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Fun With Lasers: Part 3 - Burning Things

The first two parts of this small series concentrated on acquiring and then powering a laser diode from a DVD/RW drive. In this post we get to the fun stuff - using the laser to cut and burn. I tried the laser jig I described in the previous post on a range of different materials to see what effect it had on them. If you are going to try this for yourself make sure you adhere to the safety guidelines I outlined in the first post. As we are using the lasers heat to burn through materials there is going to smoke and (depending on the material) some of it can be toxic so make sure that any experi…

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Fun With Lasers: Part 2 - Powering a DVD/RW Laser Diode

This is the second post about my experiments with laser diodes, you can read the first one here. In this post I cover adding a lens to focus the beam and protect the diode, building a suitable power supply to drive the laser without destroying it, and finally putting the whole assembly in a safe to use mounting frame. Adding a Lens The easiest, and safest way, to mount your diode is to use a pre-made laser diode assembly. These can be purchased on eBay for a reasonable price (just search for "laser diode housing") and include a heatsink, a mount for the TO-18 diode case and an adjustable lens…

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Fun With Lasers: Part 1 - Extracting a DVD/RW Laser Diode

This post is the first of a series about building a tool to simplify the production of PCB boards at home. I was inspired by this post about using diode lasers to prepare PCBs for etching - it seemed far quicker than the toner transfer method I'm currently using (in terms of active 'hands on' time at least) and the results seem to have a much higher precision. I already have a 3D printer so I was hoping to make an attachment to the print head that would hold a laser diode and use it to prepare the boards for me. The trouble with things like this that you find on the internet is that they canno…

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Waxing Nostalgic

I recently came across an excellent series of articles describing the development of the Amiga personal computer. I'm a sucker for these types of articles, I've read Soul of a New Machine countless times (I highly recommend that any budding electronics engineer get a copy) and have gone through the site which contains a large collection of insider stories about the development of the original Macintosh more times than is healthy for me as well. Stories like those described in the sites and book I mentioned above are what enticed me into the career I now have; I wanted to be a part…

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Where are the PIC Projects?

I enabled Google Analytics on this site a little over a month ago to try and get a feel for what pages people were reading and which (if any) other pages that led them to. I've now got enough data collected to get a reasonable overview and some of the results surprised me. It seems a lot of people are coming here to read my PIC related posts even though I haven't published a new one for over a year. I've migrated away from using the PIC over that period and (judging by what shows up on the web) a lot of other people have as well. This led me to wonder why people have moved on from the chip - I…

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