200W Laser Bazooka Is Just Silly

We weren’t going to run this one, because, well, it’s just ridiculous. But enough of you have browbeat us by sending in tips to the tipline that we’re going to capitulate. We’re not going to name you all by name, because really, you should be ashamed of yourselves. But you know who you are!

[Styropyro] does a lot of crazy things on YouTube. We really liked his “stuff in a microwave oven” series. He’s also obsessed with lasers and popping black balloons. So he took the laser heads out of four DLP computer projectors (the ones with 24 of those 1.5W Nichia diodes) and combined them. Yup, 200W of 405 445nm blue.

Then he just straps them together and passes them through a lens. It’s not a tight beam, but this thing is really bright. Even though the beam is very loosely focused, it burns stuff. That’s about all you can say. Lots of laser. Boy Howdy!

OK, there, we ran it. Don’t do this at home. It doesn’t require much finesse, and it’s going to get someone blind. Much better to expend your efforts on something more civilized like a projector. At least then you can play vector games on the wall. And stay off my lawn!!! (Kids these days…)

For those that do want to burn stuff, [Joshua Vasquez] published an article yesterday about building a safe laser cutter… much more worth your energy than anything billed as a laser bazooka.

79 thoughts on “200W Laser Bazooka Is Just Silly

  1. Looking at this and then seeing his other project and considering his announcement at the end of the video, I’m going to go with that he’s either a good video editor, or that he will be (partially?) blind within a year or two tops.

      1. Yeah and madame curie had been doing nuclear research for years and was still not dead.. until she was.
        And the titanic is unsinkable.

        Apart from a direct burn you can also get burns or degradations you don’t even notice initially

        1. Problem is, the brain will “mask out” small spot retinal damage. You won’t notice the damage until it gets severe. So you can knacker your eyes quite badly before you know. Since fractions of a watt can do this, the chance of some reflection hitting the eye is too high to mess around like that.

          1. this, people were unaware there was a natural blind spot in their vision until it was discovered… so you can probably irreversibly lose a lot of vision by the time you start noticing impaired vision.

            if you don’t pay much attention to the visual experience, you don’t see the difference. another example is how people stubbornly claim that frame rates above 60″Hz” (60 fps -> 30Hz) are useless. While kids playing computer games can guarantee you it does (and it does!). The flicker fusion threshold of 30Hz (cycles) may be correct for cones/rods, it is not correct for pixels on the screen, as moving your eye say 1000pixels/s (which is not that fast: its a full second for looking at the other side of your screen) would require 1000Hz for the finest resolution pattern not to blur in the frame of reference of the retina…

            people take numbers out of context all the time trying to show off their knowledge, even when just verifying for yourself by paying attention to what you see would reveal the truth… 30Hz on retina =/= 30Hz on screen when eye moves… although 30Hz on screen CAN be sufficient if the backlight flashes only once for a duration no longer than 1/1000 of a second (for objects moving 1000 pixels on screen)

          2. forgot to add that given a fixed backlight led diode type it makes more sense to increase the number of backlight leds than to increase the the display refresh rate. multiplying the number of leds by N allows the diodes to be lit for a time interval N times shorter (total power dissipated and individual diode current during the pulse remains the same without burning any leds) allowing N times higher pixels/s speed for finest resolution imagery. use the increased data rate for spatial resolution…

  2. Too dangerous to play with, but too weak to instantly demolish its targets. I see the intent and the form, but bazooka it (luckily) ain’t. He’ll get bored with it in two or three days and then he’ll perhaps find some application just right for that level of power. Is 200W enough power to bounce the laser beam off the Moon?

    1. The moon? No. You need an order of magnitude more power all focused perfectly, charged and delivered in a short pulse and then sent through a ~4m telescope not to mention an ultra ultra sensitive detector to have a chance at measuring the handful of photons that will bounce back.

      1. would that still be true for amplitude modulated light? then filter the incoming light with a narrow bandpass filter. wouldn’t it just require an increased amount of collection time instead of being impossible to detect with say a 4cm telescope?

          1. I’m not asking if it’s difficult, of course it is. And I understand the relationship between beam waist and divergence. I was just wondering if there was a fundamental limit of telescope lens on the order of meters, or if the measurement would simply take longer with a smaller lens and using amplitude modulation (i.e. frequency domain instead of time-domain pulses)…

    2. Tricky because if you hit a plane.. you’ll be in jail for a lengthy time for blinding a pilot, and you family will be living on the street after the lawyers and compensation are partly paid for.
      Maybe he can put the weaker lasers in a circle then the lens in high orbit and then get a single beam out of reach together.. Let’s call the whole setup deathstar beta 1.

      Incidentally I saw the news of a new observatory and they employ three many watt lasers for correction of atmospheric aberration So in some remote areas they constantly shoot very strong Lasers all over the sky. And it makes me wonder how that works with planes and satellites flocking the sky as they do.Because it’s not just straight up to a single point, it’s observatories that look all over the sky.

        1. Live and learn eh. I guess it’s still tricky for certain planes though, the ones without a flightplan and the ones that are so secret they are not informing enough people. Because it mentions the US space command for Hawaii, but I’m not sure that works for the ones on mountains in chile and such places,.
          But hey, at least you need clear skies for telescopes so you should also be able to see planes visually.

          1. I think the secret squirrel stuff is likely deliberately done away from observatories, even if for no other reason than to avoid the people who literally stare upwards for a living.

      1. How does it work? Simple

        a) satellites don’t care.
        b) it’s actually really really hard to hit such a small object in such a large sky. Even with those horrible little lasers with crappy $0.02 plastic collimators can’t consistently light up a plane unless it’s already pretty much on a runway approach.

        There is a shitload of sky out there. The chances that you hit something by accident while observing is next to nothing.

        1. There are many ground observing satellites with very high magnification optics, and they certainly care I bet, from spy to regular crop and landmass observation and for mapping stuff.

          Incidentally I once heard that china deliberately tracks US spy satellites coming over with lasers to blind them.

      2. If the laser is powerful enough for satellites to care, you have to get timeslots in which you can turn the laser on from the Laser Clearing House in addition to the NOTAM from the FAA.

        1. Also US oriented, there are telescopes outside the US you know, and satellites and planes not run by the US.
          And some are in countries that lack the budget to have a space command.

        1. Maybe they’re higher-wattage versions? Maybe he’s overdriving them? Maybe I’m just wrong?

          I have an older model of the Casio laser projectors, and I’ve played around with the diodes a lot. Even 1W of focused blue is a lot. Multiple banks of these is insane. Even if it’s 172W or whatever, it’s all the same: too much blue.

    1. In the video, styropyro says he used four 50W laser modules (yeah, one or two of us actually visit the linked pages before commenting). I don’t see where our friend Elliot came up with “So he took the laser heads out of four DLP computer projectors (the ones with 24 of those 1.5W Nichia diodes) and combined them”–perhaps he can point us to the reference.

  3. Much respect Elliot, you’ve brought an amazing amount of knowledge to Hackaday. I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s impressed and grateful at how you’ve been able to detail & simplify the inner mechanisms of some astoundingly complex components/circuits (especially the audio/midi stuff).

    That said, the tone of this article seems to stray from the ethos of this community we love so much. From the “About” page:

    “…We strive to promote the free and open exchange of ideas and information. We educate those just learning the art of Hack, and provide inspiration for the seasoned veterans. Don’t be shy;…”

    Leave it to the comments-section to tear down the project or hacker: if the project warrants a write-up, find an angle that allows for a tone that seeks to *Educate, Inspire, Encourage (paraphrased, but accurate). Anything else diminishes and dilutes the open, sharing culture we’re so blessed to be a part of.

    Thanks for listening

    1. Wow… Talk about tone deaf. Do you not recognize (attempted) humor when you see it, or were you just grasping for an excuse to pick on a poor, beleaguerd HaD writer?

    2. Thanks for the respect. :) I took a bit of a harsh tone on this one, for sure.

      If there’s some sort of hackery-goodness-to-danger ratio, this project comes in low for me. It looks hella awesome, but it’s a very bad idea to run something like this without being very careful about beam termination. And he’s waving it around in a room with reflective metal things.

      I know some people who’ve done some pretty awesome things with lasers. High-powered (ultra-short duration) ruby lasers, laser shows with RGB and many-color combiners, etc. Cool stuff with a purpose, even when that purpose is just the technological challenge of getting an obscure (copper vapor anyone?) laser up and running. One friend took a puff to the eye and has a permanent blind spot, but I’ve also seen his holography setup and his home-made holograms. Tradeoffs, but that still rates pretty high in my reward/risk metric.

      It’s actually very easy to be safe with lasers. Always know where the beam is going to go, and never fire when you don’t. Never Class III+ when you’ve been drinking. If you can’t know where the beam will go (because of possible reflections, etc), put it in a box. Something of this power, I would remotely operate from a camera in the room. I’m not a safety nanny, but I use my eyes for a living.

      And don’t give me safety glasses. They’re for aiming/focusing beams when you absolutely need to see it to work. Real pros remove the hazard whenever possible.

      So yeah. Maybe I should have passed on the writeup: the only positive thing I can say is it looks cool. But we gotta be able to call out bad ideas too, no? Or are we _only_ allowed to say positive things?

      1. But it’s the (self-assigned) job of styropyro (and a whole lotta Russian YouTube posters) to sacrifice themselves for the greater entertainment. You can wreck yourself ignominiously as most people do, or you can go out in a blaze of glory that will last for internet generations (i.e., a few multiples of 15 minutes). No one is saying that your average HaD reader should or would try something like this. The kind of people who do this stuff are a breed apart, like astronauts, race car drivers, Chipotle diners, and Donald Trump associates, and they make their own choices in balancing safety and glory.

        There are too many pansies in this garden.

      2. Don’t think you’re too harsh! It’s a bloody stupid idea, though perhaps fun to watch someone else do it on YouTube.
        Sometimes the dangers are better appreciated when you see someone else making the mistakes.
        Your comment here probably should have been in the write up though – eliminating the danger is a very helpful way to approach it.
        Just make sure you include a follow up article when he blinds himself, cuts this arm off with v2 of that, accidentally downs a 747,…

      3. Discouraging hacking/building because of danger, is like saying “Don’t eat food, you’ll have to brush your teeth!”. Calling out bad ideas isn’t in your purview: encouraging innovation while recommending best-practices fits much better.

  4. We inch(cm?) closer to to the battery and laser power density to equip us with handheld laser ‘blasters’.
    I look forward to a time when I can get a laser device which can exert a similar force to a 9mm bullet fired from a handgun could.
    Why? Cmon, the same reason I want a lightsaber or an X-wing.

    1. I don’t know about “exerting a similar force” (the radiation pressure from my 100W CO2 laser doesn’t push stuff around noticeably), but for destructive power you just need a chemically-pumped laser diode with a conversion efficiency similar to that of an ordinary firearm, say 90%. No problem!

      1. I’m thinking more of projecting “Fritz the Cat” onto a bank of clouds, I can’t think of any other practical uses for this, although a 40 gigawatt blaster would be sort of neat – in a bang, bang, kill stuff kind of way, if you are into destroying things and storm troopers that is.

        1. There are a couple of obnoxious dogs next door to me that I’d like to test it on. I’ll bet no one would ever figure out what happened to them, so I’d be off the hook.

    1. Never gonna happen. Some lasers, especially those using gases as the lasing medium (e.g., CO2), can be built from scratch using innocent parts. And we’re never going to lose Blu-ray players. True, it takes some brains and Googling skills, but there will always be a laser underground if needed. Stimulated emission to the people!

  5. It is building out Casio laser modules (likely from the greenslim line) which run at 445nm not 405nm. They can be run at 50w per array (of which he has 4) for quite a while but they are being overdriven at that power level.

    Incredibly dangerous, but he does seem to be using it responsibly (wearing eye protection and inside of an enclosed room), so its good in my book

  6. So why hasn’t the military picked up on this? I saw the recent news article on the anti drone laser weapon mounted on a humvee that needed two support trucks for radar and targeting. Just from a crowd control perspective, this would be hot!

      1. Geneva conventions only applies to military operation. Terrorists and civilian police are out of scope.
        So yes, you can still use blinding laser, chemical weapon, aggravating injuries ammo against unarmed civilians.

        1. Civilian police are required to follow the laws of their own government, but terrorists could get away with it. For terrorist use, NIR wavelengths would be the best, as the diodes are less expensive per Watt of optical power, and because they are not visible to the human eye, would be more difficult to trace to the source.

    1. Antipersonal laser weapons are banned world wide. His build has extremely poor collimation, making it useless at any real distance. 200w isn’t much; GDs truck mounted proof of concept weapon is 35-45Kw and that’s no where near enough.

    2. Permanently blinding a crowd of people for the fault of being in the wrong place at the wrong time is quite inhumane and banned for a reason.
      It’s not a “dazzler”, full out permanent rest-of-your-life blindness.
      They’d likely get less shit for just opening up on the crowd with rifles.

      Interestingly the russians/soviets made a handheld thing for laser blinding the enemy so did the chinese, it was promptly banned as inhumane by the UN in 1995.
      Eye for an eye and the world goes blind does really apply here! :P

      The chinese one:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZM-87

      1. Very interesting and sad link.

        Could anyone explain to me if this is an error on the Wiki? If it isn’t then please explain how adding magnifying optics would increase the range. It doesn’t make sense to me but I’ll admit that I’m ignorant when it comes to optics.
        “Maximum range (blinding): 2 to 3 kilometres (1.2 to 1.9 mi)
        (5 km or 3.1 mi if a 7× magnifying optic is used)”

      2. I think the article has incorrect info, I fail to see how 15mW would do anything at such distances…
        Wasn’t it supposed to be 15mJ pulses, as that is definitely capable of doing damage if the pulses are very short? Or possibly at 10ns, that would equate to 15MW???

        btw most non-eye-safe long range rangefinders are capable of permanent damage to eyes, yet they are still widely used in by armed forces…

  7. okay here it goes (safety concerns removed due to extra-double-redundancy)

    take these many lasers and add mechanical scanners, like in a laser video display

    aim them ALL into a fine fine point, (just like TRUE 3D display/hologram) creating a bright, loud, hot, and dangerous plasma

    scan this plasma to create a light-saber, you now have a laser (cutting) device that does not shine “out into oblivion”

    strap one-thousand dollar battery pack to your back

    lift heavy battery-pack

    then either fight storm troopers or trip out and fight ghosts :P

  8. The focusing lens seems like unnecessary mass to me. All it’s doing is converging the four beams. Why not simply mount them to converge at the desired distance to start with? Pivoting mounts would allow the convergence point to even be adjusted to meet at targets of varying distances.

  9. Um.. one thing: multiple laser sources, no matter how well converged, do NOT equal a single laser of the multiplied value.
    What makes a laser is the very precise phase relationship of the projected beam. Two (or more) sources projecting at the same target will not share that phase relationship, no matter how tight the manufacturing tolerances, due to minute differences in frequency and distance to the target.
    What this guy has is 96 separate 1.5W (2.5W?) Lasers focused, but not “lasing”.

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