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Cubby

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By way of an introduction, I thought I'd start out by sharing with you some of the projects I'm working on involving my first laser build. And just so you know a little bit about myself, let me first of all say that I have an extensive amount of experience in the area of electronics, plus a 'modicum' of machine shop experience, so I'm hoping I'll be able to combine the two within my first design. And yes, before anyone says anything, I know for a fact that I'm not the only electronics 'whiz-kid' on the block. But than again, I do have the time to pursue this area of research where others may have 'life's obligations' keeping them from doing as much as they'd like.


First of all, I do, without a doubt, research everything I'm trying to accomplish within my field of expertise. So far, I've spent the last three weeks reading the posts here at LPF plus visiting many of the various laser websites mentioned. That's being followed up with the design parameters for the items I'm wanting to create and build, as well as taking a look tons of manufacturer's spec sheets. Currently, I'm looking very seriously at four projects, with the intentions of combining two of the four within a single host, such as the buck-boost drivers (I'm wanting to do a four diode build) and the battery chargers. The second half of the project will consist of a laser power meter and a driver calibration circuit. I also plan to share this info with everyone here at LPF and for all four projects, I've already started my written descriptions of the builds and plan to include a lot of pictures as progress is made.


So far, I've picked up two Nichia NDB7875-E diodes from DTR, but plan on acquiring a couple more as soon as I can get the money together. Also need to get some lens mounts too, but I kinda screwed myself in the process. Seems like the diodes were less expensive on DTR's website than on eBay. With the same amount of money, I also could've gotten a couple of lens holders to go along with the diodes. That's sort of a “Duh!” moment with me, but I had to make sure DTR was responsive and dependable, so that's why I went through eBay the first time. From now on though, I'll save some bucks and just go directly to his website. The one thing I can say with certainty, was that the products I received were very well packaged and his shipping of the diodes couldn't have gotten any faster. “Lightning fast", would be my words for describing it. And yes the items were exactly as described, so DTR's got yet another loyal customer.


In the meanwhile, I ordered and received two pair of laser safety glasses (Yes, my eyesight IS that important to me!) only to find out that the glasses I received specifically say in the warnings section (printed by the way, inside the box): “DO NOT use this product for protection against laser light.” And if you're wondering, these are the Honeywell brand, UVEX S0360X Ultra-spec 2000's. The reason I bring this up, is that I saw a lot of customer reviews on amazon.com saying that they were purchased for 445nm use. Maybe they'll be okay, but maybe they wont. For what it's worth, I don't want to bet my eyesight on a 'maybe'. In short, I think I made a mistake in ordering those, but since I'm only out $15.00 for a couple of pairs, I can use 'em for the basic 'blue blocker' function. For what it's worth, they allegedly can help one fall asleep faster if worn for an an hour or two before going to bed. Then again, I always wanted a pair of decent shooting glasses, so I may opt out for using 'em for that purpose, too. However, these may be 'somewhat helpful' for anyone near the laser when its fired as a form of protection from any 'incidental light', so I'm not ruling 'em out completely until I've had a chance to run some tests. Regardless, I'm not going to settle for anything less than what I know to be certified 445nm safety glasses. It's a lesson learned and my eyesight potentially saved as far as I'm concerned. (If all else fails, read the directions!)


Still on order and awaiting arrival, are ten Sony 405nm violet-blue laser diodes, rated at a whopping 20mw. I plan to use at least one of 'em for laser sighting and the other nine, for experimental purposes. Also took the time to look up the spec sheet and according to that, they're capable of maxing out at a 80mw output, so running 'em at 50mw with a heat sink hopefully won't be a problem. Also ordered a focusable housing, too. I'm still awaiting arrival of three 'beam combiners' for 445nm (funny how the description doesn't even mention if they're polarized beam combiners), plus yet another set of laser glasses. These have “T-Rex” stamped on one of the lenses, so testing will be imperative just to see if they're even remotely any good and of course, these all are from Chinese suppliers and ordered through eBay. Whether or not any of this stuff is even close to being what the sellers claimed they are, is yet to be discovered. To be honest, I'm highly doubtful about most of all of it, but if they aren't, I'll just write a damning feedback and be done with it. If nothing turns out to be as advertised, then I'm out some $$$ and a little time, but not so much that I can't handle the set back. No doubt, I'll find other uses for some of this stuff and at the worst, maybe I could assemble a smaller, 'proof of concept' model with the 20mw diodes before starting work on the final product.


Either way I look at it, this is gonna be a long build. The main reason is because I have limited funding. Then again, I don't plan on cutting any corners and I certainly don't plan on using a 'make do' philosophy. The way I figure it, it's gonna cost...big time, especially for the machining unless I can 'cut some type of a deal' with a machinist, somewhere.


Besides the build itself, the main thing I want to come out of all of this, I hope, will be some 'new toys' we can all begin to play with. Then, maybe we can not only protect our precious, expensive diodes, but also provide as many features to our projects as possible, while working at the same time to keep the actual costs 'within reason'.


Again, as I previously mentioned, I do plan to share a lot of my work with everyone here on the forum. As I make progress, I plan on writing detailed accounts on each individual piece of equipment; What it is I'm trying to accomplish, how I'm goin' about it and why, plus what I've learned in the process. On a lot of this stuff, I 'd like to be able to offer up the schematics, BOM's, parts sources and the printed circuit board layouts, so you can make your own. (Then again, I may also have a short run of printed circuit boards produced and include the parts in a kit form -if- there's enough interest, but let's see what I can do with the finished products, first.)


Briefly, here's what I have in mind:


As far as the host itself is concerned, it should contain at the very least, four laser diodes (five, if you count the possibility of adding an optional 'sighting' diode, but there are other ways around that.). And after reading and researching the forums, I made a discovery or two along the way which seemed to be 'somewhat obvious' to me, but it'll be interesting to see how these work out in practical application. (Yes, Aunt Martha, I do plan to experiment...a LOT!)


Hopefully, besides the four diodes, the host will contain my own design take on the Buck-Boost drivers (I think these could end up being something 'special' in my opinion, 'cause they'll have 'added value' features) and in addition, the batteries (of course) and the battery charging system (also of my own design). Recently, I purchased six TEC's to go on the diode heat sinks, plus I have plans to add turbo-fan cooling, all of which, is gonna eat up a lot of battery power. Should be interesting to see how all this plays out, since I don't plan on making it a hand-held unit. For now, I'm thinking more along the lines of a pistol/rifle type of design.


Then there's the laser power meter. Biggest complaint I've read here so far, is the limited power range on some of the lesser power capable units. Well, I did check out the prices for some of 'em and ouch! Many of em are simply just too damned expensive for what they are. I believe there's got to be a way around all that, so I'll just leave it suffice to say for now that I think there is. (Again, even more research and experimentation to do.)


While I'm at it, I may as well see what I can do by way of incorporating an internal beam expander. After all, with a four diode build, it couldn't hurt to have one, could it? Of course, I can't say a whole lot more about it at this point, because I just started researching the topic and I haven't made any decisions about it, one way or the other. (Still weighing in on the pro's and con's of an internal vs. external unit.)


And finally, there's the test/setup rig for the drivers. Got some ideas of my own in that department too and although relatively simple in its basic design, the possibilities are about as endless as those for the laser power meter. I know I'm gonna have to keep pullin' in the reigns on myself and not overbuild anything too much, which I do have a tendency of doing.


Anyway, since I'm currently a 'person of leisure' (you can read that as 'officially retired' if you want...), I've got plenty of time to read and research, which is exactly what I'm doing. Couple that with my 50+ years of electronics experience and I'm thinking I'll be able to come up with some stuff that can be built for a whole lot less, instead of goin' out and buying bits 'n' pieces of 'this, that and the other', while kludging a bunch of mismatched stuff together just to get what's needed.


I do know with some certainty (and personal experience), this project is gonna take some hard work and a lot of time to be able to bring all of this together (not to mention, the added expenses while trying to live on a fixed income), but that's half the fun, isn't it? After all, there's a lot that goes into an original build, especially when starting with a design concept and then following it through to the finished product. The 'good news' is, that I have the time and 'some' limited resources available to start designing and building some of this stuff almost right away without it breaking the bank. The individual electronics parts are cheap in a lot of respects, but it's usually how one assembles 'em that gives 'em their intrinsic value. What's gonna slow me down the most, are the big ticket items, such as two more Nichia diodes, the batteries and yes, especially, the machining costs.


In closing, I just wanted to let you know why I joined LPF and I'm looking forward to interacting with everyone. I also want to add that I think there's a lot of creative laser builds demonstrated here and hell, I'm even impressed with some of the lower powered stuff, too. -It's all good- and everyone involved should be proud of themselves -and- their work, for in my opinion, it's some truly amazing stuff!
 
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Hap

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Wow, long post :p

Welcome to the forums! :)
 

Cubby

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LOL! Brevity isn't my strong suit but when we get to the builds, I hope if anyone encounters any problems it won't be for the lack of clear, detailed information. While I'm still assembling my parts, I think the first things I'll start on are the Li-Ion/polymer battery charger and the power meter. Still reading the forums and gathering what info I can from 'em before I start.
 
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crazyspaz

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On the topic of the uvex glasses, they may not be rated for laser protection, but that doesn't necessarily mean they wont work- an obvious test would be to point a laser at the goggles and see if any light passes through. They should block violet, blue, and green. Also, if you want beam combiners, check out this and this. Also, you can use the code "SS101402" (without the parentheses of course) to get 55% off everything through 2/10/14 (thanks to Cheech for that!). Don't think they will work for 405 (the description says its for 420-680nm), but they are still nice to have, good way to combine beams.

Also, welcome to the forums! What part of Indiana are you in?
 
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KapHn8d

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That's one of the most thorough introductory posts I've seen in a while. Welcome to the forum and good luck on your project(s). I know there are plenty of folks here that can help you through any rough spots along the way. This is a great forum.

Stay warm up there in Indiana! Good to have you here...

cheers,
c
 

Cubby

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Thanks for the info, Crazyspaz. Checked it out and bookmarked 'em. I'll have to go back when I have some more free time and look into 'em in greater detail.

As far as the Uvex specs go, I quoted from the text copy as found on the inside of the box. I didn't say they wouldn't work, it's just when the company itself says they're not for laser light, so who am I to doubt 'em?

I did receive the other pair I ordered and for around ten bucks more, I got something with some actual specifications, like an O.D. of 6. That tells me something useful. Also tried 'em both on and just by looking through 'em, it's obvious there's a big difference.

My point is, do I trust my eyesight to a pair of laser glasses where the company that manufactures 'em says they're not for that type of application (and offer -no- specifications), or do I trust something where there -are- specifications and it's obvious they were made for that specific purpose?

For what it's worth, I still like the Uvex glasses and I'll most likely use 'em at the gun range and for 'blue-blocking' purposes, but I'm also planning on ordering a few extra pairs of the 'real' laser glasses so that I have something for any observers that happen to be in close proximity when the laser's being fired. Don't worry, I will be testing the Uvexes out with actual laser beams, but until I do and see the results, they're still a 'no go' in my book. Besides, what's an extra ten bucks per pair worth, as compared to keeping your eyesight?
 

Cubby

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Thanks for the warm reception, KapHn8d. That's why I joined LPF. That, and to see what kind of electronics devices I could come up with that we could all build and use. Got plenty of time on my hands and right now, I can't think of a better way to use my skills and experience.

One of the better aspects of this forum, is the sharing of information. I've read a lot; I've learned a lot and because everyone seems to be so willing to share, I find that I can't help but get drawn into the community. Believe it or not, I've been off line for the last ten days or so, upgrading my 'puter's OS and installing the software I'll need for doing the things I want to do where this forum's concerned. In short, I'm committed (or, probably should be ;)) to keeping my promises and I'm just about to the point where I can start working on the first design. It's also a good way to learn the software as I work toward my first build.

For what it's worth, I received my 405 nm diodes and just got a host for 'em yesterday. Now I can test out the beam splitters, etc., and 'play around with the final config of the finished product, albiet on a much lower power scale. (No need to turn a couple of good Nichia laser diodes into overgrown pointers.) Besides, the 5 mw diodes are perfect for testing out a couple of designs. Lose one of those and you're only out a buck or two.
 
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sinner

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Very detailed intro indeed, and a lots of great new members coming to lpf lately, Welcome to the death of you wallet, i mean, LPF. Looks like you've already been on a spending spree I can tell you that it's very well worth it, Can't wait to see your work. Good luck and welcome.

:beer:
 




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