 4D tint which equates to somewhere just a bit under 4500k. Compared to your average LED headlamp it appears warm, but compared to household interior lighting it's on the cool side.
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Re: DIY Headlamp Project

Postby NatureHilde » May 8, 2011 8:52 pm

I know I'm posting in a rather older thread, but I wanted to compliment LukeM on his wonderful DIY headlamp prototype. Found the prototype images on a Google Image search. =)

I'm fairly new to the world of caving and frankly, many of the headlamps I've tried on have been rather bulky -- not to mention aggravating when they overheat. I wouldn't mind trying on something like what you've got. Maybe I ought to make one for myself! Where did you get the actual flashlights from? Has anyone on here ever used flashlightz.com to buy their lights? Lookin' for places to shop.

Either way, I'm rambling. Awesome pics, Luke!!! How'd the headlamp project end up working out for you? =)
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