Spinning hard drives are being phased out of most consumer-grade computers in favor of faster technology like solid-state drives and their various interfaces. But there’s still millions of them in circulation that will eventually get pulled from service — so what do we do with them? If you’ve got one that would otherwise be going in the garbage, they can be turned into some other interesting devices like this laser text projector.

Even the slowest drives spin at around 5000 RPM, which is perfect for this type of application. The device works by mounting twelve mirrors, each at a slightly different angle, on a drum which is spun by the drive’s motor. Bouncing a laser off of the spinning drum results in a projection of twelve horizontal lines. By rapidly switching the laser on and off depending on which mirror it’s pointing at, the length of each line can be controlled.

Thanks to persistence of vision, that allows you to show text on the surface that the laser is projected on. At speeds this high, it took [Ben] of Ben Makes Everything quite a few iterations to get it to a usable space. From sensors that were too slow to lasers not bright enough to 3D prints that were not accurate enough, he goes through the design of his build and the process in excellent detail.

After solving all of the problems including building his own constant-current laser power supply, and burning up a few laser diodes in the process, [Ben] has a laser projector capable of displaying readable text at a great distance which is also portable, running on a 12 V power supply. There are some possible areas of improvement that he notes as well, such as an unbalanced 3D printed part causing a bit of a wobble and the Arduino controller not being fast enough for more text. But it’s an impressive project nonetheless, similar to a two-mirror version we saw some time ago but with the ability to display text as well.

Thanks to [Måns] for the tip!

Source: https://hackaday.com/2023/05/12/laser-projector-built-from-an-old-hard-drive/