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Bostjan's experience with Freemascot

bostjan

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I decided to take a chance on a laser from Freemascot.com, after looking at the host and getting excited about the specifications and price.

Basically, the listing stated that the laser, model LP00016, manufactured by Free Mascot, is a 405 nm direct diode laser with 500 mW of power, fully compliant safety features, and a focusable lens array.

What I received was, what looks to me to be either a S-KY Laser H405L-100B or direct copy thereof.

The host looks really nice, solid, and very clean. The laser is certainly 405 nm. I don't have a meter, but I have reason to believe that the laser is about 100 mW. First, the laser has a sticker on it that says "H405L-100B," corresponding directly with S-KY Lasers' model numbering scheme: H for handheld, 405 for 405 nm, 100 for 100 mW, plus, the host looks identical to most S-KY Lasers I've seen (which was essentially why I decided to get it). Now, the optics seem to have some dust between the lenses, which might be a good sign that the power from the diode isn't focusing well for burning, but when I tried to burn a few materials, here were the results:

Unbleached tissue paper burns rather easily with full battery power and good focus.
Wood takes a slight discolouration after several seconds in direct focus.
Black Electric Tape melts. I can cut through a piece in about 2-3 minutes.
I tried a black plastic spork as well, like the kind given away free at fast-food restaurants, and I could not poke a hole in the thinnest part, even after several tries, but it does etch the surface.

I'm not sure to count this as a win or not. I wasn't really counting on this transaction working out perfectly. For the price, I spent a little much on a nice 100 mW laser, I think. If it really is half a watt, I got a great deal. I'd like to try to clean the lenses, but I'm pretty sure that the dust is on more than just the surface lens, and I'm not sure I'm ready to take it apart yet.

Anyway, I'm still pretty happy with the thing at the moment. We'll see once the novelty of the purchase wears off and I really get to work with the laser. I already think that I will not be able to use it for all of my originally intended purposes.

Maybe, in the mean time, if you feel inclined to suggest a budget-priced 500-1000 mW 405 nm direct diode laser with focus and all of the necessary safety features (I need a key switch and a shutter, at least), please PM me.

Thank you for your time.
 

ARG

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if you feel inclined to suggest a budget-priced 500-1000 mW 405 nm direct diode laser with focus and all of the necessary safety features (I need a key switch and a shutter, at least),
Laserbtb (skylasers) sells lasers with all the FDA safety features IIRC. Check them out :)
CNI does as well, but you can't focus them easily.
 

bostjan

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Thanks, ARG! I've had my eye on the 500 mW S-KY Lasers' PL405-500 for some time. I've seen it available on LaserBTB and on Ray Foss's site for around $200.
 

bostjan

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Here's a photo of the laser. Note the model number tag and overall appearance similar to S-KY's HL405-100



This crud seems to be between the lenses…
 

bostjan

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@Bubonic Chronic:

I emailed them the other day. They did get back to me very quickly, but all that they said was that the laser is 500 mW. I asked about the label and they said:

"I am sorry for this misunderstanding and confusion. This is a internal model# not the output power label. All the. 50-1000mw marked this label.
We can show you our in stock. All the label on this laser pointer is the same.
Sorry for this inconvenience."

The conversation carried on from there until this morning, when they sent me a 10% off coupon for my next purchase, which was nice of them, but doesn't really help address my concerns in any way.
 

Hemlock_Mike

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I keep seeing posts like this.
You guys can buy proven parts here on the forum
and build a laser yourself -- REALLY !!!
Man Up and build something to be proud of and stop
whining. This forum didn't start with appliance users.
HMike
 

bostjan

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Thanks, Mike. I would love to assemble my own devices.

I would like to clarify; however, that I didn't come here to complain or to look for resolution. I merely wanted to share my experience, in case others were thinking of doing the same, so they might better know what to expect; and I also was wondering if anyone else had a positive experience with a similar situation.
 

Benm

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There has always been room on this forum to post reviews of complete lasers - and i think there should be.

If its advertised as 500 mW it should be about that, with direct diode lasers there is little excuse to be underpowered. With DPSS lasers there are always problems with temperature dependency and such, but they should have gotten this right.

Since you have no LPM it's hard to establish output power, but just curious: how much current does it draw from the batteries?
 

bostjan

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Benm, that's a great idea.

I will try this later, and maybe post the result tomorrow.

Just for fun, I tried it on a 5 mW 650 nm cat toy and metered 30 mA @ 4.65 VDC, then I tried a Chinese 405 nm pen (marked 10 mW on the label, even though it was sold to me as a 5 mW, but I suspected it was closer to 30 mW), and metered 285 mA @ 3 VDC.

That means that the entire device (including the diode and the driver) is about 3.5% efficient at turning electrical power into light. If I measure the current on the other laser, and it is 500 mW, and it has the same efficiency (which I'm not sure why it would, actually), the current should be about 1900 mA (if my hunch is correct about the Chinese laser). Of course, if the current is 380 mA, it doesn't mean that it is a 100 mW laser, but it could further support the mound of circumstancial evidence.
 

bostjan

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Ok, so the current for the new laser is 166 mA @ 7.5 VDC (about 1.25 W from the batteries), but maybe the device is over 60% efficient.
My 405 nm pen that fell apart is still pushing 169 mA @ 3 VDC, and my newer 532 nm pen is pumping 223 mA out of the batteries at 3 VDC.

I know it is also of little use, but the spot, when adjusted to be about the same size, is just a hair brighter than the Chinese 405 nm pen, and a note brighter than my other 405 nm pen. The new laser generates 1 2/3 times as much power from a solar cell than the Chinese pen (labelled 10 mW), and about twice the power of the other pen (labelled 5 mW, but also likely higher).

I read that back and it sounds silly, but I'll leave it as is. I would love a power meter, but if I'm too cheap to spend more than $100 on a handheld laser, I don't see myself purchasing a $250 meter for it in the near future.

Another question...

Any thoughts on this host for a 500 mW module, if the current module turns out to be 100 mW?
 

Benm

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A laser like that will never produce 500 mW from 166 mA at 7 volts.

405 nm diodes require a certain amount of current to produce a certain amount of output - this is more or less something determined by quantum efficiency which cannot exceed 100%. In case of 405 nm, you could expect something like 1 to 2 mW output per mA of current through the diode.

Obviously the question remains if the driver is burning up some current as well that is not actually going through the diode - i cannot say anything about that without measuring the actual diode current.

With all that, i would feel safe to assume that the laser you bought is, at best, 200 mW in power, and 100 mW would be entirely possible as well. At that power consumption it certainly is not 500 mW - or it would be incredibly efficient and hence expensive.
 

ScottW

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I would love a power meter, but if I'm too cheap to spend more than $100 on a handheld laser, I don't see myself purchasing a $250 meter for it in the near future.
I was hesitant to get an LPM as well... But finally concluded that without one, I would have no idea whether my other purchases were worth what I paid for them, or if they were working correctly. Being without an LPM in the laser hobby is really "flying blind".

It doesn't take $250... You can get a Radiant X4 (and optional case) for $110. It's a super deal for the price!

Reviews of the X4 here, and here, and here.
 
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bostjan

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I've now placed an order for a S-KY Lasers HL405-500 (spec'd 490-500 mW) via LaserBTB. I know there have been some less than stellar reviews about this supplier recently, so we'll see how it goes. My order was confirmed via email within one hour, and I received another update half a day later, informing me that the device is being manufactured now, and will normally ship within 3-4 business days.

Once I have a laser worth metering, I'll reconsider the LPM. If I do go with the LPM, I might develop a hope that another user in New England might be willing to commute to my area so I can meter someone else's laser, too. I only own a few lasers (mostly pens and cat toys, with one small HeNe, and now this one, what I would consider medium sized, diode laser).
 

Marco Polo

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If you want a good 405nm laser, I strongly advise you to cancel that order and build your own. For about 170 to 180 dollars in parts, you can build a laser that is more powerful, has better heatsinking, has better optics, can be easily repaired, and which is completely focusable. It will be superior to anything you can buy from China for that price, including LaserBTB.

FYI, I had a 500mW 405nm from LaserBTB and it died. Due to the host being GLUED shut, fixing it would have been a PITA. Doable, but PITA. The heatsink in this particular laser is too small to properly handle a 405nm at that power level, IMHO. The batteries aren't up to the job either; RCR123's / 16340's just don't last long enough. 18650's not only last longer, but they can deliver higher current than smaller cells, and that is a good thing when you wants lots of mW :)

If you think building your own laser is hard, it isn't. The "work" consists of four (4) simple tasks: 1) pressing a battery contact board into place, 2) then soldering two wires, 3) installing the module in the heatsink, which means tightening a set screw, and lastly 4) screwing the host components back together. I'm not making that up - the tutorials make it look harder than it really is :)

For real, if you want maximum quality, build your own :)

eta: The other benefit to building your own is that you avoid FDA and customs hassles. Selling laser parts is completely legal, as is building and owning the completed laser. Importing foreign lasers is where you get into trouble; ordering from domestic sellers and building your own skips that crap.
 
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bostjan

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Marco, do you know of any hosts available, or parts to install into a compatible host, with the key switch interlock system?

Also, this Chinese laser is only a little over $100. If I can build a 500 mW 405 nm for the same price that would be a better build quality, then I'd go for it, but for another $80, the project will have to wait a while.

Maybe I'll start with a tabletop laser instead, if that's cheaper/easier.

Thank you very much for your advise. I'll look forward to following through.
 

Marco Polo

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The host I had in mind was the C6 and copper heatsink from Survival Lasers. Cheap but very durable, easy to work with. No key switch, but due to the C6's tail switch I haven't had any issues with accidental power-ups except when carrying in a pocket with a bunch of other stuff (phone, spare car key, some change, etc.). Carry it in any kind of case at all and it won't power up by itself. Even carrying in an empty cargo pocket is fine.

The diode I had in mind was the BDR-209 from DTR; these diodes can exceed 1 watt of single-mode 405nm, and do 1.1 to 1.2W at 700mA (search for BDR-209 and see DTR's current vs power test for details). If that's too much power, use a lower current. I'm going to be setting mine at 600mA.

Remember to factor in the shipping cost when ordering from a company. Shipping from China is expensive. For domestically-sourced parts it's much cheaper, if not free.

Also, when you build your own you get to decide what components go into the laser, and you get to see the parts and verify that they're good before installing them. If you find a defective part, you can replace it prior to use, rather than having to "fix" the laser later. Can't do that when ordering Chinese!

Looking at it a different way, the HL405 is indeed less expensive. But what are you getting for that price? You get a weak heatsink, a glued-together PITA-to-fix host, long shipping times, and you get to risk customs. (Yes, people get lasers confiscated all the time.) If the HL405 dies, even if it's in warranty, you get to dick around "proving" that to Skylasers. (Having to make a video to prove it? If they think that is reasonable then I want to get some of those bath salts they're sniffing.) Is that really what you want to spend your money on? Weak heatsinks and customs hassles? No control over parts or quality? A distrustful and generally poor attitude on the part of the company?

In conclusion, I preferred companies in the past because I thought that, as commercial operations, they would hold themselves to a higher standard of quality compared to "home built" lasers. Buying my first home-built laser from Cheech226 convinced me otherwise. I later accidentally broke that laser, but because of the C6 host's layout and the general design philosophy behind the laser (straight-forward, fixable), I was able to replace the damaged driver and diode without trouble, and without assistance. That wouldn't have been possible with a company-built laser; I would have had to pay full price for a new one instead of just paying for parts.

Those are my thoughts on it; assembling your own laser is so easy, once you do it you'll never want to deal with China ever again :)


Marco, do you know of any hosts available, or parts to install into a compatible host, with the key switch interlock system?

Also, this Chinese laser is only a little over $100. If I can build a 500 mW 405 nm for the same price that would be a better build quality, then I'd go for it, but for another $80, the project will have to wait a while.

Maybe I'll start with a tabletop laser instead, if that's cheaper/easier.

Thank you very much for your advise. I'll look forward to following through.
 
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