Reconstruction of L&E Zip Strips
Rebuilding badly engineered products.

John Schlick

Proud owner of gear in GOOD shape.   (206) 932-6622

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This is an L&E Zip Strip.

A Zip Strip in use.

Now don't get me wrong, it's a great concept for a light, but the L&E zip strips have a few fatal flaws.
Notice that this one isn't on?

Now, the reason for this is that Zip Strips use 12 volt MR16 Lamps, 10 of them in series. This is like your Christmas Tree lights, and when one lamp goes out, they all go out.
Lets have a look inside one of the units:

A look at the EYC lamps inside of the Zip Strip Unit.

Now, since there are three circuits for each fixture, this is a total of 30 lamps per unit, and if you have 4 or 5 of these units, it's about once every two weeks or so that you have to open one up and muck about trying to figure out which is the bad lamp.

Why do they burn out so often? Well, lets have a look at one of the EYC lamps up close:

An EYC lamp with it's pins burned off.

This shows you that they use LITTLE TEENY TINY connection pins on them, and all it takes is one little arc and poof, it's gone. Whats worse... It's fairly often that the pitting on the pins of the lamps arcs and that burns up the sockets, and so that socket arcs and burns up the next lamp and so on...

They mount the sockets in a row of 10 on an assembly...

One of the Zip Strips assemblies of 10 EYC lamps

To replace a burned out socket, you have to unscrew the assembly from the bottom of the fixture to lift the entire assembly up out of the unit and drill the rivets that hold the actual socket in place out and then rivet a new one in.

Here is a picture of a new socket (with a lamp in it):

The socket assembly for an EYC Lamp

As you may have guessed, after about the 10'th socket I replaced, I decided that there HAD to be a better way. One where the lights go out one at a time, where the base is better, and where it's easy to replace things.

And one day I was helping a friend replace the lights in her hallway with ones she bought from Ikea, and LO, the Europeans have a base they call the GU10, and there ARE MR16 lamps that have this base:

The NEW GU10 base mr16 lamp and it's socket

Now, the picture may be fuzzy, but it ought to be clear that those pins are BEEFY, and so they won't suffer the same problem of the EYC lamps! Since these are 120 volt bulbs it means that if one lamp goes out, you don't lose the entire string, and thats a BAD thing in the middle of a show. (Not to mention the hassle of figuring out which lamp it is thats bad) It ALSO turns out that these 75 watt lamps have the same beam spread (38 degrees), and brightness of the 12 volt EYC lamps. What did all this mean to me? Rebuilding my units to use them was a no brainer.

There is one drawback to this new solution... the socket in that picture is the ONLY GU10 socket available, and I have to grant you that the EYC carrier sockets do have one nice feature, and that that it's easy to replace lamps - from the top. To use these new sockets, I would have to be able to move the lamps away from the inside edge of the fixture to replace them. And that - meant creating some new metalwork - but wait:

The drawings used to make the new metalwork.

Let me be clear about this new metalwork... It meant spending a saturday afternoon with a friend of mine that is an architect who is a whiz with autocad with a micrometer in one hand and the fixture dissected on a table. We printed out trial versions and lined them up to make sure we weren't going to make things that didn't work.

So, with this drawing printed exactly lifesized to use as a template, it was possible to make an actual piece of metalwork, and here it is:

One of the pieces of new metalwork to hold the lamps with GU10 bases.

Looks nice huh?

Now since these pieces of metalwork are like the old ones in that they each hold 10 sockets, this means 3 per fixture and I own a number of fixtures, so this is more like what I had to build...

Lots of the pieces of new metalwork to hold the lamps with GU10 bases.

And to make these accurately, I had to spend the day at a sheet metal shop with a hydraulic punch making about 400 holes for the wires and screws.

With these in hand, and after they were powder coated black (we wouldn't want any stray light to bounce around inside the unit would we?) I could start to assemble them.

One of the pieces of new metalwork with sockets attached.

And yes, I DO buy my nuts and bolts in bulk.

For those of you that are paying attention, you will be asking - but how does that flat metalwork mount, and how do you move things to get the lamps in and out...

Fully assembled 10 lamp section.

It turns out that it's more metalwork, and spring loaded hinges to hold the lamps forward in the right position.

After getting the assemblies put together, all thats left is putting them into a unit...
And here they are inside of a reassembled unit.

The GU10 lamps mounted in the Zip Strip.

OK, I lied...

You still have to wire them up...

The new wiring for the Zip Strip.

All new wiring by the way since they are no longer in series. As you can see, I used the automotive "Tap-Crimps" as connectors. Since they are designed for car engines, I knew they would stand up to the heat generated in the back of this fixture.

Finally, the end result, and they look every bit as nice as the "old" versions.
This is one of the units done and hanging and in use:

The rebuilt Zip Strip in place and running.

Nobody on the ground looking at the units will be able to tell there is anything different - without opening it up (and yes, I know, I need to put new gel in it), but I know that it won't fail catastrophically now, and I'll spend WAY less time teching these things.

I may be crazy, but I feel like it was worth the trouble. But I'll tell you you probably don't want to pay me to rebuild yours for you.

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