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Why Copperheads?

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Buckaroo

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So I ordered a handful of the new F32-Ts from the ValueRockets website and was a little surprised and disappointed to find that they are being packaged with Copperhead igniters... :(

Now I've never had really bad luck with Copperheads, but IMO the new FirstFire and FirstFire Jr igniters are simpler, more reliable, and overall a far superior product.

I can't think of a single reason why Copperheads even exist any more? Does anybody know the backstory behind this? :confused2:
 

Chrisn

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A few possible reasons:

Aerotechs interlock launch controller comes with a special clip for copperheads

Easy to fit in the smaller nozzles/propellant grains

Cheaper to mass/batch produce
 

Pantherjon

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Probably the last point is the main one..I have had about a 95% success rate with copperheads..
 

als57

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I believe cheaper has it.

My success rates a bit lower than Jon's. Probably more like 80%.:(

Al
 

RoyAtl

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Cheaper. I've had really good luck with copperheads. Except for the last time. Oh, the copperhead worked fine; it just worked when it was laying out on the ground after having fallen out of the motor. After being both taped on and had the rubber band wrapped around it! Grr.
 

daveyfire

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The Copperhead is one of the more genius inventions in the rocketry hobby. In small composite motors, the igniter takes up a significant portion of the throat area, and thus for the time during which the motor is pressurizing and ejecting the igniter, the chamber pressure is higher than it would be during steady state operation. Copperheads are fantastic for solving this problem, as they are only a single lead, and thus take up significantly less room than a typical two-wire igniter. Since the F32T is a 24mm motor, I would guess that this was also a contributing factor to the igniter choice.

Their main failure mode for Copperheads is typically the presence of micro-shorts along the side of the igniter, which are artifacts of the production process. To eliminate these shorts, you can lightly run a razor blade along the igniter's sides. To attach clips, I usually split the free end by using a lighter to melt the internal plastic coating, allowing the attachment of clips individually to the two conductors. Taping opposite sides of the igniter at the clip location also works with micro clips, however it is a poor choice when using alligator clips, as the teeth will pierce the plastic and short the conductors. Taking good care of Copperheads and hooking them up right, I've had an excellent success rate (over 95%, I would guess).

And if you get really desperate, use a 24V ignition system -- that takes care of the micro-shorts when the launch button is pushed :cyclops:
 

MarkII

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...
Easy to fit in the smaller nozzles/propellant grains
...
I think that this is the principle reason. If the Copperheads do in fact actually cost less to produce, then I'm sure that fact is also a consideration, too. But do we know if there is actually much of a difference in the production costs between Copperheads and First Fires/FF Jrs.? It is probably not realistic to expect any type of igniter/initiator to be 100% reliable over the course of being installed by thousands of different users in thousands of different launches using a wide variety of different launch systems. Heck, I even get an occasional failure of an Estes Solar igniter in a BP motor, even though I have installed them hundreds of times. Also, Aerotech is certainly a big player in its particular market, but it hardly has monopoly control over it. In that competitive environment, it would not make sense for them to bundle an inferior igniter with their motors. Finally, I'm sure that the already difficult task of igniting APCP is made more difficult by having to do it with an initiator that has to be threaded up to the top of the grain through a narrow slot from the bottom of the motor. I'm sure that a certain potential for failure-generating errors is simply inherent in the process.

MarkII
 

mparker59

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A few possible reasons:

Aerotechs interlock launch controller comes with a special clip for copperheads

Easy to fit in the smaller nozzles/propellant grains

Cheaper to mass/batch produce
At Mudroc I offered to bring Gary hundreds of signatures from rocketeers who would pay $1 a motor more to have them packaged with First Fire Jr igniters rather than copperheads. He said that it would cost them more than $1 per motor more to make that change. I think I upped my offer to $2 and he still said it wouldn't cover the manufacturing cost difference. I believe there was some discussion of investigating other alternatives.

The Aerotech guys do a great job keeping in touch with us both on this board and at launches, they KNOW we don't like copperheads - they obviously think we would like the alternatives less.

I've had a decent success rate with copperheads, but my TARC team kids hate them with a passion - if you use the clip and you do it right it's OK. If you're an impatient 15 year old - YMMV. The TARC team kids just made the decision to spend the ~$3 per motor to buy juniors and I now have a box full of their copperheads - good to have in your pocket if you get "pad mother" duty.

I don't think copperheads are easier to fit in the tight nozzles, the juniors are just as small and are a bit stiffer, so if you have an igniter failure in a 29mm slot grain motor and want to replace it without taking the aft closure off you have a far better chance with a junior than with a copperhead.

Sorry for the long reply - looks like someone pushed my button...

Mike
 

JoeG

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I can't think of a single reason why Copperheads even exist any more? Does anybody know the backstory behind this?
I think the backstory has been presented as cost. If $2 a motor isn't enough I'm guessing it would be at least three dollars a motor then. On my G12 rocket motors that come two in a package that would translate to six dollars more a package. That's pretty significant.
 

Adrian A

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I think the backstory has been presented as cost. If $2 a motor isn't enough I'm guessing it would be at least three dollars a motor then. On my G12 rocket motors that come two in a package that would translate to six dollars more a package. That's pretty significant.
I don't buy the idea that decent ignitors cost more than $2 each. Quest Q2 ignitors are $16 for pack of 24. With insulated wire and everything. They just need a little more oomph to ignite AP motors, but a little magnalite dip takes care of that.
 

troj

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I don't buy the idea that decent ignitors cost more than $2 each.
I, too, have a hard time believing that it would cost over $2 per motor to use something else.

What really makes that questionable is the fact that ValueRockets.com sells a 3 pack of Firstfire Jrs for $4.90.

http://www.valuerockets.com/product_details.aspx?pid=6&itemid=11

If they truly would add over $2 to the cost of each motor, then ValueRockets (a sister company of AeroTech) wouldn't be able to sell a 3-pack for $4.90.

From the same website, a 3-pack of 4" Copperheads (for the same size motors, no less) is $5.50.

So, ValuerRockets pricing implies that Firstfire Jrs are cheaper than Copperheads!

-Kevin
 

bobkrech

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COST

1. The retail price of (6) 4" Copperheads at http://www.valuerockets.com/default.aspx is $5.50 or $0.92 each.

2. The retail price of (6) 8" Copperheads at http://www.valuerockets.com/default.aspx is $6.50 or $1.08 each.

3. The retail price of (3) 3" First Fires P/N 89895-1 at http://www.valuerockets.com/default.aspx is $4.90 or $1.63 each.

4.) The retail price of (3) First Fires (24"?) P/N 89895 at http://www.aerotech-rocketry.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=16&products_id=108 is $11.00 or $3.75 each.

INTERCHANGABILITY

First Fire P/N 89895-1 igniters supplied with 70 mm long SU motors are 3" long. The motors are direct drop-ins for 70 mm Estes motors in model rocket kits. I'm guessing these motors are the largest volume AT motors sold because there are a lot more folks launch BP motor than APCP motor simply due to cost, and some small fraction will want to experience mid-power rocketry. The igniters hook up just like the Estes igniters for a measure of comfort.

The low cost First Fires are too short for 95 mm long motors like the F32 which is a direct drop-in for an Estes E motor. Not that many folks use 95 mm Estes motors compared to the 70 mm motors so this represents a smaller section of the potential Estes upgrade market. You could use the First Fires P/N 89895 igniters, but at $3.75 each, if supplied with the F32 you have just added $2.92 to the cost of the motor to the current $17.49 retail price. That would bring the retail price to $20.49. The retail price for (3) Estes E9 motor pack is $18.89, so many folks will be tempted to try a F32 at $17.49 which is "cheaper" than the Estes pack price. Raise the retail price to over $20 to more than the Estes pack price, and the number of folks willing to pay "more" to try the F32 goes way down. Coupled to the real hobby APCP folks who habitually complain about the "high" cost of SU motors, raising the price by 17% is a non-starter to please the few people who habitually have problems with Copperheads.

The current F35 RMS 2-pack retails for $21.89. Swapping out the Copperheads for First Fires would add about $5.70 to the price bring the retail cost to about $27.59. That's a 27% price increase which is also a non-starter.

You might argue that you could reduce the price by making a third First Fire Length however now you have smaller production runs and another product to inventory. That's an expensive solution to an almost non existent problem.

CHANGE IGNITERS, RAISE THE PRICE, AND REDUCE SALES VOLUME AND REVENUES? NOT A GOOD BUSINESS PRACTICE IF YOU WANT TO STAY IN BUSINESS!

You can please most of the people most of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time. If you make a product that most of your customer like, and return to buy it multiple times. you have a sustaining business if the price is such that you can pay your bills and make a profit.

If you try to please everyone, you prices and your costs will be higher, and your revenues will be lower. You will not be as profitable, or you may not be profitable at all and go out of business because you can't pay your bills.

BOTTOM LINE

Copperheads are less expensive than First Fires because they are less expensive to make and for most folks they work well. You won't have a problem with Copperheads if you take reasonable care of the igniter and read and follow the instructions. (The only failures I've had is when the igniter creased (my fault) and the conductor cracked.)

Bob
 

mparker59

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I, too, have a hard time believing that it would cost over $2 per motor to use something else.

What really makes that questionable is the fact that ValueRockets.com sells a 3 pack of Firstfire Jrs for $4.90.

http://www.valuerockets.com/product_details.aspx?pid=6&itemid=11

If they truly would add over $2 to the cost of each motor, then ValueRockets (a sister company of AeroTech) wouldn't be able to sell a 3-pack for $4.90.

From the same website, a 3-pack of 4" Copperheads (for the same size motors, no less) is $5.50.

So, ValuerRockets pricing implies that Firstfire Jrs are cheaper than Copperheads!

-Kevin
You had me going for a moment thee Kevin since I pay almost $10 for a pack of Firstfire Jrs.

But on second look, it seems that Aerotech and ValueRockets need to be more careful with product names. The ones pictured look a lot like Q2G2 without the soda straw and maybe with an extra pyrogen dip. It says they have 3" leads so they would not be able to light the top of any of the 29/40-120 reloads that the TARC kids usually use. ANd they appear to have a smaller head - i.e. less pyrogen.

I think the manufacturing cost issue has something to do with the FF Jrs being hand dipped and also with the fairly expensive packaging. The ones on the ValueRockets site are taped together so they can be hand dipped three at time and they're in a heat sealed baggie which probably goes together faster than the hard plastic box the others come in and certainly costs less.

I think the good news is that things are happening. People love Q2G2 and ValueRockets appears to be experimenting with something that is neither copperhead nor FF Jr. We just need to keep whining about the copperheads and they will fade away so we can tell our grandkids, "I remember when we had to light our rocket motors with copperheads - you think you got it rough, heck, you ain't seen nothing." :)

Mike
 

Buckaroo

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I think we've just about beaten this horse to death... :cool:

I couldn't stand it any more so I did a little empirical study:

Bob is correct that the 3" FirstFire Jrs are too short for the 24x95mm engines of which there are currently only two (one SU and one reload). For what it;s worth, all the SU 18 and 24x70mm motors from ValueRockets ship with the new 3" FirstFire Jrs while all the relaods ship with Copperheads.

The Copperhead that is shipped with the new F32 SU, and I assume with the F-35 Reloads as well is actually 6" long, so AT did have to come up with a "new" igniter for these motors. I did a fit check, and I'm pretty sure a 4" Copperhead would be too short.

The 8" FirstFire Jrs can be found online for $8-9 bucks a three pack, and I typically see them at $12 bucks a three pack at launches. I also did a fit check and these igniters fit easily in the F32 SU, and I'm sure would work just fine.

Bottom line, it's probably not a good economic decision for AT to put 8" FirstFire Jrs in with the F32 motors, but at least the option is out there for folks. As long as I've got money to spend I'll keep using the FirstFires and when money gets tight I'll have a whole box of Copperheads to fall back on :D

FirstFire Jr 007.jpg
 

troj

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You had me going for a moment thee Kevin since I pay almost $10 for a pack of Firstfire Jrs.

But on second look, it seems that Aerotech and ValueRockets need to be more careful with product names. The ones pictured look a lot like Q2G2 without the soda straw and maybe with an extra pyrogen dip. It says they have 3" leads so they would not be able to light the top of any of the 29/40-120 reloads that the TARC kids usually use. ANd they appear to have a smaller head - i.e. less pyrogen.
Hey, I just went off of what their website was telling me.

If the information is wrong, then the website needs some correction, which does happen.

-Kevin
 

kjohnson

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They just need a little more oomph to ignite AP motors, but a little magnalite dip takes care of that.
This has not been my experience when using Q2G2 igniters in AP motors. They have worked fine 100% of the time with no additive needed.

kj
 

Daedalus

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Now I've never had really bad luck with Copperheads
Try a 12 volt relay system and a jump start battery pack (the one I use can deliver 600 amps, though in reality it will be much less through the igniter) this is enough to burn off any microshorts and almost guarantees the ignition of the pyrogen - that leaves basically the following failure modes:

  • Pyrogen ignites but does not ignite motor - can happen with any igniter
  • Broken copperhead - yes they are a little more delicate than some igniters
  • Short through the copperhead strips - burns the copper - you now have a slightly shorter igniter, try again
  • Pyrogen blown off the igniter - hasn't happened to me yet!!!
  • Part of the controller evaporates - now that has happened to me !!! fix the controller weakness so that doesn't happen again.

To my mind copperheads are much malligned and really not that bad.
 

sylvie369

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As long as I've got money to spend I'll keep using the FirstFires and when money gets tight I'll have a whole box of Copperheads to fall back on :D
I suspect that Aerotech also has a whole bunch of Copperheads to fall back on. This is just conjecture, but I'll bet they're not making new batches of Copperheads every month to send out with those motors, but rather that they've got a pretty hefty supply of them - already paid for - sitting around waiting to be shipped out with a motor.

Assuming that's true, having a stock of igniters already on hand would make it quite a bit more difficult (/expensive) to make the decision to switch to regular leaded igniters.

I'd rather have a better igniter, but this is definitely not a major issue in my book. Copperheads generally work, even though they're a hassle, and there are plenty of alternatives, including homemade igniters that you can make for very very low cost.
 

Adrian A

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This has not been my experience when using Q2G2 igniters in AP motors. They have worked fine 100% of the time with no additive needed.

kj
Hmmm. I went 0-for-2 on a D15 reload using Q2G2s, so maybe I was doing something wrong. I dipped another Q2G2 for that motor but I haven't tried it yet.
 

cls

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we have good luck with copperheads, when launching by ourselves and the rocket doesn't have to sit on the pad twisting in the wind for an hour.

at home with my own 8x AA controller I can get 100% of the copperheads to light.

success rate goes down more and more, the longer the rocket has to sit on the pad.

copperheads really are delicate and most clubs' pads do not have: good wire support, clean aerotech clips, good 12v connection.
 

Handeman

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I bought a 10 pack of First Fire igniters for D-F motors back in 2003 when I had my first copperhead failure. I gave four of them away over the years and used the last one at LDRS last week. That works out to six copperhead failures in six years, and I fly a lot of hobbyline motors. I don't have anything bad to say about copperheads. They've worked fine for me. I always sand the c slot in the grains leaving the dust in the grains, and I think that makes all the difference.
 

dpower

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Hmmm. I went 0-for-2 on a D15 reload using Q2G2s, so maybe I was doing something wrong. I dipped another Q2G2 for that motor but I haven't tried it yet.
I'm 1-for-2 on 24/40 reloads using Q2G2s. The recent failed attempt was on a D9 built the night before, with the grain sanded. The igniter clearly fired, but IMHO, there wasn't enough pyrogen to produce a large enough of a flame to ignite the AP. After the failed attempt, I used a copperhead, which worked fine. :) I suspect this is why the AT version of Q2G2 igniters (or should I say "initiator" ;) ) have more pyrogen.
 

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3 failures in 1 year.
 

RangerStl

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I watched 5 AT launches at a club launch last month.

Only failure was a blown aft closure on a 29mm F reload. All the Copperheads lit fine. :confused2:

There's got to be more to these stories of mass copperhead failure.
 

MarkII

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There's got to be more to these stories of mass copperhead failure.
Well, ummmm, perhaps the problem isn't always with the igniter... I mean, hey, we all make mistakes. :duck:

MarkII
 

Zack Lau

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When I first saw a copperhead I thought it was pretty clever--they just had to shear unetched circuit board into thin strips--how much cheaper can you get?

I don't know about now, but scrap circuit board material in quantity used to be ridiculously cheap, if you knew the right people. There was a guy who used to make all sorts of ham radio projects out of scrap circuit board.
 

patelldp

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Seeing as I haven't flown a commercial motor in almost 5 years, I always here Copperheads getting a bad rap. That being said, from what I can recall I always had good luck...

We will see this weekend. I am planning on flying several hobby line motors at NYPower this weekend (E11J, F52T, G64W, H128W) and will buy a package of copperheads to try. If they suck, I will post here. If they are good, I will post here. Either way, I will provide some feedback!
 

shreadvector

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When I first saw a copperhead I thought it was pretty clever--they just had to shear unetched circuit board into thin strips--how much cheaper can you get?

I don't know about now, but scrap circuit board material in quantity used to be ridiculously cheap, if you knew the right people. There was a guy who used to make all sorts of ham radio projects out of scrap circuit board.

There is no "board" in a copperhead. They consist of two sheets of thin copper foil with an adhesive layer in between serving as the insulator.

I have seen other expensive igniters and electric matches made from a small bit of actual circuit board with the leads soldered to the board and then they either use a conductive pyrogen or a nichrome wire soldered to the board and then dipped in more pyrogen and covered with a coating.
 

RangerStl

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I just flew an E15-4W SU and the copperhead worked fine. :confused2:

Cost me a Big Daddy, however... After the flight went horizontal and deployed at about 100 mph.

:cyclops:
 

JAL3

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I've always had pretty good luck with copperheads until last Friday. Out of 9 tries, I got ZERO ignitions. They were not all from the same batch either.
 
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