Revisiting an old favorite hobby of mine.
Since I was a kid I have always love playing with light. About 10 years ago I built a huge custom laser system that was the culmination of everything I had learned up to that point. In total I have built about 15 individual systems, from “pocket sized” to last, 80 lb argon-HeNe tube laser system. In those days you couldn’t buy systems like that for less then $5k. Just one of my lasers alone was $800 on ebay used. Always short of money, I never was able to achieve the system I really wanted. A machine that was compact, cheap, powerful and the ability to draw acurite images was out of my reach… Until Now!
Don’t get confused. You can now buy a laser system on Ebay almost like this for about $600, about what I spent on all my parts. This was not a attempt to save money, make a better system or sell them in any way, I just love building these and Its always been in the back of my mind as a unfinished part of my life. To see more or my past laser projects click the “Lasers” category from the right menu. Unfortunately, not all my laser systems are on here. I started making them in the early 90’s when the first affordable pen lasers came out and not a lot of photos were taken of my projects as a kid or teen, but there are some great shots. I did my best to capture everything from this project as you will see below.
Based on a Parallax Propeller Proto Board now discontinued, Its has a 8 core 32 bit processor that can easily handle generating the output for the lasers, galvos, wireless communication and producing VGA video and the same time. The Upper add-on board that I have constructed interfaces all IOs to the hardware. This includes two 8 bit DAC for the X Y output and provides high current switching of the power to every part of the system including the laser modulation. This board is capable of generating any image on its own but also includes a external IDLA input from standard laser show controllers. I installed this feature for compatibility as well as a means of comparison while developing my own firmware. This also allowed a way to quickly start making good quality images with one of the cheep IDLA controllers found on Ebay as used in the images below.