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theblondskeleton 07-20-2012 06:36 AM

DIY LED with MakersLED Heat Sink
So: research, research (see the DIY LED FAQ about all that mess), blah, blah, purchase, wait... BUILD! Woohoo! I'm working on this in my living room, by the way - I do not have a shop or any other space that works for this. Time becomes a huge issue, as my wife gets pretty annoyed with the mess and the odors of my gadgetry. I have to work quickly and efficiently to keep the peace :) As for the heat sink, some might feel it's not rightly DIY as it isn't built from whatever hunk of aluminum I could find, and they're partly right. I feel that this is more of an LED hobby kit than a proper DIY, but no worries :) It's still an awesome light!

The basic design is 2x18" heat sinks with 28 white Cree XT-E LEDs and 6 Bridgelux Moonlights all with 60 degree optics for an ADA 120P. I plan to hang this about 10"-12" above my tank. I went with 2@18" sections rather than 1@48" in case I wanted to downgrade these lights in the future for say, a 90-P. This setup is totally modular, so I can replace anything or tear it down and start over again.

I am using a DIM4 Controller for sunrise and sunset effects. I'm using 2 Inventronics 40W 700mA dimmable drivers (one for each Cool White and Neutral White), and the moonlights will be driven by the DIM4. Things I added are 2x12' medium duty extension cord for power to the drivers, one 8' section of 3/4" u-channel aluminum for joining and hanging the fixture, various nuts, bolts, eyebolts, wires, 60/40 solder, rubber grommets, heat shrink, plastic conduit, 1/4" clear acrylic sheet, sweat, and a little cursing here and there.

Pre-tinning my emitters and wires, to make assembly smooth and efficient:

Here's the heat sink. It's really a pretty gorgeous piece of aluminum. many might just be ok with a regular heat sink, but I really like the rugged construction, utility, and polish of this setup. It comes with plastic caps for the ends that can be drilled for wire access, etc. You'll see as I go along what I did with mine.

There I was lining the grooves with my bolts to get my pattern laid out. I had already drawn up a good diagram of how I wanted to lay out and wire the thing, so this was pretty easy. It was time consuming putting vinyl washers and nuts on the bolts. Ugh.

I also labeled each spot with the direction I wanted to mount the leads, so everything lined up smoothly. More on that adventure later. I used a wet-erase marker, and just wiped it off with alcohol and a paper towel.

I started to attach the emitters, one color at a time: Cool White, Neutral White, and Royal Blue for moonlights:

A dab of thermal grease to smooth things out...

...and ta-daaa!

I apparently didn't get any shots of the wiring process, but suffice it to say, It was relatively swift. My one hangup was when I decided to drive each color independently, so I replotted my wiring. This led to space issues when it came to my drivers. I originally didn't want to keep the drivers on the light itself, but necessity dictated that I do so. It works out ok, but the light weighs about 20 pounds now, haha... hanging this might be fun. So, the drivers for the cool white are on one heat sink, and the driver for the neutral white are on the other. This meant I had to creatively deal with hiding wires. Here's what I came up with.

I drilled through the base of the heat sink to the top and grommeted the hole with a rubber wiring grommet to prevent shredding of the wires. I did this for both heat sinks. The wires go up to the top and straight to the driver. I did this on the back for the power cords, too.

I don't have pics of my first power-up as that was when I had my first round of fervent cursing. I had wired one heat sink's cool whites to the other heat sink's neutral whites. D'oh! There goes my nice and neat color coding for my lights. the solution I chose was much more time and patience friendly. I just switched a few connections, and presto!

And with the neutral whites added in:

Here's a look at how the drivers, fans, and controllers are set up. The fan on the left is without a housing, temporarily. It was forgotten in packaging :icon_redf

A shot down the long edge so you can see how the wiring is hidden, as well as the end caps for the heat sink. The DIM4 is fastened to a 1/4" sheet of acrylic, and slid into the gap above the heat sink fins. I didn't enclose it as it needs to be cooled as well. I might figure something out for that though. For now, it's accessible and safe from water.

A shot of the emitters and wacky wiring:

A final shot from the front, with sleepy puppy:

I would absolutely buy this kit again. It is super versatile and made assembly mostly painless. Best of all, it looks great - I can't wait to see it over my tank! I just need to wait on an A/C adapter for the DIM4 (the one I have is a little short on current to support all my gadgets at once), and the fan housing from LED Group Buy.

fplata 07-20-2012 05:36 PM

where did you get all of the parts, this looks awesome

xenxes 07-20-2012 06:30 PM

Very cool, how much did all that cost you?

sunyang730 07-20-2012 06:59 PM

You got a scary cat over there with nice LED eyes. LOL

theblondskeleton 07-20-2012 07:36 PM


Originally Posted by fplata (Post 1950429)
where did you get all of the parts, this looks awesome

Thank, im pretty happy with it! I got pretty much everything from LED Group Buy. They are a sponsor here on the forum. It's pretty much one-stop shopping :) The aluminum spacers, extruded u-channel, and random nuts and bolts I got at Home Depot.

Off topic, if you don't have a multimeter, get one - it's very helpful when trouble shooting :)


Originally Posted by xenxes (Post 1950500)
Very cool, how much did all that cost you?

Well, I got free shipping for ordering on the 4th of July, but total around $500 including the controller. If I had built my own drivers, it would have been considerably cheaper. I also could have gone with cheaper LEDs, but the XT-E's are only about $4 apiece with comparable performance to an XP-G. I expect a huge difference in my electric bill. Soon enough, this fixture will pay for itself!


Originally Posted by sunyang730 (Post 1950538)
You got a scary cat over there with nice LED eyes. LOL

Wow, I hadn't noticed that! Ha! She looks like a Cylon to me....

I just finished hanging this a minute ago. The difference is astounding! The shadows are sharper enhancing the texture of my rocks, the shimmer is pretty but not overwhelming, and there is only a small sliver of the tank that is in the dimmer portion of the beam. This is lower light than I had with the T5HO's (or at least it appears to be so) so I will see some slower growth, but that's what I was aiming for. Still, I'm seeing pearling almost immediately.

I will have to report back on the DIM4 controller, however. I have a suspicion that it will not dim as effectively as I want. We'll see!

theblondskeleton 07-20-2012 08:25 PM

According to Hoppy's LED Calculator I have approximately 52 PAR at my substrate and 75 PAR at mid-tank. At upgrade time, I'll likely go with a 1100 mA driver and raise the fixture to get more even coverage and have more flexibility if I want higher light later. For now, this will do very nicely :)

theblondskeleton 07-21-2012 07:08 PM

Installed My only complaint is that the hanging bar is pretty high. I may shorten the wires and lower the bar so that the fixture is closer to the bar and it doesn't look as funny. I did reinstall the hanging bars so that the bars are on the sides of the aquarium. This way they are not visible when viewing the aquascape:

Pardon the crummy iPhone pics :)

Algae Beater 07-21-2012 09:26 PM

usually im not a fan of most DIY LED lighting systems (girlfriend dislikes ugly things ) , but this one looks as well as it performs! good show!

theblondskeleton 07-23-2012 07:11 AM


Originally Posted by Algae Beater (Post 1951992)
usually im not a fan of most DIY LED lighting systems (girlfriend dislikes ugly things ) , but this one looks as well as it performs! good show!

Thanks! My wife was a little concerned at first, but she loves it almost as much as I do. Admittedly, she is mostly impressed that I put it together without burning the house down, haha...

I got my new ac adapter yesterday, so I'll be installing that and the fan housing tomorrow.

theblondskeleton 08-27-2012 05:39 AM

Update time! I reinstalled the hanging wires at a shorter distance, and raised the fixture a few inches. I also reduced the current a bit. It seems I was getting much more light from this than I originally calculated. It has warmed up quite nicely. Even at the greater height, there is very little glare with the optics installed. It makes it very pleasant to view my aquarium. Absolutely loving this, and so are my plants. No trouble getting color from my Rotala, and everything looks super healthy!

Btw, six bridgelux blues are too much for moonlights. I have to keep them cranked WAY down. Almost no use at this level. Might replace them with some warm whites to bring out the reds and oranges a bit.

wastedtime 08-27-2012 02:52 PM

Looking good, How are you hanging the lights ? I checked and didnt see any hanging kits for the Makers LED Heatsink.

theblondskeleton 08-28-2012 05:29 AM

Thanks! I installed several eyebolts across the aluminum u-channel - 4 for each fixture. There is a 3/8" (approx) bolt channel at the top of the heat sink you can use as well. I attached stainless steel braided wire (picture hanging wire rated for 50lbs) with ferrules across each pair of eyebolts. Instead of using the stops, I just crimped the ferrules. It's just slung over the hanging pipe at about 4". Looks super clean, even with the power cables. I'll post a pic when I get a chance.

IWANNAGOFAST 08-28-2012 05:35 AM

Your thread inspired me to try out this kit on my next tank. Very excited for it all to come in!

theblondskeleton 08-28-2012 05:38 AM

Excellent! You won't be disappointed. I think it's very well thought out and it looks great. The ability to change things if I don't like them and upgrade in the future is priceless, in my opinion :) have fun!

Algae Beater 08-28-2012 08:25 AM

the warm whites are quite good at bring out reds! i have XP-G warm whites in one of my lighting systems and they really make the red plants pop! and have the bonus of having the highest CRI of any LED :D

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