A Super Easy Laser Engraver

CNC comes in all shapes and sizes, from huge industrial lathes to homebuilt wire benders. [MJKZZ] has built their own compact rig, using optical drive parts to create a cute but effective laser engraver. (Video embedded below.)

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.

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Tearing Down A PS3 Blu Ray Drive

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.

Easy Optical Drive Sharing With PYODS

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?

Build A Plotter Using Scrap DVD Drives

Building your own CNC machine can present a series of varied challenges. There are the software considerations, but also the mechanical side of things – motors, shafts, screws and slides all need to be addressed in a working design. Of course, you can always outsource some of the work – and that’s precisely what [Daniele Tartaglia] did with this pen plotter build (Youtube link, embedded below).

It’s a capable plotter, able to nicely reproduce both graphics and text.

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.

It’s a tidy build, with neat cable management and smart design choices giving it a pleasing aesthetic. The CNC fundamentals are good, too – with minimal backlash and slop, the plotter is able to draw quite effectively. Old optical drives are a popular choice for plotter builds, as it turns out. Video after the break.

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Raspberry Pi Revives Stand-Alone DivX Player

It might seem almost comical to our more fresh-faced readers, but there was a time when you could go into a big box retailer and purchase what was known as a “DivX Player”. Though they had the outward appearance of a normal DVD player, these gadgets could read various digital video file formats off of a CD-R or DVD-R, complete with rudimentary file browser. Depending on how much video compression you could stomach, a player like this would allow you to pack an entire season of a show or multiple movies onto a single disc. Before we started streaming everything online, that was kind of a big deal.

Room to grow.

[Roberto Piva] got his hands on one of these early digital media players, a KiSS DP-500 circa 2003, and decided that it was too unique to send off to the recycling center. Not only was he curious about what made it tick, but he thought it would be interesting to try converting it into a Raspberry Pi powered streaming media player. One might say there’s something almost perverse about taking the carcass of one of these devices and stuffing it full of the same technology that made it obsolete in the first place, but who are we to judge?

Upon opening the vintage set top box, [Roberto] was immediately struck by how empty the thing was. He got the impression the device was a rush job, pushed out to capitalize on a relatively short-lived trend. Looking at it, we have to agree. It’s almost as though they got a deal on some old VCR chassis laying around in a warehouse someplace and decided to stick some (at the time) modern electronics in it. It even uses what appears to be a standard IDE optical drive rather than something purpose built.

[Roberto] hoped that he could tap into the player’s original power supply, but upon testing found that it wasn’t quite up to the task to reliably running a modern Pi. So into the cavernous enclosure went a powered USB hub, which he wired up to the original power switch on the player’s front panel. The original PSU couldn’t handle the Pi, but it does work nicely to spin up an IDE hard drive that he mounted to the top of the optical drive with zip ties.

This was enough to get a nice Kodi set top box that’s capable of pulling media from the Internet or the internal HDD, but [Roberto] has more plans for the future. He wants to try and get the optical drive working through a USB-to-IDE adapter so the device can come full circle and once again play burned discs full of video files, and mentions he would like to reverse engineer the front panel and IR receiver to control Kodi.

While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a DVD player get an internal Raspberry Pi, the fact that this one is using an IDE drive is an interesting spin and should make for a very clean final product. We’ve also seen how integrating the original physical controls can really help sell the experience with these Pi-infused players. If you’ve got the space in your entertainment for one of these early 2000’s leviathans, they might make an ideal base for your own Pi set top box build.

A Wooden Based, CD Stepper Scribbler

[Rohit Gupta] is back with a plotter made from scrap CD drives and an old RC servo. [Rohit] is working on hacks to create CNC machines and sharing his activities with the world. His CNC design calls for salvaged stepper motors so he first built a device for testing them. You’ve got to admire his use of the language. He named his plotter project ‘Sketchy’ and his motor tester is called ‘Easy Peasy’.

sketchyAfter finding some CD drives at the scrap pile he tore them down to test with Easy Peasy. The raw materials for the frame came from a wooden crate for an AC unit but he didn’t just start cutting it up. Nope, first he created plans with CAD; now that’s a hack you have to admire.

With the steppers tested working, and the base build under way he moved onto the control system. Originally the hardware was demonstrated using an MSP430. This worked, but a flaw in the hardware design was found. With the pen attached directly to the servo horn, it would draw a long line when being rotated away from the drawing position.

The fix is a replacement servo setup which lifts the pen up instead of rotating it. But that showed that the drawing surface wasn’t smooth. The pen kept missing places or getting caught and destroyed. The use of a spring loaded pen solved this issue. Success!

One further change migrated away from the MSP430 in favor of an Arduino Pro Mini in order to use a GRBL library instead of the g-code generator which was performing questionably. Since he likes Hackaday so much one of his first attempts with the final version of Sketchy was our logo, shown in the video after the break.

When we last saw [Rohit] he had created a fancy PCB ruler to measure components.

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CNC Plotter Uses Only The Good DVD Drive Parts

It wasn’t that long ago that wanting to own your own 3D printer meant learning as much as you possibly could about CNC machines and then boostrapping your first printer. Now you can borrow time on one pretty easily, and somewhat affordably buy your own. If you take either of these routes you don’t need to know much about CNC, but why not use the tool to learn? This is what [Wootin24] did when building a 3D printed plotter with DVD drive parts.

Plotters made from scrapped floppy, optical drives, and printers are a popular hand, and well worth a weekend of your time. This one, however, is quite a bit different. [Wootin24] used the drives to source just the important parts for CNC precision: the rods, motors, motors, and bearings. The difference is that he designed and 3D printed his own mounting brackets rather than making do with what the optical drive parts are attached to.

This guide focuses on the gantries and the mechanics that drive them… it’s up to you to supply the motor drivers and electrical side of things. He suggests RAMPS but admins he used a simple motor driver and Arduino since they were handy.