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Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game» Forums » General

Subject: Guide to my A-Wing Mod rss

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Vince ---
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Many people have been asking me about how I did the A-Wing mod, I'll explain what I did as it's not difficult if your patient. This won't be my finest document ever produced (I've been trained in technical writing) but it should help anyone out wanting to try this. Also, this will be on the stand permanently. I haven't worked out a slim connector system yet. You'll have to slit the pilot card that goes on the base or something. C'est la vie.


Tools required:
- Pin Vice
- Drill bits from #80 up to 0.1” (possibly a touch larger, when drill bits get really small they start to designate them with numbers instead of the fractions)
- Flush Cutters
- TEMPERATURE CONTROLLED Soldering Iron, ideally with a fine tip like 1 mm to 2 mm or so. This depends on largely how good you are with SMD/SMT electronic components. The temperature setting will give you a greater chance of not destroying the LEDs you seek to install.
- Tweezers
- Hobby knife, fresh blades make all the difference.
- Helping hands clamp isn't a bad idea
- Plastic jewelers loupe, this is that little one-eye-magnifying-glass in the old cartoons they'd examine gems with. Cheap and versatile for so many tasks.
- Paint brushes, there will be touch ups.


Materials:
- A-Wing model
- Paint for touch ups
- Epoxy putty, to fill gaps.
- Super glue
- 2x 0603 LED, ideally amber coloured for authentic engine glow. For those not understanding the 0603 designation, it's a size delimiter and there is an imperial and metric 0603 I used Imperial (0.063” x 0.031”). It's about a grain of rice in size, possibly smaller. Get more if you've never done this and need practice, damn cheap. I used “475-2712-1-nd” from Digi-Key. Digi-key is a massive electronic component supplier and I don't mind paying the shipping for generally what is the best and cheapest selection.
- A CR2032 coin cell battery holder, I used the “BU2032M-BT-GCT-ND”
- A CR2032 coin cell battery for said holder.
- Some resistors capable of handling the power being put into them. They may be 0805 or 0603 in size depending on how you size them. I was using two 1000 ohm resistors in parallel to get 500 ohms, as it's what I had on hand. Ideally you want two resistors, one for each LED and I'll get into all that in this guide.
- 36 AWG wire, it's basically hair thin and also known as magnet wire. It generally is coated with a clear insulator. It won't handle much current but it's more then we need. I wasn't running this even near full brightness and it's bright.


Model Information:

So what I found out about the A-Wing as I did this was the body is hollow but the engines are not, and likely glued on after the fact. The stand is acrylic or closely related, which is a bonus. The model I'm not sure, definitely a soft inexpensive plastic. The peg that is in the body for the stand to fit to appears to extend inside the body, possibly with some sort of flange that's embedded into the plastic of the body. I forgot to mention there may be some sort of internal body support plate between the peg and the engine area or I misjudged the size and the inside is really small with the back details being glued on after. It's hard to tell but it appeared some wires got caught on something as I fished them through.


Drilling:

So I drilled my holes basically one of two sizes, one that was a few wires diameter in size and the other about the size of the hole in the stand peg. By this I mean, if you look at the bottom of the A-wing there is the tube for the stand. It's a wedge shape and I drilled out most of that wedge shape.

First I drilled into the engines. The bit size was tiny, like #74 or similar. Looking at the back of the A-Wing right side up. The right engine was drilled between 6 and 9 o'clock. The Left engine was drilled between 3 and 6 o'clock. You want to drill further then the point of where they will come out. This makes it easier to push extra wire into the body to fish out. You could drill EXACTLY where you drill the holes in the next step and the wires IN THEORY would pop out the side... but I doubt it.



They wires actually peek out in the corners where the engines intersect the body on the rear of the model. You drill perpendicular to the hole you made as close as you can.



Then drill into the body in the corners.



Drill into the stand peg using a 0.1” bit or so, it will take some time to actually get fully into the body, the bottom plate/body is rather thick. Once that is done, using the hobby knife or flush cutters remove the peg from the body. There will still be the piece inside the body, I used a hobby knife with a fresh blade to cut it out, some was left floating in the body, some was removed.

Drilling the stand pipes, use the same bit as you did for the stand peg in the model. Take your time so that you are going STRAIGHT through the entire length. It's tricky but easily doable. The difficult task is when you reach the peg on top of the stand pipe. I actually partially drilled those out. I had to press on the peg a bit because they want to bend or move out of the way of the bit and break off. If you can do at least half the peg that's great. Clip the top of it off, it's just a guide and will be glued.

For the base itself, same bit as above and drill out the center peg as best you can from the bottom. Once done just clip the peg off. From the bottom using the soldering iron (some people are going to hate me for this) melt a shallow channel from the hole towards the front of the stand. This is so the wires can come in and we can glue the battery holder over the hole so the model will balance on the battery.


Wiring:

This is the tedious bit that took me 16+ hours.

Cut four pieces of 36 AWG wire about 6 or 8 inches long. Length is good, the ends are going to get screwed up and damaged during fishing and you want to cut those parts off and not be short. Remember, removing material is much easier then adding it for most applications.

So, you're going to do this four times ever so damn slowly. SOOOOOOO SLOOOOOWWWWWW ARRRRRGGGGGGGG.

Fish the wire into the engine and out the side. The trick is to use a very tiny drill bit, like #78, to go into the side of the engine, hook the wire and pull it out. There is no panacea for this, bend wire, fish, swear, hook, swear, swear, swear, hook, swear, hook again until it comes out. Once that's done push it into the back of the body and aim for the center of the model and then fish it out the bottom. Again. This sucks. Hard. Really, it's tedious and it blows and there is no easy way to do this without having a fresh open model. Put a small piece of tape on both ends give them the same designation. It's important to know which wire is what as LEDs have a polarity (meaning they need the electricity going in a certain direction to light).

THEN REPEAT THAT ANOTHER THREE TIMES.



HURRAH! YOU DID IT!

Touch-ups, final routing, and such:

Using the hobby knife, scrap about 1 to 2 mm of coating off the end of the wires sticking out of the engine. You'll see it becomes a very bright copper colour, instead of the red-orange of the polymer insulation typically used. Using a fine tip, blob some solder onto the scrapped part. It will just tin it or blob a bit, that's all that is needed.

Holding the LED down with tweezers, carefully apply a blob of solder to both sides on the contacts. Don't go much above 660 degrees with your soldering iron. Next, tape down the wire, weight it, whatever. Place the LED beside the tinned portion of the wire and hold it with tweezers. With a blob of solder on the tip of the iron, touch the two together, they should bond. Don't take more then a second or two to do this. Repeat until you have two wires on each LED.

You'll have to make a note which side the anode (positive) and cathode (negative) of the LED are on which of your labelled wires. There is no universal marking method, you'll have to check with the datasheet of the LEDs you chose and physically look at then. The jewelers loupe goes a long way here. If you don't know what type of LED you have (and why don't you?) you can use a diode checker or a DC voltage checker to figure out the polarity of the LED. There are many guides to this on-line.

Now, pull the wires of the LED as a pair to bring the LED into the engine. Once into the engine, carefully pry the LED off to one side and put a tiny drop of super glue behind it. I used the jewelers loupe and a pin to dab the glue in there. Then press the LED into it, make sure to hold it there a few seconds until the glue drys. Super glue is insulating (don't ask how I know this), so there is no worries if it gets on things.

Repeat for the other LED.

Once all that business is complete, patch all the tiny holes with epoxy putty. Tip, gather the wires coming out the bottom of the craft and try to keep them bundled. Makes getting them through the stand easier and less likely to bunch up and jam.

Paint up the mess.

I slipped all the wires through the stand then glued it all together. The reason is I wanted to avoid getting the wires caught between pipes of the stand and such. I'd pull the wire fairly taut and half put the stand pipes together. I'd apply a tiny drop of super glue and quickly squeeze them together. The stand pieces are acrylic and most super glues will WELD acrylic. Once it's together, that's it. Eventually I got all the stand pieces together and then glued the model to the top. After I inserted the pipe into the stand base, even though the center peg is cut off the base there is the two side pieces that will wedge the pipe in place.

Pull the wires forward or backward, into that channel melted into the base earlier, and glue or epoxy the battery holder over the opening. For the last of the wiring I connected the cathodes (negative side) of the LEDs to their own separate resistors. The reason is while you can have two LEDs off of one resistor, they are not a perfect match and one tends to glow brighter then the other. Sometimes it's not noticeable as the tolerances get ever better in commodity components. The other possibility is because of the difference one will be handling more current and depending on a number of things may burn out before the other. The way I did mine, not likely, but it could happen. After all that work, why risk it? Those resistors are then soldered to the negative of the battery holder and the anodes (positive side) of the LEDs to the positive of the battery holder.

That's it. Enjoy it. Possibly drink heavily to relieve the pain.


A thing about current, the wire used, and deciding values:

36 AWG is TINY. The amount of current it can handle is very limited, you could get around this by using more wires in parallel but wire is not a perfect conductor. They have resistance, this leads to unbalanced current load in each wire which can lead to a burn out, like a fuse, when that happens the load on the other wires increases by the amount that burnt out wire was carrying. A cascading failure is the result. You could go to a slight larger size like 35 AWG of 34 AWG if you need REALLY bright LEDs. Going too big makes it hard to route the wires, it's best to work with something as small as you can deal with and work within those limits. The AWG number gets smaller as the wire get physically bigger (so #2 is much larger then #14). Lucky for us we don't need much current. I ran the LEDs at about 3 mA (milli amps) each. The wire is rated to carry approximately 35 mA in enclosed spaces/bundles where cooling is limited. It can carry up to 210 mA (A FIFTH OF AN AMP!) if it is in the air/cooled and not enclosed. I don't recommend doing that, it'll get hot, like real hot. The LEDs I used could go to about 20 to 30 mA but they are painfully bright at that point. I do enjoy whatever eyesight I have left.

So how do we pick our resistors then? We will need to know how much current we need, the voltage of our battery, and the voltage forward drop of the LED. The last bit means you need to have a certain amount of voltage or more, otherwise the LED will not conduct, therefore not be lit. This is typically 1.5 VDC to 1.7 VDC (volts DC), you can measure to be exact but that's not at all required. I just went with the datasheet rating of 1.5 Vf (Forward Voltage). So I need at least 1.5 VDC to light.

Cool, now what? Well I choose the CR2032 battery because it's flat (good fit under the base) and 3 volts. More then I need. Thing is, voltage doesn't magically disappear. I can't use JUST 1.5 volts of the 3 Volts; in a circuit, the potential (voltage) must return to zero at the end of the circuit/path. So what do we do? We need a resistor in series with the LED to drop that extra voltage, the nature of the LED is it will always drop it's rated voltage, for me that's 1.5 VDC. So we'll always have 1.5V across the resistor as a result. If I used a 9V battery (like in my test picture) the LED still drops 1.5 VDC but the resistor is now dropping 7.5 VDC.

Almost there! The other thing about LEDs (diodes too) is when they conduct they are a short. This means they will draw all the current they can from their source. Usually releasing the oft-joked "magic smoke" or "blue smoke". "Magic smoke" powers everything, once the smoke is out, you can't get it back in and it won't work. In other words, they will burn. So we need to limit the current, and that's what the other purpose of the resistor is. The voltage across the resistor is fixed (our battery minus the forward voltage), so by varying the resistance we vary the current. Ratios! Ewww.... So there is some math, if you're really bad math there are many interactive online ohms law calculators where you can enter two values to get the third.

Ohm's Law is Voltage (E) = Current (I) * (multiplied) Resistance (R)
Or E = I * R

Keep your bases the same at all times! If you used say milli amps, you must use milli ohms or milli volts, and your answer is in millis! Very important!

Well we know our voltage and what current we want. So with some magic rearranging R = E / I
With numbers R = 1.5 / 0.003 (0.003 is 3 mA written as amps)
R = 500.

I want a 500 Ohm resistor. But (of course, something else, I mean, what else did you expect at this point?) what about power? The resistor has to be able to handle the power going through it. Electrical power (in Watts) is easy.
Power (P) = Voltage (E) * Current (I)
or P = E * I
With numbers P = 1.5 * 0.003
Power is 4.5 mW (milli Watts)
Well the resistors I used handle a quarter Watt or 250 mW. I think we're safe here.

A lot of SMD/SMT resistors are in the 1/4 to 1/8 Watt range, more then adequate for our purposes. But always check if you're unsure! It sucks to come so far and have something burn or melt with no way to fix it.


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND I think that's it. Whew.

I didn't proofread this, I'll clarify whatever questions you have. Please ask in the forum so other may learn, I will not mock or scorn and I will not tolerate people doing so.
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Lord Ashram
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So I appreciate the work, but what a worthless guide. That is so far beyond me, well, there is no point


Fantastic work. Can we get a few more photos of what it looks like with the overhead lights on,ie typical game conditions?


Amazing.
 
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Vince ---
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The DSLR post shows what it looks like, there was no fancy lighting involved with it.

I gave it away as a gift, I cannot get any more photos... until I make another or try a different model... =)
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Chris Doom
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This is done very nicely. Kudos.

Its good to know the A-Wing is hollow on the inside... i just wish the x-wings would be a little bigger... because i really dont like the A-Wings that much.

 
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Ken
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'When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning' - Dr. Reiner Knizia
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HarlequinMasque wrote:
The DSLR post shows what it looks like, there was no fancy lighting involved with it.

I gave it away as a gift, I cannot get any more photos... until I make another or try a different model... =)


A gift, that's awesome. I need to move to your neighborhood.

Great work
 
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