OK, I know the this Proton Pack IS a toy. I know it is much smaller (about 85% scale) as compared to the original prop. But it is made of plastic and is definitely much lighter too. The first Rubies Pack came out in 2017 (Gen1) and the subsequent release (Gen2) came out in 2019 while its third version and much more accurate version (Gen3) was out in 2021.
As far as I know, these are the observations of the first two Packs that I was able to access:
Gen1 Gen2 Gen3 Lighter grey shell Black shell Black Shell Very loud speaker Normal sound despite the same speaker Not sure about the sound Battery Pack connects direct to the PCB Battery Pack has a JST XH connectors Not sure about the Battery Pack Has white diffused Cyclotron lens Has red diffused Cyclotron lens Has red diffused Cyclotron lens Black Straps Thicker Black Straps Olive Green Straps
The first thing that came to my mind after I activated the Pack from the Wand was that the electronics needs to be modified or even swapped out. So, lets explore the Pack first.
These are the two PCBs providing the lights and sound to the Pack. The bottom board contains the wonder ship (NY3P035JS14) from Nyquest (Taiwan). I modified these PCBs to turn them into temporary LED holders for my own testing. By cutting the tracks as shown and soldering my own signal cables, I got the LEDs to sequence like what we see in the movies. The cut tracks isolates the LEDs from the original main circuit but the sound still works when I press the button on the wand,
I replaced the original speaker with a much beefier 3 watt version that was in my stash. Although this speaker is slightly bigger (35.5mm), the screws helped to keep it in place but at a slightly slanted angle. The result is a slightly louder sound (but not as loud as the Gen1 original speakers, which was the same.) but produces a much richer sound. I guess the volume was programmed into the chip as I did not see any external components that might control the volume.
This is a video showcasing the loudness of each speakers. The first was from a Gen1 Pack, which is very loud. The next is a Gen2 Pack which, uses the same speaker but the sound is not as loud. The third is my Gen2 Pack which has the modified electronics and the 3Watt Cambridge Speaker.
This is more or less how my Pack looked after I have replaced the Pack’s original electronics with my own. There are no sounds for this Version 1.0 since it was meant for kids to run around with the pack. RUBIES CIRCUIT V01
For years I have wanted to make my own Proton Pack electronics but I was hampered with my lack of knowledge on two main things:
1. How to control the playback of audio, and 2. How to create the venting system So, the project was usually brought out to be worked on briefly before it is put back into cold storage again. Because of the sudden miracle that is Gilaposter, I was able to get a Rubies Proton Pack. Never mind if this is 85% scale or that the wand is iffy at best, it is still a Proton Pack. So, I started to look into my circuit again and to be honest, it is quite rushing.
This is the prototype. I am always using these modular stripboards. As they do not require any soldering, I can just change or relocate the component as often as I wish. Right now, the circuit is waiting for a SMD SOID to DIL Adaptor. My plan is to use SMD versions of the IC such as the micro-controller and the Darlington array while the rest would be normal though-hole components such as resistors and LEDs. The micro-controller I am using requires a lot of outputs and a normal chip not only uses more real estate but also, bulky.
This was the original circuit that I have designed (on pre-AutoDesk EaglePCB) and forgotten. After I started the project again, I was surprised that the new circuit is very similar to the original. It is a very straight forward circuit. You choose the sequence or mode you want (as each Ghostbusters Character has different Power Cell animation speed and Cyclotron Spin directions), then the microcontroller would control the Blue and Cyclotron LEDs via the Darlington Transistor Arrays. There are certain areas in the circuit which was meant for future upgrades (but eventually they are not used)
This is the second time I relied on EaglePCB’s auto-router function. I was surprised that the function performed so well without any incomplete tracks or routing issues. It was only later that when I printed the actual design out did I realised that the microcontroller (bottom middle left) I had chosen was of the wrong size. It is the SSOP (Shrink Small Outline Package) which is much smaller than the SOIC (Small Outline Integrated Circuit). I cannot start all over again because well, the chips has been ordered…
So, the next question is, how small? Well, here are the size comparisons between the SSOP28 and SOIC28. I am not even going to put in the DIP28 as it would be a lumbering giant among these two. My greatest fear is that I would have a lot of soldering issues since I am still doing hand soldering instead of those fancy reflows. To be positive, I will be able to try out some of those reflow type of soldering flux and paste, except this time with my trusty 30W Hakko Red soldering iron.
The SSOP chip ordered also means I have to get a new set of SSOP to DIP programming adaptors as this version cannot be used.
Finally, the chips have arrived in June 2021 instead of June 2022 and so did the new SSOP to DIP adaptor. I order my chips directly from the manufacturer which means the product is guaranteed fresh and does not have any residual codes inside them. Long story short, despite the chip shortage issue during the Pandemic, they came through.
After finalizing the design and sent the design off, the board arrived in about less than two weeks. I am so happy to have them in my hands. I opted for a black coloured design and with the tandard 1.6mm thickness with no extra charge. I could have asked for a 0.8mm thickness but for this design, it is not necessary. Anwyay, the black is to make sure that this board is not visible when peeked through from the Power Cell Blue acrylic window.
So, these are the two extra tools which I am eager to try. The Amtech NC-559-ASM is the UV version which is easy to clean off. While the solder paste is well, solder paste. The problem is that these are supposed to have a 12 month shelf life (when properly stored. Hah) and over here, in Malaysia, with an average temperature of about mid-20’s C (which felt more like mid 30’sC) they are slowly being cooked daily.
Apply the flux first to clean and prepare the solder pads. The put in (sparingly) the solder flux. Since this is my first attempt, the solder paste there was too much solder paste. and during soldering, I can see the excess tiny little solder balls running about and into the chip. Which worries me as they could be shorting the chip’s leads. In the end, I got fed up and applied both flux and paste together. In any soldering, such as this, flux is crucial. The PCB manufacturer does have the option to provide a solder paste template at extra cost but this would also mean I would need to get those solder past because the one I have is a little too ‘watery’.
So, this is what AMTECH NC-559-ASM-UV FLUX looks like under the UV Light. I can tell if the board still has excess flux after all the soldering is done. This way, I can effectively use the IPA solution to clean them off.
Like any SMD chip hand soldering, you need to solder at least one of the leads as anchor for the chip. But if you’re using reflow or hot gun, the action of the melting solder (surface tension between the melting solder and solder pads) will automatically pull and more or less self-align the chip for you. I can risk an experiment with a clothes iron but this would mean manually controlling them temperature. Since the one in the house does not have that, I prefer not to. Also, I do not want to get killed by my Wife.
Once the SMD chip has been anchored, I just slowly sweep the soldering iron across the leads. The flux ensures the soldering process is trouble-free. Depending on how much solder paste used (sparingly), there will be some blobbing at the end of each sweep which you can wick it off. But man, running the tip through the leads, clickety-clack, and watching the solder melt into a water state is very nice! Lastly, do get those ultra expensive solder wicks which will suck up all the solder blobs effortlessly. Cheaper ones will take a few pass and this will undoubtedly heat up both the board, the components and burn the solder mask to expose the copper tracks in the process.
The board is to be placed at a certain height within the Pack and so, after bending the leads of the blue LEDs. I will have to arrange them to be soldered at a certain height.
Soldering this board was fun and also, made me very happy because I never thought I could have soldered such a small SMD device which has narrow leads. In most YouTube videos, the solution was usually reflow or using an angled chisel tip solder bit, both which I do not have. Anyway, with that part over, the next part would be soldering the blue LEDs. I had their leads bent at a certain height before soldering. This is because of how the board is placed within the Pack
The circuit worked on the first try! There was no soldering issues which would show up on the blue LEDs. They either did not light up (shorting), certain LEDs would not light up (soldering, shorting or chip alignment) or even, lighting up at weird sequences (programming)
Although I was quite elated, after a few minutes into the burning-in of the board, I noticed there is a weird sequence in the Venkman mode. The last LED did not shut down properly and has some delay which showed up as a weird flicker.
As the chip is already programmed, desoldering them might not be a great move. This is because their leads would need t be cleaned up of solder or else it would affect the SSOP2DIP adaptor, eventually destroying it. So, the only (and fastest) solution would be to create a temporary makeshift ICSP adaptor for the programmer and solder all 5 wires to every board that is to be re-programmed.. For me, this worked and it is now September, which is very close to the November deadline.
A brief demonstration of the board’s features. Each mode has their own Power Cell ramping speed, Cyclotron spin direction and speed. RUBIES CYCLOTRON
I have a concern with the Pack’s original Cyclotron lens. Although the lens are diffused, it works well with the original SMD LEDs. The Pack that I has was actually Gen2 which has red diffusing plastic. For those who had the Gen1, the lens was actually white. For normal casual cosplay, that is fine. However, once I modified with my own LEDs, the lens just does not seem right when I looked at most of the original prop images. Plus, what if you wanted to modify your Pack and in some cases, need the Cyclotron lights to have other colours other than red? So, yeah, you need replacement lens. Searching through the Internet for a solution, I realised that most of the solutions comes in four red clear acrylic discs which you would need to glue them. So, let’s try to do something different and also, re-use as much of the original parts as possible.
This is the original Cyclotron lens cover. It was quite nerve wracking trying to remove it as I was afraid I might break the piece since the 5mm holes were friction fitted so tight to the pillars. In fact, they do not need any screws at all.
This is the prototype for the Cyclotron lens replacement. The artwork was done with Inkscape and then printed out. It took me a few tries due to the location of the 6x 5mm holes. In the end, to prevent fitting issues, I did away with all the 5mm holes and just worked around them. This in a way cuts down the resources just to make sure all the holes matches the pillars exactly.
I have modified the original PCBs to allow for independed wiring of the four LEDs. The ribbon cable from my custom board has split into four pairs of connections. I wanted to see how effective these 0805 SMD LEDs are.
The laser cut 5mm prototype has arrived! Because of the pandemic, my usual goto laser cutters are not able to open. I was quite elated that the final result is exactly the same as my final revision of the design. Note in mind, it is OK to splurge a little for a prototype. But for production, it is a no-no.
Comparison between the original piece and the prototype. I designed it to be that way so that if any if the four screws got loose, at least the piece would still stay in place.
So, yeah, is is a nice fit. The prototype just falls nicely into the sunken space on the pack. However, if you decide to replace the pack’s original Cyclotron with an aftermarket one, I think it might not fit.
After peeling off the protective stickers, this is how the 5mm prototype sits flush with the pack.
As I have planned, in order for the screws to secure the 5mm prototype, I have included some 5mm plastic spacers which is 1mm thick. I wanted rubberised versions but there was none on the market as I believer, this could stop any potential rattling.
These are the two replacement boards to hold the new 10mm Cyclotron LEDs. Because the pair of Cyclotron windows are different between the top and bottom, I had to make some kind of a mark.
Here is a comparison between a normal 5mm diffused red LED and the 10mm version. To me, both of them have the same brightness despite the 10mm having a larger diffused lens. But this will be the closest to simulating those bulbs of the original Proton Pack prop.
Testing each Cyclotron Board before I move to the next stage. I always test each circuit or wiring before I am satisfied. It will not eliminate, but minimises a lot of QC issues.
This is a size comparison between the original pack’s 0805 LEDs and a 1206 SMD LED. I have tested both but they do not give me the result I am looking for.
During the testing stage, I was not happy with the 0805 LED performance and so, I swapped them out with a slightly larger 1206 LED. When compared to the 10mm LED, there is no contest.The 1206 would perform well if there is a diffuser but what we’re seeing would be the spotlight effect and this method is not always reliable because a second source of light can brighten the diffuser thus rendering the spotlight effect ineffective.
The new Cyclotron PCB with the 10mm LED with diffused lens. Because of the height of the pillar, the gap between the acrylic window and the PCB is very small and there is no reflector for such height.
Once the Lockdown was more or less relaxed, I was able to communicate with FABCafe Kuala Lumpur. Due to stock issued, Mr. Andi sourced my acrylic pieces from Art Friend. And since they only had 3mm ones, I had a sudden flash of idea and informed him that I would also like the matching cut pieces with 2mm clear ones too.
By doing this, I was able to sandwich some drafting paper which acts as diffusers to the Cyclotron LEDs. And if the user wishes to have a clear lens, they can use the clear piece but complement the 6mm pillar with more 1mm spacers.
In the end, this is how the Cyclotron would look. THE POWER ADAPTOR
Why the Adaptor?
What’s another circuit board to this Project, eh? The Proton Pack v.01 alone already used three PCBs and so, adding an additional board is a little excessive. I think this additional board might be relevant if someone decides to make their own power switch like what has been seen in the Ghostbusters Afterlife movie. I try to make the installation of these boards as simple as I can without having to worry about soldering or other electronics related issues.
THE ADAPTOR’S FUNCTION
One of the main issue I had anticipated had when the Cosplay crew were going around with my Pack is that sometimes, they would forget to switch it off. And so, it falls on the organiser having to buy sets of 3x AA batteries every few days. That would be some kind of expenditure which can be avoided. With the switch, when the Pack is not being used, it can be switched off. And might look cool when people see you do it too.
The second reason is that the Adaptor needs to cater for two version of the power cables coming from the Pack’s electronics to the Battery Pack. The Gen1 (with the Dark Grey plastic) has a straight connection while Gen2 has a male/female connection system. So, if you need to modify either one of them for a switch, and without this board, it might be an issue.
This is the Gen2 Rubies Proton Pack which uses a male & female XH type connectors from JST. This version is great for those who wants to modify their battery pack to say, a 5volt power bank. Also, maybe they want to modify the original battery pack to a more sturdier one. All these are possible as long as you have the hand crimping tool for these connectors. Yep. Do ignore the rest of the details in the pack as it was halfway being modified with my custom electronics.
This is the start of the prototype. I am testing the XH connector positions.
Once I uploaded my design to the Manufacturer’s site, and when the files checked out, I can actually view the board as a 3D simulation! OK, so this is a simple design and does not need much checking or revision. I mean, what can go wrong with just a pair of parallel wires?
The Adaptor boards came back very quickly and please excuse the silly names. When it came to naming stuff, I have a problem with that and I tend to change them often and it is usually too late to decide on the final name.
Well, things did go wrong. In my haste to get the PCB finalised, I missed deleting two tracks on the upper side of the board. I did not notice this until after I have soldered the white LED and wondered why the LED lit up when the board was not even bypassed yet Once I had removed the error, the board worked. This is the problem of adding in last minute features (the LED and bypass terminal) and did not check for errors after the first few successful revisions. Luckily, the error is more or less minimal and you won’t notice it much because the terminals have hidden them. But the tracks on the fibreglass PCB were hard to grind off though.
The Final version. It has a white LED to indicate there is power from the battery source. I wanted to solder a blinking LED just for fun. Unfortunately, not only would it confuse the user, but because it is parallel to the main power, the 0805 photonic emitter might cause power fluctuations at 1.5KHz to the EPS taps and thus create cascading matter leak to the containtme… er, sorry, wrong genre. Anyway, it has a bypass terminal where you can connect your own power switch or just bypass it altogether with a lenght of wire if your battery pack (just like the original’s) has its own power switch. And in case you have a Gen1 Pack that has no JST XH connectors, the connecting green terminals will allow you to cut the wires and join them.