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A project inspired by a friend in the theatre industry who was asking about the technicalities of creating a prop rose in a glass bell jar where the petals fall off in a controlled manner during the performance.
My initial thoughts were a magnetic system or an assembly with boden style tubes to allow pins to be pulled to drop the petals, but then I decided to experiment with resistors and wax.
This video is a good demonstration of how changing materials (higher temp wax and lighter petals) can change the results completely.
The prop as shown is just a prototype. It would look more rose-like with more petals and a smaller connection hub.
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I have just built a prototype prop and i've not tried this. Yet i've been waiting for you guys to get here, so we can watch what happens together and see if it works. But here's the story behind this, a friend in the theater industry, got in touch and said we're doing beauty and the beast and as part of that, there's a glass chamber with a rose inside it and during the performance uh. I'm not sure.

I don't know the whole storyline behind this, but leaves selectively fall off the rose until there's one left and then it just flutters down itself and there i've seen various ways of doing that, because i've done a bit of research online and one of them was interesting. It was like all connected with the phone and it was like lighting up and chunks of it were falling off with loud servo noises, and i have to say initially i thought magnets could do this or you could have a little bowden tubes going up the middle And then uh servers at the bottom and i think that's what that guy with the other rose was doing because chunks of it fell off and then finally, the top just toppled off with a loud servo noise. But i wanted to do something more subtle. So i was thinking about ways to do it and i thought what about wax? It's an odd way to do it.

It makes a bit more complicated to reset, but it might be quite interesting. So i got a 10 ohm resistor and i got some kind of wax. I'm just going to zoom down this here and i melted the wax and stuck the resistor on and actually stuck on, really tightly. Then i connected a couple of leads to it.

It's a 10 ohm resistor. I ran the power supply up to 2 volts about 200 milliamps um, which gives a total of 400 milliwatts, which is just above the rating of a quarter, watt resistor and after a few seconds, the wax, melted and the thing fell off and to reset it. I clamped this down and i heated the resistor and it basically fused itself on again with just addition of a bit more wax if needed. So i thought i'd refine that a bit more.

So here is just an experimental rose. This isn't how it would look, and then this is just a prototype, but it's just using uh wires and connectors up with stems as the stem, and these are just i'd use. Uh. This a paper wedding leaves, i think, the ones you get the silk leaves maybe, but these are just printed off on the printer and cut out to look like leaves and the resistors i've put in a little connector, so you could actually just plug them into the Rows so let's um zoom down on this right and i'll, show you the process of fusing this on and then we'll try just this one and then we'll try the whole rose and see what happens.

So i have a little pillow wax here. I have my hot air gun which i'm going to use to cheat here by heating the wax like this. So i'm going to heat it initially and try not blow it everywhere. Once it's heated to a degree, i'm going to squish it flat and then i'm going to hold this in place and i'm going to reflow the wax so that it goes around the resistor.

Then, unfortunately, just because the wax takes a while to cool i'm going to have to uh basically stand here until the wax slowly. Suffice it so fiddle eyes. That's right! That's what it's doing it's federalizing solidifies, because if i get too impatient see i just got impatient. Didn't i i moved it now, i'm going to have to re-melt it, so this is a terrible idea.

All right tell you what i'm going to re-melt i'm going to stand here like a dually and uh, i'm just going to pause momentarily, so you don't have to literally watch wax dry. One moment please, the wax is more or less cooled. So, let's continue. It is surprising, i'm gon na not go to temp feet by touching this, because i've only just done it, but it is surprising how much uh abuse the rose will actually handle once they're attached they're quite resilient.

The other thing i considered for this was uh pins and thread that off stage someone could pull threads numbered threads to actually pull specific pins out, but it would still require a lot of reset time. This thing means that you could actually make a whole batch of these little wax petals up and the way i might do it might have a strip with the connectors on it that you plugged them on and it was weighted down and you laid the petals underneath And then just poured the whole lot up at 12, volts for 10-15 seconds and then turned off and walked away and when you came back maybe 10 minutes later they'd all have cooled and they'd be attached. But i have connected a purse block to this. What direction is going to happen? I'm going to be running it at 12 volts.

These are 330 ohm resistors. The current is going to be just under 40 milliamps, and that should give the similar sort of power dissipation of just under half a what uh hold on. I'm just gon na have a wee sneak preview 44 milliamps hold on, let's bring in the kink calculator that was probably stabilizing. So that might not be the end result at 12 times 0.044 power by 0.5 watt, so that uh it won't make the resistors burst into flame, but they'll be hotter than normal.

Let's try this. Are you ready? Three two one activate the power is now on: the heater is resist, the resistor is heating up and after a slight time, delay the wax will hopefully let rip it's not doing very well. That is not heating. As much as i wanted.

That is a different wax. I used and now i'm worried because i oh see this is right. One moment please back again: i've reattached! This is why we make prototypes. I used a different wax, the first one i did a small blob of candle wax this one.

I used these little wax pellets and there actually seemed to be a hard temperature right. Tell you what let's try it again, let's see how long it takes for this to uh melt the wax and drop the leave so starting three, two one power: that's better! That's what i'm looking for and to attach that again literally you just uh place it on in the suitable jig uh turn the power on, and then that would uh re-melt and it would fuse right. Tell you what then now i've done that let's try on the the actual rows. I'm glad i tried that there now, let's zoom out, because if i hadn't tried it there, i would have made a complete dick of myself and this wouldn't have worked.

It's going to work a lot better at the slightly higher voltage, the slightly higher power. The choice of wax is apparently important. Let's see how this looks so three, two one power, so the first thing is going to happen is the outer petals are going to fall off. This should be facing towards the audience and they would fall to the bottom of the thing so they're, just all falling off.

That's a good result, and then, after that, that's 300 milliamps by the way, after that, one cue at the end of particular scene. The last petal is this gon na get trapped. Another thing it would actually be vertical like this. Let's hold it vertical like this.

Would then drop off as well, so it would sort of like heat up, the wax would soften and it would drop, but the whole thing would be aimed to actually you know it'd be designed to encourage them to drop in a controlled manner that works. So, what's that what am i running? The resistors at 16 volts at 50 milliamps? That's a nice round, figure 16 volts times .05 equals about 0.8 watts, the best that part of one watt that's quite high for those little resistors, but they are only operated briefly. I think i'd rather use a lower melting points of candle wax with this and just run them at the half watt. It was perfect with the other one.

It's just uh. Obviously, when i've tried this, but then this is why you make prototypes. So that is it. This is quite ugly, i have to say, but then again it wouldn't really be seen by the audience too much the leaves could be bigger.

Everything tends to be done so much bigger in the theater industry. Just so the audience can actually see it. So it would be sort of significantly bigger, but that is the prototype. I would say that it was a good test that it does have potential it'd, be interesting, getting some of the little silk or paper wedding, scatter leaves and uh the rose leaves and then trying it, maybe even making a jig but uh for a prototype.

You know it didn't go perfectly the first time, but then that's why you make prototypes, but i would say in all that was pretty good and it would particularly if you saw it facing up towards the camera. It would normally be facing out the way so gravity would make them fall in a different way, but i would say that was not a bad result and because each resistor melted its own rate, melted by actually its own rate. They didn't just fall off in a clump, it did scatter and you could effectively control them one at a time if you wanted, so that during that song they would literally just uh the rose would gradually just shed its leaves, but i would call that actually a Success:.

10 thoughts on “Experimental electronic petal dropping prop”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Artie M says:

    Wonderful! Our community theater company was going to do this show in the spring, but we changed to another title. But I'll remember this for the future! And I know a particular stage manager this will infuriate, because you can't time it out exactly… I'd try leaving off the connector pins on the resistors and just sticking the resistor leads into the sockets.

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Max Mouse says:

    Tiny piece of fuse wire taped to a petal and contact made with a reed just below where its taped.

    Top of the fuse wire
    Reed switch thing
    3mm of more of fuse wire
    Bottom contact

    Doesn't matter where the fuse wire breaks it'll fall, reset is just tape and some more fuse wire.

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Asdayasman アズデイ says:

    Sorry for the unrelated question. I'd like to plug my computer('s extension lead) into something that will log the wattage used over time, say, in increments down to about a minute. I don't care if it logs it to an SD card or bluetooth or a serial connection or even prints it onto receipt paper, but I'd rather not have it connected to the internet.

    Does such a product exist? Which magic terms should I search to find it?

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars hi-tech-guy-18 says:

    You should get a "Induction Hob Converter Heat Diffuser Disc Adapter Plate"

    Put it in the freezer over night To Thermal Mass Store Cold – by Having the freezer (To suck the heat molecule vibrations out of it)

    This "sucks" heat out the wax much faster making it Solidify & Harden mush faster

    or Alterative use The Disc becomes Part of a Wax flower with seeds and magnetic induction heating hearts up the wax On the Diffuser disk

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars tasmedic says:

    I'd make sure you check the lighting setup if you're going to use this method, Clive.
    The last thing you need is some set designer putting a high intensity spot on that flower, with the intention of making it more visible to the audience….
    One other pitfall could be operator error. You wouldn't want someone leaving those resistors connected to the supply for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Dystopian Denizen says:

    This is a very neat solution; I like how the thermal properties of the resistors adds to the pseudo-randomness of the effect. However, I'd much prefer to see the big daddy capacitor version, where the caps explode and launch each petal into the next county. Imagine the audience's face.

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Ziginox says:

    "Huh, you could do this with wax…"
    Clive: "What about wax?"
    "Oh, hey, nice!"
    Anyway, if you want to make the wires a little more stem-like, you could add a thick floral wire to your electrical wires, and wrap the entire group in green floral tape. Then, bend your stems until stem-shaped.
    Some leaves to complement the rose petals might help, too!

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Tobias Stensson Närvä says:

    Looks like a good start. Only thing that comes to mind is the heat from stage lights… Since it is enclosed in a glass dome, could the heat on stage (from aforementioned lights) melt or soften the wax enough to cause a premature petal disassembly? Unless of course the stage lights are these new fancy LED lights we've been hearing about…

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Brian J. Medina says:

    Just make a few dozen plug in resistors & petals and put “reset replacement” petals in an plastic ice cream jar with a screw on lid & keep them in the fridge til needed by the prop guy. That way they don’t have to do all the heating & holding & waiting / not waiting long enuff cuz their impatient, lol. Just seems like a simpler solution than them needing a heat gun & all that jazz… 🙌 hands 😉

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Railgap Esoterica says:

    Here's an alternative idea, which can be adapted to work with real rose petals: each stem is a thin tube with a flexible sliding wire inside, just as you might use for a (SFX) puppet mechanism. A tiny drop of superglue attaches the petal to the sliding wire. When the wire is withdrawn a few mm into the tube, the tube will restrain the petal and the glue spot will be pulled free. It is much more compact and can withstand closer inspection. The big problem it has is that it's a moving mechanis, and therefore a little tricky to make silent. But far from impossible, especially since only a small amount of motion is required. Love your stuff and your style. Carry on!

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