Building An Optically Pumped Laser Pointer

As a society, we’ve largely come together to agree that laser pointers are mostly useless. They’re now the preserve of university lecturers and those destined to wind up in a jail cell for harassing helicopter pilots. Most pointers are of the diode-pumped solid state variety. However, [Zenodilodon] treads a different path.

The laser cavity glows in operation, though it’s probably inadvisable to look directly at it.

Instead of the usual DPSS build, this pointer packs an optically pumped semiconductor laser, or OPSL. These lasers have the benefit of a wider selection of output wavelengths, and can be built to offer less variance in beam parameters such as divergence.

The build is an attractive one, with the pointer chassis being manufactured out of brass, with several components plated in yellow and rose gold. There’s even a sliding window to observe the laser cavity, which glows brightly in operation. [Zenodilodon] goes into great detail during the machining process, showing all the steps required to produce a visually appealing device.

It’s certainly one of the prettiest laser builds we’ve seen, and it’s always nice to see makers exploring different technologies. Similarly to our recently featured 1.4 W laser pointer, it’s largely a packaging operation, but if you’re building your own laser diodes at home – you know where to send ’em. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Building An Optically Pumped Laser Pointer”

Building A 1.4W Laser Pointer In A Tiny Housing

Laser pointers were cool for about 30 seconds when they first came out, before becoming immediately passé and doing absolutely nothing to improve the boss’s quarterly reports presentation. However, just as with boom boxes and sports cars, more power can always make things better. [Styropyro] was unimpressed with the weak and unreliable laser pointers he’d sourced from eBay, so gutted one and began a fresh build.

After fiddling with some basic 1mW eBay green lasers, [styropyro] had some fun turning up the wick by fiddling with the internal trimpots. This led to the quick and untimely death of the cheap laser diodes, leaving a compact laser pointer shell ripe for the hacking.

To replace the underwhelming stock components, [styropyro] chose a Nichia NDG7475 high-powered laser diode, fitting it into a small heatsink for thermal management. Current draw was far too high to use the original switch, so the stock housing’s button is instead used to switch a MOSFET which delivers the full current to the laser driver. To reach the higher output power of 1.4W, the laser diode is being run over specification at 2.3 amps. All this current draw would quickly overwhelm standard AAA batteries, so a pair of lithium polymer 10440 batteries are substituted in to do the job.

The build shows that with clever parts selection and some easy hand soldering, you too can build an incredibly dangerous laser pointer at home, that fits neatly in your shirt pocket. Alternatively, you might prefer something on the larger scale. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Building A 1.4W Laser Pointer In A Tiny Housing”

Science Shows Green Lasers Might Be More Than You Bargained For

This may come as a shock, but some of those hot screaming deals on China-sourced gadgets and goodies are not all they appear. After you plunk down your pittance and wait a few weeks for the package to arrive, you just might find that you didn’t get exactly what you thought you ordered. Or worse, you may get a product with unwanted bugs features, like some green lasers that also emit strongly in the infrared wavelengths.

Sure, getting a free death ray in addition to your green laser sounds like a bargain, but as [Brainiac75] points out, it actually represents a dangerous situation. He knows whereof he speaks, having done a thorough exploration of a wide range of cheap (and not so cheap) lasers in the video below. He explains that the paradox of an ostensibly monochromatic source emitting two distinct wavelengths comes from the IR laser at the heart of the diode-pumped solid state (DPSS) laser inside the pointer. The process is only about 48% efficient, meaning that IR leaks out along with the green light. The better quality DPSS laser pointers include a quality IR filter to remove it; cheaper ones often fail to include this essential safety feature. What wavelengths you’re working with are critical to protecting your eyes; indeed, the first viewer comment in the video is from someone who seared his retina with a cheap green laser while wearing goggles only meant to block the higher frequency light.

It’s a sobering lesson, but an apt one given the ubiquity of green lasers these days. Be safe out there; educate yourself on how lasers work and take a look at our guide to laser safety. Continue reading “Science Shows Green Lasers Might Be More Than You Bargained For”

Lasers, Mirrors, and Sensors Combine in an Optical Bench Game

Who would have thought you could make a game out of an optical bench? [Chris Mitchell] did, and while we were skeptical at first, his laser Light Bender game has some potential. Just watch your eyes.

The premise is simple: direct the beam of a colored laser to the correct target before time runs out. [Chris] used laser-cut acrylic for his playfield, which has nine square cutouts arranged in a grid. Red, green, and blue laser pointers line the bottom of the grid, with photosensors and RGB LEDs lining the grid on the other three sides. Play starts with a random LED lighting up in one of the three colors, acting as a target. The corresponding color laser comes on, and the player has to insert mirrors or pass-through blocks in the grid to create a path to the target. The faster you hit the CdS cell, the higher your score. It’s simple, but it looks really engaging. We can imagine all sorts of upgrades, like lighting up two different targets at once, or adding a beamsplitter block to hit two targets with the same color. Filters and polarizers could add to the optical fun too.

We like builds that are just for fun, especially when they’re well-crafted and have a slight air of danger. The balloon-busting killbots project we featured recently comes to mind.

Continue reading “Lasers, Mirrors, and Sensors Combine in an Optical Bench Game”

Laser Pointer Clock Makes Timekeeping A Drawn-Out Affair

Designing a unique clock to flex your technical skills can be a rewarding experience and result in an admirable showpiece for your home. [Andres Robam] saw an opportunity to make a laser-pointer clock that draws the current time onto a glow-in-the-dark sticker.

A pair of stepper motors tilt and pan the laser’s mount — designed in SolidWorks and 3D printed. There was an issue with the motor’s shaft having some slack in it — enough to affect the accuracy of the laser. [Andres] cleverly solved the issue by using a pen’s spring to generate enough tension in the system, correcting it. A NODEmcu v2 is the brains of the clock — chosen because of its built-in WiFi capacity and compatibility with the Arduino IDE — and a 5mW laser sketches the time onto the sticker.

Continue reading “Laser Pointer Clock Makes Timekeeping A Drawn-Out Affair”

Measure Laser Wavelength with a CD and a Tape Measure

Obviously the wavelength of a laser can’t be measured with a scale as large as that of a carpenter’s tape measure. At least not directly and that’s where a Compact Disc comes in. [Styropyro] uses a CD as a diffraction grating which results in an optical pattern large enough to measure.

A diffraction grating splits a beam of light up into multiple beams whose position is determined by both the wavelength of the light and the properties of the grating. Since we don’t know the properties of the grating (the CD) to start, [Styropyro] uses a green laser as reference. This works for a couple of reasons; the green laser’s properties don’t change with heat and it’s wavelength is already known.

It’s all about the triangles. Well, really it’s all about the math and the math is all about the triangles. For those that don’t rock out on special characters [Styropyro] does a great job of not only explaining what each symbol stands for, but applying it (on camera in video below) to the control experiment. Measure the sides of the triangle, then use simple trigonometry to determine the slit distance of the CD. This was the one missing datum that he turns around and uses to measure and determine his unknown laser wavelength.

Continue reading “Measure Laser Wavelength with a CD and a Tape Measure”

High Speed Laser Based Camera Flash Trigger for Only $2

[Matt Kane] works at a really cool company in the UK where he recently finished working on the Triggertrap Ada — the highest-performance, most feature packed camera trigger out there. So just for fun, he decided to challenge himself again — could he make a super basic, super fast, bare-bones camera trigger for $2 instead?

At the most basic level this is just a laser pointer and a light sensor. When the object your photographing breaks the light path, the flash triggers. Typically this is done with an IR laser, but since he’s going for a low-cost system, he’ll use a basic 1mw red laser pointer — the only downfall is you might see it in the picture.

Next up is the sensor. Ideally we’d use a photodiode which is very fast, but also expensive. A photoresistor is cheap, but not fast enough. A nice medium between the two is a phototransistor, which is relatively fast, and cheap. Finally, we need a minimum trigger period to offset the flash. [Matt] thought about using a 555 timer but instead decided to just generate a pulse with an Attiny45.  Continue reading “High Speed Laser Based Camera Flash Trigger for Only $2”