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lighting a refinery

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Thinking ahead of where we are, but we have the tomytec refinery set and will use most of it on the layout.  We'd like to light it up like so many refineries are. 


What are some ideas on LED types (and sources) to use to light it up, but yet keep the LEDs and wiring as hidden as possible?  I'm thinking some sort of SMD and running the wires in the piping, drilling out for the SMD LED?  What's a good size?  I'm also wondering what color might be appropriate:  white?  sunny white?  other?

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I'm trying to see what on looks like, got an idea but need to see it.


looking..........found it




You can see the number of wires and the bulbs that they wired in. The spot lights look like a good effect.


I think the smd LED will be a lot of work and hard to conceal.


based on the number of light I would try this






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I agree with inobu that plastic fiber optic fibers may be a lot easier to do a hifg density of pinpoints you need. Cool thing is you can run it along the piping and paint it to be small pipes. Just can't bend it into sharp curves.


You can find these in cheap led toys to experiment with. When I was a kid I used these on my n scale layout as led were still a bit exotic and big. I foun one of those 70s table lamps at a garage sale for a buck that had gobs of fibers. You can also find pretty cheap coils on ebay, also in different colors. I've seen red, blue and orange lights at refineries as well.


Don't use the glass telcom fiber, you can pick up some nasty splinters from them and they require special polishing at the ends.


Smd LEDs might actually be a bit too bright and soldering up the tiny ones can be trying.





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Agree with Jeff about fibre optics.

For longer fibre optic runs - if you are prepared to dismantle it - what about using an old fibre optic lit xmas tree?

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yep thats the kind of thing to look at to tear apart to get the fiber.


also there is no need to run them all back to a central lighting source. just do a few locally down to the base and just below use a plain old 3mm bright lumen led. just make a little collar of foil and stick the ends of the fiber up against the front of the led and wrap with the foil and then tape the whole thing in place. you could use an led for each structure on the refinery and then even turn some on and off at will. you can also have a few different colors then as well. experiment some. when i was a kid i also made little hanging lights by heating the ends of the plastic fiber till it was soft and mushing then end into a flat surface. made an old style flat lamp shade sort of thing. painted the outside and then even bent the neck in a slow 90° curve to make lights over my rr shop and hanging lights inside.


i also like inobu's suggestion of a couple of up pointed spot lights, gives that eerie looking lighting effect. if placed near stuff with lots of cross pieces it will give a lot of odd shadows as well and this is the trick to lighting, the shadows and dabbles of light. studio shot lighters spend hours dangling bits of cardboard in front of their lights to get really interesting and realistic lighting. just mount them inside some 3mm ID plastic tubing to just allow light to only go up.


post pictures of your progress! you were right the tanks were something to get together! good thing you have nik there for the second set of hands! they are much more substantial than i thought they would be! you got my juices flowing on the refinery bits now and ive started assembling some of my parts here. i picked up some micro motors to see about spinning the condenser fans.





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i picked up some micro motors to see about spinning the condenser fans.


I hadn't thought of that.  Cool idea.  If you get it working, please share.

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its an odd animation, but for some reason it just seemed like something that should spin... a couple of cousins do big building acs with condensers like this so i remember seeing them when i went out with them a couple of times. only problem is they dont spin ultra fast so will have to see if i can get them to turn a reasonable speed. here are the motors i picked up, should be here in a week or so





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On 11/19/2011 at 11:18 AM, cteno4 said:

i picked up some micro motors to see about spinning the condenser fans.

Really late to the party here but I did the same thing. I purchased micro globe motors and 3D printed an exclosure for them to attach to the bottom on the inside to turn the fans. Using a drill bit to clean out the piece that the fans sit on it just runs through that hole. 


The motors are a little noisy, especially once inside the hollow enclosure. My next step is to use a PWM controller to make it spin much slower and presumably cut down drastically on the noise generated.


The fan wobbling in the video is because I hadn't glued it on to the end cap of my motor assembly while test fitting. This is resolved once it's held in place.



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Nice George! Yes slowing down will make the visual effect better and lower noise I would expect as well as wobble. Check the temperature on the motor after some time on pwm, some can get hot at lower speeds. Can also just try lowering the voltage.



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The wobble was because this was filmed while I was doing a test fitting and hadn't actually glued the pieces into place yet. It's basically a motor casing with a base piece, a geared shaft and then a cap that fits inside the bottom of the fan piece.

Screenshot 2023-09-02 at 20.50.34.png

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Nice project. I’m very interested. Do you have an idea of the target speed? Should the fan blades rotate so slowly that we see them? Like, 1 revolution per second, or faster?



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