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TOPIC: Hero Tier Double Reveal Graflex

Hero Tier Double Reveal Graflex 3 weeks 4 days ago #88034

  • IchiroKagetsume
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I received my hero tier double reveal saber about two weeks ago. It's physically beautiful. Amazing millwork and attention to detail on the exterior design, the crystal chamber, and so on. The feel is very solid and good weight balance. The crystal colors flicker and shift with the blade, which is cool, as do the effects like blaster block. The initial impression of the saber is, it's amazing.

...

Unfortunately, there are also some significant problems with it at the hero tier. Namely, getting access to the SD card to adjust sound fonts, effects, and so on. The hero board is in backwards in this model, which means you can't move a speaker and get to the board. You have to unscrew the saber at its midpoint after removing a lock screw. Then, using a pair of needle-nose pliers you can pop the SD card out to change it.

That's awkward in its own right ... but it goes further downhill. The crystal lights are a mass of soldered together wires, LEDs, and resistors not attached to any circuit board; they're just globbed together with a big blob of hot glue, and stuffed into the hole leading up to the crystal. Why is this a problem? Well, outside of being shoddy craftsmanship, LED leads and resistor leads are NOT made to flex. The act of unscrewing the saber to get to the card, then screwing it back together, outs a lot of stress on those leads ... and they break. And did.

So, I ended up with a crystal that didn't flicker right as an LED had gotten disconnected. I opened it up, soldered the lead point back, screwed it together ... then ANOTHER lead broke. Apart again, soldered it, screwed it back together ... pop, broke again. I was up until 4am that night trying to fix the leads and get the saber back together. By 4am, I gave up. the connections were just too fragile in that mess of glue and resistors. For an $800 saber, this is rather unacceptable.

Now, I could have contacted support, sent it in (after only having it 2 days and barely getting to use it), had them repairit ... and likely got back a saber with the exact same risk and problem, since they have no board structure taking the strain of the wire movement during dismantling. So, I opted to not to that, but instead use my electrical engineering skills/background to fix it correctly.

So, what did I do? I laid out a circuit board that would fit within a 28 millimeter hole and accommodate the 4 3millimeter LEDS, 4 1/4 watt resistors, eight wires, and 4 1 watt resistors that made up the glob of hot-clue mess. Then I printed the design out via a laser printer, transferred it to a blank copper PCB, and etched the design. Then it was a matter of cutting out the circuit board, drilling out the 1/32 pin pad holes, and rewiring it with all new LEDs, resistors, and much more flexible wire (silicone-wrapped 22awg).

Then I cut the horrible mess of hot glue LED/Wire/Resistors from the crystal base, and took off its connector. The connector I soldered and heat-shrunk wrapped to the leads on my new board and then connected it together. It tested out perfectly. After adding a small clear acrylic extension off the LED block to help direct more of the light up to the crystal, I soldered the board onto the main LED control (variable negative lines) and the primary positive power line. Tested it again, worked perfectly.

I then glued the PCB setup down to the crystal core mount, and measured. My new layout not only removed all strain from the components (it's only on the connector wires now), but it's also HALF the height of the old hot glue mess. So, it now reassembles easier too, and doesn't have nearly as much risk of the leads pressing on the SD card and causing it to pop out.

So, after a week of ordering various LEDs, some wire, blank PCD, running tests, making sure I had a layout that could route all the connections and components within 28MM, then hand-etching the board, and soldering it all back together ... I finally have a fully functional Hero tier double-reveal Graflex that works as it SHOULD HAVE WORKED OUT OF THE BOX. :P For $800, points that are guaranteed to have stress on them because of getting to the SD card (and yes, generally if you go hero tier you want to be able to configure the saber), should NOT be assembled the way it was. It was far too fragile to accommodate a hero tier setup.

I have a LOT of leftover LEDS, resistors, and quite a few etched PCBs (as I etched many at a time to fill up the copper PCB). So, if anyone else hits this problem and is willing to toss me some cash to cover the materials and a bit of my time to assemble it, I'll build repair modules for your hero tier graflex.

Or, if Saberforge would like to pay me for my time in repairing their electronics layout design, I'll send them my PCB layout and a working version to compare to. They can use to improve their saber designs so other people that buy these expensive things don't end up with a broken brick just because they wanted to make use of Hero level functions and change founts/config. :(

So, anyway, overall the mill and external design is just gorgeous. With it works, it's a work of art. But, it falls down hard on its interior wiring. It had a fatal flaw in how you access the high end features that will break your saber after only a couple times of opening it to get the SD card. So, the best review I can give it is 2.5 out of 5. If it did not have this flaw, then I would have given it 5/5.

So, my advice:
Stick to Champion or lower tiers that keep you from needing to open the saber for any reason as hero teri is just too fragile.

OR:

Be prepared to spend a lot of time fixing the crystal reveal glow wiring.
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Hero Tier Double Reveal Graflex 3 weeks 4 days ago #88040

  • Brax
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Admirable as your repair efforts are, I would not recommend this to others. Only because doing this to your saber violates the warranty conditions, and you could no longer call upon Saber Forge for future repairs under warranty, if necessary.

Also, this keeps customer service from being aware of how many issues like this there are, and them in-turn making the design and assembly folks aware, so that changes can be made to the process to preclude this from happening in the future. As I have stated, the only way change is accomplished is by engaging in the warranty process.

I realize that it is not easy to part with a saber you have waited for, in some cases for quite some time. However, going through CS, and obtaining an RMA is the right way to handle it.
Imagine what you will know tomorrow....
Last Edit: 3 weeks 4 days ago by Brax.
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Hero Tier Double Reveal Graflex 3 weeks 4 days ago #88042

  • Shai Kah
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dang, lol, that's a lot of work! but hey, I'm glad you got it all fixed and working the way you want it to and like it! You should, as Brax said, contact customer service and let them know the problem you had, and definitely tell them how you fixed it! who knows, maybe they'll steal your idea.
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Hero Tier Double Reveal Graflex 3 weeks 4 days ago #88049

  • IchiroKagetsume
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Brax,

Thank you for pointing out this would void the warranty. That is 100% true, and I wouldn't recommend it either to anyone if they want to keep their warranty in place on the electronics. Me, I do electronics as a hobby, and have an engineering degree in electrical engineering/computer engineering. These circuits are, to me, pretty basic when it comes to the LED mounting and such. I've repaired failed LCD monitors before, so repairing a basic LED + current control resistor setup is pretty trivial for me.

Plus, honestly, I was pretty frustrated my 4am on my second night of ownership that all I did was add a sound font and turn the volume down slightly, and the leads to the crystal LEDs broke (and I was super careful about assembling it, including reverse twisting it ahead of time so that when screwed on it would actually reduce the tension on the wires. But, they broke anyway, and right near the bases of the LEDs).

That connection setup is really a bad design. It should not have left the shop like that; it's a fail point at a place you really, really, don't want one. Highest tier saber, but to make use of any of the high tier effects, well, 50/50 chance of breaking the saber every time you opened it. :(

After waiting roughly 8-12 weeks to get this thing, I didn't want to get an RMA, send it back, potentially wait another 8-12 weeks, then get back a saber that would most likely still have the 50/50 chance of breakage any time I opened it. So, I designed a circuit board that would fit in the space and hold all the components, and leave only the flexible wires to take any sort of strain or bend when unscrewed. I took this serious enough that I spent probably $250 on parts ordering (including I have some professionally printed boards in case my etch didn't work made up through ExpressPCB). But, my etch worked perfectly, so I used it in my saber, which now works 100% again, and I can open/tweak it without worry. That leaves me with some boards to do other stuff with I suppose.

I guess it ultimately boils down to 'first impressions'. This was a big announce on the saber site, and this is the first saber I bought through SaberForge, and I went all-out. Top tier, energy vibration, etc. Then to have it break in under 48 hours when all I did was change a sound fount. Ugh, yeah, it didn't give me a good impression of the build practices, and I've read elsewhere (tonight in fact) others are hitting the exact same issue with those wires breaking.

And as I noted, I'll gladly sell my PCB design and such to Saberforge if they want it and want to use it. I don't want to take any business away from them. Outside of the wiring problems, it is a work of art; the hilt is just amazingly beautiful. It's unfortunate there wasn't more time spent on that particular spot in its design, is all. If you have any contacts at Saberforge I can contact directly, I'll email them about my experiences and recommendations for adjusting their design going forward. $800 to get a saber that breaks in less than 48 hours with absolutely no dueling, or really any strenuous activity, isn't good and is something they should fix quickly in their process.

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to thank you for pointing out the warranty implications; I should have pointed that out in my first post. I also wanted to explain why I didn't go through RMA on it, I was frustrated, and the poor first impression didn't give me much confidence they would fix it in a way that wouldn't break again the next time I opened it to update the SD card.
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Hero Tier Double Reveal Graflex 3 days 2 hours ago #89410

  • IchiroKagetsume
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Figured I would share my 'Version 3' fix for the issue with the crystal illumination chamber and main LED lines. I switched to surface mounts for the main LED line limiting resistors as they're both smaller than the axial resistors, and can dissipate more power. It also allowed me to reduce the width another 2mm, (getting it down to 26MM.



LEDS are on the side opposite all other components. They're folded over to point towards the center, where I mounted a light-redirecting acrylic rod, shaped to fit right into the crystal illumination hole. Around all that I put a reflective ring, to focus any spreading light into the central rod as much as possible. The PCB itself was produced by ExpressPCB from my layout design. (I had to order three 'sets', each set consisted of 6 of these PCBs, so I have 17 left over. :D

End result gives me a quartz crystal that illuminates about 2.5 times brighter than the original way it was done, along with strain relief on the cables so that nothing breaks now when I open the saber and pull the SD card for updates.
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