Funded! This project was successfully funded on October 9, 2011.

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We're putting together kits to build plasma arc speakers for everyone to enjoy.

New Goal: If we can raise $14,000 or more, we'll be able to produce laser-cut enclosures for all donation levels $40 and higher! These will keep you safer from the plasma, and make the plasma speaker look really cool!

Update: We have reached the goal! Thanks for your help and support! We will be ordering a laser cutter as soon as the Kickstarter finishes, and we'll document the process via the update system. Stay tuned!

The Making of the First Prototype

Background

Many of us own speakers. They're pretty useful devices, allowing you to hear sounds and music from computers, mp3 players, and other cool devices.

Most speakers use electromagnets to vibrate air so that you can hear it. We built a prototype plasma speaker, which uses an electric arc to vibrate the air. It both looks cool and sounds awesome!

Goal

We want to share our creation with the world, and put together an Instructables about our project.

Also, we want to make it easy for people to assemble a plasma speaker. By offering a kit with a custom-made PCB and a set of tested components, we will make everyone's life easier. 

Partial Kits

The $40 kit has almost everything you need except for two components. Here's what you need to know about them.

Flyback Transformer (Included in $60+ kits)

You'll need a flyback transformer to generate the high voltage in the plasma speaker. You can find one in an old CRT monitor or TV, and then identify the primary and secondary coil.

12V Power Supply (Included in $80 kits)

You'll need a 12V power brick to power the plasma speaker. From initial testing, we think that a 4 amp rating should be good, but we'll do some testing to find out the optimum. You can find a 12V power supply from old laptops.

Tools

You'll need a soldering iron and solder to assemble the kit. These go for a variety of prices, but you usually can find a decent one at Radio Shack or Fry's for about $20.

What your money will be used for

We'll use your money to refine our prototype, and put together kits for you to assemble. Take a look to the right for the packages!

Add $7 shipping for Canada/Mexico, or $10 for all other countries.

A Big Warning (AKA, DANGER!)

Plasma speakers are dangerous. Use them for short periods of time in well-ventilated areas. Also, make sure that no bodily parts go near the electric arc. Proceed with caution. If you aren't comfortable assembling the plasma speaker, find some help. We're not responsible for you, you're responsible for yourself.

Who We Are

We're StudentRND, a student-run nonprofit organization that inspires students to learn more about science and technology. During the summer, we run a workspace where students gather and work on cool science and technology projects. We also partner with local high school robotics teams to offer them a space to work over the summer. Follow our summer adventures at Facebook.com/StudentRND and @StudentRND on Twitter!

FAQ

  • Yes! There will be an 1/8" TRS audio jack (the standard headphone jack) that you can plug into a computer or a mp3 player.

    If you're trying to connect a microphone, guitar, or other audio peripheral which doesn't use a 1/8" TRS connector, you can connect it with an adapter or, if you're comfortable, by getting and soldering in a different input type yourself.

    You'll find that 90% of things will connect directly, and 99.9% will connect with a $5-or-less adapter.

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  • Here: http://store.studentrnd.org/products/plasma-speaker

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  • We're still testing, but we've powered our prototype with as low as 25 watts and as high as 125 watts so far. The more watts, the louder and clearer it sounds, but the hotter it gets. We think the final design will consume between 25-50W.

    Compared to a normal speaker, this is not very efficient. The actual power usage is less than a halogen lamp, however.

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  • No! In our testing we've found that under normal operating conditions the plasma speaker is perfectly stable. Each time we've burned out a component, it was because we were running it for a long time, running it at higher-than-supported voltages/currents, or misconnecting a component.

    In any case, identifying and replacing a failed component is extremely easy and cheap. A parts and assembly guide is provided for all donor levels (even those with pre-assembled kits), which should make any repairs extremely simple.

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  • This is not for the Dubstep enthusiast. The range of the plasma speaker is similar to the range of a tweeter (the small cone) in a traditional speaker -- it reproduces higher frequencies well, but low frequencies poorly. If you pair this with a woofer or subwoofer it sounds comparable to anything else.

    On its own, we've found that the speaker sounds better than most builtin laptop speakers.

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  • Plasma speakers are extremely dangerous. Even when assembled properly, the arc is at extremely high temperatures, requires extremely high voltages, and produces ozone as it runs. You should only use the plasma speaker for short periods of times in well-ventilated areas, and ensure everyone nearby is aware of the proper safety procedures.

    If you choose the $40 level, you'll need to get your own flyback transformer. One of the most popular sources is an old monitor or TV, and extracting one carries severe danger. We recommend ordering one from an electrical parts distributor or choosing the $60+ levels.

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240
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pledged of $2,000 goal
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  • Pledge $5 or more
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    12 backers

    Thanks for supporting us! We'll include your name in the instruction manual as a thank you!

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  • Pledge $20 or more
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    6 backers

    For $20, you get the circuit board itself. This will allow you to use your own electrical components to build your own plasma speaker (part specs will be included in the instruction manual).

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  • Pledge $40 or more
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    8 backers

    For $40, you can get the printed board and the components that go in it. You will still need a 12V power supply and flyback transformer to complete the plasma speaker. This level isn't recommended if you're new to putting together circuits, since we won't be able to offer much guidance on connecting the power/transformer.

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  • Pledge $60 or more
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    59 backers

    For $60 you get everything but the 12-volt power supply. This includes the printed board, electrical components and flyback transformer.

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  • Pledge $80 or more
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    85 backers

    For $80, you get the complete kit - everything you need to build your own plasma speaker. This is perfect for people interested in learning more about electrical engineering first-hand.

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  • Pledge $100 or more
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    58 backers

    For $100, we'll assemble the plasma speaker for you. One complete kit, delivered straight to your door.

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  • Pledge $320 or more
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    0 backers

    For $320, we'll send you five kits. This is perfect if you're running a workshop or class in electrical engineering or circuit design. This is a savings of $80; essentially one free kit!

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  • Pledge $400 or more
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    2 backers

    For $400, we'll send you five fully assembled speakers; a savings of $100. You could build a 5.1 surround sound system (hey, more ridiculous things have been done!), use them to demo electrical concepts to a physics class, or just leave them in the box, satisfied that you have more plasma speakers than 99.9999% of the population.

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Funding period

- (59 days)