DIY Laser Lumia Lights Up The Night

Lasers are awesome, and as the technology continues to advance, they keep getting cheaper! If you’ve ever wanted your own laser light show in your man cave, it’s never been easier.

In the 70’s [rgrokett] was a planetarium technician, responsible for building and operating laser shows. Back then, the laser modules were huge and expensive. After being reminded of days gone past, thanks to an article about laser light show operators, he decided to try his own hand at building a Low-cost Laser Lumia Lightshow.

And it couldn’t be easier.

You’ll need some lasers, preferably red, blue, and green, a clear CD or DVD, and a low RPM DC motor. If you want to get fancy, you can throw some circuitry in to control the colors individually, or have them trigger on sound effects.

The cool effect you see in the animated gif above is thanks to the clear CD. Take some optically clear glue and apply it liberally to the CD surface. Let it dry, and you’ll be left with a bumpy surface that will cause some awesome refraction of laser light. Slap it on the geared motor, and you’re done!

And if you want to get really fancy — why not build your own galvanometers for the laser show?

20 thoughts on “DIY Laser Lumia Lights Up The Night

  1. At an awesome laser light show in London in 1986 in a planetarium, (to the music of Genesis which added to the awesome), I was informed by the laser show operator guy that the different colours were produced by a single laser, and separated by a prism before being channelled to separate galvos for each colour. He wouldn’t let me open the big black laser box right there and then after the show, but there were certainly red, green and blue. Any thoughts as to whether that could be true?

    1. Yes. Two ways to accomplish this. A white light laser through beam splitters to multiple galvos is one way. You can also combine rgb to white.

      You can avoid multiple galvos by pulsing each color. Big pro stupa usually use an AOM (acoustical optical modulator) to split the colors. This method was the best way to choose colors quickly since you can’t really modulate big gas tubes. This also let you raster a full color image rather than vector in three colors.

        1. Daveboltman probably saw an Argon/Krypton Ion laser system, one tube with the two gases inside has laser lines in the red, yellow, green and blue areas of the spectrum and with the right balance the beam can be a nice white. Very expensive, not really used anymore but they still turn up on the surplus market occasionally. Stupid inefficient though, eating several KW to output a handful of watts on a fresh tube.

          1. +1. At the time (1986), that was how it was done. There was such a system being operated at a planetarium local to me until the late 90’s. The operator wouldn’t let me peek at the insides either, but was happy to answer questions.

          2. Photon is right. There are couple companies that used to make Argon ion tubes with multiple lines. They are much sought after by enthusiasts, and yes they are stupid inefficient usually requiring 220V 3 phase power to run them, for tens of mW of optical power output. That being said, there is nothing quite like watching an Argon ion tube do its thing. Those who play with them know what I mean…

        2. White light lasers are ion lasers filled with both Ar and Kr… They lase on red, green and blue lines, and with wideband optics, you end up with the appearance of white light. Then, you have a PCAOM (polychromatic acousto-optical modulator) set up at the proper angle… These are driven by four channels normally: red, green, blue and blanking. Resolution varies, but even 8-bit per color is beautiful. From there, you can use a single pair of galvos. You modulate the PCAOM quickly and you can have any color of the rainbow at any point in the XY realm at any time…

          Back in the day, I was an amateur laserist. Started out with HeNe’s and quickly graduated to a pair of Lexel 75’s. Then an 85. Then a 95 set up with Ar/Kr fill and white light optics. Could kick out about 3 watts of white light with 220 three phase delta supply and copious water cooling. Ah. Those were the days. Still have it all.

          Kids and their new-fangled ‘laser modules’ lol. In days gone by it took a pickup truck’s worth of equipment just to get a few precious watts of white laser light.

          Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

    2. Technically possible but chronologically inaccurate – lasers are monochromatic though white beams have recently been produced by combining RGB beams (much as the LEDs/phosphors in a display do).

      It’s more likely that there were separate color beams in the box or that the box was not a laser at all but a high intensity conventional white source that was refracted.

      1. Nope, you’re wrong. Would have been an Ar/Kr ion laser. They’ll lase ~13 visible lines at once with several red lines, a yellow line, several green lines and several blues lines. Ar/Kr ion lasers are terribly inefficient – the big ones can quite happily pull 10kW of electricity to produce a few watts of visible light.

    3. Although no longer in common use, a Dye laser could produce a range of wavelengths and was tunable (to a small extent) but for major shifts in wavelengths would require a different organic dye (Sodium fluorescein, Rhodamine 6G and others) usually dissolved in Ethanol. I built on back in the mid eighty’s as a science fair project.

  2. I haven’t fired it up in years, but… back in the mid 90’s I canabalized a semi-dead RCA laser disc player.

    Used the laser tube, and the alignment mirrors, and bits of the frame work. Hooked each mirror (one does the X, one the Y) to the L&R channels of a stereo. Fired the laser through one, which bounced off the other, which landed on the ceiling. Floyd was awesome for making lissajous patterns. I should really get it going again and take some video of it.

    Anyhow, point is… combining the above with a multi color setup would be mega cool!

  3. The simplest galvos to make are simply gluing a bit of lightweight mirror to the surface of a speaker – used to be a common project once upon a time. Limited in range etc. of course but a place to start.

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