WHAT IS A LASER AND WHY IS IT SO EXCITING?

 
The laser was first invented in the late 1950s, as an outgrowth of microwave technology. LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Originally, the future of lasers was seen to be in research and development, manufacturing, communications, and defense. But, the physical characteristics of laser light set it on a course to be a spectacular visual medium. Two of these characteristics are its narrow beam and brightness.
Unlike incandescent light, which diverges as it moves away from the light source, laser light maintains a narrow beam, simulating a "finger of light." Since the light does not spread out, the brightness is maintained -- even over long distances. Just like an incandescent light, the brightness of a laser is determined by the number of watts it emits. The lower the wattage, the dimmer the beam. Conversely, the higher the wattage, the brighter and visually "fatter" the beam.


WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF LASERS?


Lasers are frequently classified according to their lasing medium. Visible light lasers typically use the gases Argon, Krypton or Helium Neon (HeNe). The gas determines the vibrant colors. Argon is an aqua beam, from which blue, green and purple can be separated. Krypton is a red beam, from which yellow and orange can be separated. Helium Neon is typically red, although low-powered green, yellow and orange HeNes are available. 

WHAT IS A LASER SYSTEM?

 
A laser system consists of a controller, a projector, and a laser. Often the projector and laser are enclosed in one unit. The controller is typically dedicated to creating certain effects, such as beams, graphics or abstract patterns. The controller sends signals to a projector's telling it to move the laser beam right, left, up, down, etc.
To do this the projector contains a scanning system that allows you to "direct" the laser beam. Scanners, or "galvos" as they are often called, are mechanical devices that move at high speeds. A mirror is mounted on a scanner and the motion of the mirror is what directs the beam. For basic applications, you'll need a pair of scanners for X,Y positioning. Add a third Z scanner if you want to add "blanking". Blanking refers to blocking of the beam.
If you wanted to write a word and not have a connecting "line" between each letter, you would blank that line so each letter (or object) appeared to stand by itself.
Blanking is sometimes done with a different type of scanner, and one that works more precisely, called an acoustical optical (AO) crystal. Color selection if used will also be done in the projector. The electronics that control the scanners may be housed in the projector or packaged separately

.WHAT TYPES OF LASER SYSTEMS ARE THERE?
Systems can address a diverse range of applications, but we have found most needs fall in one of three general categories: playback only, interactive, and production.
Playback only systems consist of a storage unit such as a VCR, tape deck or computer attached to a projector and a laser. Simply by turning on the power and "pushing play", a complete laser presentation is shown. We sell a wide range of prerecorded shows for your use and can create a customized presentation using your artwork or selections from our extensive library.
Interactive systems consist of a controller, a projector and a laser. They allow you to create your own shows in house. You can create shows for playback or run live. These systems offer you a wide degree of creative control and special effects.
Production systems normally consist of multiple controllers, projectors and lasers, often with a master controller to synchronize all of these subsystems. They are for the professional desiring an unlimited and sophisticated development and playback environment. 

WHAT EFFECTS CAN I DO WITH LASERS?


A laser in itself is so brilliant that by just turning it on and using it as a pointer is interesting. To give the illusion of multiple beams, mirrors can be positioned so when the beam hits them, it ricochets around your room. But when we speak of laser effects, we're referring to those generated by the three primary controllers each having varying amounts of flexibility, versatility and power: Beam/Fan Controllers, Graphics Controllers and Lissajous/ "Spirographic" Controllers. 

WHAT IS A BEAM/FAN CONTROLLER?


Controllers vary in the number of actual beam targets, repBy far the most dramatic and spectacular laser effect is "Star Wars beams." The magnitude of your Star Wars display is determined by the flexibility and versatility of your beam controller. The controller repeatedly "shoots" a beam to a set number of targets. If those targets are mirrors, the beams bombard throughout your room, creating a cat's cradle of laser light. If your controller allows it, you can create dramatic theatrical lighting effects including fans and solid shapes like cones.
ositioning of those targets, automatic chase sequences and the degree of manual control. The most advanced systems are digital allowing for fully programmable beam positioning

WHAT IS A GRAPHICS CONTROLLER?

This type of controller lets you accurately reproduce artwork, logos, and text and display them in laser light. Simple systems only allow the playback of images supplied by the manufacturer. When additional images are needed, you need to go back to the manufacturer. More sophisticated systems include the ability to create your own graphics in one of two ways: Single-cell and Multi-cell. Think of a single-cell system as a slide projector: You may display one image at a time. Multi-cell systems are analogous to a movie projector, they display images in rapid sequence allowing animation. Our systems allow a wide variety of special effects while images are being displayed. The quality of the images is determined by the output resolution of the system which may be 8-bit or 12-bit resolution. Simpler 8-bit systems are less expensive but only allow the creation of cartoon-like graphics. The professional standard for accurate images is 12-bit resolution. Images are created by drawing them in on a special tablet called a digitizer. Digitizers differ in physical size and resolution. Beware of the inexpensive digitizers that come with some systems. They were originally designed as input devices for home video games, and are of low-resolution. If your system output is 12-bit, you should be using a professional digitizer.


WHAT IS A LISSAJOUS/SPIROGRAPHIC CONTROLLER?


 Lissajous (lis-ah-ju) / "Spirographic" controllers create captivating abstract patterns. The complexity of the patterns is determined by the sophistication of the controller. Consider lissajous patterns as visual music. Like music, the complexity and sophistication of the laser "song" depend on the number of different instruments and the ability of the musician. In lissajous controllers each "musician" is an electronic oscillator and the instruments are the number of wave shapes available. The number of oscillators and the number of ways they can be combined, determine the sophistication of the patterns. Low cost controllers feature 2 or 4 single-wave oscillators and sometimes allow limited ways of mixing them. Fancier systems offer several multiple-wave oscillators, complex mixing and the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide wave forms together -- resulting in unlimited patterns. Digital systems add an extra dimension of control, allowing instant recall of the presets required for the complex patterns, as well as special effects such as dissolve, animation, etc.  

HOW DO I KNOW WHICH LASER SYSTEM IS FOR ME?


Technological Artisans offers systems in all three laser categories. For lissajous/spirographic applications we offer the AS series of controllers. For beam and fan applications Scotty is the logical choice. The most comprehensive choice is the powerful Merlin graphics controller that also includes beam, fan and lissajous capabilities. Refer to the enclosed data sheet for full information on the Merlin system.Contact us and we will be glad to help you in all facets of acquiring a Laser System. Our systems are built around the concept of building blocks that are interchangeable at any time. There is no chance of obsolescence and the modular designs make customization easy. Remember, all of our systems are available for sale or for rent. We look forward to working with you. .