Electronic igniter keeps fireworks on cue

DN Staff

March 1, 1999

3 Min Read
Electronic igniter keeps fireworks on cue

Natick, MA--Pyrotechnic technology used today has hardly changed since it was invented in China more than 1,000 years ago. Modern fireworks spectators--spoiled by Twentieth-century special affects--often expect more than conventional, black powder-based fuses can deliver. Technical shortcomings become even more evident as leading display companies move towards choreographed demonstrations orchestrated with music, that attempt to give spectators something bigger, better, and more special to remember.

But choreographing fireworks requires complex back timing that's impossible for a human to do reliably and repeatably. Black-powder-based ignition systems don't deliver and according to MagicFire Inc.'s President Paul McKinley, they are a source of potential failures that represent real risk to both operators and proximate audiences. Although work to develop black-powder alternatives has been promising, these systems are usually proprietary to the designers and depend upon pneumatics to lift the projectile.

MagicFire's electronic pyrotechnic ignitor works with conventional black-powder lifted shells, and offers exact timing and a high degree of reliability and safety. The MagicFireTM pyrotechnic ignitor is a microprocessor-based control module that is installed in professional fireworks shells and provides significant increases in safety, ease-of-use and a timing accuracy of plus or minus 1 msec.

The complete system consists of two principal components; a micro-processor controlled electronic ignitor and an interface module that issues commands to the ignitor and monitors its status and operation. The interface module and the ignitor operate with industry-standard firing panels or PC-based control systems. Designed to be embedded into the pyrotechnic shell during construction, the ignitor incorporates two electric fuses. One ignites the lift charge, and the other ignites the burst charge following successful-lift detection and the pre-programmed time delay.

The ignitor uses a charge storage means to maintain operation, following its launch and disconnect from the ground-based power source. Software monitors the status of all relevant operating parameters, and communicates with the interface modules. If a fault condition is detected, the electric match is disabled.

Multiple outputs on the interface module allow simultaneous control of up to 32 ports. Each output port can communicate with up to ten individual ignitors, for a total of 320 ignitors per interface. Two wires handle power and data between the interface module and each ignitor. Detection of an ignitor fault prompts that particular output port into a "safe" status and inhibits the operation of all ignitors connected to that particular port, but doesn't shut down the operation of any other functioning port. The interface module uses industry-standard, electric-current detection to establish safe, ready, and fire states.

"Our system provides the professional pyrotechnic industry with a way to increase safety, simplify use, and achieve plus or minus 1 msec timing accuracy," says McKinley. To date, more than three thousand ignitors have been built and tested in the laboratory, test shells, and actual displays.

Additional details...Contact Paul McKinley, MagicFire Inc., Box 896, Natick, MA 01760, (508) 647-9645

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