Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 14

Thread: New(ish) to Lasers in the USA - looking for advice!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN & Huntsville, AL, USA
    Posts
    3,108

    Default New(ish) to Lasers in the USA - looking for advice!

    Greetings, all!

    I've just recently renewed an interest in lasers as a hobby / entertainment source - my last experience was dealing with a Metrologic HeNe 3.2mW, long enough ago that my hair has changed color since then! Needless to say, it's been a while since I "lased" !!

    Anyway, I'm interested in buying or building a decent X-Y scanner system projector, green laser diode (NOT a laser pointer), and an ILDA-compliant Windows XP USB controller and software package. I would like to consider a package that can by synched and controlled with MIDI equipment and software (Cakewalk Sonar) I already own. (I've been looking at MediaLas Mambo Black on the web - any comments on this package would be appreciated!)

    MOST IMPORTANTLY - I'm interested in dealing with reputable US vendors, or those overseas vendors that routinely ship their products to the USA. I'm looking for reliable - and affordable - equipment (this is a hobby, not a business, so the "boss" will limit funds accordingly!)

    With that in mind, I would appreciate any advice or recommendations on methods and sources for the following (or anything else you might deem helpful) from you guys and gals that have been working with lasers for awhile:
    • I'm thinking about doing some limited backyard entertaining, with the graphics projected on a suitable screen, and possibly some beam effects shot over the audience (using the roof of our house as the backstop). For "blacked out" backyard viewing, what would be the minimum green laser power needed for visible beam effects, and what would be a good material to use as a screen for the graphics?
    • Optics (mirrors and mounts, grating filters, transmission windows, etc.), scanners and laser diode modules and related circuits, controller software and interface boards, complete projectors - good sources?
    • Laser optics base and enclosure material and design - any design or material recommendations?
    • Beam blocker / safety device and beam "chopper" effects - any design or material recommendations?
    • Recommended (related!) reading material?
    Thanks in advance for any advice or recommendations you can send my way - looking forward to many "chats" in the future!

    RR
    Knoxville, TN
    USA

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    2,147,488,500

    Smile Welcome to PhotonLexicon!

    Hello Stuka!

    Welcome to the group! Hope you like it here. I see you've already got some big plans for the future; I'm sure you can get plenty of help from the members here.
    I would like to consider a package that can by synched and controlled with MIDI equipment and software (Cakewalk Sonar) I already own.
    Hmmm... Do you mean you want to use the MIDI equipment to trigger the begining of a pre-made show, or do you want to build and control the entire show via MIDI? The former is easy, the latter not so much...
    I'm looking for reliable - and affordable - equipment (this is a hobby, not a business, so the "boss" will limit funds accordingly!)
    I hear you there, but "reliable" and "affordable" are often polar opposites when it comes to all things laser related. This is a money-pit hobby, as I'm sure anyone here will tell you.

    I notice you're in Knoxville; that's puts you within a few hours drive of Newton, NC, which is where we'll be having a little laser gathering for members of this forum. It's called SELEM; the South Eastern Laser Enthusiast's Meeting. Essentially it will be a group of laser geeks getting together over a weekend to set up their laser projectors and watch laser shows, talk about their equipment, share ideas on future projects, and just geek out in general with other like-minded laser enthusiasts. There will be several different laser show controller and software packages represented there. If there is any way you can attend, it would be a great way for you to get a feel as to the features / drawbacks associated with each package. (Plus it promises to be a hell of a great time!) It's scheduled for August 18th and 19th... (See the discussion threads in the Meet & Greet sub-forum)

    Getting back to your plans for your first projector, it would help to know how much you're planning to spend at first. A set of closed loop galvos that can do simple graphics will cost you around $300, while a set that can do complex graphics will run you at least double that. Figure another $500 to $800 for software and a controller card. Then there's the laser, which could run anywhere from $500 on up... (You can see where this is heading!)

    I think your idea of an outdoor beam show is a bit ambitious for your first projector. At the very least, it will greatly increase the cost of the laser. And there may be other issues with operating a powerful laser in your yard, depending on how close to the city you live.

    There are a *ton* of threads here on PhotonLexicon that deal with exactly the sorts of questions you're asking. My advice would be to poke around a bit and see what other people have done. Also, you may want to hold off on buying anything major until you get a chance to see some hardward in action at SELEM this August.

    But either way, welcome to the group!

    Adam

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN & Huntsville, AL, USA
    Posts
    3,108

    Default

    Hey, Adam -
    Hello, and thanks for the quick reply and warm welcome!

    I hear you on the costs - I figured it was going to be a bit pricey, which is why I'd rather buy in the USA if quality components are available - I'd MUCH rather spend the money on the product, and not on lousy US currency exchange rates and shipping costs! I've got a one-time "mad-money" account that's going to give me between $2k-$3K to get started, and I want to make the most of it! Basically, I want everything I can afford up front that will keep me lasing happily for a while!

    As far as control software and MIDI implementation - I'm interested in synching the show with existing MIDI software as the timing source (Sonar), and perhaps manipulating some effects in real-time using a MIDI controller. All show design would be from within the software. Being able to use my existing Windows XP laptop is a must, which is why I am leaning towards the Mambo Black USB package from MediaLas - but I'm open to suggestions!

    As far as scanners and controllers, I would like an "affordable" X-Y combination that would get at least a 20-30K scan rate. I figure I can add effects (beam splitters, choppers, grate wheels) as I go.

    Laser - again, looking for the most bang for the buck! I definitely want something that's going to last a few years under normal hobby use, and figured a green analog modulated diode module would be my best bet. The beam effects I'm looking for are more in the line of "wow, I see them" versus the "Holy sh**" you might get with the true high-power professional setup. I figured 100-200mW to start, but again, open to suggestions!

    Concerning the SELEM meet - I would love to attend, but unfortunately I'm tied up elsewhere right now (deployed to the Middle East, and won't be around until later in the fall). However, if there's a newsletter or mailing list to join, I'd really like to get in on it!

    Thanks again!

    RR
    RR

    Metrologic HeNe 3.3mw Modulated laser, 2 Radio Shack motors, and a broken mirror.
    1979.
    Sweet.....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    northern maine.
    Posts
    329

    Default

    stuka .
    hi and welcome.
    i can't answer your more technical questions but i do know my buddy has run his 250 mw green outdoors(in the city)and the results weren't that great as far as visability.
    you can see the beams(just) but scans wash out easily with the ambient city night light.in my opinion,250 mw would be a bare minimum for outdoors and really,probably,not enough.
    but hey,if you live in the country and have low light pollution,you might scrape by with 250mw.
    just build a smokey fire
    i,ve been here in this forum about a month and have purchased a 100mw cni brand laser from lasershow parts.
    this store is run by two forum members,dave and aijii, and you can find them in the seller review portion of this forum.
    dave has said the cni's are reliable and i believe he has not had one returned for warranty repair.
    also in the seller review section is a listing "vaisho 1.5 watt laser".
    the person posting that thread says the service is great,gives a link and has pics of the viasho.(very pretty.)
    from what i can tell,those two brands seem to be favorites of folks for quality and service(from these specific vendors)so check out the seller review forum and i hope you find what you want.
    oh.lasershow parts has galvos and other stuff too.
    peace,
    wes

    p.s the maxy modules marconi makes seem to be well loved too but those are red.
    from the looks of things though,if you hang around here long enough you will end up building a rgb set up anyway

    edit,your post has made me curious,who are the manufacturers of lasers in the us?
    Last edited by wes; 07-05-2007 at 06:45.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    2,147,488,500

    Smile Re: projector design thoughts...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuka View Post
    I've got a one-time "mad-money" account that's going to give me between $2k-$3K to get started, and I want to make the most of it!
    Hi Stuka;

    Ok - I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were in for (price-wise) before we started recommending things! In that price range you can do quite a bit; maybe even enough to pull off a very small outdoor show.
    As far as control software and MIDI implementation - I'm interested in synching the show with existing MIDI software as the timing source (Sonar), and perhaps manipulating some effects in real-time using a MIDI controller. All show design would be from within the software. Being able to use my existing Windows XP laptop is a must, which is why I am leaning towards the Mambo Black USB package from MediaLas - but I'm open to suggestions!
    Several packages offer support for MIDI triggers, including Pangolin and Mamba. (Not sure about the new LA Freak product though; need to check on that...) Running a laptop limits you a bit, but there are work-arounds for that too. (Though if you decide to go with the full-blown Pangolin QM-2000, it's going to be expensive, since you need a PCI adapter to plug the QM-2000 into.) The Flashback 3 controller, on the other hand, supports USB just like the EasyLase controller. More on this after I've done some research...
    As far as scanners and controllers, I would like an "affordable" X-Y combination that would get at least a 20-30K scan rate.
    Well, as I see it you've got basically 3 choices in your price range. On the low end are the 20K SCANECO galvos that Dave and Aijii sell. (Yeah, they're both members here.) I've seen those galvos in operation several times, and they're nice units for the money. They run about $325 + shipping (from Australia). You can do beams, and even most graphics, though the really complex stuff is out.

    On the high end (again, in your price range) are two choices, and which one you choose will depend on whether you want a super-wide scan angle for beams, or precise position control for complex graphics. The M9024 galvos (formerly known as "widemoves") are great for beamshows, as they can scan 90 degrees. Unfortunately, they don't like small steps, so intricate graphics sometimes look a little messy with these galvos.

    On the other hand, the DT-40 Pro's are better suited for graphics at high speeds, but they don't have the wide scan angle of the M9024's. (I can't remember now if the limit on the DT-40 Pro units is 40 degrees or 60 degrees; this is embarassing as hell because I own two sets of these galvos! ) Beamshows still look good with the DT-40 Pro's, but some people prefer the wider scan angle of the M9024's for beamshows.

    There are quite a few members here that are running the DT-40 pro's, and everyone has been quite happy with them. Also, one of our members - Jian725 - is the man behind the DT-40 Pro galvos, so customer support is fairly swift.

    The Dt-40 Pro's will run you around $550 or so, plus shipping from China. (Unless Rick Gebhardt at LaserIllusions is importing them again for Jian - not sure about that, but if he is, Rick is in Montana...) The M9024's are a bit more expensive (last time I checked I think they were selling for $900.?.) and they will ship from Germany.

    Now, to be fair, I need to mention that Cabridge Technololgy (based right here in the US) sells some *very* fine galvos that are unquestionably the industry standard that everything else is compared to. But they're going to cost you 3 to 4 times the price of a set of DT-40 Pro's... That pretty much wrecks your budget, so for now I've left them out. (You normally see Cambridge scanners in commercial equipment where performance and reliability are paramount, especially with a traveling show...)
    I figure I can add effects (beam splitters, choppers, grate wheels) as I go.
    You really won't need the first two items if you've already got a set of galvos and a laser that supports blanking. But yeah, diffraction grating effects can be interesting, and lumina effects are cool too. Like you said though, build the case large and you'll have room to grow. (Be sure to leave room for Red and Blue later on!)
    The beam effects I'm looking for are more in the line of "wow, I see them" versus the "Holy sh**" you might get with the true high-power professional setup. I figured 100-200mW to start, but again, open to suggestions!
    Well, 200 mw will be quite impressive indoors in a small dark room, but outside it will be *very* lame - even if you live in the country with no light polution from nearby street lamps. To pull off a decent outdoor show in a small backyard you're going to want at least 500 mw, and a full watt of green would be much better. Mind you, a watt of green will look pretty good in your backyard for your family and friends, but it absolutely will not cut it for a commercial show outdoors. So don't be misled into thinking that a watt is too much. A true professional setup for outdoor shows would start at 20 watts and go up from there. (Most of the big boys have 40 watts or more.)

    Now, having said that, I will also say that 1 watt INDOORS is actually quite impressive even with the lights on, so long as there is a touch of fog in the air. With less power (say, 500 mw), you can still amaze the crowd by simply using a little more fog and making sure the room is dark.

    It all depends on the size of the venue you think you'll be working with, and whether you want to spend a lot of cash up front, or buy something smaller and then trade-up when you're ready. Because you want to at least try some effects outside, I wouldn't go any less than 500 mw for your first projector, and if you can swing it, I'd go for the 1 watt green.

    Either way, make *DAMN* sure you get some really good laser safety goggles that are rated for both 1064 nm IR and 532 nm green. I would go for at least OD 5, and OD 10 or more is not out of the question. Granted, even a 100 mw laser is not a childs toy, but apart from a direct strike by a static beam, the 100 mw laser is not all that dangerous. But a full watt of power can really hurt you even if you catch a stray reflection. (Think specular reflection from something shiny in the room...) So be safe!
    Concerning the SELEM meet - I would love to attend, but unfortunately I'm tied up elsewhere right now (deployed to the Middle East, and won't be around until later in the fall). However, if there's a newsletter or mailing list to join, I'd really like to get in on it!
    Bummer that you won't be able to make it. But we'll be holding other gatherings, so I'm sure you'll get a chance to attend one of them sooner or later. (We may be able to set up a smaller gathering at someone's house just so you can see a couple projector designs up close before you start buying parts.)

    I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank you for serving. Quite an honorable profession you've chosen there, pal. Hope you stay safe over there!

    Keep checking in to PhotonLexicon for more details about upcoming events. There isn't a mailing list or anything, we just post everything in the forums. Be sure to let us know when you're back in town. We've got quite a few members that are within 4-5 hours of you. (In Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; and Charleston, SC.) So it wouldn't be too hard to get together...

    Adam

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    4,382

    Default

    Hey Stuka
    I'm from TN too!
    My advice (to the appall of alot of viewers maybe) is to get a small mixed-gas whitelight and galvo show and have fun --if you got 3K $$ --and you'll need a prizm -someone else will have to tell U how to use it) and scanners. that's it! Have fun! Wish I had 3K to do it!
    Steve

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    2,147,488,500

    Cool Re: solid state vs ion laser...

    Hi Steve-o;

    Yeah, well, the only problem with a mixed gas laser is that you also need a PCAOM to select the colors, which adds about $1200 to the price of the projector. Oh, and you need water cooling. Um, and you need 3 phase power. Well, OK, if you get an Aurora PSU, or one like it, you might get lucky and be able to run it off 220 single phase at 50 amps. (Remember that he's looking to have enough power for a backyard beamshow... A 110V ILT whitelight isn't going to cut it.)

    Then, after all that, you've got to set the beast up somewhere. (Remember, they're big and heavy.) Hmmm.. Then you have to walk the mirrors back into alignment because they shifted slightly when you moved it. Oh, and don't forget that you need to fire it up once every 3 weeks or so to keep it from going high-pressure.

    Sigh. I guess there's more than just the "only" problem of a PCAOM...

    Don't get me wrong; mixed gas ion lasers are sexy... I'd *love* to have one to play with. But they're expensive, cantankerous, high maintenance power hogs. Not exactly the ideal laser for someone just starting out. DPSS is *so* much easier to work with - just plug and play.

    Adam
    Last edited by buffo; 07-05-2007 at 18:33.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    northern maine.
    Posts
    329

    Default

    ok,this is just from reading posts here,but if you do go for a 1 watt green and then want to go rgb,it will be very expensive to buy powerful enough red and especially blue to match the green at that power.
    Last edited by wes; 07-05-2007 at 18:35.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    2,147,488,500

    Smile

    Hi Wes;

    Stuka mentioned that his green laser will support analog blanking. That means he can dial back the power of his green laser to get perfect color balance with the other two lasers that he eventually adds to the projector, and he can also crank it back up to full power when he wants the brightest possible beams.

    However, you have a point. If the laser only supported TTL blanking (full on or completely off only) this would create quite a pickle. Trying to get a solid state red laser powerful enough to match a 1 watt green laser would be damn near impossible. And getting enough blue would be prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, analog blanking gives you a work-around for this problem. (Albeit with an overal reduction in total output power when operating in color-balanced mode.)

    Adam
    Last edited by buffo; 07-05-2007 at 18:40.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    northern maine.
    Posts
    329

    Default

    ah yes,modulation.
    seems that is the layer of learning trying to penetrate my brain and had me screaming"what are these wires" when i got my new laser.
    funny how i know what modulation is but miss the connection in practice.
    well,i've been plug and play up till now and i love that i'm learning stuff.
    that would be badass,like two projectors in one.
    peace,
    wes

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •