Ion Propelled Tie Fighter Now Has a Laser!

ion

[Steven Dufresne] has been playing around with ion propulsion using high voltage lately, and he’s added another spaceship to his experiments — Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter – and as an added bonus, he’s thrown on a laser too!

We originally covered his Ion Wind Propelled Star Trek Enterprise a few months ago, after someone had mentioned that the ion winds he was generating in experiments kind of looked like the warp drives on the Enterprise. Well, someone else pointed out that a TIE Fighter was an even better candidate for this. After all, TIE stands for Twin Ion Engines. So he decided to build one too. The ion winds look even better on this one as he’s turned the entire back of the fighter into the electrode, which creates a wide and very visible arc.

Oh, he also decided to add lasers to it for some extra flare — unfortunately TIE Fighters used green lasers — not red ones. Stick around for the following videos to see the TIE Fighter in all its ionic glory.

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From Schematic to PCB in Four Hours

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Last super bowl Sunday, instead of checking the game, [Mattw] decided to extend a design and make a PCB of a trinket clone. [Mattw] altered a trinket clone design by [Morgan Penfield Redfield] to shrink it down, perforated the USB connector to allow for easy removal and put most of the parts on a single layer.

After finalizing the design, [Mattw] put it into the LPKF Protolaser S that Seattle’s Metrix Create Space has. For those of you who don’t know, the LPKF protolaser uses a laser to directly ablate off the copper from the boards.  This makes prototyping much faster without the need for a lot of nasty chemicals.

About six minutes in the Protolaser, some component placement by hand followed by a run through their reflow oven and [Mattw] had three boards ready to be tested. All told, about 4 hours from start to finish.

The end circuit looks great and the LPKF protolaser gives us a case of serious tool envy. If you’re like us and don’t have access to the fancy laser you might try our hand at this high-resolutino photo-etch process.

[via reddit]

Laser-Based PCB Printer

DIYouWare-Machine

Being able to create PCB’s at home is a milestone in the DIYer’s arsenal. Whether you physically mill or chemically etch boards, it’s a tricky task to perfect. [Charlie & Victor] are working towards a solution to this complicated chore. They call their machine the DiyouPCB. DiyouPCB is an open source PCB etching project consisting of both hardware and software components.

The project is based on using a Blue Ray optical pickup. The pickup was used in its entirety, without any modification, to simplify the build process. In order to use the stock pickup, [Charlie & Victor] had to reverse engineer the communication protocol which also allowed them to take advantage of the auto-focus feature used while reading Blue Ray discs. The frame of the machine is reminiscent of a RepRap, which they used to do preliminary testing and laser tuning. The X and Y axes run on brass bushings and are belt driven by stepper motors which are controlled by an Arduino through a specially designed DiyouPCB Controller Shield.

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2D Room Mapping With a Laser and a Webcam

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[Shane Ormonde] recently learned how to measure distance using just a webcam, a laser, and everyone’s favorite math — trigonometry. Since then he’s thrown the device onto a stepper motor, and now has a clever 2D room mapping machine.

He learned how to create the webcam laser range finder from [Todd Danko], a project we featured 7 years ago! It’s a pretty simple concept. The camera and laser are placed parallel to each other at a known distance, axis-to-axis. On the computer, a python script (using the OpenCV library) searches the image for the brightest point (the laser). The closer the brightest point is to the center of the image, the farther the object. Counting pixels from the center of the image to the laser point allows you to calculate an angle, which can then be used to calculate the distance to the object — of course, this needs to be calibrated to be at all accurate. [Shane] does a great job explaining all of this in one of his past posts, building the webcam laser rangefinder.

From there it was just a matter of slapping the rangefinder onto a stepper motor, driving it with a small PIC, and running the calculations on the fly! His results are fairly impressive.

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axCut: An Open Source Laser Cutter

axCutopensourceLaserCutter

If you’ve always wanted a laser cutter and you have £1500 lying around (approx. $2500 as of today) — and you have access to a 3D printer — then you’ll want to take a look at [Damian's] open source laser cutter: axCut. The project has evolved over the last few months from some mockups in OpenSCAD to a working prototype.

You’ll want to dig through his blog posts as well as his YouTube channel for all the juicy details, but from what we can gather, [Damian] is on the home stretch. The current implementation includes a 40W CO2 laser with functioning laser control and an impressively quiet watercooling system. Although the build’s wiring remains a bit of a tangle, the prototype cuts (almost) as expected. His next hurdle is ironing out the air assist, which should prevent some fire hazard issues and keep the lens free of debris.

Check out a couple of videos after the break, and if you’re interested in getting into laser cutting but want to start smaller, have a look at the MicroSlice from a few months ago.

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Cheap (Free?) Mirror Replacement for your CO2 Laser

hdd mirrors

You know what’s expensive? Those little tiny little mirrors used in laser cutters — and they don’t last forever either! What if we told you it’s possible to make your own for free, using a broken hard drive?

[Tim Wehr] read about using HDD platters as mirrors on BuildLog.net, and decided to try it out for himself to see how well they work. He quickly salvaged an old hard drive and removed the ever so shiny platters. Using a few pieces of wood he clamped the platter and then cut circles out of it using a metal hole saw — the edges are a bit rough, so we’d recommend you invest in a diamond hole saw if you’re planning on trying this.

Some denatured alcohol polishing later and a bit of filing on the edges, and he had a replacement mirror. He then performed two tests using both the original and the HDD mirror on his CO2 laser. Almost identical cutting power. In fact, [Tim] muses that the HDD mirror looks like it cut slightly better even! Not bad!

[Thanks Riva!]

Lazing With A Ruby

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[Ben Krasnow], builder of amazingly complex and technical devices, is finally starting work on his ruby laser. He’s been collecting parts for this project for the past few years, but only recently has he started recreating the first visible light laser.

While the design and manufacture of the first ruby laser was astonishingly complex, the basic idea behind it is pretty simple. [Ben]‘s laser uses a synthetic ruby rhod with the ends ground optically flat. This rod is placed inside a flash tube. When the flash tube lights up, the rod absorbs the light and re-emits it as a coherent beam for several milliseconds. This beam bounces between two mirrors – one fully reflective and another partially reflective – and emits a constant stream of coherent photons. It’s tremendously more complex than simply connecting a laser diode to a power source, but replicating a build that graced the covers of Time and Newsweek only fifty years ago is pretty impressive

Right now, [Ben] has most of the mechanical and optical parts of his ruby laser on his workbench. The next step is constructing a huge capacitor bank to charge the flash tube every millisecond or so. What [Ben] will end up using his laser for remains up in the air, but if we come across some erbium or neodymium rods we’ll be sure to send them his way.

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