1W blue laser – remarkably easy and dangerous

We’ve been covering Laser Hacks pretty much since the beginning but it’s surprising to see the niche market that has sprouted up around building powerful handheld modules. [Styropyro] filmed the video above as a tutorial on building a 1W blue laser. The “flashlight” that he starts with includes a heat sink intended for a laser diode. It seems there’s a lot of choices when choosing one of these build kits. A one Watt blue laser diode is press fit into the heat sink and wired in place. The body of the device receives a boost converter to get the batteries up to 1A, and once the assembly is complete the burning begins. It lights candles, matches, and pops balloons; the normal laser demo goodies.

So it’s a pretty easy build. But it’s also easy for someone being careless to damage their eyes. As [Styropyro] mentions in his comments, just looking at the dot created by the laser will damage your sight.

90 thoughts on “1W blue laser – remarkably easy and dangerous

  1. I’m assuming most of the people claiming lasers are more dangerous than guns are American…

    This seems idiotic to me. Lasers are clearly safer than a gun as the worst you can do with this sort of laser is ruin someone’s eyesight or give someone a nasty burn. A gun on the other hand can kill someone, very quickly. There really isn’t any comparison with regard to how dangerous these two things are. Just because they’re more common doesn’t change that.

    I will concede that your arguments do have one good point. That is that generally people do respect guns but they don’t respect or even understand lasers. While guns are clearly more dangerous it is more likely that someone is going to get hurt in some way due to ignorance with lasers. This is an ignorance issue.

  2. @hackius – i was thinking the same thing, but i think most laser cutters are around 40watts min… probably not enough power here to do any real work.

  3. @Hungry_Myst, if someone shines this in my eyes while i’m driving (like, from a car in oncoming traffic), I’ll probably crash and maybe die.

    It’s at least as dangerous as a gun. Silent and deadly.

    That being said, information wants to be free. It’s not knowing how to build this that is the hazard, it’s actually doing it and then misusing it.

    Some stupid a**hole will make tons of money by building these and selling them to the irresponsible.

  4. I did some very slow going wood engraving on my plotter with a 300mW laser. This wouldn’t be useful on a plotter for cutting stuff, but for engraving it should be awesome. I’d love to try it.

  5. Is the damage from visible light or UV?
    I read that plastic (glasses) block some UV but is there any kind of coating that I can apply, just to be safe?

  6. @maave, both. the power per photon is greater than a red laser and you can even “burn” OLED displays from tens of feet away with even a low powered beam.
    I ruined the screen on a cheap MP3 player this way, it now has permanent dark blobs on the screen.

    (note, this was with a relatively low powered laser, less than 50mW collimated beam at 405nm)

    i can see this being a major headache when large screens are used for outdoor displays or sale outlets.

  7. @ACIDRAIN
    i lolled
    For weeks before being caught? Have you seen the video? That beam is a solid bar for as far as it reaches, of course such a person would get caught!

    (also you’re a bit paranoid)

  8. From reading the thread I have some questions:

    Where are all the pipe bomb hacks? :)

    Which is worse, being shot in the leg of blind for life?

    The first night he had it he took it outside. How long till something happens with the neighbors?

    Any tool used incorrectly is dangerous. (Remember, when you use your gun for a hammer, unload it first) I just wonder what the mayhem level be.

    I agree, these will be regulated or banned very soon. There are simply too many stupid people in a population sample for it to be unregulated.

  9. Its a bit too late to try and regulate this sort of thing. Blu-ray laser diodes are quite powerful enough to blind, and available pretty much everywhere. Making a pocketable laser is a common enough project, and this nicely shows how easy it is. Making the components illegal to stop people messing around with them hasn’t helped in the War On Drugs; why do you think it might help in the War On Shiny Things?

    My suggestion? Start wearing an eyepatch. That way you’ve got a hot-failover vision system in the event that someone starts messing around with one of these toys. Also works against nuke-flash, j-rays and green orbital blinding weapons combined with carnivorous animated plants. Yarr.

  10. @vaporland That doesn’t prove anything. If I threw a balloon full of paint at someone’s windshield while there driving they could crash and die, does that mean paint balloons are as dangerous as guns because they could both kill people? Of course not. Same goes for lasers; the ability to distract or blind, either temporarily or permanently, someone while there doing something dangerous doesn’t prove that lasers are dangerous but that the task that the person is performing is.

    Again, lasers are clearly not as dangerous as guns. That’s not to say they aren’t dangerous because they are, but to draw a comparison to guns is being overzealous. They’re just more prone to misuse.

  11. “”They’re just more prone to misuse.””

    Which technically makes them more dangerous.

    I like experimenting with stuff like this but I know I’m able to judge the risks and safety I need to take. If someone else is playing with it I’ve no control over that, while I’m all for the hacks I do find it a bit worrying that bob the 15 year old down the road might build one and not think about it’s use, leaving ME with injury. I only hope that anyone attempting these things really does think it over and use their brains, for the sake of others.

  12. @NKT
    To my understanding, you should not use this laser without goggles, because the very beam itself would damage your eyes without looking directly into it.

    What I meant was, a cheap laser pointer won’t damage your eyes unless you point it at your eye socket. A laser diode from a DVD burner has enough power to pop a balloon maybe, but it still doesn’t damage your eyes. No goggles required. At what wattage should you begin to cover your eyes?

  13. @Link
    No! A diode from a DVD burner WILL damage your eyes. Your eye acts as an extremely effective lens which focuses the light onto your retina. Ever used a magnifying glass to burn things? Same concept.
    You need goggles for any laser that you plan to use indoors or to burn something, except for maybe the <5mW red pointers you find at retail stores.

    And to everyone else planning to build this, BUY GOGGLES! Not those cheap Chinese ones or DIY ones, but certified goggles with an OD of 5 or more from a reputable source. Looking at the dot from distances of 20 feet and maybe more is harmful to your eyes.

    Also, many people, when they think of lasers, they think of toys. Everyone knows a gun is dangerous. The same can't be said for lasers.
    /rant

  14. Folks, I would be scared much more by consensus here ending up as calling concerns unfounded. For your amusement or as an exercise in fact checking- tally up how many posts are urging rational Vs non-rational or even STUPID things. You can stop reading now if you think Laser issues are not quite real.

    If that ~1 watt diode has rightly directed us to re- evaluate Laser power and safety concepts? The link may make fears of the 1 watt diode seem trivial..

    http://www.primedical.net/lasers_surgical.html#Diode180

    Remember- Laser “Power Density” is non-linear for some modes/ collimation of operation! Think of it as potentially equal to comparisons of Isotropic Vs Unidirectional RF antennas. Some of us will now begin sweating thinking about when-not if.. that 180 watt diode gear winds up in the wrong or merely unaware..hands!! Think of what the Epilog boxed lasers do to the side panels of a MakerBot..

    Education about the *SAFE* usages of Coherent Light emitters is our best, perhaps only hope of preventing Really Bad Things..

    I have a Grandson who turned 12 this weekend.. We went to the Maker event in Parkville MO with other family members. They- and he- are some of the reasons I appear to be/am preachy on safety.. I do not want him- or anyone, to be at risk of some cretin showing off their unsafe for unprotected humans Lasers. The Maker/Hacker communities need to become united in declaring common sense safety rules as a minimum.

    If we screw up and someone gets badly hurt or worse by a Laser? That’s becoming a when, not if concept..If the quite real dangers are ignored? Ah, think of the backlash against all Hacker/Maker culture. It might have all of Hackerdom wishing we’d been more careful. CCCKC has had a few posted “Be Careful- but not Too Careful” messages embedded in various places..

    Lasers need to be thought of as things demanding nothing less than our sober awareness when handling them.. Tools are only a potential danger. The users of them are the only interlock between fragile humans and our tools.

  15. I agree with Oren Beck.

    You know, He/Ne lasers and Diode lasers can damage eyesight, and yet, almost every store has laser price scanners flashing you in the face hundreds of times a second. Or hand-held scanners in a holder aimed where you get hit in the eye. And lottery ticket scanners, etc.

    “Oh, it is only brief exposure” people say.
    Well, do you think it quickly adds up? How many seconds exposure does it take to damage someone’s eyesight? One second? Two? How often do you plan to shop over your lifetime?

    You can’t even walk into Home Depot without getting beamed in the face. And what about cashiers who are exposed all day!
    I’ve been looking for blue sunglasses, but…

    People, we’ve got to protest every time we shop! And spread the word on-line. Why us; because we know more about these than non-techies.

    All lasers should come with bigger and multiple warnings. And like mattress tags, be illegal to detach. The law should require large warnings be displayed prominently at every cash register or device that uses a laser. Operators, yes, cashiers, should be required to attend training that emphasizes the danger. Pocket lasers should never be sold to kids; really they should be taken off the market.

    Exiting soap box. My 02 cents.

  16. There is no good that can come from this. Any laser over 5mW should be bench mounted for proper use in a physics research or industrial environment. Anyone that makes a laser like this portable is only promoting mischief because there is no legitimate or legal use for such a device. I would sign any petition to make them illegal.

  17. @LRMNmeyer

    Aight, understood; goggles for anything but cheap dime store lasers. Hmmm I was unaware of the intensity of the dangers of lasers it seems.

  18. geez, am i at nofuntoday.com?
    Anyone here ever done any arc based welding? I know the arc puts out the entire range of UV but dont know what intensity apart from ‘fucking bright’. I assume a welding mask would be ok for viewing but assumptions are the mother of all fuckups so ill leave testing to some other sucker.

  19. ^^ it’s people like that that should never own a high powered laser. Luckily those people usually don’t have the skills to make one.

    I have plenty of high powered lasers including 445’s. From 400-1500 mw and they are awesome but you have to respect their power and use safety glasses at all times ( unless outdoors shining in the sky, far distance. Etc.)

  20. This has been informative, humoring, and much more… I can easily say that i have MUCH more experience with firearms, then just about all electronic devices, including lasers. Yet common sense is just that ~ Common sense. The dangers produced by high power lasers, or light in its self – are one thing. But the fears for stupidity are pointless- there will always be stupid people, so why should everyone else suffer? Merely test or certify the sell to regulate the number of people owning such device in order to help cut down/ and lowering numbers of damage caused by ignorance. My knowledge with physics/ science is self gathered, but im a machinist, mechanic, gunsmith, hold medical certs, welding certs, as well as licenses to possess and transport explosives. Due to my enjoyment from reading every ones posts – ive just placed order for a 1W blue laser, and am thinking that i might just place a second order for a yellow laser as well… While its strongly not suggested for firearm use – Im thinking of possibilities in regards to producing a illumination device/ expanding the beam diameter/ with lens or maybe a diamond? Last i read diamonds had the ability to slow light- wonder what effect they would have on a laser? Im curious to learn more, as to why i ordered one… Have already bored myself with firearms.

  21. Has anyone here noted that this is a Class IV laser?
    Class IV lasers are regulated by the Occupational Health And Safety laws of any civilised country! The fact that some people will simply ignore those laws, even if only due to ignorance of them, does not mean this is not regulated.

  22. I just made a 1w blue 445nm. Its pretty powerful but not scary. I’m surprised that people are such vaginas about them. Just don’t shine it in peoples eyes and your own.
    Just be thank full we Have such things. The good far exceeds the bad.

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