An RGB laser projector opened up on a workbench

Laser Projector Needs Hardware Hack After Software Mod

You probably recognize that dreadful feeling when you reboot a gadget after updating its firmware, only to be greeted by a blank screen and an unresponsive device. This apparently happened to the previous owner of a bricked RGB laser projector that [Buy It Fix It] got his hands on: it briefly flashed its laser on power-up but otherwise remained completely dead.

A thorough inspection of the major components didn’t reveal any physical damage, so the issue had to be in software. [Buy It Fix It] managed to connect his Segger J-link programmer to the STM32 main processor and downloaded the contents of its firmware, only to find the remains of a PDF file which seemed to have been accidentally flashed into the chip’s program space. Fixing the device should then just be a matter of restoring the proper firmware, but [Buy It Fix It] wasn’t able to find a copy of it anywhere.

A PCB with a few mod wires on itWhat he did find was Maximus64’s GitHub repository that contained a software mod for a different projector model, as well as its original firmware. Flashing that version didn’t fix [Buy It Fix It]’s projector either, although it did now start to actuate its galvos.

A bit of reverse engineering revealed that the two projectors were very similar from a hardware point of view, but had their laser drivers hooked up to different I/O pins: simply cutting the board traces and soldering some wires to re-route the signals was enough to bring the projector back into a working state.

Having to modify hardware in order to make it fit a piece of software is unfortunate, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve got. If you’ve got no firmware to begin with, then you might even have to write your own from scratch.

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A Petite Pico Projector For Portable Pi

A few years ago, new, innovative pico projectors, influenced by one of the TI development kits, started appearing in Kickstarter projects and other various DIY endeavours. Those projects fizzled out, most likely due to the cost of the projectors, but we got a few laughs out of it: that wearable smartphone that projected a screen onto your wrist used the same technology.

But there’s a need for a small projector, a pico projector, or in this case a femto projector. It’s the Nebra Anybeam, and it’s a small projector that uses lasers, and it comes in the form of a Raspberry Pi hat. We would like to congratulate the team for shipping the ideal use case of their product first.

The key features of this pico projector address the shortcomings of existing projectors that can fit in your pocket. This uses a laser, and there’s no bulb, and the power consumption can be as low as 3 Watts. Power is provided over a micro USB cable. The resolution of this projector is 720p, which is sufficient for a quick setup for watching a movie, but the brightness is listed as equivalent to 150 ANSI lumens, about the same as small projectors from a few years ago.

But of course the big selling point isn’t the brightness or resolution, it’s all about the smallness of the projector itself. There is a developer’s kit, a Pi Hat, a fit-in-your-pocket version with an enclosure, and a ‘monster ball’ version of the Anybeam.

Experiment With Lumia, The Cheap And Easy Way

Light is a wonderful medium for art, and there’s all manner of ways to approach it. We’ve always been huge fans of all that blinks and glows, but there’s a whole wide world of other methods and techniques in the lighting arena. Lumia is one that does not always get a lot of mainstream attention, and so [Adam Raugh] has created this video, sharing both the history of the effect, and various ways to create it yourself. 

Lumia was once used to refer to a broad swathe of artistic lighting, but these days, more commonly refers to effects that create an aurora-like appearance, as one would see near the poles of our fine Earth. [Adam] first covers the history of the effect, as pioneered by Thomas Wilfred with the Clavilux in the early part of the 20th Century.

The video then covers the basics of creating lumia effects using DIY methods. The key is to combine slow rotation with an organically deformed refractive medium. [Adam]’s rig of choice is a basic laser projector, rotating at just 1/3 of a rotation per minute. This is then combined with a variety of homebrewed refractive media – torture tubes made from glass, acrylic sheets coated with muddled epoxy, and even a crumpled water bottle.

It’s an excellent primer on how to get started with lumia, and [Adam] covers a wide variety of tips and tricks as well as potential pitfalls to avoid.

We see plenty of great lighting projects around these parts – check out the Kinetic Chandelier. Video after the break.

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IKEA Lamp With Raspberry Pi As The Smartest Bulb In The House

We love to hack IKEA products, marvel at Raspberry Pi creations, and bask in the glow of video projection. [Nord Projects] combined these favorite things of ours into Lantern, a name as minimalist as the IKEA lamp it uses. But the result is nearly magic.

The key component in this build is a compact laser-illuminated video projector whose image is always in focus. Lantern’s primary user interface is moving the lamp around to switch between different channels of information projected on different surfaces. It would be a hassle if the user had to refocus after every move, but the focus-free laser projector eliminates that friction.

A user physically changing the lamp’s orientation is detected by Lantern’s software via an accelerometer. Certain channels project an information overlay on top of a real world object. Rather than expecting its human user to perform precise alignment, Lantern gets feedback from a Raspberry Pi camera to position the overlay.

Speaking of software, Lantern as presented by [Nord Projects] is a showcase project under Google’s Android Things umbrella that we’ve mentioned before. But there is nothing tying the hardware directly to Google. Since the project is open source with information on and GitHub, the choice is yours. Build one with Google as they did, or write your own software to tie into a different infrastructure (MQTT?), or a standalone unit with no connectivity at all.

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Laser Galvo Control Via Microcontroller’s DAC

Mirror galvanometers (‘galvos’ for short) are the worky bits in a laser projector; they are capable of twisting a mirror extremely quickly and accurately. With two of them, a laser beam may be steered in X and Y to form patterns. [bdring] had purchased some laser galvos and decided to roll his own control system with the goal of driving the galvos with the DAC (digital to analog) output of a microcontroller. After that, all that was needed to make it draw some shapes was a laser and a 3D printed fixture to hold everything in the right alignment.

The galvos came with drivers to take care of the low-level interfacing, and [bdring]’s job was to make an interface to translate the 0 V – 5 V output range of his microcontroller’s DAC into the 10 V differential range the driver expects. He succeeded, and a brief video of some test patterns is embedded below.

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Teardown: What’s Inside A Christmas Laser Projector?

In the world of big-box retail, December 26th is a very special day. The Christmas music playing on the overhead speakers switches back to the family friendly Top 40, the store’s decorations get tossed in the compactor, and everything that’s even remotely related to the holiday is put on steep clearance. No more money to be made on the most commercialized of all holidays, so back to business as usual.

It’s in this narrow corridor of time, between the Great Holiday Unloading and the new spring products coming in, that you can find some fantastic deals on Christmas decorations. Not that long ago, this would hardly be exciting news for the readers of Hackaday. But Christmas lights and decorations have really started pushing the envelope in terms of technology: addressable RGB LED strands, Bluetooth controlled effects, and as of the last couple years, friggin’ lasers.

That’s right, you’ve seen them all over the neighborhood, probably took a few stray beams to the eye, you might even own your own. Laser projectors have been one of the most popular Christmas decorations for the last couple of years, and it’s not hard to see why. Just set the projector up in front of your house, and you’re done. No need to get on a ladder and string lights on the roof when you can just blast some directed energy up there instead.

Given how popular they are, I was surprised to see a lone Home Accents Holiday Multi-Color Light Projector on the clearance rack at Home Depot for around $14 a few days after Christmas. This was a 75% price reduction from normal MSRP, and right in that sweet impulse-buy price range. Let’s see what’s hiding inside!

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Cheap Dual Mirror Laser Projector

[Stanley] wanted to make a laser projector but all he could find online were one’s using expensive galvanometer scanners. So instead he came up with his own solution that is to be admired for its simplicity and its adaptation of what he could find.

At its heart is an Arduino Uno and an Adafruit Motor Shield v2. The green laser is turned on and off by the Arduino through a transistor. But the part that makes this really a fun machine to watch at work are the two stepper motors and two mirrors that reflect the laser in the X and Y directions. The mirrors are rectangles cut from a hard disk platter, which if you’ve ever seen one, is very reflective. The servos tilt the mirrors at high speed, fast enough to make the resulting projection on the wall appear almost a solid shape, depending on the image.

He’s even written a Windows application (in C#) for remotely controlling the projector through bluetooth. From its interface you can select from around sixteen predefined shapes, including a what looks like a cat head, a heart, a person and various geometric objects and line configurations.

There is a sort of curving of the lines wherever the image consists of two lines forming an angle, as if the steppers are having trouble with momentum, but that’s probably to be expected given that they’re steppers controlling relatively large mirrors. Or maybe it’s due to twist in the connection between motor shaft and mirror? Check out the video after the break and let us know what you think.

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