Laser light show comes to life from the junk bin

In a project that only spanned about three weeks [Lars] built this laser light show projector using parts scavenged from his junk bin. We’ve seen the concept many times before, all you need is a laser source and two mirrors mounted on a spinning bases. The laser diode for this project was pulled from a recordable DVD player. That beam passes through the optics from a laser printer to give it the focus necessary to get a good projected image.

[Lars] played around with the mirror angles until he achieved just the right look. The first mirror is mounted about 4 degrees from being flat with its motorized base; the second is off by about 6 degrees. This introduces slight oscillation in the beam direction when the motors are spinning. By adjusting the speed of each motor you get different patterns. Adjustments are happening completely at random thanks to the BasicStamp2 microcontroller which hadn’t been used in years. Fifteen lines of code were all it took.

Want a laser that’s not controlled at random? Check out this addressable galvanometer-based show.

Temperature sensing mug means never burning your mouth again


Some people tend to get awfully attached to their favorite mug. Like an old friend, the mug holds a special place in their hearts, and there’s a weird sadness when it finally gives up the ghost. Through the winter months [Ben’s] girlfriend is never without hers, and when it broke, he decided to give her a new one with some added functionality.

He built her a temperature sensing mug that uses a rather novel way of determining how hot or cold the contents are. Instead of using a thermistor to determine the drink’s temperature, he opted to use a simple diode since it is well known that a diode’s forward voltage varies with temperature. After determining the diode’s voltage range using hot and cold beverages, he hooked it up to the ADC of a PIC12F615 micro controller. The temperature is displayed via 10 LEDs, which are driven through a pair of 8-bit shift registers and buffers since his PIC did not have enough pins to control them on its own.

He had some PCBs made, and after a handful of setbacks got everything put together. He says the mug works pretty well, though the display changes a bit more slowly than he would like. He also mentions that if he builds a second version, he will be sure to select a different PIC that has enough I/O pins to do the job, as well as use a thermistor instead of a simple diode for sensing the temperature.

Continue reading to see a brief demo video [Ben] put together.

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Blu-ray laser plotter writes on glow-in-the-dark screen

This laser display is persistent thanks to a glow-in-the-dark screen. [Daniel] built it using a Blu-ray laser diode. As the laser dot traverses the screen, it charges the phosphors in the glow material, which stay charged long enough to show a full image.

The laser head is simple enough, two servo motors allow for X and Y axis control. A Micro Maestro 6-channel USB servo controller from Pololu drives the motors, and switches the diode on and off. This board offers .NET control, which [Daniel] uses to feed the graphics data to the unit. Check out the video demonstration below the fold to see a few different images being plotted. It’s shot using a night-vision camera so that you can really see where the laser dot is on the display. It takes time to charge the glow material so speeding up the plotting process could actually reduce the persistent image quality.

This is yet another project that makes you use those geometry and trigonometry skills.

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Fixing the Rovio battery charging circuit

[Chris] was unhappy with the battery performance of his Rovio. It seems that he’s not alone, so he set out to reverse engineer the battery charging circuit to see if there was a fix. Boy is there, what he found is the diode above, apparently installed backwards when compared to the silk screen diode symbol. Now it’s entirely possible that the silk screen is wrong and this was fixed during assembly. We think that’s unlikely because if the closer of the two diodes was supposed to have the same polarity as the one next to it there should have been room to install them both in exactly the same orientation. [Chris] pulled out a soldering iron and changed the diode to match the silk screen. That fixed his problem and he’s now getting better performance than he ever has.

[From our comments section]

Tiny USB business card

[Frank Zhao] put together a USB business card. It’s even got the instructions printed right on the silk screen of the PCB explaining how it should be used. He based the design around an AVR ATtiny85 microcontroller. It runs the V-USB package that handles USB identification and communication protocols. The rest of the hardware is pretty standard, the uC draws power from the 5V USB rail, with a couple of 3.6V Zener diodes to drop the two data lines down to the proper level.

Once plugged in it waits until it detects three caps lock keypresses in a row, then spews a string of its own keypresses that type out [Frank’s] contact information in a text editor window (video after the break). It’s not as reusable as the mass storage business card because [Frank] didn’t breakout the pins on controller. But we still enjoy seeing business cards that make you stand out.

This is a great project to tackle with your newly acquired AVR programming skills.

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Build a cutting laser from an old PC

[Drake Anthony] makes building a cutting laser from a PC look easy, and it seems like it actually is. Almost everything you need can be found in a dead desktop unit. The diode is pulled from a DVD writer (16x or faster), with the power supply unit, and heat sinks from the processor and GPU being used as well. You’ll also need a focusing lens (just a few dollars), some thermal glue, an LM317, a resistor, and a pair of protective goggles matching the laser diode’s wavelength.

He fits the diode into the lens, then glues the assembly into a hole drilled through the processor heat sink. A driver is built using the LM317 variable regulator, resistor, power supply, and the GPU heat sink to keep things cool. Check out the video after the break to see the laser cutting tape, burning plastic, and lighting matches. Continue reading “Build a cutting laser from an old PC”

Laser mic makes eavesdropping remarkably simple

Here’s a surprisly simple way to build yourself a laser-based listening device. It consists of two modules, a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is a set of lasers, one is visible red for aiming, and the other is infrared for measuring the vibration of a surface. Point the transmitter at the window of the room you want to listen in on and the laser can be reflected back to the receiver. The receiver module has a phototransistor to pick up the infrared laser light, and an LM386 audio amplifier to generate the audio signal sent to a pair of headphone. The need to be well-aligned which is easy enough using a pair of tripods. Check out the demo after the break.

Looking for something to do with the leftover laser diodes from this project? Try making yourself a laser microscope.

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