Update: What You See Is What You Laser Cut

If there’s one thing about laser cutters that makes them a little difficult to use, it’s the fact that it’s hard for a person to interact with them one-on-one without a clunky computer in the middle of everything. Granted, that laser is a little dangerous, but it would be nice if there was a way to use a laser cutter without having to deal with a computer. Luckily, [Anirudh] and team have been working on solving this problem, creating a laser cutter that can interact directly with its user.

The laser cutter is tied to a visual system which watches for a number of cues. As we’ve featured before, this particular laser cutter can “see” pen strokes and will instruct the laser cutter to cut along the pen strokes (once all fingers are away from the cutting area, of course). The update to this system is that now, a user can import a drawing from a smartphone and manipulate it with a set of physical tokens that the camera can watch. One token changes the location of the cut, and the other changes the scale. This extends the functionality of the laser cutter from simply cutting at the location of pen strokes to being able to cut around any user-manipulated image without interacting directly with a computer. Be sure to check out the video after the break for a demonstration of how this works.

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Building an Automated Laser Turret Targeting System

Last year, [Alvaro] built a laser turret robot for the DEFCONBOTs competition. It worked pretty well, but this year, he decided to step it up a notch. Now instead of moving the entire robot laser array, he’s using galvanometers to move only the laser — he’s essentially built a mini laser projector.

A galvanometer is basically a very sensitive ammeter that moves — it can also be used as a very precise electro-mechanical actuator, for say, moving a tiny mirror. As you can imagine, you can actually build home-made galvanometers — but it’s really not that easy. Instead, [Alvaro] opted to order a few laser show controllers on eBay, and hack his way to a solution — we approve.

Wiring up the galvanometers and making some circuitry for them was the easy part. The tricky part is automating the system.

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Using a Laser Cutter to Decap ICs

The black blob IC is of a particular annoyance to the modern hacker. There is no harm in peeking under the hood to see how the IC works. But when it’s covered in a mountain of seemingly indestructible epoxy, this can be a bit difficult. And such was the case for [Jamie], who had found an old electronic pocket dictionary whose main PC board boasted not one, but two of the black blob ICs.

ICThe lack of traces between the two pushed [Jamie’s] curiosity past the tipping point. He didn’t have access to any nitric acid which is used in the customary chemical decapping process. He did, however, have access to a laser cutter. It turns out that decapping ICs with a laser cutter is not only possible, it’s not that difficult.

100% power at 300mm per seconds on a cheap 40 Watt “eBay” laser cutter is all it takes. Three passes did the trick for [Jamie], but this will be dependent on the thickness of the black blob epoxy. Each case will likely be unique.

Got a laser cutter? Then take a peek at a few black blob ICs and let us know what you find.

Thanks to [ex-parrot] for the tip!

Laser Cut Your Own Vinyl Records

[Amanda Ghassaei] has created an awesome hack for making your own vinyl records using a laser cutter from an MP3 file. Her excellent hack uses a Processing sketch that converts a digital audio file into a vector graphics file, which is then burned onto vinyl using a laser cutter. We saw a demo of this at the FabLab11 conference, and it’s an impressive hack.

One of the best parts of her write up are the details of how she arrived at the appropriate processing settings to get the record sounding as good as possible, but still be cuttable. It’s an object lesson in how you iterate on a project, trying different approaches and settings until you find the one that works. She also decided to take it a few steps further, cutting records on paper and wood for the ultimate eco-friendly record collection.

Audiophiles should avoid this technique though. Due to limitations in the resolution of the laser cutter, [Amanda] ended up having to reduce the bandwidth of the audio signal to 4.5Khz and use a 5-bit sampling depth. That translates to a rather tinny-sounding record. Vinyl record snobs can breathe easy: this isn’t going to replace their beloved white-hot stampers. For the rest of us, there are always records etched into tortillas.

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Pimp My Geiger Counter

In case your blissfully unaware of the radiation levels in your own home and city, did you know you can buy Arduino compatible Geiger Counters? They aren’t even that expensive! But, like any Arduino compatible board –they need a bit of dressing up to look like the real deal. [Folkert van Heusden] shows us his design, complete with directional LEDs and a laser cut enclosure.

He bought his first Geiger counter module a few years ago from Sparkfun — they retail for about 150 bones so they aren’t exactly cheap. But then he found an equivalent one on Aliexpres for about a quarter the cost — what did he have to lose? Really, he just wanted a cheap one he could walk around with and maybe scare his coworkers.  Continue reading “Pimp My Geiger Counter”

Make your own Ninja Chess Board

You’re going to want to take a look at this fun project [Alistair MacDonald] just finished up. He calls it Ninja Chess.

He’s had the idea to 3D print a complete set of ninjas vs pirates for a chess board, but, let’s be real;  printing thirty-two chess pieces would take a long time. He opted to use a laser cutter instead, and so far, only has the Ninja characters drawn. But it still makes for a pretty awesome chess board.

Ninja Character

He drew the characters in Inkscape and they’re pretty darn cute. He has all the files available over on his Instructable including the .DXF for the laser cut outlines, and the image files for you to print off the decals. But unless you’re good with scissors, we recommend using your hackerspace’s automated paper cutter to help speed things up.

Is it a hack? Not really, but it’d be an excellent addition to anyone’s workshop. And while we sail under the Jolly Wrencher, we too can appreciate the novelty of a Ninja chess board.

For a more detailed build, did you see the 3D laser cut chess pieces we shared a few weeks ago? No that’s not a typo — you can use a laser cutter to do more than just two-dimensional cutting…

Vintage Vinyl Laser-Etched on a Tortilla

[UpgradeTech] had a proof-of-concept itch they needed to scratch: making a playable record out of a tortilla using a laser cutter. The idea was spawned from the goofy “tortilla vinyl” YouTube video.

Uncooked flour tortillas were used. Corn tortillas were too lumpy while cooked tortillas shredded on the record player. To get the recording onto the tortilla, Audacity was used to modify a stereo WAV file. Using the RIAA equalization standard is a great choice here as it was originally adopted to prevent excess wear and tear on record grooves as the needle passed through. A Python script generated the files for the laser cutter, creating a text file with the sound data which was then processed into a vector PDF of the grooves. For each record it takes 30 minutes for the laser cutter to turn a simple flour tortilla into the musical variety.

Each tortilla can play 30-40 seconds of music at 45 or 78 RPM, but they start to warp once they dry out. Time to build a humidor around the record player! There is background noise that can make certain songs harder to hear, but there is unarguably audible music. There is plenty of room for optimizing the sound file, grooves, and cutting. We hope this project inspires others to make their own musical tortilla. Playing with your food has taken on a whole new meaning!

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