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Old 04-04-2014, 12:43 AM #1
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Default 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (Pic Heavy)

9mm 445nm, Polished Black Zaser Build

Hello All,

I am new here, but have been making heavy use of the search feature and soaking up a lot of information. I decided it was only fair to try and contribute some content back to the forum!

This is only my second build, and my first build thread, so there likely won't be anything really new or unique presented. Yet I know from my own experience searching the forum that there can never be enough build threads, and that every photo adds a slightly new angle that may be just the angle someone needs -- so I hope some of this will be helpful and interesting to those building or contemplating a build of their own.

My photo skills need some work, and I haven't done a build thread before, so this won't be Pulitzer material but hopefully I will improve with practice and future builds.

DIODE, MODULE, and DRIVER
I sourced the 9mm 445nm diode, module, and X-drive from Jordan (DTR). I don’t have a diode press nor am I confident enough to set driver current yet, so Jordan was a great help here.

The diode, already pressed into it’s cozy copper and aluminum home (as received from DTR):


The elegant and adjustable Lazeerer X-Drive, leads attached and current preset to 2.1A. I am undoubtedly being over-cautious with 2.1A, but I was willing to give up a bit of power for better diode longevity.


Since DTR was setting the driver current, I also asked him to solder leads to the driver and diode. I opted for leads between the diode and driver, rather than soldering the driver directly to the diode, for two reasons: First, I wanted to heat-sink the driver to the host pill. Second, I wanted the rear half of the module to make direct contact with the back of the diode for better heat dissipation. The new-style rear module half supplied (shown below) has a mating surface that directly contacts the back of the diode, as shown below. I added some Arctic Ceramique2 compound to that surface before screwing the module together.


LENS
I decided to use the stock lens that comes with the 9mm diode, both because it provides great output power and, well, let’s face it: The price can’t be beat since it comes with the diode.

The lens arrived still mounted (glued) in its original holder. I read a lot of methods involving a bath in acetone or alcohol, but in the end decided against any chemicals and just went straight to mechanical means.

The original for the below photo is quoted from a post by Blord and is a great closeup showing how to grip the lens holder with pliers for the removal. I actually used vice-grips for more controlled grip ("use’em if you got’em"), and I have added some yellow arrows to Blord’s original photo to depict the “rotating” force I used to gently spread the two wings of the holder apart.


The holder material is very brittle – be gentle, and do this over a padded surface (like a towel) in case the lens falls out! The photo below shows the assembly after bending the two vertical wings outward. Note the fracture in the holder assembly, at the lower left of the lens, and the slight outward angle of the two vertical wings -- it didn't bend far before it snapped! The lens is free of the holder in this photo.


The lens had a very small amount of glue on the edges, which I carefully removed with a razor blade. The final step was cleaning my grubby fingerprints off the lens with a microfiber cloth, and installing it into the holder purchased from DTR:


Lens installed in DTR's Lens Holder:


THE HOST
There are a lot of talented machinists here, providing a lot of great hosts from which to choose. I eventually picked the Zaser, manufactured by Mike Crouse (mrcrouse) and his Dad. My reasons included (1) It is a 2x18650 host (I have lots of quality 18650’s and a good charger for them); (2) It has a good amount of finned aluminum mass for the heat sink; (3) It is manufactured/shipped domestically, and (4) It looks great! Having previously purchased a C11 kit from Mike and reading comments from other satisfied Zaser customers, I was certain it would be a good choice.

Once I placed the order, my Zaser was custom manufactured, anodized, polished, and handed over to USPS in less than a week. USPS then took 4 days to work their special combination of transportation, attempted destruction and eventual delivery, after which it was in my hands.

ASSEMBLY SNAG
I had intended to affix the driver to the pill or the back of the finned head, but ran into a minor problem: The Zaser doesn’t have a solid pill; rather the pill is essentially a threaded ring with a contact board soldered into it. And there is not much room between the pill and the back of the heat sink. So where to put the driver board? There is plenty of room for the mini X-drive board in the 12mm bore, behind the diode module, but I had wanted to heat sink the driver to the host.

My solution was extend the pill by fabricating two additional parts. First, I cut a round piece of sheet aluminum, the same diameter as the pill, with a hole at one edge for wires between the contact board and driver. This piece became the solid top for the pill. Second, I cut a 3/16” long piece of tubing whose outside diameter was nearly the same as the inside diameter of the Zaser. I placed this between the pill and the back of the Zaser’s finned head, forming a spacer to prevent the pill from screwing in all the way, thus leaving room for the driver board. Here are the two parts, first by themselves and then stacked just as they will be stacked on the pill, with a diagram showing where the X-drive will be affixed:



The only disadvantage to this approach was losing a 3/16” of battery compartment length. There is still plenty of room for unprotected cells (my Panasonic 18650Bs fit with room to spare), but most protected cells would prevent the tail cap from screwing on fully. That’s not a problem for me – I prefer the Panasonic 3400mAh unprotected cells.

FINISHING THE BUSINESS END
After thermal gluing the X-drive to the new pill cover, I soldered the leads to the contact board. I then pushed the module all the way through the bore from the rear, so the wires could twist freely as I inserted my spacer ring, the X-drive (affixed to my pill extension), and finally the pill with contact board. I screwed in the pill until it bottomed out on the spacer ring, then (working from the front side) put some Ceramique2 on the module, inserted it and tightened the set screw. (Arggghhh! I had several photos of this step, then somehow lost them when uploading to photobucket. If it weren't for the messy Ceramique2, I would just take it apart again... Oh well, aside from the extended pill shown above, all are pretty standard and have been seen in other builds.)

Here’s the back side of the finished head, with the pill/contact board installed:


PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
I installed the lens into the Zaser’s focus ring, and laid out all the parts for final assembly. One last check with the ohmmeter to make sure the tailcap switch was in the OFF position, then it was time to put it all together.


COMPLETE PACKAGE


Just over 1 pound with batteries.


MOMENT OF TRUTH
Goggles on, Check. Pointed at a light surface 45 feet away, check. No pets, children, or pesky spouses around. Check, check, and check.
Pushed the button and… The room was bathed 445nm blue! I regret to say that my photo skills come anywhere close to doing it justice...


MY KINGDOM FOR AN LPM
I don’t have an LPM, as I am still trying to decide between the reasonably priced Radiant X4 versus a budget-busting Ophir based system. So I can only GUESS at the actual output power. The driver is set at 2.1A and I'm using the stock lens, so based on others' results I am guessing output is about 2.6W. If I get access to an LPM soon, I will update this review with a measurement.

*** UPDATE 17-Apr-2014 *** My Radiant X4 arrived! The guess at 2.6W above wasn't too far off; according to the radiant I'm hitting a bit over 2.8W. Really happy to see that, especially with only 2.1A input.



TEMPERATURE TEST
I was curious how well the heat generated by the diode was dissipated by the aluminum head of the Zaser. I have a reasonably accurate (+/- 1C) infrared thermometer, and was able to use it to measure the temperature of the copper diode module during operation (lens out, measuring inside the module threads). This obviously doesn't get actual diode can temperature, but it is as close as I can get with the equipment I have, but keep in mind it is the MODULE temperature, a few mm in front of the diode, NOT the diode itself. Three tests were performed with 30 minute rests in between, and results were averaged to build the chart.


BEAM SHAPE
Beam shape is what I understand to be typical for the 9mm 445nm and stock lens. The size and intensity of the square area surrounding the main beam is surprisingly bright. Here is the best beam terminus shots I could get with my combination of camera and photo skills. The "spot" is actually smaller than it appears in the photo, as the brightness overwhelms the imaging sensor, but otherwise these are pretty good representations.



Substituting a 405/445nm AR coated 3-element glass lens cleans up the shape a lot, eliminating the square "splash" around the beam and making it more square than rectangular (presumably by clipping). (Note: This is the ONLY photo taken with the 3-element lens; all others were with the stock 9mm lens).
BEAM SHAPE WITH 3-ELEMENT LENS (All other photos, above and below this oint, use the stock 9mm stock lens)



CLOSING COMMENTS
The only challenge I had in this build was finding a place to glue the driver to the pill or host; and in retrospect, that probably wasn't necessary. While nice to have the driver heat-sinked to run continuously, it really doesn't need to run any longer than the intended duty cycle of the diode. So a good alternative would have been to just glue some thermal mass (like a piece of copper wire) to the driver chip, and place the driver in the 12mm bore directly behind the module.

Total cost was a bit more than $255. The diode, module, driver (including leads and current preset), lens, and lens holder was $125, while the Zaser with anodizing was $130. Add another $1-$2 for supplies (like arctic alumnia adhesive & arctic ceramique2 grease).

A HUGE thank-you goes to Jordan (DTR), not only for making quality components available, but for doing all the preliminary work (pressing the diode, soldering the leads, setting driver current, etc.) that makes a build like this so easy. Thanks to Lazeerer for the great X-Drive, to Mike (mrcrouse) for the well made and great looking Zaser host, and to FlaminPyro for the Flux that made contact board connections a whole lot easier. All very talented and helpful guys!

So that's it... I will now play my way off stage with a few more beam shots.





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Old 04-04-2014, 12:54 AM #2
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Great thread! I just put together a 9mm as well, and with the stock lens, i just cant quite get it tightened down enough in the module to provide proper focus- even when its right up against the diode, its not focused entirely. Not sure why, but i guess its just a personal problem

Great build though, can't beat the looks of the Zaser!
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Old 04-04-2014, 12:56 AM #3
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Good job sweet laser. Cherry popped.
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Old 04-04-2014, 11:38 AM #4
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Sweet build/tutorial Scott, love that Zaser!
Innovative solution for your driver location!

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Old 04-04-2014, 01:20 PM #5
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Absolutely my favorite host. I have a,R, G, B, V set of the beauties in marble anodizing I love them so much
The performance and aesthetics of the host are just perfect imo. Great choice.
+1 from another Zaser fan

The only one I have yet to finish is the green. Yours really makes me miss my black one Darth Zaser. (he was the father)
Great thread. Very in depth.
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Old 04-04-2014, 04:06 PM #6
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Thanks everyone for the feedback!

Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyspaz View Post
I just put together a 9mm as well, and with the stock lens, i just cant quite get it tightened down enough in the module to provide proper focus- even when its right up against the diode, its not focused entirely.
CrazySpaz- That's odd... What lens holder are you using? I know I had some minor problems getting the lens to seat "all the way" to the bottom of the holder, it sort of wanted to "hang up" near the bottom. I used q-tips on both sides to wiggle it back and forth until it seated fully, then then screwed in the retainer barrel. Not being fully seated is the only thing I can think of that might keep it from focusing (but I'm no expert!).

Anyway... With the DTR holder and stock lens, I am at "infinity focus" about 1-1/2 turns above the diode -- so plenty of room. Almost exactly the same 1-1/2 turns using a G2 lens. Using a 3-element lens, there is LOTS of room -- it is at infinity focus a full 6 turns above the diode!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tmack View Post
Yours really makes me miss my black one Darth Zaser. (he was the father)
Tmack- Your praise for the Zaser played no small part in my choice! I was "lurking" here and read your posts/review when you got the black Zaser, and was surprised to see you put it up for sale. That had to be hard, even to fund those three RGBV beauties!
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405nm Sci-Fi Lasers SF501B (LPM 512mW)
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520nm Self-built, PLP520-B1 in C11 (LPM 198mW)
532nm JetLasers PL-E Pro 800mW 532nm (LPM 921mW)
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532nm WL Nano 15mW (LPM 84mW)
638nm Self-built, ML501P73 in C11 (LPM 539mW w/3E lens, 638mW w/G2)
650nm Self-built, Aixiz module (LPM 5.6mW) {Build}
650nm WL Nano 100mW (LPM 129mW)
LPMs: Radiant X4; Laserbee 7W with Ophir 20C
Eagle Pair 190-540nm, NoIR ARG 180-532nm, Uvex S0360 200-540, NoIR 190-460nm, Eagle Pair 580-760nm
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Old 04-04-2014, 04:48 PM #7
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Very decent review, ScottW! You went through the build process while describing the steps supported with pics in your own manner. Which is what counts in the first place.

Zaser in black finish found a good home in hands of an laser enthusiast like you are, sir.

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Old 04-04-2014, 06:33 PM #8
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

I keep thinking about buying one of these but I want to see it in person first. If anyone wants to ship me one I'll LPM it for you. This helps someone with no LPM and let's me see it first hand :P I'll also pay for shipping.

EDIT: BAH! I completely forgot! +3 for an awesome review!!!!
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Old 04-04-2014, 06:40 PM #9
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Scott

"Klaatu barada nikto"

Great job on the build thread. Nicely commented pics with plenty of info.
I am planning something similar with the 9mm diode, lens holder and 12mm copper module
I picked up in a groupbuy. Got some 2.3A X-Drivers coming from lazeerer to power the build
just need a good host. Super job on the photos by the way.

Last edited by COMMANDR; 04-04-2014 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 04-04-2014, 07:05 PM #10
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Crouse upgrade to the 5a switches. They have a nicer feel to them and look better too.

I really couldn't imagine anyone would regret getting one of these.

I've owned 5 and built and sold a polished one after showing someone mine.
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Old 04-04-2014, 08:23 PM #11
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Quote:
Originally Posted by wannaburnstuff View Post
If anyone wants to ship me one I'll LPM it for you.
Thanks wannaburnstuff, I'll keep that offer in mind if I don't end up getting my own LPM. Of course after seeing how USPS tried to destroy the Zaser on their first try (I posted a separate thread on that), I'm not sure I am ready to give them two more chances just yet!

Quote:
Originally Posted by COMMANDR View Post
Scott
"Klaatu barada nikto"
Aha! Another fan of old Sci-Fi! Or is that another old Sci-Fi fan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tmack View Post
Crouse upgrade to the 5a switches. They have a nicer feel to them and look better too.
Aaaaaaanddd... The switch is a "forward clicky", so it works as both a "momentary on" with a slight press and "continuous on" when pressed until it clicks. I have found the momentary very handy, especially when setting up for camera shots. The switch button is chamfered to match the chamfer of the tail cap itself. Here's a close-up of the tail cap that I didn't include in the original post.
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Last edited by ScottW; 04-04-2014 at 09:04 PM. Reason: Clarity.
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Old 04-15-2014, 08:51 PM #12
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

This is the best review I have seen in a long time a well deserved +4 with plenty of pictures so theirs no guessing involved
and clear descriptions, it's the best for a great review, and fine build also I must say,
and what a beautiful host also it looks like it could run most any diode continuously
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Old 04-15-2014, 09:08 PM #13
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Great build thread/review. Thanks for sharing and the kind words. On the lens you actually don't have to push it all the way in the lens barrel seating it manually. Just orientate it with the flat end down at the top of the barrel and then use the retaining ring to evenly push the lens into place. You want the lens barrel to hold the lens snug or it could end up off center.


Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyspaz View Post
Great thread! I just put together a 9mm as well, and with the stock lens, i just cant quite get it tightened down enough in the module to provide proper focus- even when its right up against the diode, its not focused entirely. Not sure why, but i guess its just a personal problem

Great build though, can't beat the looks of the Zaser!
+rep
Spaz are you sure the lens is in the correct way? If you have the round end facing the diode it will not focus like you described.
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Old 04-15-2014, 09:19 PM #14
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Quote:
Originally Posted by DTR View Post
On the lens you actually don't have to push it all the way in the lens barrel seating it manually. Just orientate it with the flat end down at the top of the barrel and then use the retaining ring to evenly push the lens into place.
That makes perfect sense. Sounds like I was making it harder than it needed to be! The problem I had was the lens wanted to "tilt" near the bottom, but that wouldn't happen when using the retainer to push it in as you describe. I'll remember that for next time. Thanks!
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:05 PM #15
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

Awesome build with a very nice tutorial!

Congrats, and +rep.
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Old 04-18-2014, 01:01 AM #16
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Default Re: 9mm 445nm Zaser Build (VERY PIC HEAVY)

very nice first build posting. and , what a laser!! keep up the good work.
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