Instructables

Laser Spirograph

Picture of Laser Spirograph
Break out your Pink Floyd albums, because it is time for you to have your own personal laser show. In fact, it cannot be stressed enough just how much "awesome" you are getting out of such an easy to build device. Watching the patterns spiral out of this little box onto a large wall is much more mesmerizing than it really has any right to be. Most people of the people form whom I demonstrated this for have agreed that they could probably watch the laser patterns dance all day without getting board. I can only imagine how your cat might respond. There is only one way for you to find out! You're going to have to build one.
 
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Step 1: Go get stuff

Picture of Go get stuff
You will need:

- (x4) Paint storage cups
- (x3) 1" round mirrors
- Project Enclosure (7x5x3") (Model: 270-1807 | Catalog #: 270-1807)
- (x3) 1.5-3VDC Metal Gear Motor (Model: 273-258 | Catalog #: 273-258)
- (x3) 25-Ohm 3-Watt Rheostat (Model: 271-265 | Catalog #: 271-265)
- Pen-Style Laser Pointer (No model information available | Catalog #: 63-1064)
- DPDT Submini Toggle Switch (Model: 275-614 | Catalog #: 275-614)
- Enclosed 2 "AA" Battery Holder (Model: 270-408 | Catalog #: 270-408)
- 2 "AAA" Battery Holder (Model: 270-398 | Catalog #: 270-398)
- (x3) Hexagonal Control Knob with Aluminum Insert (Model: 274-415 | Catalog #: 274-415)
- Enercell® "AA" Alkaline Batteries (4-Pack) (Model: AA-4PK | Catalog #: 23-849)
- Enercell® "AAA" Alkaline Batteries (4-Pack) (Model: AAA 4-PK | Catalog #: 23-850)
- Assorted short zip ties

Step 2: Mark

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2B.jpg
Lay a motor flat on top of one of the paint storage cup lide. Make two marks on each side of the motor.

Repeat for the remaining two pairs of motors and cups.

Step 3: Drill

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3B.jpg
Drill through all of the marks that you have just made with a 1/8" drill bit.

Step 4: Zip tie

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4B.jpg
4C.jpg
4D.jpg
4E.jpg
Using the holes that you have just drilled, firmly zip tie the motors to the paint cup lids such that the gears stick out over the edge of the cup.
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ledrac3 years ago
I built my first Instructable! This was a cool project, I have to adjust the position of my mirrors a little bit because the beam going out of the box is just touching one of the paint cups, but other than that it was a success!
IMAG0442.jpgIMAG0445.jpgIMAG0447.jpg
randofo (author)  ledrac3 years ago
Very cool! Thanks for giving it a try. Looking great.
ledrac3 years ago
Here are some pics of the light show.
IMAG0449.jpgIMAG0450.jpgIMAG0451.jpgIMAG0452.jpg
elkaddalek5 months ago

Do you have an instructable for making a flat scanning laser effect?

hi. in an old laser printer you will.find a hexagonal mirrored motor. point a laser pen on it and you have your scanning effect.

I found you can also make the same effect using a small spinning cube with glued hobby mirrors on it :)

oh by the way donot used the laser from the printer itself it has also dangerous.infrared radiation. but about the motor type on the internet 'laserprinter mirror motor' and then images. you will fimd plenty of diy projects.
my box vibrates like hell. what do i do? i alreadt lifted the motor a bit, and put softeners around everything...

I work at Radioshack and I am reluctant to use one of our laser pointers for this project because I know I could find something better somewhere else. However I don't need anything expensive and I want to be sure it will work for this project. Does anyone have any suggestions for a good green or blue laser to use in this project? Model number or SKU would be nice, thanks.

shaddoty1 year ago
Im working on a sound activated version by replacing one of the motors with a speaker and hooking it up to a microphone and an amplifier.
mguima1 year ago
when I saw the paint storage cup I started wondering about how it would be used. Even a block of wood could be used for the same function.
randofo (author)  mguima1 year ago
The nice thing about using the cup is that the lids rotate and this allows for fine-tuned positioning of mirror alignment.
ananda11 year ago
How would one integrate a spirograph into a party SAFELY? Would you aim it at the air, a wall, the ground? Lawyers are expensive.
randofo (author)  ananda11 year ago
I'm not a lawyer. I can't answer this question. ...but - perhaps - if you have to ask someone this question, you shouldn't do it.
The DPDT toggle switch I have, has two "on" settings I think. One for one load one for the other. Is it possible to use this in this circuit? This is the switch I got: http://www.toolking.com/gardner-bender-gsw-16-heavy-duty-toggle-switch?CAWELAID=1410642058
randofo (author)  Wamafibglop1 year ago
Yes. Just don't connect one of the side and that can be the off setting.
Oh so I would only use four of the six pins on the switch still?
randofo (author)  Wamafibglop1 year ago
Yup.
Awesome! Thank you so much for such a prompt response! I'll post results when I finish.
Nicapizza1 year ago
Just in case,what if the laser does not have a transistor there?
randofo (author)  Nicapizza1 year ago
Just wire it so the laser gets powered on from these two wires.
Nicapizza1 year ago
Can anyone please tell me if I can use potentiometers instead of rheostats? The Rheostats are quite pricey.
randofo (author)  Nicapizza1 year ago
You might be able to get away with a 100 ohm potentiometer... maybe. This technique requires something with very little resistance. The rheostat provides between 0 and 25 ohms.
Gr33nman2 years ago
why the DPDT switches?
randofo (author)  Gr33nman2 years ago
The motors and the lasers are powered separately. So, each power supply uses half of the switch.
One of the best and simple to make project I have seen for a while. Awesomest instructable ever... :D
I got 1 query... I am making 1 of these but instead of connecting the rheostat directly, I am using a transistor(a Darlington pair to be exact, for more gain) to vary the voltage with rheostat. It gives me a wider range to work with and I can replace rheostats with an arduino PWM pin to control speed.
The problem I am facing is that when I am connecting the battery, they are draining in seconds. Even 9 Volt ones! When I am running all 3 together, they become so slow, they almost stop at times. I have checked for any shorts. I know it might be due to the modifications I have made, but thats what DIY is about. Do you or anybody here has any idea why is this happening and how i can fix it?
randofo (author)  Antzy Carmasaic2 years ago
Are any of the components heating up a lot? The batteries should not be draining so quickly. I am using the low-voltage Radioshack motors (1.5V - 3V). The 9V ones they sell suck power, but even those shouldn't be that bad (but perhaps it does not like 3 at once?). If none of the parts are heating up, perhaps replace the battery with an M-type power jack and plug in a wall wart (of a voltage rated for your motors).
Yup. The adapter was what I was considering as well. As soon as its a bit stable, I'll post pics... Thanks a lot for your help and this great instructable. Btw, I love the images in all your instructables... :D
hippo01872 years ago
I just got done........This was a very fun instructables only because i work at a radioshack and the parts were 50% off .......only $15 im planing to make more for my friends maybe different laser colors
Mr. walrus2 years ago
is there a special way to put the mirrors on? mine get on unbalanced and vibrate a lot when I tested it. i would use it but its way too loud!!!! Help PLEASE!!
Jayefuu3 years ago
Do you have a video of this in action or did I miss it?
I have made a vid;



I use a 30mW laser form dealextreme.
I'm surewonder if a simple crossoc I remember somewhere about hooking a motor to an audio signal.
if it's a laser diode, audio could be used to control the light strength.
C_Maconroe3 years ago
Is there an audio input, or how would that be done, so that the light show can be reactive to the music
did not upload properly on the other comment:
audiolasersynccircuit.png
Here's a simple circuit for an audio input, hope it helps!

I was hoping for an audio input as well :( I believe using simple Pulse Width Modulators to control the motors could work. search for pulse width modulation at you tube, there is a video detailing how to make a PWM circuit out of a 555 timer. You may need someone to show where, and how to apply an audio signal
shobley static3 years ago
That could work, but an easier route would be to take a set of speakers from an old computer, ones with a built in amp and attach mirrors to the speaker cones themselves. Put the mirrors into the optical chain described in the article and attach your audio feed.
Mashurst3 years ago
This looks like a fun project. I may do it with my kids.
Question: I don't understand the need for the two battery packs. They are both the same voltage with two cells each right? Couldn't one run the motors and the Light?
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