Hackit: Laser Cut Your Own Jigsaw Puzzle

If you have a laser printer, you’ve got your Christmas presents sorted out. At least if your family likes jigsaw puzzles. The idea is very simple, laminate a photograph onto some laser-cuttable board, and then run the laser over the outline of the pieces. Bam! Instant puzzle.

The trick is generating the puzzle outline, and of course there’s an online application for that. It’s got options that let you customize the piece count and shapes, and then download the result as an SVG image.

Unfortunately, it’s closed-source and makes the pieces a little bit too uniform for our liking — many of the pieces have exactly the same shape as each other. Are you up to the challenge of writing a better one? We’d love to see it, because the idea of a simple puzzle overlay for laser cutters is too good. Help us get started with some brainstorming in the comments below. How do you go about generating meaningfully unique jigsaw edges algorithmically?

Once you’ve got the puzzle cut out, you can seal up the surface nicely, toss it in a box, and then you’ve got a personalized present. To put it together, we suggest an accompanying DIY pick-and-place tool. (And kudos to [Kristina] for the best headline of 2015 on that one!)

Thanks to Hackaday alum [George Graves] for the tip!

Bending the Light

Ruled Hyperboloid CC Prof. William McCallum
Ruled Hyperboloid CC Prof. William McCallum

Everyone knows you can’t visibly bend light over short distances in free air. Or can you? [Jack Pearse] has figured out a way to do it though, or at least make it appear that way. He does it by combining a trick of math and a trick of the eye. The secret is the hyperboloid, a geometric construct described by a quadratic equation. [Jack’s] creation is more specifically a hyperboloid in one sheet. This type of structure allows straight lines to create a an overall curved surface.  Hyperboloids have been used by architects and in construction for years, often in tall structures like water towers.

If a bunch of straight steel beams can form a curved shape, lasers should be able to pull off the same effect. By employing persistence of vision, [Jack] was able to create his hyperboloid with only 10 small lasers. The lasers are mounted on the rim of a bicycle wheel and carefully aimed. The wheel is spun up with using an electric bicycle motor. [Jack] kept things safe by building a centrifugal switch. The switch powers up all the lasers in when the tire is spinning. This ensures no one can be hit by a static beam.

Once the wheel is spinning, all you need is a bit of smoke or haze in the room. The spinning lasers combine to form the hyperboloid shape. You can see the project in action in the video after the break.

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Sending Music Long Distance Using A Laser

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen DIYers sending music over a laser beam but the brothers [Armand] and [Victor] are certainly in contention for sending the music the longest distance, 452 meter/1480 feet from their building, over the tops of a few houses, through a treetop and into a friend’s apartment. The received sound quality is pretty amazing too.

In case you’ve never encountered this before, the light of the laser is modulated with a signal directly from the audio source, making it an analog transmission. The laser is a 250mW diode laser bought from eBay. It’s powered through a 5 volt 7805 voltage regulator fed by a 12V battery. The signal from the sound source enters the circuit through a step-up transformer, isolating it so that no DC from the source enters. The laser’s side of the transformer feeds the base of a transistor. They included a switch so that the current from the regulator can either go through the collector and emitter of the transistor that’s controlled by the sound source, giving a strong modulation, or the current can go directly to the laser while modulation is provided through just the transistor’s base and emitter. The schematic for the circuit is given at the end of their video, which you can see after the break.

They receive the beam in their friend’s apartment using solar cells, which then feed a fairly big amplifier and speakers. From the video you can hear the surprisingly high quality sounds that results. So check it out. It also includes a little Benny Hill humor.

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NES Light Gun Fires Awesome Laser Effect

[Seb Lee-Delisle]’s NES lightgun gave us pause as the effect is so cool we couldn’t quite figure out how he was doing it at first. When he pulls the trigger there erupts the beam of light Sci Fi has trained us to expect, then it explodes in a precision sunburst of laserlight at the other end as smoke gently trails from the end of the barrel. This is a masterpiece of hardware and trickery.

Demo video posted by @seb_ly

The gun itself is a gutted Nintendo accessory. It looks like gun’s added bits consist of two LED strips, a laser module (cleverly centered with two round heatsinks), a vape module from an e-cigarette, a tiny blower, and a Teensy.  When he pulls the trigger a cascade happens: green light runs down the side using the LEDs and the vape module forms a cloud of smoke in a burst pushed by the motor. Finally the laser fires as the LEDs finish their travel, creating the illusion.

More impressively, a camera, computer, and 4W Laser are waiting and watching. When they see the gun fire they estimate its position and angle. Then they draw a laser sunburst on the wall where the laser hits. Very cool! [Seb] is well known for doing incredible things with high-powered lasers. He gave a fantastic talk on his work during the Hackaday Belgrade conference in April. Check that out after the break.

So what does he have planned for this laser zapper? Laser Duck Hunt anyone? He has a show in a month called Hacked On Classics where this build will be featured as part of the Brighton Digital Festival.

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Bachelor Builds Enormous Laser Cutter, Nobody Complains

Nothing says swinging 21st-century bachelor pad better than a laser cutter. To really make a statement, you want a custom-built, 100 Watt, 1200mm x 900mm laser cutter.

The bachelor in question, [drandolph], rightly points out that a $6,000 build that takes up a significant fraction of the floor space in one’s apartment is better attempted without the benefit of spousal oversight. Still, what spouse couldn’t love the finished product? With a custom aluminum extrusion frame (which barely made the trip from China intact) it’s a sturdy affair, and who could deny the appeal of the soft glow of an LED-illuminated work chamber? A custom exhaust system with sound-deadening, a water chiller for laser cooling, an Arduino-controlled status beacon – there’s even a 3-D printed beer holder on the control panel! And think of all the goodies that will come off the enormous bed of this thing. Note to self: make sure wife sees this post.

There are cheaper and smaller laser cutters, but what’s the point if you have the freedom to go big?

[via r/DIY]

Infrared Targeting On a Small Scale

Sometimes, a person has a reason to track a target. A popular way to do this these days is with a camera, a computer, and software to analyze the video. But, that lends itself more to automated systems, like sentries. What if you want to be able to target something by “painting” it with a laser?

That’s exactly what [Jeremy Leaf] wanted to do, and the results are pretty impressive. He was able to track a .06 milliwatt laser at 2 meters. His design does this using three photodiodes in order to determine the position of a laser spot using triangulation.

Once the location of the laser spot has been determined, it can either simply be reported or it can be tracked. Tracking is achieved with a gimbal setup which updates quickly and accurately. Of course, it can only track the laser if the laser has something to be projected upon. If you need to track something in open 3D space, there are alternatives that would be better suited to the task.

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The Quest for Mice With Frickin’ Laser Beams (Pointed At Their Brains), Building A Laser Controller

The logo for the field is kind of cute though.
The logo for the field is kind of cute though.

[Scott Harden] is working on a research project involving optogenetics. From what we were able to piece together optogenetics is like this: someone genetically modifies a mouse to have cell behaviors which can activated by light sensitive proteins. The mice then have a frikin’ lasers mounted on their heads, but pointing inwards towards their brains not out towards Mr. Bond’s.

Naturally, to make any guesses about the resulting output behavior from the mouse the input light has to be very controlled and exact. [Scott] had a laser and he had a driver, but he didn’t have a controller to fire the pulses. To make things more difficult, the research was already underway and the controller had to be built

The expensive laser driver had a bizarre output of maybe positive 28 volts or, perhaps, negative 28 volts… at eight amps. It was an industry standard in a very small industry. He didn’t have a really good way to measure or verify this without either destroying his measuring equipment or the laser driver. So he decided to just build a voltage-agnostic input on his controller. As a bonus the opto-isolated input would protect the expensive controller.

The kind of travesty that can occur when [Stefan Kiese] doesn't have access to nice project boxes.
The kind of travesty that can occur when [Scott] doesn’t have access to nice project boxes.
The output is handled by an ATtiny85. He admits that a 555 circuit could generate the signal he needed, but to get a precision pulse it was easier to just hook up a microcontroller to a crystal and know that it’s 100% correct. Otherwise he’d have to spend all day with an oscilloscope fiddling with potentiometers. Only a few Hackaday readers relish the thought as a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

He packaged everything in a nice project box. He keeps them on hand to prevent him from building circuits on whatever he can find. Adding some tricks from the ham-radio hobby made the box look very professional. He was pleased and surprised to find that the box worked on his first try.