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admiralrevan

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Jul 24, 2021
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Howdy

I'm a radio guy in the Air Force, and I'm in the process of getting out after my 4 year contract, with plans to head back to college. I've been getting into new hobbies (namely 3d printing, small electronics) this past corona year, and this seems like a neat one to have a poke at. Especially since I have most of the tools I need to start already, save for some eye protection which is on the way. I'm still relatively new and inexperienced with DIY electronics, but I'm trying to find ways to expand my knowledge.

I found this forum a couple days ago looking for testimonials on laser eye protection vendors, since I'm not really looking to gamble my eyesight on the lowest bidder. But after looking around a bit on this forum, my interest has been piqued. Now I'm looking for some decent starter guides on laser building. I've found a couple on here, but the links and pictures seem to be dead and/or very old. In fact, it took me a while just to find a decent forum like this that seemed reputable. This hobby seems delightfully obscure (or I'm real bad at my research), but with that comes some difficulty in finding reputable vendors and reliable information.

If someone has a link to a good guide, I'd really appreciate a nudge in the right direction, and apologies if my eyes skipped over a sticky answering my questions. I'm not looking to create a lightsaber or something stupid powerful, just building something that works with my own hands would be super neat.

And in case you were wondering why I was looking for some eye protection, I bought a laser engraver module for my 3d printer to mess with, and the eye pro it shipped with didn't have its frequency range or OD labeled, and they were green. I'm not super experienced with lasers, but I know enough to understand those weren't going to protect me in the slightest from a blue laser. I did test them against some red LEDs though, and they're real good at blocking those.

Regards
 



julianthedragon

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Jun 3, 2020
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Welcome to the forum! I'll leave it to the more experienced here to explain laser building in detail, but you can start with a relatively inexpensive low powered diode, a driver, a switch, some wire, a power source, a lens, and a host (the laser body that contains all the electronics). From what I've heard you want to do a lot of reading both inside and outside of this forum and even then you might burn out a couple diodes before you get something to work, which can happen when you supply too much current to the driver/diode, get the polarity wrong, etc (hence starting with inexpensive diodes is smart). Here's a nice pen building guide from a well known member here: https://laserpointerforums.com/threads/how-to-build-a-laser-pen-featuring-m462.101576/
There are plenty of builds to look at and learn from just by crawling on the forum, as well as links to reputable sellers for diodes, drivers, pre-built laser pointers, and more.

As far as laser safety goes that's pretty much the #1 priority, I see people posting this thread a lot as a lesson to learn from.
This is a good resource for all things laser safety, it also has good info about laser laws:
The safety goggles I see recommended the most are OD6 and above Eagle Pair from Survival Laser.
Anything above 5mw is probably something to wear safety glasses for especially if you're working in close range and staring at the dot, definitely wear for anything above 50-100mw. Keep in mind part of the function of safety glasses is blocking a stray reflection that would go directly into your eye, not just dimming the laser light on the wall.

Lasers are the perfect hobby to get into if you're interested in small electronics, they're addictive. You'll discover each wavelength is a little different, some are rarer or easier to create than others depending on the lasing medium or DPSS/direct-diode technology. (Most parts for laser pointers come from the larger market for industrial/medical/scientific lasers, so we're at the mercy of whatever parts are in demand at a larger scale. e.g. cyan lasers used to be unheard of until Sharp released some cyan diodes a few years back). You're gonna have to be careful not to empty your bank account just for the privilege of owning a yellow laser like I've seen some members do lol. But I believe you're in the right place, there are a lot of people here who love lasers and have gained experience with them for a long time, I'd even go as far to say there's an attitude of contempt for newcomers who come here with obnoxious attitudes and refuse to learn.
I'm still relatively new here so I hope I helped and maybe some other members can help you further especially with the building part, but it's all about reading, experimenting for yourself and of course being safe.
(y)
 

RA_pierce

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Sep 16, 2007
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Welcome.
It's nice to see my tutorial linked (thanks julian). A simple laser pen is a good place to start. There may also be some flashlight kits floating around somewhere but I don't know who would make them these days.
Unfortunately this forum isn't as active as it once was so many of the craftsmen and shopkeepers that stocked all the necessary parts are gone.

Fortunately, though, the concept is really simple. You need a laser diode (or solid state module), a current regulator, and a power source.
More powerful lasers also require good heat-sinking to dissipate the heat generated by the diode. Other than that, you can get as creative as you want. I've recently been prototyping parts for a powerful laser sight for my pistol, since I've recently acquired the necessary tools to do it properly (namely a mill).

Which brings me to the next point: tools. Starting with good quality tools will save you money and time in the long run. You can get by with the budget options (I did for a very long time) but it's worthwhile to get something good.
The bare minimum is a soldering iron and a benchtop vise. An ESD dissipating mat with a wrist strap is a good idea especially if you are working with expensive laser diodes. Keep some optics cleaners and cotton swabs - methanol is great if you can get your hands on it, otherwise you can try denatured ethanol (99% or higher), acetone, etc.

Since it sounds like you've got some experience with 3D printing, I'm sure you'll be able to make some cool stuff. Most importantly, when you make something, even if it's basic, share it here. There aren't a lot of home-built lasers shown off these days.
My most recent build is this: Hand-made bronze host
 

admiralrevan

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Jul 24, 2021
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Thanks for the excellent replies!

I'll make sure to give that guide a thorough look through tomorrow after work, and do some more digging around on here before I commit to buying my first laser bits. I'll just need to balance quality with quantity, probably more towards quantity towards the beginning just in case I fry something.

I'll make sure to give that survival USA page a look as well. Laser safety is top of my list, I got laser eye surgery a few months ago and I'm looking to keep my good vision.

While it makes sense they exist, I never really thought of lasers being colors other than the normal RGB. As I move on I'll have to take a look at some of those more exotic diodes, provided there's still availability by the time I get to that point lol. I'm really excited to get a start in something new, and lasers are pretty neato.

---

It's unfortunate activity on here has died down, I feel a little late to the party, but I am grateful there are still some folks active yet. I'll have to keep heat dissipation in mind, I had thought maybe I could 3d print an enclosure for a pen, but I don't see plastic being a good thermal conductor. I'm sure I'll find out pretty quick if that's the case. Maybe I can wire up a little fan to blow through the enclosure, we'll see.

Thankfully I have most of those tools already, although I'll look into getting a benchtop vise. That just sounds universally handy to have around. I'll look at picking up those cleaning supplies too.

Provided I do get something working, I'll make sure to post it on here.

Thanks again, both of you, for your help!
 




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