For the last ten to fifteen years, optical drives have been fading out of existence. There’s little reason to have them around anymore unless you are serious about archiving data or unconvinced that streaming platforms will always be around. While there are some niche uses for them still, we’re seeing more and more get repurposed for parts and other projects like this tabletop laser engraver.
The build starts with a couple optical drives, both of which are dismantled. One of the shells is saved to use as a base for the engraver, and two support structures are made out of particle board and acrylic to hold the laser and the Y axis mechanism. Both axes are made from the carriages of the disassembled hard drives, with the X axis set into the base to move the work piece. A high-output laser module is fitted to the Y axis with a heat sink, and an Arduino and a pair of A4988 motor controllers are added to the mix to turn incoming G-code into two-dimensional movement.
Easy PCB fabrication in China has revolutionised electronic construction at our level, but there are still times when it makes sense to etch your own boards. It’s a messy business that can also be a slow one, but at least a project from [earldanielph] takes away one chore. It agitates the etchant solution round the board, by moving the tank backwards and forwards on the drawer of an old optical drive.
The first part of the build is simply removing all parts of the drive except the drawer mechanism and its motor. This is still, in most cases, a DC motor, so an Arduino can easily drive it with a motor control shield. It’s worth a moment to reflect on how little there is to a modern optical drive.
The first Playstation is quickly approaching three decades since its release, and while this might make some of us who were around for that event feel a little aged, the hardware inside these machines isn’t getting any younger either. Plenty of people are replacing the optical drive in the original hardware with an optical drive emulator as they begin to fail, and with that comes the option for several other modifications to the hardware like this in-game reset mod.
In-game reset is a function that allows a console to be reset via a controller button combination rather than pressing the console’s reset button directly. Especially for devices modified with either the XStation or PSIO drive emulators, this can be a handy feature to have as this method can more easily take the user back to the emulator menu as well as physically reset the device. The modification is a small PCB which attaches to the controller port and, unlike previous versions, only requires a single pin to be soldered to the Playstation’s control board.
If you’re someone who enjoys playing games on original hardware rather than a patchwork of emulators, this could be an excellent addition to your PS1 that still allows most of the original feel and experience the PS1 offered. The drive emulator can greatly expand the range of the hardware as well, much like this NES cartridge which similarly expands the capabilities of that much older system.
The build aims to keep things simple by holding the laser stationary, and moving the bed instead. The laser in question is a 500 mW unit, driven by the Z axis on the Arduino CNC shield used to run the system. A DVD drive is taken apart, and the worm drive stepper motor assembly is used to slew the carriage back and forth, atop which is glued a bed. Upon this bed, a copy of the same assembly is then installed, offset 90 degrees, giving the X and Y axes.
The result of this setup is a lightweight moveable bed, controllable through Gcode with GRBL. With the laser situated above on some camera mounting gear, paper can be installed on the bed and engraved with ease. The resulting accuracy is admirable, and at full power, the laser is capable of cutting through the paper.
While it’s a lightweight rig, it could serve a purpose as a cheap and easy way to produce stencils from computerized artwork. Optical drives remain popular in the DIY CNC scene, as they’re a great way to source a moveable platform with all the mechanical considerations already worked out.
Optical drives are somewhat passe in 2019, with most laptops and desktops no longer shipping with the hardware installed. The power of the cloud has begun to eliminate the need for physical media, but that doesn’t mean the technology is any less marvellous. [Leslie Wright] and [Samuel Goldwater] took a deep dive into what makes the PS3’s optical drive tick, back in the heyday of the Blu Ray era.
The teardown starts by examining the layout of the assembly, and the parts involved. This is followed by a deep dive into an exploration of the triple-laser diode itself, There are tips on how to safely extract the delicate parts, which are highly sensitive to electrostatic discharge, as well as exhaustive specifications and measurements of performance. There’s even a break down of the optical package, too, including a patent search to shed more light on the complicated inner workings of the hardware.
And if this lures you to dig deeper into Sam’s Laser FAQ, prepare to spend the rest of the week.
We’ve seen other optical teardowns before, too – like this look inside a stereo microscope. It’s quite technical stuff, and may fly over the heads over the optically inexperienced. However, for those in the know, it’s a great look at the technology used in a mass-produced console.
For many of us, the optical drive is a thing of the past. Once considered essential, the technology is no longer featured in the average laptop,where their omission saves plenty of precious space, and they’re rare on desktops, too. However, every now and then, something comes up and it’d be useful to have one on hand. [Klattimer] has just the solution for the MacOS set.
The Python Online Disk Server, or PYODS, is a tool that allows one to serve optical drives or ISO images over a network to MacOS clients. In its basic configuration, it shares all optical drives on a system, as well as all images found in a select folder. Thanks to using Python, it allows other operating systems to share their drives with Macs. It relies on Apple’s existing API to function, and should be a handy tool for anyone that regularly finds themselves having to scratch around for a way to mount an ISO in a pinch.
Thankfully, outside of legacy applications, cumbersome optical technologies and image files are a thing of the past. If you’ve got drives laying around that you’re not using anymore, why not repurpose them into a plotter?
The build gains X and Y axes by virtue of two salvaged DVD drives. The tray mechanisms come ready to go with stepper motors and lead screws already assembled, and make a great basis for a compact plotter. A wooden frame is constructed to hold everything together. The pen is held against the paper with a rubber band which helps the ballpoint to draw a nice dark line, with a servo used as a pen retract mechanism. An Arduino Uno with a stepper driver shield is then employed to run the show.