Print
PDF
31
December
2010

FireHero

A preview of my friend playing FireHero to the song "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Update: Two full songs uploaded to youtube:

The story of FireHero:

 

So, long ago I  had read about propane fire poofers. They're pretty cool... I mean, who doesn't love fire?! But, no matter how awesome, they could get pretty boring after a while of seeing the same large fireball. I never built one because I wanted something that would be exciting and thrilling every time I fired it up. So, I put the project on hold until I could come up with an awesome idea.

About 2 weeks ago, I was daydreaming in class about who knows what, when I thought of my fire poofer project. I thought back to this project I had read about a while back on Mikey Sklar's website where he uses an ultrasonic sensor mounted underneath a trampoline to shoot off a fireball every time someone jumps. This is pretty sweet, but it has the potential to get pretty repetitive. After a few hundred jumps, I would imagine I would get tired of seeing the same small fireball and crave something more. (besides, I don't own a trampoline!) I tried to think of ways I could apply a fireball shooter to things in ways that would be pretty awesome. I thought of using a microcontroller to sync the fire to the beat of music - now that would be pretty cool, and the patterns would always be different, so it wouldn't get as boring as fast. Then I thought of the game Guitar Hero, which uses five frets, and I had my idea! Simply interface a Guitar Hero controller to a microcontroller that would power some relays which would in turn fire off solenoid valves on five individual fire poofers! Now this could be cool; a large fire "sculpture" that is playable by anybody. Read on to see how I turned this idea into reality in a week's time!


I started with the propane system. These are the tanks I used - the three in front provide me with 60# of supply, and the 100# tank in the back is my main accumulator tank. The 20# right in front of the large tank is where my regulating system will go. The tank will provide a sort of buffer when large blasts of propane are required and it adds extra storage volume.


This is maybe a third of the amount of fittings I ended up using on the entire project (I got really good at using teflon tape!)


This is the system I was using to purge the 20# buffer tank. I also used the same system to thoroughly purge the large 100# with CO2 so I could safely work with it in my garage. Of course, my garage smelled like mercaptans the whole time, but it was safe to work on.


The supply manifold for the regulating assembly


I used flexible copper tubing with double flares on the ends to connect the supply tanks to the regulating manifold.


The complete supply system: three 20# tanks with individual shutoffs chained to manifold with a pressure gauge. The gas then passes through an adjustable 50-135psi propane regulator and into the buffer tank, which has a second pressure gauge attached to it. The gas is fed through a ball valve and into a quick-disconnect coupler to make its way to the main accumulator tank.


The propane enters the main accumulator tank through another quick disconnect. There is a tee where gas can be routed to the right to fire up the Ruben's tube. The line also splits up into the pilot light manifold which has a ball valve and needle valve for fine adjustment of the pilot light size. Each pilot light can go anywhere from candle size to a 5 foot flame. The gas makes its way into the 100# storage tank via a 3/4 ball valve where it is stored to be released by the solenoid valves.


This picture shows where the gas comes up to the two manifolds on FireHero - the main line from which all the solenoids branch off of, and the pilot light assembly. The main manifold can be independently shut off by a 3/4" ball valve, and is only turned on right before the show begins.


This picture shows the pilot light assembly in detail. The manifold can be shut off completely by a ball valve. When the ball valve is open, a needle valve is used to control flame height.



Now for the control portion of FireHero:

This was my first attempt at interfacing the guitar hero controller. I opened up the case and tapped into each fret button and the strum up/down buttons and wired them to 9-pin connector. I then ran a cable from this connector to my microcontroller and was going to use a simple digitalRead() and digitalWrite() program to check the status of the buttons and fire the appropriate relays. However, the buttons on the controller were not simple on/off buttons for some strange reason... instead they were a 16k resistor when off and 0 when on. (If anyone can shed some light on this, please comment) Interfacing the controller this way was more trouble than it was worth, so I scrapped it and looked for new ideas.


A thought popped into my head - how hard would it be to decode the serial data from the controller directly? As if my micro-controller were emulating a PS2? A quick Google search landed me on this article from Bill Porter's fine website. Bill had already done all of the hard work and compiled a PlayStation 2 controller interface library for the Arduino. This enabled me to quickly incorporate the guitar into my project with very little head-scratching. All that was needed to get the Guitar Hero controller to work was to halve the clock frequency. (Great job Bill!)


This picture shows my setup: the guitar is plugged into a header I salvaged from a PlayStation 1, which is connected to my Arduino Uno. The Arduino decodes the serial data from the controller, looks for button presses, and cycles power to the relays accordingly.


The relays are then connected to the solenoid valves on the main assembly via a nice long wiring harness using a common ground setup.


For version 1 of FireHero, the player simply watches a video of the guitar hero chart and plays on the guitar accordingly. Version 2 of FireHero will have a much better system, with Autoplay functionality. I will be able to take a custom guitar hero chart, convert it into a MIDI file, and use Processing to analyze it and play FireHero to the track. Through the Fire and Flames on Expert, anyone? If you have a song you'd like to see version 2 of FireHero play, let me know in a comment!


Ready to Rock!



testing...


'nuff said.


The Ruben's tube



Flames are too high on the Ruben's tube in this picture. They were turned down to a much more acceptable level for the real thing.



Done for the night, purging the regulating assembly of propane


Purging the main accumulator tank of propane for storage.


That's it for Version 1 of FireHero. Ideas for Version 2 include:

  • option to use the whammy bar to control the height of the flame
  • Star Power, which would boost flame height or fire off additional fireballs
  • color-changing flames
  • auto-play functionality (in addition to manual mode)

If you have a cool idea that I could add to this list and incorporate into FireHero v2, let me know in a comment below.

Comments 

 
0 #109 Lynx Prowler 2013-01-03 19:19
Have you thought about making the electornic versatile across different PS controllers? For example, you could use the Guitar, or the Drum Pad, or the Dance-Pad? The Dance-Pad would be amazing. Well, this is ALL amazing, but would be 2x amazing if you could switch out the type of controller. Great work!
Quote
 
 
0 #108 Chris Marion 2012-12-16 14:03
Quoting Richard:
Awesome. Do you sell these and if so how much?


Richard, please contact me using the link at the top or bottom of this page, and we can discuss your specific requirements before I generate a quote.

-Chris
Quote
 
 
0 #107 Richard 2012-12-16 10:42
Awesome. Do you sell these and if so how much?
Quote
 
 
0 #106 marcos 2012-04-18 15:59
and if you play with fire you better:
goo.gl/rl9xJ
before going to bed. anoter arduino thing.
Quote
 
 
+1 #105 Matt Fisk 2011-06-17 13:49
Quoting Timothy King:
BROTHER YOU A PYRO GOD I WANT ONE IN THE WORST WAY IS THERE A WAY YOU CAN FIX TO JUST AN MP3 player.This would take my drive way partys into another level.


4 words Sparkfun Audio Spectrum Shield
Quote
 
 
0 #104 rogerio 2011-03-31 03:35
really nice project, i have lots of good ideas but am a bit lazy to put real work on them, i envy your focus! although i dont like to waste fuel, i really love flames and fire. i am working on some ideas here in my place, all thanks to arduino that show me things are easier than i thought in the past. I have a terrible problem in my country (brazil) because our gvnmt heavily tax anything (more than 80% on imports) so i need to build everything from the bottom line. you gave me the idea to put some efforts in producing gas and liquid valves, i will let you know if i get something to work. thanks for the inspiration.
Quote
 
 
0 #103 Timothy King 2011-03-19 08:24
BROTHER YOU A PYRO GOD I WANT ONE IN THE WORST WAY IS THERE A WAY YOU CAN FIX TO JUST AN MP3 player.This would take my drive way partys into another level.
Quote
 
 
0 #102 Chris 2011-02-10 16:28
Quoting Seb:
Hey, nice work!
did you ever try to run it with liquid??


Nope, but you can bet on me experimenting with liquid systems in the future. 80 foot flames, anyone?

Chris
Quote
 
 
+1 #101 Seb 2011-02-10 16:17
Hey, nice work!
did you ever try to run it with liquid??
Quote
 
 
0 #100 Christopher 2011-02-02 22:25
Hey man, just stumbled across this link via reading a video game magazine but had to take a second to comment. Great video, You have some serious talent here. I'm sure I'm not the only person out here who thinks you're destined for greatness.

All the tire pumping aside, I apologize for the people out there who commented about the basketball hoop in the background.. I facepalmed reading that shit.
Looking forward to seeing future projects!
Quote
 
 
+1 #99 Yiannis 2011-01-30 13:14
First get an HD camera. Then in the next video please show us the person who plays too. Lastly you are fcikng AMAZING. This is crazy.
Quote
 
 
+1 #98 Elaine Laffey 2011-01-23 20:42
Chris, couldn't be more proud to know you...sorry I don't have any suggestions for improvement. :lol:
Quote
 
 
+2 #97 Ian 2011-01-22 05:30
I agree entirely with @Coop about the HSIs (that is, hot-surface ignitors). They're awesome. Around here, we've had excellent results with the Honeywell Glowfly (Q3200U). There are slightly cheaper options too. Just make sure your ignitor is silicon nitride. The older silicon carbide ones are very brittle.

However, please don't put liquid propane into a fuel system designed for vapor. You can build such effects safely, but you need to start from the ground up. There are safety features that are required which your vapor system doesn't have. Also, your parts are probably not rated for it. If you want more detail, let me know, but there cheaper and easier ways to solve the tank freezing problem than switching to liquid.
Quote
 
 
0 #96 Coop 2011-01-21 21:32
Chris, on your next version, may I suggest using HSI's instead of the pilot flames, it increases the dramatic effect when it poofs and makes it easier to space out your flame outlet pipes. Also, if you use a forklift style supply tank there is no restriction in the valve on the tank like there is on the 20# bbq tanks that cause the tank to frost up faster. also on a forklift tank is a output for actual liquid propane , which helps keep tank frost and pressure drop to a minimum since the liquid to gas changeover happens away from the supply tank.

Just my 02
Coop
Quote
 
 
0 #95 BIll Porter 2011-01-20 22:38
Alright Chris, here's a teaser for my own Color Fire Hero.

www.billporter.info/.../
Quote
 
 
0 #94 techfreak243 2011-01-20 20:03
Quoting Ian:
For color effects, you can add a powder feed to a gas system pretty easily... a little bypass tube that you can fill with pyrotechnic powder and feeds into your nozzle works fine, driven by its own little separate valve. I've heard people get good result mixing powders about 50% with flour to get them to feed well.

Note, however, that you'll be disappointed if you try to color a rich propane flame. There's so much carbon in propane that the orange fire you're making is quite bright. Colored flame tends to be very subtle in comparison, and will probably be lost. You can use iron filings to create sparkles, though, which is pretty awesome.

Generally, people color machine-based fire by dissolving metal salts in methanol. It's cheap and has a nearly transparent flame on its own. If you want a gaseous fuel, hydrogen is the one to use. Note that hydrogen and liquid fuels both present their own new challenges, and are overall significantly more dangerous to work with than propane. Be careful. :)

Methanol is toxic (drink about a shot of it and you'll go blind). For this reason, fire performers tend to do colored flame with ethanol (expensive) or isopropanol (smelly). Of course, the colorants themselves are often toxic as well.

Another issue with a rich propane flame is that it's kinda cold. Some pyrotechnic materials don't really produce the beautiful colors at those temperatures. You can get more color in a stoichiometric propane flame (less bright and hotter), but that's a different thing. I'm sure you can work that out with your forge design experience, though.

the colors shoulc be greed red yellow blue and orange from left to right respectively to match the colored fret buttons!
Quote
 
 
0 #93 Ian 2011-01-20 17:11
For color effects, you can add a powder feed to a gas system pretty easily... a little bypass tube that you can fill with pyrotechnic powder and feeds into your nozzle works fine, driven by its own little separate valve. I've heard people get good result mixing powders about 50% with flour to get them to feed well.

Note, however, that you'll be disappointed if you try to color a rich propane flame. There's so much carbon in propane that the orange fire you're making is quite bright. Colored flame tends to be very subtle in comparison, and will probably be lost. You can use iron filings to create sparkles, though, which is pretty awesome.

Generally, people color machine-based fire by dissolving metal salts in methanol. It's cheap and has a nearly transparent flame on its own. If you want a gaseous fuel, hydrogen is the one to use. Note that hydrogen and liquid fuels both present their own new challenges, and are overall significantly more dangerous to work with than propane. Be careful. :)

Methanol is toxic (drink about a shot of it and you'll go blind). For this reason, fire performers tend to do colored flame with ethanol (expensive) or isopropanol (smelly). Of course, the colorants themselves are often toxic as well.

Another issue with a rich propane flame is that it's kinda cold. Some pyrotechnic materials don't really produce the beautiful colors at those temperatures. You can get more color in a stoichiometric propane flame (less bright and hotter), but that's a different thing. I'm sure you can work that out with your forge design experience, though.
Quote
 
 
+1 #92 techfreak243 2011-01-20 16:41
Quoting o_shea:
i want to see through the fire and flames

that will be a literal song to play
Quote
 
 
0 #91 francis 2011-01-20 16:30
This is the most awesome thing ive ever seen in my LIFE!! page bookmarked and cant wait for version 2..

I have 2 questions for you:
1) where are you?
2) can i have a go?!?!?!?
Quote
 
 
+1 #90 Rob 2011-01-19 12:13
Through the Fire and Flames would be perfect lol. Awesome work.
Quote
 
 
0 #89 Chris 2011-01-18 17:42
Quoting Nick:
How much propane does this use for a single song? Why could you not have 1 tank to feed the whole assembly?


Nick, let's just say that I went through 60 pounds of propane throughout the entire two nights of filming (8 or 9 songs, I think).

I used the three small tanks instead of one large one for a few reasons: 1) It was all I had on hand 2) The evaporating surface area of the three 20# tanks is much greater than, say one 100# tank. This allows a faster release of more propane.. and it still wasn't enough. If you compare the flames at the beginning of the "For Those About To Rock" video versus the end, you'll see what I mean. It started at around 100psi and by the end of the song was down to less than 30psi. That's something I'll have to work on for version 2.

-Chris
Quote
 
 
0 #88 Nick 2011-01-18 17:34
How much propane does this use for a single song? Why could you not have 1 tank to feed the whole assembly?
Quote
 
 
0 #87 Mario 2011-01-18 11:40
Yeah, this is one of the coolest things I've seen in awhile...
Quote
 
 
0 #86 o_shea 2011-01-18 04:32
now make 2 more for base drums
Quote
 
 
0 #85 o_shea 2011-01-18 04:30
i want to see through the fire and flames
Quote
 
 
0 #84 Henry the Unclean 2011-01-17 08:46
Hank Hill would be proud!!
Quote
 
 
0 #83 d3v 2011-01-17 03:06
Instead of a custom PS2 Arduino. How about using a Multi-Console Cthulhu board so that you can actually wire it up to different consoles.

shoryuken.com/.../...
Quote
 
 
0 #82 coolness 2011-01-16 16:26
This is so amazing. I hope you have it patented.... I personally think the basketball hoop is great, leave it in!!
Quote
 
 
+1 #81 HPAVC 2011-01-16 10:54
The basketball hoop adds something, I would leave it.
Quote
 
 
0 #80 HPAVC 2011-01-16 10:51
well done.
Quote
 
 
0 #79 Bill Porter 2011-01-15 20:38
Hey Chris,

I put an example sketch up on my blog for reading just a Guitar (with the new version of the library) and sending the values to a PC. It should be cut-and-paste for you to update your sketch to the newer more friendly lib version.

There's also a video demonstrating it coming shortly.

www.billporter.info/.../
Quote
 
 
0 #78 Chris 2011-01-15 13:41
@Docoutlands: Thunderstruck will probably be one of the songs I do with version 2 or 3.

@CancledLegend: I don't have any experience with Tesla coils... though I didn't have any experience with propane fire effects before I started this. I'll consider it!

@KevinT: It has already been suggested, and I will be working on an entire Rock Band version in the future. Expect the Rock Band version in the late spring or early summer, when things warm up and I finally have some spare time.

@jamesB: There is no chance of the propane tank exploding, since oxygen is needed for combustion. However, I make sure to purge my entire regulating system and accumulator tank with CO2 gas before filling with propane to ensure there is zero explosion hazard. Nice info with the propane burners, it may be helpful to use with my Home Foundry.

@itchyd: Nice suggestions for the chemicals. I still need to do some experimenting when I get some free time.

@Mikey Sklar: Thanks!

@Bob: Thanks, I'll check that out.

@Eric: That could give very cool results. I will most likely be experimenting with different arrangements of the individual cannons in versions 2 and 3.

@Jimbo: The next versions will be filmed in a much better location with no basketball hoop in the background.

@Ev: Thanks! Actually, not at all. If anything, I don't have enough time on my hands. FireHero was completed on the side over my winter break (when I had a LITTLE extra time) in the midst of college applications, ski racing, and most importantly, other projects. Whenever I was feeling frustrated with my Segway, I would stop and do a little work on FireHero.

Thanks again, everyone.

Chris
Quote
 
 
0 #77 Richard 2011-01-15 11:02
Although I'm not a rocker - or a GuitarHeroplayer, I am impressed.

My only critique would be that the videos would be improved if the only extraneous objects were the trees in the background and the snow. (The 100# tank is OK.) That would impart a much better "mythic" aspect to the videos.

Wonderful!
Quote
 
 
0 #76 Chris 2011-01-14 21:42
Quoting Bill Porter:
Hey Chris,

Are you sure you had to change the clock frequency? I just tried a wireless guitar and it worked right away without touching it.

Also, it seems (at least with my knock off guitar) the guitar doesn't send analog pressures of the fret buttons. It always reports 0. Let me know if it works when you try it.

Whammy bar works fine though.


Hey Bill,

It's quite possible that your wireless one works at 500khz normally. The red wired one that I used needed the halved clock speed or else it wouldn't respond correctly to the arduino. I didn't notice the analog pressures of the fret buttons, but then again I wasn't really looking for it. The whammy bar worked fine for me as well.

I'll check out the latest version (v1.5) of your library as soon as I get home; I can't wait to see what you've added.

Chris
Quote
 
 
0 #75 Bill Porter 2011-01-14 21:35
Chris,

I posted a new version (v1.5) of my library with some fixes and proper support for a guitar hero controller. Check out the new example sketch.

Also, it will tell you right away if your controller supports "pressure" readings on the fret buttons. Mine does not.
Quote
 
 
0 #74 Bill Porter 2011-01-14 16:53
Hey Chris,

Are you sure you had to change the clock frequency? I just tried a wireless guitar and it worked right away without touching it.

Also, it seems (at least with my knock off guitar) the guitar doesn't send analog pressures of the fret buttons. It always reports 0. Let me know if it works when you try it.

Whammy bar works fine though.
Quote
 
 
0 #73 Ryan 2011-01-14 16:25
Quoting Ryan:
Quoting Jimbo:
Completely awesome! But next time, please take the basketball hoop out of the background.


And put in a hot chick!


No pun intended.
Quote
 
 
0 #72 Ryan 2011-01-14 16:24
Quoting Jimbo:
Completely awesome! But next time, please take the basketball hoop out of the background.


And put in a hot chick!
Quote
 
 
0 #71 Ev 2011-01-14 14:57
This is sweet. You have some time on your hands, don't you?
Quote
 
 
0 #70 Jimbo 2011-01-14 13:05
Completely awesome! But next time, please take the basketball hoop out of the background.
Quote
 
 
0 #69 Eric 2011-01-14 11:50
Quoting dDoug:
Just a suggestion - when building the next version see how it looks with the flames farther apart...I think if they were perhaps 1.5x to 2x farther apart it would be really impressive.


I would also suggest giving the flames a slight angle spread -- the one in the middle being straight up, the two next to it being about 10 degrees and the farthest two being about 20. Of course you'd have to up the pressure to make them fire straight...
Quote
 
 
+2 #68 Bob 2011-01-13 23:36
Really cool setup. Best I could do growing up was a teaspoonful of gas in an empty Prestone jug on an extension cord with the plug cut off. ;)

Be interesting to see what V2.0 or V3.0 look like.

Off the wall suggestion: a set up to emulate the Trans Siberian Orchestra light setup.


Cheers,

Jim
Quote
 
 
0 #67 Mikey Sklar 2011-01-13 23:06
Nicely done.
Quote
 
 
+1 #66 itchyd 2011-01-13 19:12
To get color I would probably fill something like a tea strainer with the chemicals and hang it (coat hanger haha?) over the nozzles:

Red Strontium Chloride

Orange Calcium Chloride

Yellow Sodium Chloride (table salt)
or Sodium Carbonate

Green Copper Sulfate or Boric Acid

Blue Copper Chloride

Experimentation would be needed to get the right amounts etc :)
Quote
 
 
0 #65 jamesB 2011-01-13 18:23
What an awesome, well executed project! I've built some naturally aspirated propane burners and oxy/propane burners for blacksmith forges, a glass melting furnace, and lampworking. Here are a couple of things you might be interested in looking at:

Some folks use idler circuits for their burners. They are quite similar to your pilot flames, but use a single propane output.

Having had my burners pop, and backfire, I started using a check valve to prevent the tank from exploding. The welding supply places sell them.

I saw quite a bit of comment about flame color, and if you got your air/fuel ratio down some you could do blue flames. They would be hotter but not as bright, and likely much less dramatic.

You may have already done this, but searching for Ron Reil propane burner will get you some interesting design info on high temp propane burners.

Again, really nice work.
Quote
 
 
0 #64 KevinT 2011-01-13 14:01
This...is...GENIUS! Pure and simple. If this has been suggested already I apologize for the repeat but have you considered making a similar flame set up for the Guitar Hero drum setup?
Quote
 
 
+1 #63 David R 2011-01-13 11:17
Chris: I've read the comments on producing different color flames and all I can say is that in school we did this thing called a borax bead test that might get you what you want. You'd have to have a pretty big "bead" but it would be in solid form and be right in front of the nozzle and I agree that the flames would have to be further apart. Other than that, you have way too much spare time on your hands and I hope this gets entered in a science fair somewhere!!!

en.wikipedia.org/.../...
Quote
 
 
0 #62 CancledLegend 2011-01-13 10:24
Recomendation: Next Level = Add Faraday cage and Tesla Coils. More sparks more danger = clearly better.
Quote
 
 
+1 #61 dDoug 2011-01-13 00:17
Nicely done. And that's coming from an old man that thinks Guitar Hero is silly (I still wear an onion on my belt).

Just a suggestion - when building the next version see how it looks with the flames farther apart...I think if they were perhaps 1.5x to 2x farther apart it would be really impressive.
Quote
 
 
0 #60 Docoutlands 2011-01-12 23:18
Very awesome!

But...

...we wanna see "Thunderstruck" set to FIRE!!!!!
Quote