SAUCER ENGINES

 This page is part of my Model Remodel series of articles.

DISCLAIMER: If you choose to attempt any of these modifications, you assume all risks thereof. I just wanted to share my experiences here. Neither Fanhome, nor myself, are responsible for any damages that may occur.


As I was completing Stage 99 of the Model Remodel version of our 1:900 scale U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D build, I decided to try and upgrade the lights inside the Impulse Engines of the Saucer. I had recently replaced the lighting inside my Deflector Dish with very narrow COB LED Strips and a friend of mine (@PitstainHobbies) said ‘well, why can’t these be also used inside the saucer engines’. Well, he gave it a try and they do fit! We teamed up to dial in a proper brightness and here is the result of our work!

NOTE: This mod could also be done using the stock build. I feel if you cut the LED off the stock wires and connected these LED Strips (and new resistor) in their place (paying attention to the wiring polarity), I believe it should function in the same way. 


Preparing the LED Strips

I ordered a meter of the 2.7mm 5VDC Red COB LED Strip and was happily surprised to find out that the smallest sections it can be cut into fit perfectly inside our Saucer Impulse housings! The biggest issue working with these tiny strips is accessing the soldering points – they are hiding along the back, and we need to peel away not just the backing paper, but the adhesive as well to access them:

I soldered about 12″ of 2-wire cable (I used 26AWG conductor wire here as it will be low power) to the pads of the LED Strip – red to the +5V (+) pad and black to the unmarked Ground (-) pad:

At the other end of the cable, I cut about 3″ of the black wire off and soldered a 1KΩ Resistor to the remaining end. This LED Strip does not require a resistor at all, but adding one serves to dim it down a bit as it is very bright. The higher the resistance value, the dimmer it will be – at least until it does not light at all. Remember to use pieces of heat-shrink tubing here to protect your solder joints:

Next, I soldered the bit of black wire I cut off onto the free end of the resistor. This was to bring the ends of both the red and black wires back to approximately the same overall length:

I repeated this entire process to solder another length of cable onto a second short piece of LED Strip. Once completed, I brought the two red wires and two black wires together and soldered them to each other, as shown:


Repainting the Saucer Impulse Housings (Optional)

Since we are already modifying the Saucer Impulse Engine lighting, I figured it was also a good time to improve the paint job on the housings. The paint here is thin and can leak light. To improve them, I first used small pieces of adhesive putty to block off in the ‘exhaust’ openings:

Next, I airbrushed these housings with Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black acrylic paint to improve the light blocking:

Then, I airbrushed them with Tamiya XF-24 Dark Grey acrylic paint. I found this to be a very close match to the original color:

Once the putty was removed, this is what we have left. You may also want to put a light coat of Tamiya X-19 Smoke onto the red area to darken it down. I did this same thing back when we worked on our Main Impulse Engine:

Finally, I pulled some cotton from the ends of a Cotton Swab and used it to fill the interior of the housings. This will help diffuse the light, add some texture, and hide any hot spots on the LED Strip that might be visible:


Installation

With the Saucer Impulse Engine housings removed, we can pull out the stock rectangular LEDs and disconnect them both from the Arduino:

Next, we install our new COB LED Strip assemblies and route them out through the same openings in the Lower Skeleton:

Since we reduced the current draw of the new LED Strips with the resistors (below 20mA), it also means we can use a single pin on the Arduino to power them. I connected the red (+) leads to the same Pin 8 as the stock lights and the black (-) leads to the nearby GND pin:

Then, we can fit each LED Strip behind their respective housings and slide it all down into the stock location, as shown:

Finally, once power is applied, these light up with a much more even glow and the cotton gives it a spooky gaseous appearance. Love it!

Next Section


 MOBILE APP – Finding a way to control the model using a custom interface

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