Mains Power Feed Complete

Mains Power

This is the last mains power update for the ReactorForge Induction Heater. It will be the last because it’s complete! Here is how the last couple days of that process went.

Mains Power

I started by connecting the jumpers from the custom splice connector to the 60 Amp 240-volt dual pole breaker and ground bus. The photo shows green hooked to the neutral bus. I later moved this as I did not need to tap 120-volt like I thought I would have to since the ATX power supply runs on 240-volt now. (I just forgot, it’s been a while.)

Mains Power

And here is the 240-volt quick disconnect assembly installed and ready. I will print another version of the slide lock. The slides should be solid so the splice connectors are not accessible while the wires are disconnected.

Mains Power

Next, I prepared the 2 AWG mains power feeder lines. These will connect the splice block directly to the input of the ReactorForge.

Mains PowerMains Power

The splice block side has thick metal tabs that are double layered with heat-shrink tubing. These provide a high current, high durability connection to the screw terminal that will stand up to multiple connect/disconnect cycles.

Mains Power

The Induction Heater side has heavy duty lugs that will accept the terminal post. These are also insulated with double layers heat-shrink.

Mains Power

Bringing It All Together

And here you can see the feeder lines connected to the input of terminal posts on the back of the ReactorForge. I also ran a USB extension with a small hub for connecting the Atmel ISP programmer. I put the Bluetooth dongle here as well. It communicates with the mainboard to send/receive commands and system telemetry.

Mains PowerMains Power

I then installed a variac between the mains contactor and the inverter input filter.

Mains Power Variac

When software activates the contactor, 240 volts directly feeds the inverter typically. Since I have a decent amount of testing to do, I severed that connection and installed the variac to allow lower power testing.

Mains Power

I taped up the small areas where 240 volts was accessible in the front to avoid accidental contact or tools shorting things out. Getting my fingers across 240-volt mains power is not something I want to experience twice!

Mains Power VariacMains Power

On To The CODE!

That’s it for cooling and mains power connections. The next step is to get the programming environment set back up. I will turn things up as is and do some testing to make sure everything is still good. Once that is done I will get right to the next big task, I’ve decided to port the entire thing to Arduino. This won’t be too difficult since the code is already in C and I will be glad to get away from AVR Studio, to be honest. I made the choice to move to Arduino due to is massive use and rise in popularity over the last few years. Since this is an open source project I want to use a platform that people are familiar with. Let’s put industrial level induction heaters right up there with open source 3D printer firmware!

Power Progress – 240 Volt Quick Disconnect

240V Quick Disconnect

In the photo below is my power test setup at home. Unfortunately, where my other shop is right now, I am unable to make changes like this. Here I explain what I did to get around that and make power progress!

DIY Induction Heater Power

Now that the ReactorForge is back on the bench it’s time to get it powered up!

This setup isn’t necessarily something that an inspector would like to see.  So don’t think this is my recommendation for a permanent solution. I’m just sharing what I did to make my current setup work. Keep in mind the breaker should always be OFF before connecting or disconnecting wires on the quick disconnect assembly.

To hook up 240 to the ReactorForge in this shop I have to run a temporary line. I don’t want to have to remove the breaker each time I do this, so I made an enclosure that mounts in a breaker slot. The assembly houses 3 Burndy splicers (PN: AMS2BAG2R). It does a few important things, it isolates them from each other, from the breaker box, and it snaps closed to prevent the lugs from sliding out (and attacking passer buys). On the side where the wires enter the assembly from the breaker, it is closed off except for holes just big enough for them, so it’s impossible for the splicers to slide out from that side. There are also ears on the front to keep the entire assembly from sliding all the way in the breaker box.

I printed a quick test in PLA, made a few changes and am ready to 3D print the final version in nylon after Thanksgiving. I’m sharing all the files here in case anyone else finds it useful. Be smart, be safe.

Power progress photos:

New Shop Power Panel

My problem is that I do not want to open up the panel and remove the breaker and wires every time I need to remove the temp line.

Power progress

Fusion 360 power splice quick connect

So I drew a simple small enclosure to house some common splice blocks made by Burndy.

The prototype:


The slide lock action:

Technical Drawing:

240V Quick Disconnect Drawing v10.pdf

*Tip: I usualy try to make a technical drawing before I 3D print a part. It’s quick and easy in Fusion 360 and saves me wasted prints and time redrawing later. I always catch a lot more looking at the drawing with multiple views and mesurements than just looking at the drawing in the viewport.

You can view and download the CAD files over at Thingiverse – 204 Volt Quick Disconnect Splice Housing 

The ReactorForge Origin Story

induction heater origin

ReactorForge Induction Heater

A couple of years ago I had considered doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund making a small/medium batch of induction heater kits, but I have seen and studied the downfall of many similar projects attempting to use crowdfunding to accomplish the same goal. I won’t underestimate it, this is a complicated machine with lots of parts, and although I believe I could be successful on Kickstarter, I am choosing to go a different route. One which I think will yield a higher quality product and allow me to better support it. I’ll be making small batches and selling them based on a waiting list similar to how a well known, successful maker of an excellent gas forge operates.

For some years my brother had a small blacksmith shop where he mainly made tools for other blacksmiths. He is currently taking a break from it but, like many, he first worked with coal then moved up to using a gas forge. He used a dual burner propane forge exclusively for a while but starting talking to me about the limits in production he hit as a result of waiting on stock to heat in between working it, sweltering summer heat, ventilation issues in the winter, and high propane costs. None of which were preventing him from working or making a great product, but he was feeling the heat. (That’s the only pun I’ll use, promise!) He mentioned how great it would be to have an induction heater. However, the domestic models were too expensive, and the cheap overseas models didn’t have an exceptional track record living up to their 1.21 JiggaWatt claims. Also, any issues with the unit left you high and dry with little to no support or ridiculous shipping and repair costs. Being a typical maker who loves a challenging project with an atypical way of creating multi-disciplined solutions I told him I’d look into it. After combing the internet for examples and inspiration as well as using what I already knew, I threw together a proof of concept that worked for a few minutes then went up in smoke. I saw the potential and knew I could do better, so I redesigned a couple of times, used better components and about six months later had a unit cobbled together in an old computer case that was good enough to run 100% duty cycle with water cooling from a garden hose. He used it for a week and never fired up his propane forge again. Each heating method certainly has its strengths and weaknesses but the induction heater better fits his needs, and it opened up a lot of possibilities. He significantly increased his production output and earning and was able to build a bigger shop, all centered around that one machine. Over the next couple years, I redesigned and refined a few more times, making the unit more powerful and more reliable. The induction heater I have today is a beast and is much more than I ever expected. Aside from its power, I’m excited about its reliability. The original unit was in an open computer case exposed to all the shop elements including that black sticky metallic dust that gets everywhere. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve worked with metal on any level. My brother pushed his induction heater is ways that made me cringe while watching. I resisted the urge to tell him to ease up because I wanted him to drive it to failure and that he did many times. Every time I repaired it, modified the design and improved the components. Back and forth we did this until now, the unit sits there and just works regardless what he does to it, for years now. That level of reliability is perfect for me because I don’t want only to be a customer support specialist. Downtime and trying to fix problems remotely is just no fun, so I don’t want to make something that is going to put me in a nightmare job position! I’m using quality components, a sturdy sealed enclosure, code to detect and prevent failures and I believe I will still be able to sell this around the cost of the inferior overseas models.

I wish the kit form of the ReactorForge were ready now, not because I need to or want to make money off it but because I’m excited at what it will do for all the hobbyists and makers who can use a machine like this. Think blacksmiths, bladesmiths, metalsmiths of all kinds, glass melting, scientific uses, etc. the applications are vast. Thank you all so much for your support, and I can’t wait to be working together soon!