DIY wireless firework control

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I take no responsibility for your actions in regards to this information. Always take safety precautions when handling any explosive/dangerous materials.

This is a project that I finished for last years Fourth of July. It was actually intended for the year prior to that, but rushing to finish led to a dead controller board, so I had to postpone its use a year. Despite some incidents involving the fireworks themselves, the controller worked great. Sadly I don’t have anything in terms of in progress photos, but hopefully you’ll be able to make sense of it.

DSC_6198

This box has 3 modes: off, on, and fire. Power is supplied to the relay board (the microcontroller, but not the individual relays) by turning the key to on. Flipping the toggle to test mode allows me to check the connections on the electronic igniters. This is done by making a circuit through each led and terminal block with a high resistance resistor. There is enough amperage to light the led, but not heat up the nichrome wire. When the toggle is flipped to on, power is removed from the test circuit, and the 12v wire going to the relays on the relay board is energized. The entire system is then controlled by a remote box, which is a modified version of the original remote that comes with the kit. You can you the original remote as is, but (due to the lack of an on off switch and key) it is highly discouraged.

There are a few main parts to this project, they are:

  • The controller board
  • The remote
  • Charging circuit
  • Main panel
  • DIY electronic igniters

The first step is obtaining the remote control relay board. I picked mine up on ebay, although their selection seems to have changed slightly since I purchased mine. (edit: I guess people have been having luck ordering the transmitters here and the receivers here) Despite this, the idea is the same, and as long as you know how a relay works, you’ll be fine. In order to save myself time, as well as make the board a bit more reliable, I decided to wire up all of the relays so that one side of the relay was connected to 12v, when the board was in the fire position. I also beefed up the wiring going between the terminal and the relay. I considered mounting this board onto the box, but I decided to let is simply float around inside. This allowed for some isolation from the shock that the fireworks could produce (there are some reports of relays being triggered by such repercussions). To electrically isolate the board, I used some zip ties in each hole (to provide spacing), a piece of plexiglass (ok, part of a cd cover) and some hot glue. This all can be seen in the photo below.

DSC_6204

(note, there actually was a jumper wire like that on the bottom, I just replaced it when adding the 12v rail)

The remote wiring is simply removing the old buttons, figuring out the circuit a bit, and then wiring up new switches in their place. LEDs were added for power and transmit indication, and two switches (key and toggle, just as on the main box) were added for power control. I’m not going to go into any detail here, as you can get away with the original remote, just make sure to keep the battery out until you are ready to fire.

DSC_6221

DSC_6236DSC_6237DSC_6231

I took the easy route with the charging circuit, and ripped one out of an old car jump starter that had a dead battery. This just required the relocation of the status button, as well as the leds. I’m not sure if it was needed, but I relocated the voltage regulator with a piece of scrap heatsink, as it ran very hot. I was feeling unimaginative with indicator layout, so I just used the sticker from the original indicators. The battery is just a standard 7ah 12 volt sealed lead battery, very similar to the dead one it replaced. This can be best seen in the shot below, as the board that is placed perpendicular to the main panel. Note: you can always take the even easier route, and just use an external charging circuit.

To help explain to some extent this circuit: The blue wires coming off that board go to a transformer, which was originally on a much shorter wire. Following the transformer, you can see the yellow wires, which lead into my hotglue mess (I wanted to make sure those lines were well insulated and secure) of a power socket. This is a standard psu connector that I ripped from an (you guessed it) old power supply. The 12v (ish) off the charger then heads to the fuse, where one wire heads towards the battery for charging, and the other goes to the main key switch seen with the red electrical tape. That key switch energizes 3 things: The relay board microcontroller, the power led seen above it, and then the toggle switch next to it (green wire). When the switch is in the down position, power flows out the green wire, and to the clusters of resistors for the leds, which test for continuity in each channel (by connecting to the positive terminal). When in the up position, power flows to the yellow wire, and thus the relays on the board are energized and waiting for a signal. The giant cluster of red wires you see coming of the relay board, simply go to the positive block on each terminal. The ground rail is much simpler: all non test leds, the negative side of battery, the negative terminal on the relay board, all connect to black negative wire that goes around the 12 negative terminals.

DSC_6200 DSC_6202

The igniters are almost whole project in themselves. Although you can also take the non DIY approach: buy some model rocket ignters, get a fireworks certification to buy commercial firework igniters. Neither option was that cheap, so I decided to make my own.

DSC_6206

Building these requires 3 ingredients:

  • Nitrocellulose (aka ping pong balls)
  • Black powder (I just used pyrodex)
  • Acetone

And these materials/supplies:

  • Small gauge wire (solid core cat 3,5 is great for this)
  • Nichrome wire (ebay again!) I found that 40ga works well, but its a bit hard to wrap
  • Ball mill (I didn’t have one, so it was an old rock tumbler to the rescue)
  • Lead media (lead balls about the size of marbles)

The problem with most black powder is that it is too course for our application. To make it smaller, simply fill maybe a 3rd of the mill with black powder, and then about the same amount with lead media (again, didn’t have a mill, so I just used lead fishing lures). Be sure to use only lead media, you do not want any sparks forming. To be extra safe, make sure to only run the mill outdoors, with some distance put between you and the mill with an extension cord before you plug it in. I just let this run overnight, and was presented with a fine powder in the morning.

While the mill is doing its thing, you can get your Nitrocellulose mixture going. Take some scissors, cut up 4 or so balls into smallish pieces (the smaller you cut, the less time it takes to dissolve). This is then placed into a glass container with some Acetone. It will take time for the plastic to dissolve, so its best to just stir it every few hours until it has the consistency of elmer’s glue (it will look like it too, but don’t be fooled, it is very flammable in its current form). Once this is done, and your black powder is ready, you can start adding the powder to your acetone mix. This will have quite a thicker consistency, but you don’t want to add too much, otherwise the BP will crumble off the tip of your igniters.

If you’ve made it this far congratulations, and now for the most tedious part: wiring the igniters. Essentially you get to strip wire 48 times (12 ch x 2 wires per channel x 2 ends to each wire). Next, you wrap the nichrome wire around one end, bend it downward, and then wrap the other wire. Finally, you dip it into the mixture made earlier.

DSC_6209DSC_6211DSC_6213DSC_6219

To connect between the terminals and the igniters, I used lengths of speaker wire with alligator clips attached to the ends (as shown below).

IMG_6490

The igniters are simply taped to the ends of the fuse. Some use electrical tape for this, but I prefer aluminum tape that is normally used for ducts.

The end result:

IMG_6654

IMG_6541

I would just like to thanks the folks at the pyrouniverse.com forums, this wouldn’t have been possible without them.

48 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. Awesome dude, great concept and I love the look and function. Now i have a side-project for spring break!!

    Comment by R. Martin — March 24, 2008 #

  2. You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.

    Seriously, I hope you have safety in mind.
    (okay that’s out of the way)

    AWESOME INDEED!
    Very neat work and obviously quite successful!

    My very first RC hack was a setup to release a smoke bomb from a small RC truck. Your project is WAY nicer, but still brought back great memories.

    -and that guy who laughed at me?
    Well when the thing went off early in testing one of my fingers was blown into his eye so hard it disconnected his optic nerve and he’s blind permanently on that side now.

    That’ll teach him.

    Comment by strider_mt2k — March 25, 2008 #

  3. I made a similar device a while back for lighting smoke pots, flash pots, and the like for stage performances. (sadly, said stage performances never materialized. ‘artists’.. bah!)

    Although, I was using model rocket ignitors. Buying packs of motors just for the ignitors get rediculous. Nice ignitor making trick. Ill have to remember it.

    A precaution: use well out of signal reach of garage door openers, RC cars, walki-talkie toys, cordless house phones (only a problem for those made in the 90s ;) and anything else generating RF. Some RF relay kits are a bit ‘dumb’ and dont discriminate too much.

    Comment by MRE — March 25, 2008 #

  4. There’s actually encoding that is done on both the receiver and transmitter by jumpering the same pads either high or low, so rf interference actually isn’t that big of a deal (I just didn’t bother to include that detail in my article).

    Comment by tuckie — March 25, 2008 #

  5. [...] (Via) [...]

    Pingback by forse mi serviva questo … « emaaaanuele.wordpress.com — March 25, 2008 #

  6. Very nice. I’ve been wanting to make one of these for a long time, just never got around to it. 12 seems like too few devices though, and its always fun to set off fireworks with a torch, especially when you have cases of fireworks lined up.

    email me and i’ll send you the video.

    Hopefully i can make one of these soon, they are always handy, either fireworks, or stage flashpots, or landmines for filming a war movie….

    Comment by nj chris — March 25, 2008 #

  7. Sorry, hate to leave more than one comment, but how long does it take to actuate the relay once you push the button? Instant or a slight delay? (think x10 modules)

    Comment by nj chris — March 25, 2008 #

  8. I know exactly what you mean when you say x10 delay ;) The actuation on the relays are instant, although it may take up to a second for the igniter to ignite. If you are making flashpots or something similar, you may be able to get away with just putting the nichrome in the middle of the flash powder.

    Comment by tuckie — March 25, 2008 #

  9. Is this thing legal? The electronics part is cool, sounds like a fun project…but putting the know how of how to make detonators on the internet for ANYBODY (yes, including stupid kids) to see…I just wouldn’t want to be liable for some dummie using this the wrong way. Keep up the good articles though…thanks.-jr

    Comment by jr — March 25, 2008 #

  10. They are not detonators, they are ignitors. The equivalent can be purchased in any model rocket kit in the toy isle of any Walmart. Put a match in some steel wool and touch a 9V battery for the same thing. Yes I know, keep your kids safe through obscurity rather than education in the true American way.

    Comment by keystoneclimber — March 26, 2008 #

  11. First, I’d like to refer anyone interested in fireworks to the Pyrotechnics Guild International (www.pgi.org), also to local fireworks clubs and fireworks display companies. They can help you learn more about the use and construction of fireworks, including safety and legal information. The annual PGI Convention is the fireworks worlds’ annual get-together (both professionals and hobbyists) and trade show, with eight+ days and nights of fireworks displays and demos, classes on building fireworks, fellow enthusiasts to talk to, and much more. http://www.pgi.org.

    Also see http://www.skylighter.com for books and supplies.

    There are several safety and issues to watch out for here.

    First, while BP mixes are relatively insensitive, PLEASE wear gloves, goggles or a face-shield, and long-sleeve cotton (non-static-generating) clothing. Plastic clothing such as nylon can melt and stick to your skin; cotton won’t. If your clothing is generating static when you move and you’re handling explosive material, your chances of an accident go WAY up.

    Second, ball-milling (or mortar-and-pestle grinding) any explosive mixture such as Pyrodex or black powder is NOT a good idea! One spark or excessive friction and it’ll go bang, probably throwing shrapnel. At least make sure nobody is nearby if it goes!

    Third, speaking of the BATF, local sheriff, bomb squad, fire marshal, etc., give some consideration to your legal position and the hysteria over terrorism and “dangerous chemicals”. If you have an accident or an anxious neighbor calls the authorities, count on some legal problems and being arrested.

    Indian reservations are often a good place to go play (clear it with the tribe and/or a buddy who lives there first!).

    If you can find (or start) a local fireworks club (see the links at http://www.pgi.org) you can share the time and $ cost of getting permits, licensing and insurance, so you can play with this stuff without getting in trouble, AND have friends to share your interests.

    Play hard, have fun, nobody hurt!

    Comment by pyro — March 28, 2008 #

  12. [...] sent in his wireless fireworks controller. The electronic parts are off the shelf – a 12 channel relay board and remote provide the guts. He [...]

    Pingback by Wireless fireworks controller | Development Feeds — April 8, 2008 #

  13. I’m trying to keep away from reading posts like this. It is totally meaningless. Ain’t it shame to post rubbish like this?

    Comment by giantmtb1 — April 11, 2008 #

  14. that is realy cool i saw it on hackaday.com i have been looking all over for a good fireworks ignitor like this. if you could please email me the schematic for your wiring or any more info about this project it would be great!
    kenl92@aim.com

    Thanks alot

    A++++++

    Comment by kenny — April 14, 2008 #

  15. Sadly a schematic was never made, it existed solely in my head. For stuff that’s very similar take a look in the firing systems section on pyrouniverse.com

    Comment by tuckie — April 15, 2008 #

  16. Wow this is really cool – I’ve always thought of something like this every time we’re setting off fireworks and people running are running around with lighter and matches.

    Comment by Fingerling — September 27, 2008 #

  17. i want buy one

    Comment by sandra — November 3, 2008 #

  18. [...] core information for duplicating the device can be found, but no hardware schematic. PyroFactor: Read Permalink  |   Email This [...]

    Pingback by Wireless Firework Controller | PyroElectro - News, Projects & Tutorials — January 1, 2009 #

  19. This site is great! Thank you very much. I needed to make a lot of squibs for gunshot effects in a film and they require model rocket igniters. These aren’t very cheap and as you point out, not very reliable. I used a variation of your igniter design and it works perfectly.

    Here it is:

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap_reliable_easily_mass_produced_squibs_for_gu/

    I found that a cheap source for the nicrome wires is old hair driers. I got mine at the thrift store for about a buck and it has enough wire for a few hundred squibs.

    Comment by tastysoup — March 22, 2009 #

  20. Great information! Hope to come back again..

    Comment by loyadcamlilaw — May 20, 2009 #

  21. Nice project.
    I’m wondering: is it possible to add an extra transmitter receiver with a different code to expand to 24 channels?

    Comment by PyroJack — October 7, 2009 #

  22. You could modify the remote if you wanted. There’s a row of pins that can be bridged to encode the signal, and then the same would have to be done on the receiver side. One could then wire a switch in to alternate between boxes of different encodings.

    More fancy would be to utilize two remotes, and two boards, with two remotes in one box, and two relay boards in one box. You could then multiplex the signals (Think 12 rows by 12 columns) and get 144 different channels.

    Comment by tuckie — October 7, 2009 #

  23. How long did this all take you and more importantly how much would it cost.

    Great project, i would really like to build on of these for my fireworks show.

    Comment by Jawman09 — October 19, 2009 #

  24. I probably worked on it for 3 weeks during my spare time.
    Major components/cost breakdown:
    • 12 channel wireless relay controller (search ebay for “12 channel rf”) – $40
    • Sealed lead acid 7AH 12v battery (available online/in-store at many places) – $25
    • Battery charging circuit: took mine from an old car jump-starter – $free*
    (*or buy a new one and forgo the purchase of a separate battery)
    • LEDs, resistors, speaker terminals, and wire ( partsexpress.com) – $40
    • CD case Housing (any well built box will do) – $20
    • 40ga Nichrome wire (ebay) – $3
    • More black powder than I needed (sporting goods store) – $15
    • Miscellaneous components – $10
    Total: $153

    Comment by tuckie — October 22, 2009 #

  25. I made a varations on this, so i have now the ability to shoot 48-channels. The only thing i have added is an extra 4-channel remote system which control the minus lead of 12 channels per remote output channel. In this way you can expand your system without high costs or huge space requirement.

    Here is a link of a picture of my system. I put the other 16 connectors and 3 LED’s on the back of the case.

    Comment by PyroJack — October 23, 2009 #

  26. Link was missing, hope this time it will show up.

    http://s651.photobucket.com/albums/uu232/jvd2006/?action=view&current=schietkist48kanaal.jpg

    Comment by PyroJack — October 23, 2009 #

  27. Hi,
    Great work, I’m iteresting in building my own, and was wondering if you have any circut layouts? it would help me a lot (test circut is my biggest concern).

    thanks

    Comment by Afik — December 13, 2009 #

  28. Great article. I’ve grabbed a few of the remotes; prices varied on ebay from $30-$70, but I was able to get a few versions:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=150406798699#ht_3605wt_941

    I use one 300mhz tx/rx as a safety on the main 433mhz 12ch tx/rx, and a third 500 mhz unit for transmitting back confirmation signals of arming & continuity. The system is used for High Powered rocketry, and adds a little flair to the firing range. If we’re going to geek out, we might as well look official, eh!

    I’m officially stealing your car charger circuit idea; brilliant.

    Comment by Papatango — January 30, 2010 #

  29. WTF! Where do you learn and buy this stuff!

    Comment by WTF — February 11, 2010 #

  30. Is there any way i could purchase one of these from you?

    Comment by Jawman09 — February 16, 2010 #

  31. I would also like to buy one of these. drop me line if your interested in selling. zach92686@aim.com

    Comment by zach — February 19, 2010 #

  32. jawman_2003@hotmail.com if interested in selling. Willing to pay parts and labor.

    Comment by Jawman09 — March 2, 2010 #

  33. Hey i was wondering the wire schematics of the board could you send meand email to cochran248@yahoo.com

    Comment by Jace — March 27, 2010 #

  34. This is amazing – glad I stumbled upon this site. I guess health and safety has to be foremost in your minds – but I suppose you know that. I’ve got no idea how you did this but I’d really like to find out more – you’ve fired my imagination!

    Comment by electricalsupplies — June 3, 2010 #

  35. i have china made car chargers at home and they work well on my Honda Jazz,:”

    Comment by Rhys Phillips — August 12, 2010 #

  36. my car charger is well made and very tough. i use it all the time*`~

    Comment by Corey Chapman — October 1, 2010 #

  37. Lead Acid batteries should be replaced with a new type of battery that weigh less .’`

    Comment by Claire Richardson — October 4, 2010 #

  38. toggle switches are nice for small electronic projects and homebrew electronic stuffs;”-

    Comment by Julia Mason — October 6, 2010 #

  39. Hello I was just wondering if you still ever looked at this post because I had a few simple questions about the overall wiring of the device!

    Comment by tattooedkaos — October 11, 2010 #

  40. Thanks to email notifications, I do look when someone posts a comment ;)

    Comment by tuckie — October 11, 2010 #

  41. Thats a pretty nice firing box you have, but I was reading the comments and noticed you payed over 150 to build yours. I can build a similar box with 36 CUES for around $60. I just sold my last one I built on ebay. If you wanna see my video its on youtube, heres the link, http://youtu.be/lvcoWIQDjPo if anyone is interested in purchasing a system, i can sell them for $150. Thats a 36 Cue wireless firing system.

    Comment by John — May 17, 2011 #

  42. I was wondering, when you push the button on the remote, does the relay stay open till you push the button again? Thanks for your time.
    Jacob Moses

    Comment by Jacob Moses — June 30, 2011 #

  43. Please allow me to briefly introduce myself. I am a television producer based in Los Angeles. We are in a jam trying to track down a fireworks controller board (old/antique OR a a very new version) for a low budget tv pilot. Is there a number I can reach you at to discuss any suggestions you may have?

    -Zig

    Comment by Zig — September 16, 2011 #

  44. Hi – Worthwhile comments on Trade Show Displays… Also, I tried to grab the RSS feed but could not. Would you mind sending the link to me, or posting it here?
    Gracias!.

    Comment by Mr Custom Plastic — July 8, 2012 #

  45. First of all I would like to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your
    mind before writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints? Cheers!

    Comment by Rakshan Sanghvi — August 6, 2012 #

  46. Where did you get the key part to arm it?

    Comment by Rocketfreak — August 24, 2012 #

  47. Moteluri Bucuresti

    Just want to say your article is as surprising.
    The clarity for your submit is simply great and i could suppose you are a professional in this subject.
    Well along with your permission let me to grab your RSS feed to
    stay updated with drawing close post. Thank you one million and please continue the
    rewarding work.

    Comment by Cazare Costinesti Casute — June 16, 2014 #

  48. I do not know if it’s just me or if perhaps everrybody else experiencing issues with your site.
    It looks like some of the text on your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else please comment
    and let me know if this is happening to them too? This may be a issue with my web
    browser because I’ve had this happen previously. Many thanks

    Comment by discountfireworks — July 10, 2014 #

Leave a comment

XHTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Powered by WordPress with GimpStyle Theme design by Horacio Bella.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS.