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Old 08-08-2011, 08:50 PM   #1
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Default From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Say you started from an empty apartment room, with some money in the bank and a few thousand hours to spare. What equipment and devices would be necessary to start making just one laser?

I ask this question because the tutorials always seem to be missing stuff by assuming everyone has "one of those", whatever those happen to be.

So far, I've been able to add these items to my must-haves Wish List:
  • a pair of safety glasses for colors you work with
  • LPM/Laserbee
  • DMM (digital Mult-iMeter) added
  • soldering iron
  • solder/flux/rosin
  • a metal file
  • gray superfine grain sand paper
  • a hacksaw or jigsaw capable of cutting copper/brass/aluminum
  • a stable drill or dremel that doesn't wobble
  • some kind of precision screwdriver for small parts
  • Li-Ion batteries like A123 18650 3.3v, 3.7v, etc.
  • a work table
  • some kind of clamping tool like a soldering iron "third hand"
  • magnifying glass/jeweler's lens added
  • tweezers, foreceps/alligator clips added
  • Vice to press in diodes added
  • a very bright lamp
  • needle nose pliers/wire clippers
  • wire strippers added
  • some kind of wire(?)
  • drivers like a flex driver or linear (saves lots of time)
  • driver parts, like an LM317, resistors, and a small board
    1. veraboard/stripboard added
  • hosts, typically aluminum flashlights, such as Surefire ($10-$20+)
  • anti-static wristband for working with the drivers
  • thermal adhesive
  • heat shrink tubing
  • a power drill with an assortment of tough small drill bits (for diodes that don't fit)
  • White/metal pen for writing on black/metal surfaces (more useful than you think)
  • Some kind of electrical manual useful for making the drivers(?)
  • diodes ($3-$45+ each)
  • heat sinks Aluminum or Copper($10-$50+ if custom)
  • focusing lenses(Aixiz for example, beware of partial threading)

edit: I'll continue updating this list as soon as I know what these things are. I'll probably make a photo album to post pictures too.

I recognize this list is no where near complete, and have question marks (?) next to categories I know little about. I'd like some help finishing this list and making it functional with trustworthy examples. Then It would be fun to tally the minimum costs of assembling one laser.

I also recognize there's full blow shop equipment, and that would be cool to list as well, like a lathe or mill, for instance.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how much this is setting me back before I decide where to go next in terms of investing.
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Last edited by shintashi; 11-17-2011 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 08-08-2011, 08:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Lab PSU
Aixiz modules
Mod9s

Thats all I have for now

Last edited by Jacob32123; 08-08-2011 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:21 PM   #3
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

DMM (Digital Multi Meter)
Wire strippers
Magnifying glass/doublet/jewler's lens
Alligator clips/forceps
Veroboard/strip board (if you plan on making your own drivers)
Vice
Soldering flux/rosin

I'll keep adding more as I think of them but remember, some things are optional, they aren't "required" (like a bench PSU) but make the job easier. Some things are a necessity like a DMM, which you need to set/check the current on drivers.

Last edited by Kevlar; 08-08-2011 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:45 PM   #4
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

a vice to press diodes in modules
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Old 08-08-2011, 11:22 PM   #5
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

(?) Safty glasses are THE most important thing on your list..
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Old 08-09-2011, 12:33 AM   #6
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob32123 View Post
Lab PSU
Aixiz modules
Mod9s

Thats all I have for now

the only thing on there I recognize is the Aixiz module - which I actually don't really know anything about, except it has something to do with lenses or drivers. I couldn't figure out what a PSU was.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevlar
veroboard...
I'll look that up.
edit: a permanent breadboard? I think I get it.

...Seems like a Vice is pretty necessary.

... safety glasses are one of my first concerns but I don't understand the ranking system or whether the glass color matters.
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Last edited by shintashi; 08-09-2011 at 12:36 AM.
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Old 08-09-2011, 12:55 AM   #7
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

PSU = Power Supply. Great thing to have.
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Old 08-09-2011, 02:24 AM   #8
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ARGLaser View Post
PSU = Power Supply. Great thing to have.
Variable current/voltage bench PSU, AWESOME to have.

But if you're just starting out it isn't necessary and can be a bit pricey (relatively speaking). For our hobby batteries can accomplish the same goal.

In fact, you don't even need a desk or workbench!!! This is a pic of one of our vets Mohrenberg.


Last edited by Kevlar; 08-09-2011 at 02:32 AM.
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Old 08-09-2011, 02:36 AM   #9
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Yeah, but batteries are a pain to deal with and often you can't find the voltage you need.
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Old 08-09-2011, 03:22 AM   #10
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ARGLaser View Post
Yeah, but batteries are a pain to deal with and often you can't find the voltage you need.

I don't understand. I mean if you are building the laser to use batteries, why would batteries be bad for testing? I mean you are stuck with certain ranges anyway, right? Or do you perform some kind of circuit voodoo that allows you to pretend battery N is battery N*1.11 or whatever?

I think I heard somewhere that's what a driver was for... but I'm still at "knows how a flash light works... and knows lasers have more parts" level.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:53 AM   #11
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shintashi View Post
I don't understand. I mean if you are building the laser to use batteries, why would batteries be bad for testing? I mean you are stuck with certain ranges anyway, right? Or do you perform some kind of circuit voodoo that allows you to pretend battery N is battery N*1.11 or whatever?

I think I heard somewhere that's what a driver was for... but I'm still at "knows how a flash light works... and knows lasers have more parts" level.
ARGLaser didn't say batteries were bad for testing just that they are a pain to deal with. You have to use battery holders or tape wires to the ends.

I used batteries only a couple of times before I bought one of these:



Enercell Universal 1000mA AC Adapter : AC Adapters | RadioShack.com

I wouldn't ever use this to power a laser diode directly but it does a decent job powering drivers. It doesn't have all the voltage ranges like a bench PSU but it gets close enough and it only cost ~$20
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Old 08-09-2011, 01:00 PM   #12
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

I show some of the things I use to make a selectable dummy load in my youtube video.



Most is optional... but very handy to have.
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Old 08-10-2011, 04:21 PM   #13
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

So I went to the Fry's electronics store to purchase my first soldering iron and parts, and I noticed they had silver solder, but it needed a hotter iron, and they were trying to sell me a digital iron but those were like 2-10 times more expensive - some were over $200. I also noted some had butane torches and others were just electrical.

I was wondering if I would want silver solder, and what kind of soldering iron? I figure the driver is super small, but it could get hot really fast, so I wasn't sure if regular solder was a good idea.

I also noticed all their veraboards were super huge, and none of them were the tiny circles I've seen as laser drivers. I could really use some help in sorting this all out. I jsut received a money order for my birthday and I don't want it to go up in a puff of smoke.
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Old 08-11-2011, 02:20 AM   #14
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

I hope you watched bobhaha's video, it should be very helpful to you.

This is the soldering iron I use

Amazon.com: Weller SP40L Marksman 40 Watt Soldering Iron: Home Improvement

Works good and doesn't have a problem with the silver solder. Digital soldering stations are very nice and I wish I could afford one but it's one of those things that IMO are optional. They might make the job a bit easier but not necessary.

Once in a while I will use some "silver" solder but the silver content is very low and in our applications isn't really needed. Here is the silver bearing solder I use sometimes:

Silver-Bearing Solder (1 Oz.) - RadioShack.com

It only has 2% silver. Normally I just use a rosin core solder, something like 63/37. And if I'm setting the jumpers on a flexdrive I use a little extra flux/rosin. One thing you don't want to use is plummer's solder, way too much lead.

As far as the veroboard all you need to do is cut down to the size you want.

Also, make sure you take care of your soldering tip and use a very thin one, like a pencil tip. It's important to keep your tip "tinned" when it's just sitting there or else oxidation will occur and solder won't stick to it. I use way more solder just keeping my tip tinned than I use for actual soldering of components.

There are some threads on here, I can't find them right now but try searching, on how to solder and take care of your iron for a long-life.

There are also several websites and youtube videos on how to solder correctly. Just google and youtube search "how to solder".

Hope this helps.

Last edited by Kevlar; 08-11-2011 at 02:21 AM.
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Old 08-12-2011, 04:34 PM   #15
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

what is a PCB?

I'm trying to find out what those round drivers are called so I can buy them, but I was only able to see images by typing "LED PCB" in google images. When I tried finding how to cut a circle out of veroboard, I saw recommendations for a hacksaw but they said a hex or octagon would be about the best one could hope for. I've definitely seen a lot of circle shaped boards in this forum so I'm wondering if they come "blank".

It should be clear I don't have a clue.
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Old 08-12-2011, 06:05 PM   #16
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

PCB is short for printed circuit board. It's the thing you solder components onto.
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Old 08-12-2011, 08:08 PM   #17
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to do. Are you looking for round drivers or just a round PCB board?

If you have a large enough host they don't have to be round. BTW, if I need to cut down a PCB I use some wire snips, tin snips, or a dremel type tool. With the dremel tool you can use a cutting wheel or grind the PCB down.

I bought some of these just to strip down (remove all the components) and use as a pill in some DIY handhelds I'm planning on making.

AA and 14500 Circuit Board for 3.7V LED Emitters 3-Pack (1.5V~4.2V Input) - Free Shipping - DealExtreme

If you are converting a torch style flashlight into a laser most of them come with round contact boards.
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Old 08-13-2011, 03:47 AM   #18
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

So I went to the Fry's and bought a Hakko FX 888 soldering station
here's a picture on amazon, and some 60/40 23 gauge solder, and a prototyping board from twin industries with plated holes. I haven't opened or used any of these products because I'm not sure if I'm

1. buying the right kind of iron,
2. if my solder is too thick,
3. or if I bought the wrong board.

I guess the next thing I need to do is figure out the parts that go on the board, and get good at beading the solder, or whatever it is you do with a soldering iron, since I only have welding experience for comparison.
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405nm 600mW violet tactical
445nm Yobresal 1200mW
532nm Green Laser/Flashlight tactical 5mW
655nm Swiss Army Knife Mini-Laser 0.8mW
650nm my first" DIY failure" laser 100mW (?)


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Old 08-13-2011, 03:52 AM   #19
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevlar View Post
Variable current/voltage bench PSU, AWESOME to have.

But if you're just starting out it isn't necessary and can be a bit pricey (relatively speaking). For our hobby batteries can accomplish the same goal.

In fact, you don't even need a desk or workbench!!! This is a pic of one of our vets Mohrenberg.

jesus...this picture tends to pop up like every 6 months....

This is a picture of me assembling my first driver ever. a rkcstr microdrive.
this is when i was just getting into lasers. I was pretty excited when i got that driver in the mail!!

for a 445nm you need:
host with a matching heat sink
batteries
aixiz module
aixiz glass lens
diode
jib driver
some wire
some solder
some solder flux
soldering iron


that's really all you need...
then you can get all fancy with the rest of the stuff......

Last edited by Mohrenberg; 08-13-2011 at 03:54 AM.
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Old 08-13-2011, 05:16 AM   #20
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

i've got solder, but what is flux? I saw some giant containers of some sort of highly corrosive stuff at the Fry's near the copper scratch boards and the soldering irons, but I wasn't really sure what it was for.
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405nm 600mW violet tactical
445nm Yobresal 1200mW
532nm Green Laser/Flashlight tactical 5mW
655nm Swiss Army Knife Mini-Laser 0.8mW
650nm my first" DIY failure" laser 100mW (?)


OEM Lasers OD 5+ 190-579nm Safety Glasses
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Old 08-13-2011, 01:11 PM   #21
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shintashi View Post
So I went to the Fry's and bought a Hakko FX 888 soldering station
here's a picture on amazon, and some 60/40 23 gauge solder, and a prototyping board from twin industries with plated holes. I haven't opened or used any of these products because I'm not sure if I'm

1. buying the right kind of iron,
2. if my solder is too thick,
3. or if I bought the wrong board.

I guess the next thing I need to do is figure out the parts that go on the board, and get good at beading the solder, or whatever it is you do with a soldering iron, since I only have welding experience for comparison.
The iron you bought looks good.

Can you post pics of the board? I doubt you bought the wrong stuff. Is the solder rosin-core?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shintashi View Post
i've got solder, but what is flux? I saw some giant containers of some sort of highly corrosive stuff at the Fry's near the copper scratch boards and the soldering irons, but I wasn't really sure what it was for.
Flux, or rosin, helps the solder stick to whatever it is your soldering.

Here is a decent video on basic soldering, there are many, many more, just check out youtube

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Old 08-13-2011, 01:11 PM   #22
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

I would separate your list above into tools, and parts. The tools you should invest more in, because you'll be using them across many projects and it's nice to have good tools.

- Goggles: Of course you need goggles, but which to get? There are always those $5 red goggles, but if you have some money flexibility, get some good quality certified ones. No, "CE approval" or whatever means nothing because that is for mechanical protection not laser protection:

- 445nm lasers: YLW yellow goggles. Very good visibility and absolute protection against 445nm lasers. My preferred goggles for 445nm.
- 405nm - 532nm: ARG goggles. More general purpose for lasers up to 532nm, but orange color and does not protect against infrared if you're using them for green. Good price.
- 532nm, IR, low-power red: ML7 general purpose goggles. These are great for 532nm because they protect against the IR in most greens as well. Also works for 405nm and low-power reds (<150mW). More expensive than many, but works for many wavelengths.
- Red diodes - RB2 ruby, diode, etc. goggles. Good if you're using high powered reds.

The goggles are expensive, so you'll want to get goggles for the wavelengths you'll actually be making stuff for. You can always buy other goggles later. I don't like the $5 red goggles for 445nm/green that you'll see on Dino Direct or whatever sites. They work, but they're really hard to see anything. The best goggles to get are the ones you'll want to wear.

- Soldering Iron: Make sure to get a decent soldering iron. Don't get some shitty soldering iron from Radio Shack, get a temperature controlled nice soldering iron like this or this. The latter I own, and it has served me well; however, I really only use the SMD hot air heater for the mundane purpose of heating shrink wrap.

- Solder: I prefer leaded solder, because it melts nice, requires lower temperatures, has better mechanical properties, costs far less, and I like that shiny surface it produces. If you're in a country that allows you to buy leaded solder (e.g. the USA), buy that. Unfortunately, it's getting harder to find leaded solder so you may be forced to use lead-free solder, especially if you're in Europe. If you can find leaded solder, get a 63/37 eutectic blend, a good brand like Kester, and in quantities you will use. Eutectic means that the alloy directly goes from solid to liquid when melted, not intermediate "plastic" phase changes which can result in bad joints. Do not buy 60/40 solder; 60/40 blend is not eutectic. It is garbage that is only meant for manufacturers because it is cheaper than 63/37 solder, and the manufacturers have good heat/process control that is suitable for 60/40.

Here is a 1 pound spool of Kester 44 63/37 eutectic solder which is good stuff; however, 1 pound will probably not be used up before it potentially expires. I'm still using the spool of Kester solder I got back in, er... 2003? 2004? I'll probably still have it a decade later. Solder rosin does expire, but usually you can still keep using it despite that.

What you want:

- 0.031 diameter solder (good thin solder, but not too thin)
- Eutectic solder (leaded or lead-free)
- No-wash rosin core (the flux in the solder)
- Quantities you'll use up so it doesn't sit around.

Not Kester, but here is some solder that will do the trick, and you don't need a 1 pound spool:

- 100g spool - 63/37 solder, 0.031" diameter
- 10g tube of the above.

- Vise/Project Holder: If you want a nice vice(s), check out the Panavise selection. I've got the suction-cup base, and a "Jr" vise head for holding circuitboards. Ironically, buying them separately costs less than as a single package.

If you have space, consider getting the screw-on or clamp-mounted vise base (requires the first one) so that it is permanently fixed to your workbench. For pressing diodes, you'll want a standard vise head, but for working on projects, I'd get the Jr. head I mentioned above.

- Flux: Flux helps "lubricate" the solder, in other words it'll let it flow so that it doesn't just blob up and not melt. For most intents and purposes you can get away with no outside flux. Your solder has rosin flux inside it and outside application may not be needed. You can always just apply more solder to your soldering iron tip to keep the solder flowing. It is nice to have some around though, especially when you want to make sure your solder is flowing.

For flux, I would get Kester no-clean flux. Kester is a good brand (I'd also buy their solder too). I use Kester 1544 which is highly activated, but requires no clean-up. Unfortunately, that variety seems to only come in 1 gallon containers. Those will last you many, many lifetimes of use, which you probably don't need, requires special shipping, has a 2-year shelf life (which you can probably extend), and will cost you $50 or so to get. I was lucky enough to get some squeeze bottles of Kester 1544 with syringes of flux for cheap, which will last me for a loooong time. If you have friends who want some flux, maybe it'd be worth it, but I'd look into a flux pen, hopefully one suitable for hand-soldering. It's less active, but at least it's in a pen form rather than a gallon jug. No clean-up though. To summarize what you should look for in flux:

- Non-corrosive / no-cleanup flux
- High-activity (may not be possible)
- Designed to work with conventional soldering (i.e. not exclusively surface/SMD work)
- Easy to dispense. A pen works well, but you can also pour flux into a bottle with a syringe tip.

I wouldn't bother with the flux on DealExtreme. It just seemed to smolder, and not help when I used it. I don't know about its corrosion properties as well.

- Bench-top Power Supply: A benchtop power supply is a useful addition to your bench, allowing you to power up projects without batteries or other weird hookups. I bought a dual 30V 3A power supply at MPJA (full list of PSUs) for about $180, but rarely have needed that voltage range. I have made use of both power supplies, however.

In a pinch, a simple wall-wart + LM317 breadboard power supply (such as this) works great for small experiments.

- DMM: Fluke or Extech are good brands. I would get one that is autoranging, can do continuity tests, diode tests, and measure capacitance. Fluke meters are expensive. I've got an Extech 430 that does the above. Don't get the Extech 450, as it has a useless infrared thermometer instead of capacitance measurement and other modes.

In a pinch, the DealExtreme meters are probably decent enough or even better (who knows?) for most needs.

- Other useful stuff:

- Solder sucker - (Sparkfun, Amazon, DealExtreme). I have the one from DX. This thing is awesome for getting rid of soldering mistakes. What you do is heat up the blob of solder you want to get rid of, and then fire the solder sucker so that it sucks that solder off and into the solder sucker. Eject that cooled solder from the solder sucker and you're done. I can't tell you how many times this has saved my butt, especially since solder wick never seems to work for me, even with flux dripped on it.

- IC hook probes. I hate using the DMM touch probes for adjusting or other longer tasks. Alligator clips equally suck. You can put these in the DMM sockets and clip them to whatever you're measuring, freeing your hands. They also work on your benchtop PSU.

- Headlamp: The bench light may be okay, but will never light up exactly what you're looking at very well. Wear the headlamp to shine on what you're soldering and looking at.

- Part storage containers. A tacklebox works nice for this. If you're not sure if the container is ESD safe, wrap your microchips in tin-foil before putting them inside the container.

-----------

Good soldering tutorials: Tangent's electronics DIY video tutorials.

Pro Tip for your soldering iron (Important!): This tip is described in the Tangent videos above, but warrants additional mention. When you're not using the soldering iron, even for a minute, load the tip up with solder, and leave it in the holder. That goes for when you're done using it. The solder will protect the tip from oxidization, and the rosin in the solder will clean the tip. Wipe the tip off when you want to solder some more.

You should never need to replace your tips if you properly care for them in this way. Also, when you get a new soldering iron, the tip is in its most vulnerable state. Immediately cover the tip in solder to protect it.

Never sand or file down the tip of your soldering iron. Your soldering iron tip is covered with special plating for helping transfer heat to your solder. Filing it away will expose the copper below to oxygen and other impurities and reduce its lifespan. The only reason people do this with other soldering irons is that they bought some piece-of-shit heated nail from Radio Shack, and the tip is not even properly plated.

Last edited by Bionic-Badger; 08-13-2011 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 08-13-2011, 04:01 PM   #23
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevlar View Post
The iron you bought looks good.

Can you post pics of the board? I doubt you bought the wrong stuff. Is the solder rosin-core?



Flux, or rosin, helps the solder stick to whatever it is your soldering.
pic posted of wire and board.
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Old 08-13-2011, 07:00 PM   #24
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

^^^ Those look good.

Please take the time to read BB's post (he put a lot of time and effort into it for your benefit) and watch those videos he linked to, they are VERY helpful.

Last edited by Kevlar; 08-13-2011 at 07:00 PM.
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Old 08-14-2011, 03:25 AM   #25
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Default Re: From nothing to Laser - What's needed?

In following with BB's post, I returned the 60/40 to the store and got some 63/37 solder instead. also got a "third hand" w/ magnifier.

What parts do I need to buy to make a driver?


edit: found this thread
LM1085 DIY Driver

Going to probably mess with it when my essays are done.

edit 2:Figured out what a pot/potentiometer was, and have looked at more DIY driver rigs. I've concluded to accurately make the right adjustment on the "pot", I need a multimeter. I used to have one but It's been missing for years. Also need some copper wire.

Stuff I've purchased so far:
1. solder station
2. solder
3. third hand
4. circuit board

Stuff I have lying around, but might be useful:
1. electrical tape
2. needle nose pliers
3. sheet metal shears
4. screwdriver
5. power drill
6. hacksaw

Stuff I plan on buying next:
1. copper wire
2. multimeter
3. ???

So far it looks like there's possibly 20-30 things a person needs and around $500+. I still don't know for sure because I'm only a few steps into the process. It's been 6 days, and 3 trips to the Fry's, and I've barely begun.

This is starting to feel like a quest
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Last edited by shintashi; 08-15-2011 at 02:13 AM.
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