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!

Upgrading a Laser Cutter with RAMPS

Upgrade That Cheap-o Laser Cutter!

Laser cutters are perhaps one of the most useful tools in a hackerspace’s arsenal of tools, rivaled only by 3D printers and CNC mills. The problem is they’re quite expensive — unless you get one of the cheap little ones from China that is! Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. Lucky for us though they aren’t that hard to upgrade!

[Dan Beaven] just finished upgrading his 40W CO2 laser to use an Arduino Mega 2560 and RAMPS 1.4 — wanting to share his knowledge he’s posted a guide to help others do the same. The upgrade itself isn’t that difficult, although can be a bit messy for wiring. In the future [Dan] hopes to design a PCB with all the connectors so it’s as simple as plugging it into the RAMPS board.

To control the laser he’s using firmware from the Lansing Makers Network (GitHub) designed for use with marlin electronics. He’s modified it a bit for his own purposes (Google Drive) including a low output LASAR activation signal.The cool thing with setting up your laser with this hardware is that you can use a laser output plugin right in Inkscape!