Science fiction just got a DIY treatment and got closer to home. It won’t be enough to stop a truck dead on its wheels like Lockheed Martin’s contraption, which is unabashedly a weapon of destruction, but YouTube user Styropyro’s homebrew laser shotgun is still powerful enough to do some damage and burn things, even wood. And perhaps the scariest part about it is that it is something that makers, DIYers, and science enthusiasts can build right at home, with just the right tools, the right materials, and the right motivation.
It’s not easy to build that’s for sure, and most likely not cheap either. It combines eight, yes eight, laser diodes, each shooting 5W of, well, laser. These parallel beams are then concentrated using a focusing lens, likened to a choke on an actual shotgun. To power that up, Styropyro uses a lithium polymer battery pack with a whopping 250A capacity. All of it controlled by 24, yes 24, LM317 drivers, one of the most common laser driver for DIY projects.
The result would probably induce mixed feelings of praise, fascination, and perhaps a bit of worry. It pops balloons and burns through paper with ease. It can light up flammable methanol solution in seconds. It can melt through a plastic ping pong ball and, after a bit of time, set wood on fire as well. It’s definitely interesting to watch in action. Just try not to be on the receiving end of that beam.
The DIY and maker culture is on the rise, partly in thanks to 3D printers and affordable development boards like the Raspberry Pi. It has definitely given a lot of power and capability to garage projects. But, as the cliché goes, great power, responsibility. Styropyro himself says there’s really no good reason for anyone to have such a death trap at home, but then jokes that it’s not illegal to build one. It does spark the question of whether it should be.