What's the best way to acheive a scanning laser effect?


Well-Known Member
So I'm working on a project for Halloween and one of my lofty goals is to have a back-and-forth laser scanning effect.

This screengrab from Event Horizon sort of illustrates my goal.

A solid split beam, like you'd find on a laser leveler is not really what I'm looking for, either, so that's out.

If you can recall the shot of the Nebuchadnezzar hovercraft from The Matrix scanning a landing area, that's another similar effect.

Now, of course the obvious answer is to pick up a laser light show unit, but those things are incredibly bulky, and very expensive. I'm looking for a solution that is hand-held, and hopefully DIY enough to accomplish for less than $100.

So, if you were me, what would you do? Any directions I should be pointed in?
Those laser light show units operate with a static laser and a mirror that spins or moves to produce patterns.

Maybe some kind of oscillating motor with a small mirror attached and the laser of your choice?

Perhaps an electric toothbrush deconstructed and rebuilt...?
Ive done this exact thing with simple hand held laser pens with diffraction grating on them. You can get both on ebay cheaply. The laser pens in question have a "star cap" or "filter" on them that will vary the pattern on a grid. If thats not enough or if you have the time to play around, order some "diffraction grating" and have at it.

Unfortunately you are after something that has a scanning motion but that is a custom job as it will scan the room its designed for. I would look at stupid dancing kids toys and see about slowing down the toys mechanical motion. Zip tie the laser pen to the thing and have a laugh if it works.
Search laser light show on Instructibles.com.

About a zillion people on there have put together diy laser light shows of varying complexities. As per aron's sugestion, a lot of them use a static laser pointer bounced off of a mirror afixed to a 5v case fan (or a series of them).
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