Color Kinetics PDS-150e

The Color Kinetics PDS-150e is an integrated power supply and driver that was popular during the early 2000’s. It is also the “magic” piece that I need for the Solar Mallee Trees project I’ve been working on.

Inside the unit is a power supply and integrated driver. Each of the six output channels are capable of driving up to 25W of RGB LED’s. So this is easily able to power a single Colorburst 4″ RGB LED per channel, they use just 10W. There are four RJ45 connectors across one size of the PCB that present Ethernet, DMX IN, DMX LOOP and DMX Repeater capabilities. I was certainly keen to see what we could do with the Ethernet interface. For these RGB LED drivers Color Kinetics offers a tool called QuickPlay Pro (TM) as a free download for Windows PC’s.

To use the Ethernet interface is relatively straight forward. The PDS-150e device is already programmed with an IP address somewhere within the classic 10.x.x.x Class A network. So I configured a Windows 7 laptop Ethernet interface with the arbitrary IP of 10.0.73.1 with a subnet mask of 255.0.0.0. I was simply crossing my fingers this wasn’t where the controller was, but it would allow the laptop and PDS-150e to find each other. I was pleased once QuickPlay Pro was started that I could find my PDS-150e listed in the “controller” drop down box. At a guess QuickPlay Pro and the PDS-150e either listen to a broadcast address or have some form of mDNS capabilities to “discover” each other.

Once I had connected QuickPlay Pro to the PDS-150e I was able to test the lamps individually, experiment with colour washing and configure the DMX channels and addressing. Below is an example of the colour wash function within QuickPlay Pro;

(C) 2019 Faith Coleman

I will have to say I’ve been doing this type of work for many years and Lighting Control Software has always been a painful experience. Either the software or devices would do “odd” things, not work, fart, spit, sulk or have quirks that required work around’s. However I was pleasantly surprised when QuickPlay Pro just worked, did what it said it would do without any fuss and or bother. So the Color Kinetics Engineering team have done a great job making this system work so well.

Once I’d gotten over my surprise it was a simple task to configure the RGB Lamps that I had into a sequential series of DMX addresses. Each of the Colorburst RGB lamps uses one DMX channel per colour (i.e. 3 channels for RGB), so I simply stringed the lamps together starting at address one;

DMX ADDR:  01  02  03  04  05  06  ........ 13  14  15
CB4 CH#:   R1  G1  B1  R2  G2  B2  ........ R5  G5  B5
Lamp       \---(1)---/ \---(2)---/ ........ \---(5)---/

One thing I did notice is that each Colorburst 4″ RGB lamp has a unique serial number that is displayed in QuickPlay Pro. This suggests that once each lamp is configured this won’t change if you start swapping the port it is connected too. I was pleased to find this is indeed the case, so once I know which tree each lamp is mounted too I can reconfigure the DMX addressing to be a little more logical.

Now I just need to start sending DMX at the controller and see if the lamps respond. Time to go and find a RS485 interface.

Curse of the Black Pearl, Err wires…

Having serviced and re-furbished a good portion of the engine and accessories I had one more small trivial, quick task to perform. That was to replace some very manky looking battery terminals. So out with the beak nosed cutters, lop the terminal off, strip back the wire to reveal, the copper wires were all black. Oh dear it was going to be one of “those” days.

The picture above shows the very manky looking battery terminals and the original orientation of the battery. For reference the terminal in the top of the image is the battery positive, the copper pipe above it is the cold water side of the heat exchanger, err yes that is technically earthed and the battery un-restrained. There is no way we could leave it like that.

So getting back to the wiring, at some point in this poor boats life it had been wired up with standard automotive copper wiring. Now for the majority of the time this is fine in cars and perhaps houses, but in marine environments where corrosion is rife this is a recipe for disaster. The black manky looking stuff is actually a form of copper oxide which is non-conductive and hard to remove. Once it starts to form it doesn’t stop until every strand along the entire length of (and within) the cable has oxidised as well. The worst part is the wires were to the starter motor which relies on a very low impedance.

Thankfully there is a local Jaycar electronics store around the comer that caters to the “Doof Doof” car audio community. This car audio community seems to like big high power amplifiers that use too much gold plating (IMHO) on their connectors and fuse blocks, but it does however mean they stock marine grade Tinned Copper wire in useful sizes from 14 gauge through to 4 gauge in both Red and Black. Better yet it is fine stranded with a soft silicon durable sheath making it very flexible and a pleasure to work with. Below are the ones that I like to work with, hopefully the part numbers out live any URL changes that may occur on the Jaycar site;

If you haven’t already found self sealing automotive crimp terminals I suggest you wander off and google these too I’d never seen one until I stumbled across them on one of my YouTube feeds, a big thanks to Damien & Jess from Project Brupeg for putting me onto these when they wired their wheel house. There are also nice kits you can get from eBay for reasonable prices. This type of connector once crimped, you hit with the heat gun and they shrink and seal the end of the connector. It certainly saves a heap of time not having to cut and use a separate small piece of glued heat shrink. Better yet you can see the internals with the heatshrink being semi-transparent, which means if they corrode you’ll find out before it’s too late.

So once armed with cable, connectors and a few roles of Electrical tape it was time to start cutting wires to find the extent of the black wire syndrome. Needless to say I ended up rewiring the entire engine bay, from battery to starter motor, alternator to battery and the remaining Kettering ignition system.

I was thankful that the wiring between the engine and gauges while not tinned had not suffered anywhere near the same level of corrosion. So I stopped here noting that at some time soon I’ll be up under the dash re-wiring this as well. So the proof is in the pudding, here’s a few photos of the completed work.

You may also notice that I’ve turned the battery through 270 degrees so that the terminals now face the bow of the boat. This puts as much distance between the battery terminals and the engine and accessories as possible. Directly underneath the battery is a false floor where I should be able to screw a hold down strap to secure the battery in place. Not forgetting to seal the screws since this is a wet bilge. Unfortunately the cover that goes over the battery no longer fits, it’s pretty clear why the previous owner had rotated the battery to where I found it. We don’t technically walk where the battery sits, so I’m thinking of raising up the floor here just an inch to clear the terminals. I’ll do this when I make a new engine cover.

Mallee Solar Tree Project

I’m not sure sometimes how I end up getting involved with community projects and this one is no exception. This one started as a three way trade involving my ex-wife, her neighbour and a knee operation which of course all sounds very suspect. However the crux of the problem was a community group had acquired an art sculpture through the usual mate of a mate kind of thing. However as this sculpture was passed along bits were lost, forgotten, used for other things and/or misplaced. In a nutshell it wasn’t complete and no one knew if it even worked, or how. Well my ex-wife knew that I’d worked professionally on lighting control systems in a past life, so could I take a look at it. So here we go !

Image copyright Natasha Stewart
https://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/103314/

So what were we dealing with ? It turns out the art sculpture in question was the “Solar Mallee Trees” that were designed by MPH architects and were previously installed just outside the Festival Theatre in the Adelaide CBD. They were recently removed as part of a “refresh” of the entire site.

These “trees” were made from curved steel structures, had solar panels mounted to the top of them and a Color Kinetics lighting system. It uses LED RGB spot lights to wash the colour under the solar panels. However while the spotlights were present, there was no sign of any Solar Inverters, power supplies or controllers. This was suddenly not going to be easy.

Looking closely at what was present I found the LED spotlights were Color Kinetics Colorburst 4 (TM) and they appeared in good shape. These lamps require three wires so there is more to them than just applying power. Ok time to go and call a few people I know still work in the lighting industry.

Thankfully this was a fairly common lighting control system used in the Noughties and Color Kinetics (CK) still have much of the data, manuals and software available online.

My lighting industries contacts had advised me that I was up for a few thousand dollars to replace lamps, drivers and power supplies. So rebuilding what I had in hand was beginning to look promising.

To drive the Colorburst 4″ spot lights what we needed was a custom PSU that included driver and smarts, called a CK PDS-150e. What I really liked was this PSU/Driver had a separate DMX input and Ethernet programming ports; making it fairly easy to control once configured. Generating DMX information is fairly easy now days with software being available for windows and linux PC’s with the right RS485 serial interface. I’d certainly been there and done that many times in the past, so bringing up this system by rights shouldn’t be hard.

So finding a CK PDS-150e driver turned out to really easy, there were a number of them on eBay for just a few hundred dollars. It was worth the risk to see if I could get this working, if not I could always drop it back onto eBay and pass it on. So a CK PDS-150e was duly ordered and now it was time to read the manual a few times, download some software while the unit was shipped from Greece to Australia.

More to come.