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History of the Hobbyist LPM

Trevor

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The History of the Hobbyist LPM

With madmacmo's recent posts about LPF's history, I thought it might be interesting to do some research about the history of the hobbyist laser power meter. Information is pulled primarily from LPF and PL. Price figures have been pulled from LPF, PL, ebay, and my memory.

Everything is accurate to the best of my knowledge; please point out any mistakes!

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First, a breakdown of the major players in the hobbyist LPM arena, in order of appearance:

  • die4laser - die4laser started it all with the die4thing. I don't really know a whole lot about him, really.
  • Kenom - Kenom introduced the original Kenometer in January of 2008. It was followed by the Kenometer Lite in November of 2009. Finally, in January of 2010 the Kenometer Pro and Kenometer USB were announced.
  • lasersbee - By far the most prolific of the players in the hobby LPM game, Jerry runs a company in Quebec, Canada (#2264987852) called J.BAUER Electronics. He has designed and produced something on the order of ten models of LaserBee LPM. This is made even more impressive by the fact that J.BAUER Electronics is a sole proprietorship with no employees, according to the company registration (current as of 2013). This one-man band delivers impressive usability in equally impressively lightweight packages - both with digital and analog LPM's
  • MarioMaster - MarioMaster entered the LPM arena when he worked with Kenom to bring the Kenometer Pro and Kenometer USB to market. Later, he formed Radiant Electronics with Spyrorocks and sold the Radiant Alpha.
  • Trevor - I started working on the hobby LPM scene in January of 2010 with the Kenometer Pro and Kenometer USB development team, working on the PC-side datalogger, Luminosity. Later, I rewrote the firmware for both the Kenometer Pro and Kenometer USB and offered upgrades for both meters. I wrote two additional PC interface utilities - one more sophisticated, as of yet unreleased utility, and Peregrine. I have worked on the LaserBee and have partnered with Radiant Electronics and with ARG to develop products.
  • nospin - nospin showed up in April 2010 with his Ophir 20C-A based LPM. I don't know a whole lot about his origin story.
  • Spyrorocks - Spyrorocks teamed up with MarioMaster in October, 2010 to form Radiant Electronics.
  • ARG - ARG got into hobbist LPM development through OpenLPM. He started to prototype an open source LPM hardware design for OpenLPM in mid 2012 and after 9 months released his designed publically and sold LPM's based around the Ophir 20C-A head.

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Moving on, let's look at the timeline of LPM releases.

Here's a graphical representation of what I'm going to outline below:



Correction: The LaserBee I is still available.

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die4thing



Relevant URL: D4Thing micro hotplate controller and laser power meter display
Novel Features: TEC controller, low cost, TEC as a low cost sensor, datalogging
Predecessors: n/a

The Die4thing really started it all with regards to hobbyist laser power meters. It was the first successful thermal hobbyist LPM, and pioneered the TEC-glued-to-a-heatsink design that has persisted since its March 2007 release. Not only was it a 3W laser power meter, it was also a TEC controller. It offered datalogging via a firmware update.



Kenometer



Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f39/fs-laser-power-meters-150-sold-out-24438.html
Novel Features: Use of surplus professional sensor
Predecessors: n/a

The Kenometer was, as far as I know, the first hobbyist LPM built in any significant quantity that was based around a professional radial thermopile sensor. It was introduced in January of 2008 and was briefly available. The sensors they used were capable of reading to 10W, but the circuitry inside only supported reading up to 2W. Jerry of J.BAUER Electronics wrote a tutorial for users to modify the LPM to achieve its full 10W potential.



LaserBee I


Image from J.BAUER Electronics' website.

Relevant URL: Products
Novel Features: Low cost, mass production
Predecessors: die4thing (form factor, sensor design)

Introduced in May of 2008 at a price point of approximately $170, this laser power meter was J.BAUER Electronics' first foray into the world of hobbyist thermal LPM's. It followed in the footsteps of the die4thing, using the TEC-glued-to-a-heatsink design and a simplified, user-friendly interface. It could measure the output of lasers up to 1W. As of June 2008 they were calibrated using a Coherent LaserCheck, but in July 2008 the website description was updated to reflect that a Newport 1825-C power meter had replaced the LaserCheck. For an extra fee, the LaserBee I could come in an enclosure - known as the 'Deluxe' version. Datalogging could be purchased as an additional option. The LaserBee I was to be the longest lived LaserBee product. It is still available new, today.



Kenometer Lite


Image courtesy of J.BAUER Electronics.

Relevant URL: n/a
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: Kenometer (same family)

In November 2009, Kenom returned to the LPM market with the Kenometer Lite. It followed the same basic design as the original Kenometer, but used the Ophir 20C-A sensor. It could measure the output of a laser up to 5W - at the time, the highest to date in a turnkey hobbyist LPM. Its release was plagued by electrical issues, requiring many users to open their LPM and modify it.



Kenometer Pro



Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f44/kenometer-pro-usb-screenshots-build-updates-47621.html
Novel Features: Graphical LCD
Predecessors: n/a

January 2010 marked the announcement of the Kenometer Pro at a price point of $450. It was available only briefly, due to a shortage of the Ophir 20C-A and the expense of building them. It was the first and, so far, only production hobbyist LPM that used a graphical LCD and had onscreen graphing. The Kenometer Pro offered datalogging standard and could measure up to 5W lasers. They were well received, but had trouble with jittering readings due to improper filtering of their switching power supply. This was addressed in a later, optional firmware update. No hardware fix was ever provided. Jerry of J.BAUER Electronics proposed a solution, but for undisclosed reasons did not post the specifics publicly.



Kenometer USB



Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f44/kenometer-pro-usb-screenshots-build-updates-47621.html
Novel Features: Small form factor, low cost, USB-only functionality
Predecessors: n/a

The Kenometer USB was introduced at the same time as the Kenometer Pro, as a lower-cost alternative at $250. It was the first hobbyist LPM to offer USB-only functionality in a small form factor. It could measure up to 5W lasers. Like the Kenometer Pro, it suffered some initial issues with read noise, but it was later addressed through a firmware update. The Kenometer USB (and Pro) came packaged with Luminosity as its display for readings streaming from the LPM.



LaserBee II


Image from J.BAUER Electronics' website.

Relevant URL: Products
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: LaserBee I (same family)

The LaserBee II was introduced in April 2010 at a price point of $240 (though since then the price has risen to $360 on ebay and $320 on the J.BAUER Electronics website). It is an update to the LaserBee I using a new amplifier and resistor configuration, a different ADC located in a previously vacant spot on the board, a contrast potentiometer, and additional thermal mass on the sensor heatsink. The board, however, remained basically identical to its predecessor. The changed components allowed the LaserBee I design to measure up to 3.2W. The decreased development cost allowed it to be much lower cost than its competitor, the Kenometer Pro. Around the time of the release of the LaserBee II, improved interface software, EagleEye, was released for the LaserBee series. For an extra fee, the LaserBee II can come in an enclosure - known as the 'Deluxe' version. At the time of writing, the LaserBee II has been selling for 39 months - making it the second longest-lived product on the hobbyist LPM market, second only to its predecessor, the LaserBee I.



nospin LPM



Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f64/sale-5-watt-laser-power-meter-nospin-50231.html
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: n/a

The nospin LPM was introduced in April 2010 for $280, eventually rising to $400. It stuck around as long as the supply of inexpensive Ophir 20C-A sensors lasted. They were easily available for 5-6 months after the initial release. They were very well reviewed.



Limited Edition 5W LaserBee



Relevant URL: Heads Up... Limited 5Watt LPM + Data Logging
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: n/a

The Limited Edition 5W LaserBees have been sold since as early as August 2010. They use the same Ophir 20C-A sensor featured in many other LPM's and thus could measure up to 5W. They were introduced a price point of approximately $300 (without a $100 datalogging option), but as sensor prices rose from $50 to $200, the price of the Limited Edition 5W LaserBee soared to over $650, but finally came to rest at $580. An optional datalogging board could be added to the meter for $99 (at its introduction). Though uncommon nowadays, these LPM's received many good reviews.



Radiant Alpha



Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f41/introducing-radiant-electronics-radiant-alpha-power-meter-56689.html
Novel Features: Low cost slow sensor, extremely low cost
Predecessors: n/a

MarioMaster and Spyrorocks introduced Radiant Electronics and the Radiant Alpha LPM in October 2010. Its main selling point was being an extremely low cost power meter - at a price point of $99 (though by the end of its life it had risen to $125). It was the first hobbyist LPM to introduce a slower, but much less expensive, large TEC as a sensor. They could measure up to a 2W laser. They were wildly popular, but due to demand, they could not be manufactured fast enough. Many people closely monitored the sale page, and new batches of meters would immediately sell out, allowing competitors to use stocking as a selling point. The Radiant Alpha also lacked a usable zeroing control. Several solutions were proposed, but none worked. Radiant Electronics was no longer a major market player by August 2011, though used Radiant Alphas could be had at least as recently as into 2012.



LaserBee I-X


Image from J.BAUER Electronics' ebay profile.

Relevant URL: n/a
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: LaserBee I (same family)

The LaserBee I-X, like the LaserBee II, is a variation on the LaserBee I. It uses a different opamp configuration and firmware, extending the LaserBee I range to 2.1W. They surfaced as early as December 2010 at a $205 price point, and today sell for $280.



LaserBee 2.5W USB



Images from J.BAUER Electronics' ebay profile.

Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f64/fs-j-bauer-electronics-laserbee-2-5-watt-usb-only-data-logging-stock-now-61644.html
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: Kenometer USB (form factor, USB-only functionality), Radiant Alpha (low cost slow sensor)

The LaserBee 2.5W USB launched in mid-March of 2011 at a price point of $120. It came behind the Radiant Alpha to fill the empty market position of a budget laser power meter. In its early days it achieved impressive market penetration because it offered datalogging for very little money. It used a slow-responding TEC as a sensor, in the same style package as the Kenometer USB. Over the next year as competition in the market fizzled and died, the price rose as high as $240, holding there for about a year before dropping to $220, where it holds today. A $25 discount is available to LPF members.



LaserBee A


Image from J.BAUER Electronics' sale thread.

Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f64/all-sold-fs-5pc-new-2watt-laserbee-laser-power-meter-68597.html
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: Radiant Alpha (form factor, low cost slow sensor)

After the Radiant Alpha faded from the marketplace, the LaserBee A was released. It launched at a price of $170 (shipped) in November of 2011. It is a 2W fully analog meter - it has no microcontroller nor does it datalog in its standard form (though it is available as an option). It uses much the same design as the Radiant Alpha - a slow-responding TEC hooked up to an opamp circuit, feeding into a digital panel meter to display the laser's power. Since its release, the price has varied - spiking over $250 before settling at $219 at the time of writing.



ARGMeter



Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f70/argmeter-open-source-laser-power-meter-80606.html
Novel Features: Open-source
Predecessors: Kenometer Pro / USB (Arduino-based)

The ARGMeter launched in February 2013, as the laser community's first complete open-source laser power meter. There were two versions offered - a TEC (3W) version and an Ophir 20C-A (5W) version. The TEC version was $125 and the Ophir version was $85. The low prices were unprecedented for an LPM that had a screen and offered datalogging, but stocking issues hurt sales. The TEC version had very limited availability. The Ophir version fared somewhat better, but as of May 2013 neither version was easily available. They were only available as bare PCB's with no enclosure.



LaserBee AX


Image courtesy of J.BAUER Electronics.

Relevant URL: n/a
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: Radiant Alpha (form factor, low cost slow sensor), LaserBee A (same family)

The LaserBee AX is a 3.1W variant of the LaserBee A, ostensibly with a higher thermal mass heatsink and a different opamp configuration. It is currently listed for $250. It had no discernible launch, but the first mention of it was in May 2013.



LaserBee 3.7W USB


Image from J.BAUER Electronics' sale thread.

Relevant URL: http://laserpointerforums.com/f64/fs-j-bauer-electronics-laserbee-3-7-watt-usb-eagleeye-logging-stock-now-80627.html
Novel Features: n/a
Predecessors: Kenometer USB (form factor, USB-only functionality), Radiant Alpha (low cost slow sensor), LaserBee 2.5W USB (same family)

The LaserBee 3.7W USB is a recent development, having launched in February 2013. It launched with a price of $280, with LPF users given a $35 discount. It appears to be nearly identical to the LaserBee 2.5W USB - with a different configuration of resistors in the amplifier, an FTDI-based USB-serial adapter, and a higher thermal mass heat sink.

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So, folks, that concludes the history lesson! I think I've hit all the major points - both influential designs and designs that achieved widespread distribution.

Cheers!

Trevor
 
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ped

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Great UNBIASED review / post.

Thanks Trevor.
 

lasersbee

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Nice work compiling the data Trevor....:gj:

A few things jumped out at me or did not as I read your
compilation.

1) The original Kenometers also used the chopped off surplus
gain amplifier PCB that came with the used Coherent Heads.
IIRC it was drlava that designed the PCB modifications for the
Kenometer.

2) The LaserBee I is still available on our website.
Your graph should also reflect that.

3) The LaserBee II sells for ~$320 on our website not $360 as
you state.

4) The nospin LPM did not and does not come with Data Logging
nor did nospin want to offer it. I asked at the beginning...:yh:

5) The 5W LaserBee is the only hobbyists 5W LPM that uses the
OPHIR 20c heads that has a meter Zeroing Control feature. That
would be considered a feature.

6) The 5W LaserBee now sells for ~$580 on eBay and it includes
Insurance and Tracked Shipping costs to the USA and Canada not
$650 as you quote. And the price includes the Data Logging.

7) The Alpha Last sold for ~$125.00 on the Radiant website. That
was the last price not $99.

8) The LaserBee A and LaserBee AX use a split supply circuit that
allows True zeroing unlike the Alpha single supply design that was
plagued by not being able to zero the display when the small heatsink
became warm from testing. We solved that problem by deigning a
proper split supply circuit and is considered a Feature.

9) The LaserBee 3.7W USB is a completely new design and not
an "electrically nearly identical to the LaserBee 2.5W USB" as you
assume.

10) about the quoted prices...

{a} If the LaserBee LPM is bought off our website the prices quoted
DO NOT include the Shipping costs.

{b} If the LaserBee LPM is bought off eBay the prices quoted DO
include the Shipping costs to the USA and Canada.

11) My company does not have any Full Time employees but
I do frequently hire people to work in the shop when the need
arises. That makes the use of Us and We and Our correct in
referring to my company and part time employees since it is not
a full time solo operation.

We actually did a lot of research on those Sensors we use on
the entry level LaserBee A... LaserBee AX... LaserBee 2.5W USB
and the LaserBee 3.7W USB. We must have spent ~3 months
buying close to 75 different types of 12mm X 12mm and the
15mm X 15mm sensors and tested them all to see which ones
would give the best and fastest response times.

The ones used on the Alpha gave a typical 100% response time
of over a minute.
The ones we chose for the entry level LaserBee LPMs give a typical
100% response time of only 35-45 seconds.
Thought it should be stated that all slow sensors are not created
equal.

I've stated it before but we started designing the 1st LaserBee
when we wanted to purchase a Di4tghing from Robin the designer.
We were told by himself he could no longer make them due to
unavailable components and would not make any more.

Necessity definitley WAS the mother of invention in this case.
Most of the our other LPMs were designed when the supply of other
seller's LPMs dried up or there was a need for a higher power LPM.



Jerry
 
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Trevor

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Nice work compiling the data Trevor....:gj:
Thanks! And good job doing all you've done solo... I was surprised to see that you don't actually have anyone working for you... ;)

I pulled the LaserBee prices off of your ebay profile (because that's how you sell to LPF members mostly nowadays); I tried to standardize them the best I could... I'll go back through and fix anything that needs fixing. Because on many models shipping was listed as "FREE" on ebay, I used that price unmodified.

With regards to the original Kenometer, that is actually mentioned in the thread I linked - though I'll update its description.

Necessity definitley WAS the mother of invention in this case.
Most of the other LPMs were designed when the supply of other
seller's LPMs dried up or there was a need for a higher power LPM.
Why no answer to the Kenometer Pro? I know a lot of people would like to see something that advanced come back to LPF... perhaps in a more reliable package. :D

Trevor
 

lasersbee

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Thanks! And good job doing all you've done solo... I was surprised to see that you don't actually have anyone working for you... ;)

I pulled the LaserBee prices off of your ebay profile (because that's how you sell to LPF members mostly nowadays); I tried to standardize them the best I could... I'll go back through and fix anything that needs fixing. Because on many models shipping was listed as "FREE" on ebay, I used that price unmodified.

With regards to the original Kenometer, that is actually mentioned in the thread I linked - though I'll update its description.
I was editing my post when you posted...
The employee thing is covered there...:beer:
Why no answer to the Kenometer Pro? I know a lot of people would like to see something that advanced come back to LPF... perhaps in a more reliable package. :D

Trevor
We have been working on a replacement as well as two
other new LPMs. As you may already know we will only
bring a new LaserBee LPM product to the marketplace
AFTER we thoroughly field test it.;)

I won't post about it here until a product is ready to be
released.

BTW... here is a pic of the 3.1W LaserBee AX...




Jerry
 

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ryansoh3

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Great write-up! :beer:

Isn't there also the Bluefan LPM?
 

ARG

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Great thread Trevor! I learned some new things about hobbyist LPM's. I didn't know the die4thing had datalogging.
 

lasersbee

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The Data logging for the Die4thing was a Firmware upgrade
by Robin the designer a few months after he stopped selling'
them...


BTW... Trevor you haven't made all the changes to your opening
post that I outlined in Post #4 above.

I've also edited it to add some more relevant info.

Here's a pic of 3 Kenometer Lites that I bought from Kenom
that you could use if you don't find a better one...




Jerry
 

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AJ Pierson

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Thanks for compiling and putting some semblance of order to all this, Trevor.

Seeing it all in timeline format really puts the whole progression into perspective. There really has been an impressive amount of work done in this area, in a relatively short amount of time.
 

Trevor

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Okay... let me explain why some of the changes were not made or were made a certain way.

  • While the datalogging option came out for the die4thing after production stopped, it still existed and was offered as an upgrade.
  • The LaserBee II price was pulled from ebay, so it is accurate. I will, however, note the website price.
  • I know the nospin LPM had no datalogging. That is why it was not mentioned.
  • Zeroing is not listed as a feature for the 5W LaserBee because it is not novel. Plus, at least one other LPM also offered it long before, and zeroing is not a market-changing feature.
  • The $650 price figure is actually $659.98 and was pulled from ebay, I mentioned that price as the peak that prices soared to (one of the most novel attributes of the 5W LaserBee). They went for $300 (without the $100 datalogging board) when sensors were $50, and rose to $660 when sensor prices went up to $200. I updated the description for clarity.
  • The Alpha price was from memory. I know they sold for that used (when there were none on the market), but that's not the right figure to use here. I've only listed new prices. If you can find reference to Radiant selling them for $125 it will be updated.
  • Adding zeroing to the LaserBee A and LaserBee AX has not had any impact on the hobbyist LPM market. Thus, it is not a novel feature for the purposes of history and was not included.
  • The LaserBee I, I-X, and II are currently sold for hugely different prices, and are all electrically nearly identical. Based on that, logically, the rest of the families of LaserBee products likely work like that. I'll pursue getting an image of the inside of a LaserBee 3.7W USB so that I can update the description if necessary. EDIT: I see that it is different... welcome to the world of FTDI, Jerry... :D
  • You are the sole operator of the lasersbee account and the only employee of consequence. "We" may be technically correct but you still sound like Gollum. :na:
  • I don't have access to any of your research regarding slow sensors. I've never noticed an appreciable difference, so I did not note one in this thread. I'll try to track down a Radiant Alpha owner and a LaserBee 2.5W USB owner for comparison purposes.

I didn't want to quibble, but since you asked again, does that answer your questions? :)

And thank you, I suppose I'll add that photo. Since it was such a short-lived and fairly non-influential product, I wasn't going to worry about it. Since I have one now, that sort of makes the decision. :p

EDIT: Also, DJNY, I updated the price to ~$300... though I'm still working on figure out the exact original price. Thanks!

Trevor
 
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offroadfreak8582

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Awesome thread! +1 for the effort trevor! Is it also interesting to add hobby made personal lpm's? :)

EDIT: wow am i the only one that thinks that the orginal kenometer and kenometer lite were kinda uggly for an commercially targeted lpm?

greetings,,
 
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ARG

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If you think they were ugly on the outside you'd hate to see the insides :p
 

Trevor

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Awesome thread! +1 for the effort trevor! Is it also interesting to add hobby made personal lpm's? :)

EDIT: wow am i the only one that thinks that the orginal kenometer and kenometer lite were kinda uggly for an commercially targeted lpm?

greetings,,
I didn't include my own personal build, on grounds that I didn't build it and sell it. But... why not post it in here in the replies anyway? :D

This is mine:


With regards to the Kenometers... yeah. I don't think any of them ever had a PCB fabricated for them. Dremel'd project boxes with DPM's and point-to-point wiring inside. Even the Kenometer Pro was pretty messy. Those were well reviewed, but not well constructed...

The prototype (hopefully the messiest of all) got reviewed here: Kenometer Pro Review

And Jerry cleaned it up here, which was one of the more legendary threads in the saga of Kenometer vs. LaserBee drama: http://laserpointerforums.com/f42/kenometer-laserbee-pro-mods-51455.html

I suppose that's another part of the history of hobby LPM's... in the age of hobby LPM's I think the only person around now who's been in it since day one is Jerry, but the drama somehow never changes. Must be something inherent with LPM's... :p

Trevor
 
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