If you’re curious about the nuts and bolts behind the phaser construction from this week’s episode of The Escapist Show, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find a list of all the materials you’ll need for the project, as well as step-by-step instructions. Please remember to follow all necessary safety precautions and don’t use your phaser to rob a bank, or anything.
Let’s start with a list of the items you’ll need.
- Star Trek toy phaser (www.thinkgeek.com)
- Laser diode module (www.laserdiy.com)
- Laser driver circuit (www.laserdiy.com)
- 4Ω(Ohm) resistor (www.laserdiy.com, www.digikey.com)
- Single channel optoisolator (www.sparkfun.com , www.digikey.com)
- 3v coin cell battery w/ holder (Radio Shack #2032)
- Soldering iron with temperature control
- Wire strippers/cutters
- Sturdy razor or utility knife
- Non-conductive glue (cyanoacrylate recommended)
- Safety glasses, for use with power tools
- Safety goggles, for use with lasers (must block the specific frequency of your laser, and should cover your peripheral vision, too)
(Note: I used welding goggles with a special plate. They function both as safety glasses, and very effective laser protection.)
Now that you’ve got the equipment you’ll need, let’s move on to the actual construction.
First Step: Deconstruction
The toy phaser is built to be very sturdy, and it can be a challenge to take apart. The type 1 phaser is detachable, so take it off before using any tools.
Start at the front end, where the “focusing ring” is. There’s a piece holding it in that you’ll have to break. Using a razor blade or utility knife, carefully score the part along the seam. Use a thin screwdriver or other small tool to break it into two pieces. Remove it along with the “focusing ring.”
The bottom portion of the handgrip and rear detail piece are held in place by friction – gently rock them back and forth to remove. There are three small Phillips head screws holding the phaser together, that can be hard to get out without a thin screwdriver. With the screws removed, gently separate the two halves of the phaser.
Watch for springs and small parts, and take note of the mechanical portion of the phaser’s innards. Remove all the mechanical parts, so they won’t be easily lost. Desolder and remove the red LED that comes with the toy – make something else with it.
Step 2: Electronics
You may have noticed two spring-loaded prongs that connect the type 1 phaser to the type 2. Use the multimeter to figure out the polarity of these prongs. Never trust wire color – red isn’t always positive, and black isn’t always negative. Connect these to the input side of the optoisolator, according to the wiring diagram.
For a bigger version of the diagram, click here.
Warning: Due to the potential dangers of lasers at any power range, it is your responsibility to follow all regulations and safeguards required by your local, state, and national government. You assume full responsibility for any face melting or acts of stupidity involving lasers.
The laser module is a delicate device. I constructed mine from its constituent parts, and managed to screw up the lens. Get it pre-built by someone who deals with lasers every day. Connect the positive lead to a 4Ω resistor. This protects the laser diode, so you should never bypass it. Laser diodes don’t work the same way LEDs do – you can’t just hook it up to a battery and expect it to work for very long, if at all. This is why you need a laser driver; it takes the power from your battery and makes it usable to the laser diode in your module.
Since you have an inline resistor, it is safe to bypass the potentiometer on the board. Connect the negative lead directly to the switch, and the positive lead to the pad on the other side of the driver circuit board.
Put on your laser-safe glasses, and hook up a 3v source to the driver circuit (the spring is negative.) You can use the button on the driver board to test your laser module. Be careful – it’s just a quick test of your circuit!
When you’re sure the laser circuit is functioning, it’s time to connect it to the output of the optoisolator.
Connect the chip to the contacts on the switch – the side next to the spring is negative. Finally, connect the coin cell battery to the power driver, remembering that the spring is negative.
Step 3: Making Everything Fit (aka The Tricky Part)
There isn’t a lot of room inside the phaser. Since all the mechanical parts still have to work, it’s going to be a tight fit. Start with the laser module – use a dremel with a grinder to make a cavity.
The cylinder shape is pretty much the exact size of the laser module, and makes quick work out of plastic. Clean up the edges, and make sure the module fits. Glue it in place on one half of the phaser.
While you have the glue out, start gluing down the mess of wires, and the battery holder.
Make sure you don’t have any short circuits along the way. You can glue down the laser driver circuit if you like, but I won’t recommend it. It’s much easier to remove and replace if something breaks, and the driver is a good spot to start troubleshooting. Once everything is in place, replace all the mechanical parts.
There’s a couple of springs that can get frustrating – just be patient, and it will all come together. Once the two halves of the phaser toy are back together, replace the screws, and reattach the type 1 phaser. You now have a working (hopefully burning) phaser!
If you like things pretty, or somehow lost the thrill of burning things with light, you can glue the broken piece from Step 1 and replace it. Just remember that once you do that, you’ll have to break it again when it comes time to change the battery.
Voila! Your very own outer space peacemaker.