Makes me want a laser.
December 27, 2008 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Using one of these Jeremy Peterson makes things like a folded box, a hex connector toy, and a calling card (he makes his project files available). His photos are cool and his art doesn't suck.

His music hurts my fillings (but YMMV). Be sure to check out his Image-a-day series on his blog (Shiny Toy Guns fans take note).
posted by cjorgensen (17 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The music isn't half bad, good enough to overcome my natural inclination to dislike anyone who describes their own music as "IDM". The laser stuff is really cool.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:13 AM on December 27, 2008

The item he uses is what I would call a "conspiracy device" in that there doesn't seem to be anywhere at all online that will tell you how much it actually costs.
posted by maxwelton at 11:33 AM on December 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I had no idea what IDM is, but I really hate any sound file with bit crunching on it. I know some people love that stuff, and I actually have some CDs in my collection from the early 90s, but I think as I get older I am less able to tolerate it.

And as to to device being a "conspiracy device" I kind of agree, but it looks like it's available directly from them. I know such things do exist, and they do have sales numbers and such on the site, but you're right, pricing info would be great. A bit short of "conspiracy."
posted by cjorgensen at 12:11 PM on December 27, 2008

The small Chinese-made laser engraver/cutters run $1-2k for 40 watts. Check eBay for importers/resellers.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:25 PM on December 27, 2008

Yeah, I had no idea what IDM is, but I really hate any sound file with bit crunching on it.

"IDM" means "Intelligent Dance Music", and it's a really pretentious term coined by music writers to describe artists like Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares in order to differentiate them from stuff like house or trance, which I guess is "Stupid Dance Music". It's one of those genres that doesn't really mean anything.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:45 PM on December 27, 2008

...there doesn't seem to be anywhere at all online that will tell you how much it actually costs.

A mere $1200. Plus $.07 for the materials.
posted by DU at 1:36 PM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Actually, DecemberBoy, it was coined by people that liked stuff-that-we-now-call-IDM when they created a mailing list called... IDM.

The pretentious music writers got to it later.

I still use it, but only because it's useful shorthand amongst people that listen to a lot of electronic music, and I don't know a better term. One that's descriptive would have about thirty seven adjectives in it and be a bit unwieldy. What the letters stand for doesn't really come into it.
posted by flaterik at 2:36 PM on December 27, 2008

Man, I would love a laser engraver...I wonder if my daughter REALLY needs to go to university...

Actually, I think if I did have a spare $1000 next year, I may get one. I need to explore my creative side more instead of just being a computer nerd all the time.

I wonder how thin the local MDF plan makes their material.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:44 PM on December 27, 2008

Ok, so the laser engraver is expensive.

So how do you build one?
posted by kaibutsu at 3:51 PM on December 27, 2008

(two seconds of googling later...)

This claims to be able to build one for $60.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:52 PM on December 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

...would have about thirty seven adjectives in it and be a bit unwieldy...

I dunno, that sounds pretty pretentious to me...
posted by backseatpilot at 4:46 PM on December 27, 2008

Here's a pricelist for another Chinese laser manufacturer. They're ~$5K+? (not including shipping and customs), with no info as to how much new tubes are. I think an American-made Epilog laser is ~$10-12K?, with some kind of guarantee that it will work when it comes off the truck, and "If you lease-to-own a laser for $15,000, your payments will be as low as $300 a month."

I'd spend some time on cnczone before buying anything. If the machine is DOA, or the tube breaks or burns out you're going to need some way to service the machine.

I'd start by building a cnc router, cnc mill, or 3D printer before building a cnc laser cutter. They're a little bit easier to set up and troubleshoot, as the cutting/printing bit isn't invisible.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:06 PM on December 27, 2008

...if I did have a spare $1000 next year, I may get one. I need to explore my creative side more...

Lego is pretty cheap compared to this thing. Origami paper is even cheaper. Crayons, the cheapest.

That said, the pantograph laser is pretty brill if it works as well as advertised. With some more expensive friction fittings to eliminate jitter, you could have something pretty sweet.
posted by DU at 6:37 PM on December 27, 2008

I found your post while I was looking though my logs and just wanted to check in, I'm Jeremy from I was going to reply to the thread, but I'm not a metafilter member.

You can't buy anything from my site currently, and I don't have “products”, I do try to make everything available to the public to make their own, burn or print anything on my site.

About IDM, I agree it's kind of a snarky term that implies that other dance is not “intelligent”, but I thought my music would fit in that category best, a close second would be just the general “electronica” genre. And I agree it's not for everyone.

Anyway, thanks for the links, my site is still pretty small.

Thanks for the good words, any attention is welcome. I've had the site since 2001, but just started the blog in the last few weeks, There's some older stuff around, but I've been trying to update everything. With this last set of updates I've been trying to promote 4volt as a brand over my name.

I've been having fun with the laser, I've had it for a couple months and I got it for $1000 on ebay lightly used. It's not exactly an inexpensive hobby, but most American lasers run in the $5-30K range. This specific laser is the most inexpensive one I've found so far. Also, i'll be writing an indepth review in the next week of it.

Feel free to post these messages if you want, you can post as my reply address if you like.

He also sent me to a link with a fact I'd wanted to mention in the original post and couldn't find. He's shot 20k photos on his camera. Now maybe it's a matter of me living in a different world, but that seems like a hell of a lot. I probably shoot 500 or less in a year. He did that in 2.5.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:55 PM on December 27, 2008

DU, the $60 pantograph laser isn't going to work as advertised.

Reading the first comment, Timextoxlive says:
This wouldn't work. I've made class 3b lasers (a little stronger output than the DVD burner diode). It will SLOWLY cut electrical tape, or light black matches. but as far a burning anything that isn't thin and black, no chance in hell. Sorry man, good idea, but the diode just isn't powerful enough.

I think you need a 20-40W CO2 laser tube and laser power supply in order to cut acrylic sheet, perhaps 10-20W to cut cardstock and etch paper or wood. And if you want to do something useful besides burn things, you'll want some threaded rod (ball screws, probably), stepper motors (or servo motors), electronics, and computer control. To say nothing of the big acrylic and sheet metal to keep stray reflections from drawing pretty pictures on the backs of your eyeballs.

tanstaafl, but once you've spent a bit of money and done some hard work (or lots of money and a bit of work), then you can make cool stuff.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:56 PM on December 27, 2008

So how do you build one?

A guy got a couple of junked flatbed scanners, and used the computer-controlled sliding mechanism out of those, hooked them together (one for x, one for y), stuck a laser at the intersection, and wrote software to make it trace CAD paths.

But with all that time and work and effort, $1k2 seems cheaper :-)

A quicker method might be to use one of those inkjet printers that can also print on CDs and non-flexible materials, and use that as your x-y table, replace the print head with a laser and then write drivers. But again, it's hard to beat $1k.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:00 AM on December 28, 2008

I've used an Epilog at TechShop. They're great fun but you don't want one in your home. There is a high risk of fire, they are prone to breakage, expensive, and require active ventilation systems to exhaust all the vaporized wood/plastic/metal/glass it generates. But yeah, you can do neat stuff.
posted by chairface at 1:14 PM on December 29, 2008

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