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Electrical Firing
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Electrically fired displays bring a few more interesting facts into the equation. By firing each device electrically, you have complete control over exactly when each will fire, as opposed to a hand fired display in which delays in the quickmatch or fusing can cause unwanted gaps in your show. In an electrically fired display, each device is rigged with an electric match.

Electric Matches
Electric matches use the concept of the light bulb. They consist of a tiny bridge wire which is coated with a pyrotechnic composition (which has a low ignition temperature). When a certain amount of electric current passes through the bridge wire, it heats up, quickly passing the ignition temperature of the pyrotechnic coating. The flame which the pyrotechnic coating produces ignites the device in question. In most cases, the e-match is stuck into a piece of quick match leading into a finale chain or directly into the lift charge of a shell. The electric matches ignite fairly instantaneously due to the large amount of current that most pyrotechnic firing systems (see below) put out. The "instantaneous" nature of electric matches allows for very precise firing of shells and related devices.

***Electric matches are the most sensitive item pyrotechnicians deal with. They are both shock and friction sensitive and need to be handled with care to avoid setting them off during handling.

Firing Systems
Firing systems come in different sizes and with different capabilities. We sell a complete set of electrical firing system plans for the system you see described below. Firing systems typically operate off of 24 volts, but can range anywhere from 9 volts to 250 volts. The number of shots you can shoot from each system can vary as well.

fireworks firing systemOur 400 Shot System
Our 400 shot firing system is the one that we most commonly use at all of our electrically fired shows. It utilizes a simple analog circuit with a built in instantaneous continuity check. There are 100 separate metal pushbuttons to fire the individual cues on the firing panel. Each metal pushbutton has a built in L.E.D. ring for continuity indication. Upon turning on the firing system using the key switch, it automatically goes into continuity mode, causing the L.E.D. rings on each pushbutton firing switch to illuminate if there is continuity on that particular cue. The built in continuity system sends a very low current through each electric match.

You might ask, how can the system shoot 400 cues when there are only 100 firing buttons? Easy. There is a 4 position rotary switch that causes the pushbuttons to switch from being able to fire shots 1-100, 101-200, 201-300, and 301-400. There are 8 industry standard 50 pin ("25 pair") amphenol connectors, used to connect to a slave module capable of firing 50 shots each. So two cables equals one bank of 100 cues. Each cable connector also has a ground terminal next it. It is important that the ground from each particular cable be connected to the connector immediately adjacent to the cable only. An L.E.D. light next to each set of two cables indicates which set is currently selected by the rotary switch. Reverse polarity protection circuitry MUST be designed into this type of system to prevent any sneak circuits from occurring.

Wanting to eliminate the need for an external light or needing flashlights to see the firing panel during a show, an innovative glow panel was designed which causes the firing panel itself to illuminate a dim red to prevent loss of night vision and yet still allow you to see all the buttons, switches, and firing panel labels. This feature really helps to set this firing system above the rest. You can see more pictures and a video on the glow panel on our firing system plans page.

Not wanting to have to worry about remembering to bring batteries to each fireworks show, this system uses 24volts worth of internal batteries. Improper under or over charging the batteries can damage them and shorten their lifespan dramatically, so a smart battery charger was integrated internally, so that all you need to do is plug it into any 120VAC socket. The smart charger regulates the battery charging to maximize battery life. However, in the event you forget to charge the system before you leave to your show, there is a port on the firing panel that allows you to attach a set of external batteries to power the system. All you have to do is flip a switch, and you are on external power.

This system also has digital meters which give battery voltage and the ambient temperature.

fireworks firing system
Closeup of a majority of the firing system controls

firing system circuit boards mike showing firing system mike fireworks firing system
Luis, Rob, and Mike after soldering all the components on the firing system circuit boards Mike explaining how to use the system Mike using it to shoot a fireworks display, system is illuminated with the "glow panel"

 

I have two kinds of slave modules; the box kind (seen in the pictures below) and the strip kind (not shown). The box is self explanatory, and the strips simply consist of a cable with connectors at every 10.5"'s along the cable (used for shooting shows with mortar lines). Most firing systems similar to the one I just described have one of two disadvantages. They either use 5 of the conductors in the firing cable as a ground (which will eliminate 5 cues from each slave for a total of 40 fewer cues), or they will have a ground terminal on each slave in which you will have to run ground wire back to the firing system from each slave (wastes a lot of time and wire). So I designed my system to eliminate both of those problems. It uses a ground terminal on each slave. This allows me to utilize all 50 conductors for actual shots in each firing cable without wasting a bunch of wire each time.

electrical box connections electrical box wire

Want to build one of these? Then check out our complete set of firing system plans! These plans show you exactly how to build the system above!

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