Laser Box Music Laser Light Show





Introduction: Laser Box Music Laser Light Show

I previously published an Instructable that described how to use computer hard drives to make a music laser light show. I decided to make a compact version using an electrical box and RC car motors. I am selling it on eBay:

Before I begin I should probably tell you that lasers are not good for your eyes. Don't let a laser beam bouncing off of an uncontrolled mirror hit you in the eye. If you don't believe it can happen then read this:

Step 1:

I made a couple of sample videos. The first one is the requisite EDM song.

Step 2:

For the second one I decided to go old school since when I was growing up I always associated music and lasers with Pink Floyd ;)

Step 3:

Step 4:

The first step is to drill holes in the back of the electrical box for the On/Off key switch, DC power jack and the amplifier's 3.5 mm audio input and gain control.

Step 5:

The next step is to drill a hole in the side of the threads of the conduit fitting for the screw that will anchor the rubber band that keeps the mirrors centered.

Step 6:

Next I installed the On/Off switch, DC power jack and the conduit fittings that house the motors and laser.

Step 7:

Next I soldered in the 12V to 5V converter that powers the laser. The amplifier runs off 12V while the laser uses 5V.

Step 8:

Next I used an angle grinder holder to cut notches in the motor shaft couplers to hold the mirrors.

Step 9:

Next I disassembled a hard drive to extract the highly polished aluminum platters to use for the mirrors. If you use glass mirrors then the laser will reflect off both the surface of the glass and the silver backing so you will wind up with two dots. This wiki article explains it. The other advantage of using the aluminum platters is that they can be clamped tightly inside the notched shaft couplers without breaking. If you buy non-working hard drives on eBay to harvest their platters, be sure to visit the HDD Platter Capacity Database to research the model number of the hard drive you are buying to make sure it contains more than one platter to get the most for your money. An older 250 GB hard drive may contain 3 or 4 platters while a newer 1 TB model may have only one.

Step 10:

Next I made a table saw sled to cut the aluminum platters. I used a band saw for my previous laser project but the table saw made much cleaner and and straighter cuts. I briefly experimented with a 100-tooth table saw blade specifically made for cutting aluminum but my regular Dewalt 60-tooth crosscutting blade actually worked better. The trick is to set the blade at the highest attack angle and use toggle clamps.

WARNING: If you are going to be cutting metal with a table saw then you have to take even greater precautions. GO SLOW. Don't clamp both sides of the metal; Just one side or the saw will bind and throw the blade, teeth or metal at you and kill you. Don't attach a shop vac to the dust outlet when cutting metal because it can start a fire in the canister. Wear an apron or overalls and a full face shield, not just safety glasses, because those hot metal shavings flying at you can hurt.

Step 11:

The next step was to install the amplifier. It had a very bright blue power LED that I was tempted to cut off so it wouldn't compete with the laser in a dark room but the way the amplifier is oriented the heat sink blocks it from direct view and makes it reflect a diffuse blue color inside the electrical box that gives it a really cool look.

Step 12:

Next I installed the shaft couplers on the motors and inserted the mirrors into the notches and tightened the set screws. I replaced one of the set screws with a longer screw to hold the rubber band. Then I inserted the motors into the conduit fittings.

Step 13:

I soldered the speaker wires to the motors on my first prototype but later switched to 2.8 mm female spade connectors after I accidentally burned out one of the motors by applying too much heat with the soldering iron. An advantage to using the spade connectors is that you can disconnect the lower motor so the laser only moves in a horizontal direction creating the liquid sky effect. I connected the right channel to the top motor and the left channel to the bottom motor but it really doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter which motor terminals the negative and positive leads attach as long as both are connected.

Step 14:

Then I installed the laser module. It just clamps inside the 3/8 in. cable clamp adapter. The neat thing about the clamp is that you can easily remove the laser and swap a different colored laser pointer.

Step 15:

Here is how everything is wired up. The rectifier diode was only needed for the blue and green laser modules. They were getting shorted when their metal housings were grounded to the electrical box so I isolated the ground of the 12V to 5V DC-DC step down converter with a 1000V 3A rectifier diode and that did the trick.

Step 16:

Then I fired it up to test with a little fog from this fog machine. Watching the laser pattern is cool by itself but adding fog takes it to another level. With it you can see the actual laser beam as it cuts through the air. The best thing about using the conduit fittings to house the galvanometers is that everything is easily adjustable. Once the top fitting has been adjusted so the laser beam is reflecting off the center of the lower mirror it can be tightened and left alone but leave the lower fitting just finger tight so you can twist it to move the laser pattern up and down the wall or even onto the ceiling without physically tilting the box. The sharp teeth of the steel locknuts that came with the fittings would dig into the steel so much that they would self tighten to the point where it was impossible to loosen without tools so I replaced them with 3/4" PVC locknuts. The biggest advantage of using the motors over the hard drives, besides size, is that they allow for much greater mirror travel so you get a much wider pattern at closer distances.

Step 17:

For the finishing touch I cut the corner out of the steel cover plate to make a window for the laser when it is installed. Leaving it off allows you to throw a slightly wider pattern and also project onto the ceiling. Again the table saw worked great for cutting metal.

WARNING: Again, if you are going to be cutting metal with a table saw then you have to take even greater precautions. GO SLOW. Don't clamp both sides of the metal; Just one side or the saw will bind and throw the blade, teeth or metal at you and kill you. Don't attach a shop vac to the dust outlet when cutting metal because it can start a fire in the canister. Wear an apron or overalls and a full face shield, not just safety glasses, because those hot metal shavings flying at you can hurt.

Step 18:

Here's another video that shows how it handles a variety of songs. It really allows you to "see" your music. It is also simple to use: You plug your audio source into the 3.5 mm audio jack, plug in the power supply, turn on the power, start playing music and adjust the gain control to adjust the size of the laser pattern. After I showed it to my family and friends they all wanted one so I made several using various colored lasers and decided to sell them on eBay: It comes with everything: The box, power supply, audio and power extension cables and audio splitter. Thanks for looking!



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    49 Discussions

    Hello everybody,

    I've been trying to do this project and ... I'm not doing well. My engines are not spinning. I checked the voltage in the audio outputs and measured 30 mV. I think it's too little to reverse the engines.

    Please help me and tell me what they are doing wrong.

    Thank you in advance!

    4 replies

    The only thing I can tell you is to make sure you use those uxcell 5000 RPM 6V High Torque motors I linked to in the parts list. I ordered motors from several different sellers on both Amazon and eBay and those were the only ones that had enough torque to maintain good control of the mirrors. Others I tried that looked identical with the same exact housing were too weak and made the pattern too loose and bouncy. Also, if you order those cheap amps from China make sure you order more than one because a full third of the ones I received were DOA or the potentiometers were cracked since they ship them in a plastic envelope, not boxed.

    I changed the engines and it works. The amplifier gets really hot. I used a computer sound output, probably the signal too strong. I'll put some preamplified signal microphones to capture ambient sound. Returning ...

    TD7297 amps are known to get really hot. I was concerned the impedance of the motors was too low when I first started testing but then found online that this is common though I can't imagine installing one in a sealed cabinet as many do to make a portable bluetooth speaker. They are also supposed to have a thermal protection switch but I never tripped it during my testing

    Thank you,

    I will make a few changes, I ordered several types of motors (and lower voltage). I will measure both outputs on the amplifier, I will even do a sound test.

    Hope to have results :)

    I will announce you and I will post if it works with the new engines.

    Have a nice day!

    Not only a cool Instructable, but great description, doc and pictures. Excellent job!

    2 replies

    I finally had some time today to sit down to add more details and links to all of the parts.

    This is really cool! Do you mind sharing the electrical diagram?

    2 replies

    I didn't like that crude schematic so I wired everything up today (outside of the box) and took a picture of it for you. Please note that those power wires are shortened greatly before installation.

    Thank you. I'll draw something up and add it to the instructable.

    I just added it to the Instructable. Thank you!

    Hats off for your creativity brother. Simply awesome. I am looking to see more from you in the future

    1 reply

    For slightly less than the price of your box, also on eBay, you can buy a pair of professional <b>laser galvos</b>. They have a feedback circuit and can handle much higher frequencies. And they include front-surface optical grade mirrors. They are not mounted in a box at that price though.

    With your design, you can increase the frequency response by keeping the aluminum mirrors as small as possible. Putting a capacitor inline with just one of the inputs will shift the phase and give you more of a circular, flowery pattern instead of a diagonal squished circle.

    1 reply

    Yes I looked at but in the end decided to keep it all analog to make it as simple and compact as possible. Since this this involves no programming, it's more pure or even organic in a way. You "see" the music, not someone's programmed patterns.