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Discussion Starter #21
I am making headway. I am almost to the point of having a prototype, only one lens operational. I did have to modify the housing to get everything to fit and have enough clearance for everything to move. I am almost done writing the firmware to control the lamps. This is a pretty involved process and is quite complex.

This is what I am running hardware wise.

RISC 180MHZ dual core processor
GPIO board
MCP2515 CAN-Bus interface
PCS9685 PWM Servo controller
MPU9250 9DOF position sensor
16 limit switches
8 high precision/high speed metal gear servos
20x4 LCD Character display

The servos have a precision of 0.0439° and can move a range covering 60° in 0.13 seconds. They are also position aware, meaning they report back their current position. I really do not need to have the limit switches because of being able to get the current position from the servos. I thought it would be good to have a backup to stop the movement if something is off. It s also a good way of knowing if there is a stripped gear in the servo, The system will P.O.S.T. (Power On Self Test) and check if the lamps are actually moving in all directions. It will intentionally tap the limit switches, if the system doesn't see that it has tapped a limit switch then it will generate an error that will be displayed.

To my knowledge OE adaptive headlights only function when the vehicle is moving over 3-5 MPH. I did not do this, The active portion that locks and angle relative to the horizon will be disabled below 3mph but the curve active portion will still function unless the vehicle is backing up.

Any sharp change in pitch is going to cause the elevation of the lights to change. So if you go over a speed bump when the front tires go over it will aim them down and when the rears go over it will aim them up. This is also going to work with a hard acceleration or hard breaking.

If there is a sharp change to the roll of the vehicle, going around a corner fast and the weight shift causing the body to roll, the headlight on the inside of the corner will pitch down and the one on the outside will pitch up.

because I am using a total of 4 HID projectors it's tight inside of the housing. I am making the outside projectors the low/high beam and the inside ones are going to be only high beam. the range of movement of the outside projectors if greater along the x axis. There should be close to 60° of available angle change. The inside ones are closer to 30°.



Here are some photos, Now mind you this is not even close to the finished product.

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There is 0 glue/adhesives used to extend the housing, I welded the new pieces on without using chemicals of any kind.

Once I get the final shape of the housing I will fill it with Bondo or some other kind of a plaster like material. then pop out the mold and clean it up. I will use that mold in a vacuum forming machine. This is going to make it so that only a single weld is going to need to be made and it will create a piece that will look OE when done.
 

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Discussion Starter #22
OK so after some more time spent fine tuning the housing I finally got the projectors to fit and articulate without touching the lenses and also have a large range of movement.
Now after all that hard work on the housing I gave it a really good coat of Carnuba Wax on the inside and filled it with Bondo. This is so I now have a plug/mold of the section I am adding. This has several benefits. the first being it is a hell of a lot easier to do the finish work on the outside then on the inside. the second is a seamless part, And the last is reproduction so more then a single set can be made.

I ordered all of the bits and pieces to make a 2' x 2' vacuum forming machine with a heater. I did the math and hammered out what thickness sheet I needed to get in order to end up with the same thickness as the stock lens. as the heated plastic stretches over the form it is going to get thinner. The plastic I am using is the same as the stock housing and it has a really small window of only a few degrees where it goes from a state that can be vacuum formed to a molten state. This is the reason why I elected not to use my oven to heat the plastic.

I am not making the entire housing as the mount point cannot be made by vacuum forming, the original was an injection mold. There is still going to need to be a single weld that welds the new piece to the old keeping the stock outer ring.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
I am starting construction of the vacuum forming machine today. I have to run to home depot and pick up some 3/4" MDF and 2 gallons of Bondo along with some extra hardener and some weather stripping. This is my first go at building one of these types of machines so I am going to keep it as wimple as I can. I will build the vacuum box and the heating chamber as separate pieces and place then next to each other, I am going to heat the plastic from the underside instead of having the heater element be above the vacuum table and having to build a slide mechanism to hold the plastic suspended above the project piece. I will manually move the plastic from the top of the heater to over the top of the project piece.

I also have to keep this save as to not start a fire. so I have to come up with a way to protect the heater from getting plastic on it in the event I over heat it and the plastic drops. There will be about 3' of space between the heater and the plastic so I was thinking of putting in a sheet metal shield 12" above the top of the heater to keep the plastic from getting on the heater. Kind of like what you see on a BBQ.

Like what this guy does except adding a layer of protection in there.


The really cool thing about this is I will be able to make replacement lenses from Lexan. I would need to track down a really good UV coating to spray the inside of the new lens with to stop the thing from crazing. Other then that it should be super simple to do, fill the inside of an old lens with Bondo pop it out and I now have a mold to form over.
Bondo is not the cheap way to go about making the molds, I think it is the best thing to use for cost vs durability. Bondo can withstand high temperatures and it's hard as a rock when fully cured, that makes it durable so it will be able to be used several thousand times before a new one needs to be made. If I coat the mold in Bondo glaze it can be sanded wicked smooth so I shouldn't need a release agent.

I should have made a mold of the inside of the housing before I started working on it. I will do that to the driver side. I should also be able to make replacement reflectors and bezels if I can find a place that would chrome plate plastic at a reasonable price.
 

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Discussion Starter #25
Oh I also changed my electronics design. I wanted to keep with the "K.I.S.S." (Keep It Stupid Simple) design philosophy. So instead of running a grip of wiring out of the lens assemblies and having to worry about expensive water tight connectors and a water tight housing for the electronics and needing to run wires from both headlamps to a controller. I decided to have a controller for each headlamp and put the controllers and all other associated electronics into the headlamp housing (already water tight). This would make it so that I would not have to run 27 wires out of each housing. It reduces that number to 8.

the original design would have been 3 wires for each servo so 3 x 4 = 12 wires. 9 wires for the limit switches, 4 for the HID's, 2 for the high beam. I would also have to overcome possible cross talk problems with the PWM lines for the servo possibly adding an additional 4 wires to cure that problem.

The new way I would need the 4 HID wires, 2 wires for the high beam and finally 2 wires for power and ground.
It actually ends up being cheaper when doubling up the electronics. The cost of 4 water tight connectors that can hold 27-31 wires is expensive at close to 100.00 for the 4 of them. the cost of the electronics for each lens is 34.00. and that includes a 1.8" OLED screen and control pad to adjust the headlights and also to display the current position of the lamps and any errors. If there is an error it will tell me exactly where it is. Each projector will be able to be adjusted for center.
 

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I would reconsider the use of Lexan for your vacuum forming, as it generally requires extensive pre-drying to eliminate the formation of air bubbles during the forming process. We have had extremely good results with PETG. It forms well, finishes well, and is quite durable.

You might also want to think about using plaster for your molds, as it generally does better in thick sections, doesn't shrink, and is quite durable. It also finishes well, but is quite heavy, so using styrofoam blocks as filler is a good compromise for any deep molds.

Finally, an overhead heating element is safer, easier, and gives the vacuum forming system a smaller footprint. You don't need precision guide rails for small sheets of plastic, as you can suspend the frame on hooks and move it down by hand, guided by the heating element support legs.
 

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Discussion Starter #27
The forming machine I am making is going to be large enough to do a 2' x 2' form. so the machine needs to be 30" x 30" after adding size for the frame that holds the plastic and also the seal. Th issue with an overhead type of unit is I will not be able to properly heat an entire sheet of plastic that size evenly without building a complex heating system to heat the entire piece evenly. It would also require making a really involved heating cabinet because heat rises. I would have to use rock wool to insulate and have safety switches to turn the thing off in the event something happens and also to turn the thing off when lower the plastic away from the element to keep from getting burned. With the style you see in the video there is going to be close to 3' of space between the element and the plastic, having that space means less chance of an accidental overheat of the plastic. easier to monitor the temperature, and also the heat dispersion is going to be even because I am not heating the plastic with the elements I am heating it with hot air. the overhear units would require the plastic to be super close to the heater and I would have to build a controller to control the temperature of the heating elements.

I am heating a really thick piece of plastic at close to a 1/4" and on top of it the plastic has an extremely narrow form to melt range of only a few degrees. It has a fairly high forming temperature of 329°F as well.
As far as Lexan is concerned. drying it is pretty easy. 257°F for 2 hours per mm of thickness.


Using plaster as the mold material would require a bunch of additional work as it has a high moisture content after it has set and would need to be dried. It would need to be heated to 248°F so that removes the use of foam for a filler material because it's melt point is between 200°F and 220°F. Bondo heats up as it cures which expels internal moisture and also because it is used on metal surfaces is has extremely low moisture content by design once cured. This keeps the metal from rusting and also keeps the Bondo from pulling off the metal. When forming PP the mold needs to be heated to 212°F and with the high moisture content of plaster it would vent off that moisture if you do not dry it properly which can take an extremely long time if the mold is thick. I do not have to make a thick mold with Bondo because of how strong it is. at 3/8" thick with the back side being a cavity it should not have an issue handling the pressures of vacuum forming. I am not sure if a plaster mold of that type would be able to handle the pressures without collapsing.

I also need the machine to be portable. so weight has to be considered as well as size. Having to assemble the thing each time to use it would require 2 people. I am 20 minutes to the nearest gas station extra sets of hands are not the easiest thing to come by. The metal that would need to be used to support the over head heating assembly and also the frame and plastic would need to be pretty thick if aluminum is going to be used to keep the weight down. That's expensive. I am not trying to put that kind of a dent in my wallet when I am still learning. mistakes will be made and I am going to have to change design I am sure. so keeping the cost to build pretty low initially is pretty important.
 

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In my small system I have been vacuum forming up to 24 x 48 PETG regularly for the past 15 years. The heating "box" is a 2x4 troffer fixture with two oven broiler elements. There is no insulation because the heating is essentially radiant and fairly quick. The support is a piece of 3/4" EMT in each corner that also serve as the guides for the clamp frame. The entire system (vacuum box to heater) weighs around 20 lbs, collapses to a 2x4x1 foot box, and is very portable.

The only time I use heat control is with ABS because it heats better with a longer wavelength of heat. For that I duty-cycle the elements to reduce their temperature.

One of the other advantages of PETG is that it heats quickly and evenly, and is very tolerant of heat ranges, but I am forming with a maximum of .080" thick. 1/4" seems awfully thick for a headlight assembly.

I have not had any problem with the plaster molds, with either PETG or ABS, and do not do any special drying.
 

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My rig is almost exactly what you describe. I used two oven elements in the bottom of a box built of fireproof backerboard. The elements sit about three feet below the plastic being heated and I added a piece of aluminum sheet about a foot above the elements in the center to evenly spread the heat over a 2x2 foot sheet of plastic. I use Bondo for making molds and have never had to use any release agent. Biggest problem I had in the beginning was not having a large enough vacuum tank to pull the plastic tightly down over the mold. Solved that with an extra air compressor tank. Another useful gadget is an infra red thermometer to keep track of the plastic temps while heating. Have never attempted forming anything over 1/8 inch thick but have found that thickness to be very rigid and strong after forming.
 

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Discussion Starter #30
The headlamp assembly has fairly thick plastic to it at just under an an 1/8" because of the small footprint of the modification and the total area the plastic has to cover it is going to thin out to be just above 1/8" thick. I am making it thicker for 2 reasons. There is more weight in the housing now. quite a bit more, also the temperatures are going to be higher inside of it. The thicker plastic is going to have a better chance of not deforming due to the added weight and heat.

PTEG is also a really different animal then PP. PTEG has an optimum form temp of 300°F and a melt temperature of 500°F, That's a 200°F window to make sure the entire piece of plastic is heated to forming temp or above. PP has an optimum forming temp 329°F and a melt temperature of 340°F. Next to no wiggle room. Heating PP with oven elements I do not believe would not work properly at close proximity over that size area. The spots of plastic that are closest to the element would become molten before the areas further away get hot enough to vacuum form it. You would have to pick up a piece of PP and mess around with it. I see the potential of having issues getting the temperature even across the entire piece of plastic if using a close proximity heating system.

The other thing is when forming PTEG there is no need to heat the form up to 212°F if you heat a plaster form up to that temp and it has not been dryed it is going to release steam. the form needs to be heated because of how fast the PP is going to turn solid again. by having the form hot it slows that down to give the vacuum machine time to pull the plastic down properly.

I have to stick to using PP because the factory housing is made of PP and in order to weld the new piece onto the housing the new piece has to be PP. PP doesn't play nice with other plastics.

These are the animals I am trying to overcome in order to do this. I could just weld the pieces on like I did and that would work without issue. I am really going through the work with the vacuum former so that if someone else wants to do this upgrade and wants the back part of the housings I can make them up easily and I would not need their original housings at all. The welding of the 2 pieces is easy to do. It takes some practice maybe an hour or so of messing around with some scraps. This is the hardest part of the entire build.

It is also going to allow me to learn so I will be able to make other pieces when they eventually fail. like the door panel pull handle or the flaps on the tulip panel. maybe the center console. These are parts that are hard to get and soon enough will be exhausted.

This is cool brainstorming tho It is really making sure that I have spent the time to think everything through, the plastic isn't terribly expensive at 25 bucks for a 2' x 2' piece, it's the 20+ dollar shipping charge that drives up the cost of making mistakes.

I cannot believe what they are charging now for lumber t Home Depot. It's friggin nutz, a piece of 7/16 OSB at the beginning of this year was < $12.00, and now it's $37.00. a piece of 3/4 MDF is only 2 dollars more expensive then 1/2". A tube of silicone for a caulking gun was 3 and change and now it's over 6. This is what happens when minimum wadge goes up. The problem is the minimum wadge went up but do you think the wadges of the people that make more then the minimum went up?? NOPE!!!! and then you slap COVID-19 into it and you now give a reason to increase it even further.

Funny thing about retail. if the cost to buy something is 100.00 and the store slaps a 100% markup on it they sell it for 200.00 if the price of the item goes up to 200.00 the store still slaps that 100% on it so instead of the price of the item costing 300 to the consumer it now costs 400. Hence the reason why the crazy inflation..
 

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Discussion Starter #31
@nolbret

Thanks

I just finished up drilling the 1 mm holes in the deck of the vacuum forming machine I am making. It took quite a while to drill 2000 holes. I am assembling the plenum now, and then give it a test run and see how much suction there is using 2 shop vacs. If there isn't enough I will use my compressor and thread off the air cleaner and attach a pipe from the air cleaner port to the plenum. That should provide enough suction at a reasonable CFM.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
I got some of the electronics in today. the rest should be here tomorrow I hope. I have to check and see when the plastic is supposed to arrive.
 

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Discussion Starter #33
I have to code all sorted out for the pitch and roll of the car. I also got more of the electronics in then I thought (checked my mailbox). So I am now going to start assembling the electronics for each of the housings.

Oh, I also added code so that if the headlights are not on it is not going to move them at all. No point to moving them really. I am going to have to build voltage dividers for the low beam and the high beam inputs.
 

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Discussion Starter #34
ok so I have the vacuum forming machine all finished. I got the plastic in and the form is done. I am taking a break for 15 then I am going to see what this bugger can do. I am going to use a larger area piece of plastic as I do not want to pull a smaller piece to thin. so instead of using a 12" x 12" I am going to use an 18" x 18" which is going to have a 16" x 16" are that can be used because of clamping it to a frame. I might be able to get away with a 12" x 12" I will know once I give this a go and see what it comes out like. If it is to thick then I will size down. I will need to pick up another sheet of 1/2" MDF to make a frame with a smaller opening. I bought a piece of 2' x 3' plastic so I should be good for a couple of tries. Hopefully I won't mess up to bad. I have my infrared thermometer so I should be able to nail it pretty good as far as the temp goes. I have a shield in place over the heater if I mes up and overheat the thing.

My wife is home so I am going to use a second set of hands moving the thing. I will have her heat the form up in the kitchen oven while I am getting things all set up down here. I am going to have the egg timer to time how long it takes to heat the plastic.
 

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Discussion Starter #36
BAH!!!!!

I made a mistake, and so did the company I ordered the plastic from.

I didn't see the smaller print that the plastic I ordered is a PP Copolymer. and the company sent me 1/4" and not 3/16". The copolymer PP has a melt temperature of >500°F and a form temperature of 420°F or so. I am not able to get the plastic temperature up that high using quartz heaters. and with the 1/4" thickness I would also have to heat it from both sides.....

Maybe I will go with ABS, tho I will not be able to weld it onto the housing I will be able to use butyle and pop rivets to seal and attach it.
 

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Discussion Starter #37
OK so now I am somewhat pissed. I picked up a piece of clear acrylic that is 0.09" inches thick. so like 3/32nds. I could not get the temperature of the plastic above 280 degrees. and that is with the heater moved to 15" away from the plastic.

So I said hmmm.... I bet the 1500 watt heater is not 1500 watts. I put a set of AMP clamps on the wire and what do you think I found?.... 7.68 amp current draw. voltage * amperage = wattage. 7.68 * 120 = 921.60 watts. both quartz tubes are glowing red so they are both working. All I have to say is "Made in China"....
 

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Discussion Starter #38
Ok so heater issue sorted out. Got everything working. I used a 12"x12"x1/8 piece of PP I had kicking about. I was correct about the thickness. 1/8" ends up pretty thin. To thin for my liking. I went ahead and used the piece anywho. I added to it in the thin spots to give it some strength.

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Mind you this is not finished. I still have to sand some more and then I have to hit it with a torch. The torch is what will bring it back to smooth and glossy.

It came out pretty decent. I am sure on the other headlamp it will look quite a bit better.

I am working on mounting the electronics and running the internal wiring. There is quite a bit to put into the thing. I also have to mount the display and 4 button keypad so adjustments can be made.

I have to remember to get the orientation right for the screen so it will be the correct way when the hood is open. I am going to be mounting it on the housing side that is closest to the side of the car. This way it is easily seen.
I have some clear acrylic that I can use over the display to keep everything water tight.

It's going to be a tight squeeze getting all of the electronics into it and not reduce the range of motion. I'll get it sorted, it will probably take me a few days to nail down the best way to get everything into the housing.
 

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Discussion Starter #40 (Edited)
I am doing the finish work on the first housing. It is coming along really nice. I went a different route for finishing it. because the plastic is so thin I'm not able to heat up the plastic enough to make the sanding marks disappear without the plastic warping. So this is what I am doing. I have sanded the entire housing with 220 grit. I have it a bath in some warm water and dawn dish liquid. scrubbed it down with a boars hair brush. Let it dry for 24 hours. Then it underwent a sponge path in denatured alcohol. Let it dry for 30 minutes. This next part was tricky, I had to move exceedingly fast. I gave the part a bath in 100% pure acetone. Acetone melts plastic so I had to move really quick and not leave the acetone sitting on the plastic for too long. I only wanted to often the surface of the plastic. It doesn't stay soft for very long so I had to make sure that excess acetone was wiped off and that it evaporated so I could get the first layer of primer on. the first coat could be really thin. I used a filler primer and coated the housing 4 times sanding with 400 grit between coats. then 3 coats of an enamel black paint sanding with 800 grit between coats. after the last coat of primer the part sat for 24 hours to dry and same thing after the last coat of black. It actually takes several days for the paint to fully cure after 24 hours enough of the chemicles in the paint flashed off (evaporated) so I could do the next step. Then into the oven the housing went with the temperature set at 175.00 degrees. doing the baking softens the plastic enough to promote better adhesion.

The reason I say I am still working on it is there were a few spots I didn't like and wanted to fix. so I have to sand, and paint then bake again.

I can tell you that this process works fantastic. I was a dum dum and didn't clean the butyl out of the track the lens sits in. It got covered with paint and the butyle needed to be removed. only way to do it is good ol fashion emanuel labor. This stuff is not the easiest thing in the world to remove and had to be convinced with a flat head screwdriver and quite a bit of force. well the housing is not exactly stiff. the plastic has a rubbery property to it so it will flex quite a bit. and that it did. The paint didn't get a single spider crack, no chips either and it is actually hard to scratch on top of it. I would call that a success..
 
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