I only took notice of this Phaser rifle when the movie Star Trek:First Contact came out. It looked nice and functional, albeit a little thin. But then, I got distracted by the Tricorder again and so, it was left at the back burner. And it wasn’t until Star Trek: Nemesis that the rifle resurfaced but with slight modifications. There and then, I really wanted the rifle.
Obtaining the Rifle
In order to have the rifle, there a few methods such as getting from eBay, outright purchase from individuals or even from other sources. But whatever it is, when it comes into the country, it is quite hard to escape the Customs people when they see anything that resembles a weapon with their limited knowledge. Still, when the opportunity came for a group purchase, I did not let it go by. However, when I received mine, I can summarise my feelings in the followng manner; "If I have nothing good to say, don't say it at all". Anyway, the rifle I had was hollow cast and it is good enough to serve me as model for my electronics prototype. I hope to see the original rifle again, which I was told, comes in two solid halves. Ideas of self-assembly rifle comes to mind but that is another story altogether in the near future.
This is the upper rear end of the rifle where holes needs to be cut out for the push-button switches and the 10-LED bar. But before I can do all these, I would need to clean the rifle up and I have to be very careful as although it is hollow cast, its thickness is uneven, which worries me. A lot.
The scope looked nice, but unfortunately, if I needed to put all the lights in the scope, I would have to get it rebuild to be hollow
In order to make the rifle much more believable, I decided to design the lights and sound segment for the rifle. The project looked very simple inthe beginning until I started to divide each area and looked at them in detail, and a few questions popped-up:
A. The Rifle Scope
1) In the front, there is a beam of white light. The problem is, sometimes, it is on and sometimes, it is off.
2) At the rear, in certain scenes, it has red light and in other scenes, it is white.
So, since I do not have a DVD reference, I have come up with my own conclusion:
I will design a trigger for the rifle with two position settings. In the first position, (like an Auto-focus camera) is to get the rifle "ready". This will light up the scope's forward light, and change the rear screen's lights from white to red. Also, I would have to warn you, that you only pull the trigger briefly or else the Luxeon LED will melt the rifle scope after 30 seconds.
As the scope is a solid chunk of resin, it would have to be re-made hollow in order for the electronics to go in. So, there would be a lot of work in this area and it is beyond me.
When I looked at pictures of the actual props, there were no trigger on the rifle, even the drawings taken from Star Trek: Magazine showed the same. However, if I am not mistaken, the hero version has a trigger, which is a black/silver square push-button. In line with the rifle's scope problem, I have therefore decided to make a trigger for it. (Because its too expensive to implement a capacitive touch-switch)
The proposed trigger (right) would be made from laser-cut aluminium (I hope), resting on two optical sensors. But where to get the spring and other parts to keep all these together?
C. Phaser power settings
In Star Trek:The Next Generation Technical Manual, it was stated that the Phaser III would have 16 settings. And it was not until Star Trek:Nemesis movie which shows the rifle to have 10 LEDs and how they sequenced when it was first activated. So, my guess is, the settings are from 7 to 16.
The only sounds from the Phaser Rifle are when you press the settings button. In order to save some circuits and space, I have decided to use a piezo buzzer for when these buttons are pressed . And there is no sound for the phaser firing, due to insufficient budget and also cost for other development tools. Hopefully, I have some cash for this.
E. Power System
Taking into consideration of the different voltages required for the electronics, its either at 9volts or just 6 volts. At the moment, the rifle only needed 5 volts if I do not put in the sound. But I might have to put in more power since the scope's Luxeon LEDs would be using a lot more power. Putting the batteries voltage too high leads to the voltage regulators heating up unecessarily. Not only that, it will affect the size of the batteries. So, maybe I'll design it to 6 volts after all.
F) Power cell
In Star Trek:Nemesis, there is a scene where the rifle was being handed to a Starfleet personnel and he pulls away the upper cover of the rifle, just behind the scope, to reveal a pair of red cylinders. I am guessing this is the rifle’s power cells. But I am not sure if I wanted to incorporate it into the rifle since I do not know if this used to activate the rifle or just to check on the cells state of charge.
It looked easy enough to do but I am not sure if its accurate since there are no clearer pictures of this prop from the Internet
For those concerned, I must apologise as this project is taking longer than it should. I shall not elaborate much but its mainly due to insufficient funding and also I needed time out from both family and work. (Yes, I still have to work to support this project). Anyway, below are the progress so far:
A. LED Powerbar
The circuits for the Phaser Rifle's powerbar is ready. When you first connect the batteries to it, you will hear a beep from the rifle (but nothing lights up) to indicate that it is on stand-by mode. When you press the left button (Star Trek:Nemesis) it will light up in sequence from left to right, and then after a one second delay, it goes back to the left and stays at the first setting. By now, the rifle would be ready for use. The three red LEDs at the rifle's side would be lit as well. You can adjust the power by using the left and right buttons, each press would have a beep. I have added another feature where if you press both buttons together, there would be a long beep and the rifle will go off-line. (Then you would have to press a hidden reset switch to reactivate the rifle again).
And since the rifle is described as regenerative types, I decided to make the LEDs in the LED bar drop to the first setting when the rifle is being fired and then rises back to the current setting (as if it recharged itself).
This is the picture when the rifle is on-line. Note the white LEDs are for the rear screen while the orage LEDs are for the scope's middle part. The green LED bar show it is on phaser setting 14.
This picture shows that (using my fingers) both optical switches has been activated. The white LEDs has switched over to red. And the small LED (on the left) represents another Luxeon LED which is the rifle's emitter
B. Rifle Scope Electronics
I have done the electronics for the scope. When the rifle is on-line, the top part (orange LEDs) will light up. The rear screen will have white LEDs lit up as well. When the trigger is pulled, the front part of the scope will illuminate the target and also the rear of the screen will change from white to red.
As for the front part of the scope, I wil be using a direct drive circuit to control the Luxeon instead. It is not the most efficient use of power but it does its job. Moreover, the cost of having a Luxeon driver circuit would be quite significant. And not only that, I have to waste more time sourcing for these components again.
I am going to use a 1Watt Luxeon LED (and not 3Watt) and its collimator lens for the scope light. Although the pipe fittings are too big, I might want to keep it for the scope as it fits the Luxeon beautifully
By placing the collimator lens into the pipe and simulating it from my torchlight, the scope light test seemed to be OK. Since I will not be doing any electronics to drive the Luxeon LED, I would have to find the metal equivalent of the plastic pipe so that the Luxeon LED can use it as a heasink and dissipate the heat from there before it starts to melt the whole rifle
[This section changed from time to time] Update - 17.04.2010
1. Darkness sensor for the scope - Not even started yet until I have the scope back with me (cancelled)
2. Off-Line feature - Done but needs a hidden reset switch. (Not necessary anymore)
3. Optical Trigger system - Working but needs a proper trigger. (Changed to single push button)
4. Re-make of scope to be hollow - Need to find the scope first. (Need to crack my head first)
5. Phaser Firing Sound effect (maybe. still looking)
6. 3 Red LEDs (each side) for Rifle sides to be lit when the rifle is On-Line - Done
7. Printed circuit board (PCB) - About to start. Not
8. Where to put the batteries and the main electronics. Still thinking
9. Phaser Rifle version 2.0 (My version) - Lets survive 2010 first.
I also forgot about this video which was taken sometime ago. It shows the double trigger system working with the changing LEDs on the back of the scope on the completed prototype. As of 2009, that feature is taken off the design but I added the 'screensaver' if the phaser is left alone after a few minutes (but its not in thise video). This can be seen in Star Trek Insurrection when Picard, Data and Worf blasted a hole in the cave.
To be continued