A spectacular Ghostbusters proton pack, made at home

With the new Ghostbusters 3 movie that’s in theaters this month, many will be going back to their younger years, to that time way back when papers flew out of the card catalogs at the library and books moved by themselves from shelf to shelf.

Or maybe to a less glorious time, when the Ghostbusters did kids’ parties before they floated down into a giant river of slime flowing beneath the city of New York.

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters 3 of course.

The long awaited sequel to the Ghostbusters franchise has fans all over the world pitted against each other. There’s those that have long awaited the moment to see once more the streams capturing ecto plasmic beings, the ghost traps flying through the air, maybe even an old friend or two paying a visit. And of course, there’s those that are saying “no way”, and are forecasting a regular old train wreck: too horrible to watch, but too interesting to turn away.

Ghostbusters 3 certainly will be an interesting experience for fans all over the world.

And some fans are getting ready. Going through the internet and through social media, I happened upon an amazing creation. A Ghostbusters proton pack replica, made right at home. This one even goes as far as to incorporate flashing lights and a place to plug into your Mattey Collector Neutrino Wand replica.

Could you ask for something more awesome to sport to your local Ghostbusters 3 premiere?

This proton pack is made at home!

The assembled Proton Pack, ready to go

This Ghostbusters proton pack replica was made by Minor, a talented Ghostbusters fan from San Jose, Costa Rica. Based on materials available over the Internet, he drafted up a Ghostbusters proton pack idea, got the measurements figured out and started building. Being an avid Ghostbusters collector, he just so happened to have a Mattey Collector neutrino wand handy, which worked out pretty nicely to get the fit just right.

The first step in the process involved cutting the proton pack backing from plywood. 1/2″ plywood was used, in order to keep the weight down. If you want to carry this thing on your back, it better not weigh a ton. Using thinner plywood helps keep that weight in check, especially since plywood can get pretty dense depending on the manufacturer.

Black paint was applied to the backing, and an aluminum frame salvaged from an old backpack was fitted, to make carrying this Ghostbusters proton pack extra comfortable.

20160709_162556Then came the real art and mastery of the project: making all the stuff that goes on top of the plywood backing. The plywood backing is probably the easiest part of this proton pack. The real work goes into all the little boxes, hoses and decorations that make up the proton pack.

Those weren’t exactly easy to build. Minor has a ton of experience working with different sculpting and modeling materials, anything from balsa wood to styrofoam and fiberglass. By combining different techniques, the different pieces came together very nicely to make up the final Ghostbusters Proton Pack.

Other parts were picked up at local hardware stores, like the different colored hoses that join the parts of the pack. The hardest part to find, for sure, was the multi colored ribbon, that one was one of the few parts made to order, since you can’t find ribbon cable with that many strands at your local hardware dealer.

And then comes the light show

Of course no Ghostbusters 3 proton pack replica would be complete without lights. Lights are the final component that makes this thing come to life. A good light set with sequences true to the movie makes the proton pack that much more realistic.

There's a method to all this madness
There’s a method to all this madness

For that, external help was required. Mario, a local design specialist, was brought in to figure out just how to light this thing up safely and in a practical manner.

After some calculations and playing around with different options, a custom made light rig was the solution. The light rig would have an Arduino microcontroller running the lights, and would run off batteries. That was the easiest way to get this thing done.

Arduino has a huge flexibility when it comes to controlling circuits, is readily available, and has a minimum power consumption. Plus, the fact that is so standard these days means replacement parts are just around the corner, if you should eventually need them.

Not getting into a whole lot of technicalities, the design revolves around a central, custom made board. The board houses the switching and power distribution circuits, and has a header built in, for placing an Arduino Nano microboard. Arduino Nano is one of the best choices for this kind of project because it’s self contained and compact, and the pin headers that it uses fit perfectly with a custom board.

And in the future if you need to service or reprogram the microcontroller, no soldering! Just pull the board from the header, or just take off the proton pack lid and plug in your USB cable.

That central board branches off to 5 external boards. 4 of the boards are very simple red LED lights, those that you see around the central cylinder of the proton pack.

The fifth board is the most complex. It too is a light board, but it flashes 12 blue LEDs in sequence to make the proton pack power bar come to life. Doing 12 LEDs in sequences isn’t that easy, especially since you don’t want a to be routing a whole bunch of cables through the tiny spaces on the inside of the pack. So, a more technical solution had to be crafted. This one was solved using something called shift registers, which from what they explained, are microchips that store digital sequences of 1s and 0s, and flash the lights accordingly.

Since there’s no real way to get this kind of stuff at your local Radio Shack, custom printed circuit boards were made. Mario has a pretty good video up on Youtube on how the PCB process was done, if you’re curious.

The final part was wiring a couple of switches in, one for the power, and one for the fire. The Mattey Collector neutrino wand has an output port, but it wasn’t used in this case since no real information on what it does was available. It was better to wire in a separate fire switch, than to play around and risk burning out a collector neutrino wand.

The fire switch is a small button mounted next to the neutrino wand, that operates the lights. Once you start firing, the lights change sequence. The flashing sequences were built on the Ghostbusters video game, and yes, the pack will eventually overload and give an visible alert if you keep fireing for too long.

Ready for the Ghostbusters 3 premiere

This proton pack was built in a couple of weekends, and was ready to go the day of the movie premiere. A fantastic custom build, made from things found around the house, in local stores, and a few parts here and there that were gotten over the internet.

An excellent build for dedicated Ghostbusters fans!