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Melles-Griot 05-LHP-141-15 Helium Neon Laser Head & Tube Extraction

Melles Griot
He-Ne Laser Head
He-Ne Laser Head

Looking through eBay recently I came across a great deal on some Helium-Neon laser heads from Melles Griot. While definitely not new, these gas lasers are extremely long-lasting & I figured the tubes inside would make a nice addition to my laser collection. Doing some searching on the model number, these heads are rated at an optical output of 4mW, but depending on how much milage is on the tubes, the output may be a bit higher.

Data Label
Data Label

I got a pair of the heads, this one was manufactured in July 1988, the other March 1989.

OC End / Classification Label
OC End / Classification Label

The OC end of the head has the laser classification label & the beam shutter. Once I’d tested the laser heads to make sure they survived the post intact, I set at extracting the plasma tubes from the aluminium housings.
The end caps are fibre-reinforced plastic & are secured with epoxy resin, so some heating & brute force released the caps from the housing, giving access to the laser tube itself.

Glue Holes
Glue Holes

The laser tube is secured in these heads by hot glue – this was squirted into the housing via two rows of holes around the ends. (Some are secured with RTV silicone, which is substantially more difficult to remove).

Copper Tube
Copper Tube

I’ve no photos of the actual extraction process as it’s difficult enough as is without at least 5 hands. A heat gun was used to warm up the housing until the glue melted enough to slide the tube out of the housing. Since everything was hot at this stage, a piece of copper tubing (above), was slipped over the OC mirror mount, so I could push the tube out of the housing while the glue was soft. This also protected the mirror from damage while the tube was being removed.

Extracted Tube
Extracted Tube

After a few minutes of gentle pushing while keeping the housing hot, the tube was released! It’s still pretty well covered in the remains of the hot glue, but this is easily removed once the tube cools down to room temperature with Isopropanol. The line of Kapton tape running down the tube to the cathode end is insulating a start tape electrode, which is supposed to make the laser strike faster on power-up. Instead of being metal though, the electrode appears to be a carbon-loaded plastic tape.

Start Tape & Adhesive
Start Tape & Adhesive

Here’s the HR end of the tube, which also serves as the high voltage anode electrode. The start tape is clipped onto the mirror mount, but all this will be removed.

OC End
OC End

The OC end of the laser, where the beam emerges. What I think is the mW rating of the tubes is written on the end cap, probably from when the tubes were manufactured.

Tube Energized
Tube Energized

Applying power from a He-Ne laser PSU confirmed the tube still works!

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445nm Laser TTL Interface

TTL Interface
TTL Interface

In preparation for my laser scanner project, I have modified my existing 445nm laser to accept a TTL blanking input. The laser driver is already enabled for this & just required an extra connection to interface with my laser scanner showboard. I have used an 8-pin connection to allow the same cable & interface to be used with an RGB laser system, when it arrives. The signals are as follows, from top centre, anti-clockwise:

Pin 1: +12v Power
Pin 2: Blue TTL
Pin3: GND
Pin 4: Green TTL
Pin 5: GND
Pin 6: Red TTL
Pin 7: GND
Centre: Power GND

 

Custom TTL Cable
Custom TTL Cable

Here is the custom 8 core cable, which connects to the laser scanner show board. This cable allows the laser to be used for projection while still retaining the portable function & the keylock arming switch. When plugged in the cable bypasses the keyswitch & provides 12v DC direct to the laser driver.

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He-Ne Laser

He-Ne Laser Mount
He-Ne Laser Mount

Having had a He-Ne laser tube for a while & the required power supply, it was time to mount the tube in a more sturdy manner. Above the tube is mounted with a pair of 32mm Terry Clips, with the power leads passing through the plastic top. The ballast resistor is built into the silicone rubber on the anode end of the tube. (Right).
Output power is about 1mW for this tube, which came from a supermarket barcode scanner from the 90’s. The tube is dated August 1993 & is manufactured by Aerotech.

Internals
Internals

Inside the box is the usual 2.2Ah 12v Li-Po battery pack & the brick type He-Ne laser supply. The small circuit in the centre is a switchmode converter that drops the 12v from the battery pack to the 5v required for the laser supply.