Hacking a laser-cutter to play real-world Space Invaders


If by “hack” you mean “put something in front.”


Somewhat rudimentary, has potential.

What about using that kind of nitrocellulose-based “flash paper”, used by magicians for some tricks? With enough spacing in between that the fire would not spread from invader to invader? And faster steppers? And the fortresses could be made of styrofoam for easy melting-away by the beam.

Fun concepts with many possible improvements.




I wholeheartedly endorse any idea involving lots of flash paper. You’d probably want some kind of fireproof frame around each one - both to act as a support since the stuff tends to be like tissue-paper, and as a dam to prevent fire from spreading since the fire from it can flare out far enough in some cases that just using spacing to isolate the pieces could be awkward.

Now I’m wanting to do some experiments to see how much of a laser would be needed to ignite the stuff. Probably wouldn’t need nearly as much power as in this example…


Congrats on making a Space Invaders that’s even more boring than the original.


This one has actual fire. You are incorrect.


What about making the frame from paraffin wax? Not too strong, and melts away (and falls off) post-ignition. And absorbs enough heat radiated from the neighbouring flash paper to not let the temperature rise to the ignition point.

That might have possibilities, though I’m not sure the flash paper would melt it unless the wax was extremely thin. Flash paper/cotton (at least, the versions I’ve worked with) burns through its heat energy very fast, but it only takes a tiny spark to set it off and it generates a lot of gases that push the flames outwards.

Not melting the frames might be for the best, though - if you had an array of thin frames set up so you could easily slip the bits of paper in, it’d be a lot faster to reset the “game” each time.

I’m encouraged that there’s some use for the ancient Epilog laser cutter at our hackerspace. It needs Windows 95 in its current state.

So does my fireplace and my stove. Doesn’t make them any less boring. Besides, I don’t recall any flames in Space Invaders. Explosions, yes. Flames, no.

Thought. Get a replacement control board, hook the steppers to it, feed it with g-code. Mods for the K40 lasers do just that. Option for later?

(Re lasers, I just finished(?) some code that processes OpenSCAD-exported DXFs, e.g. by converting LINEs to LWPOLYLINEs in order to avoid the MoshiDraw’s (awful crap!) reshuffling of the lines so the consecutive lines draw at once instead of with the laser head dancing over the board uselessly. Will publish once I write documentation, or share earlier if asked.)

I can spend a long time just staring into the flames. I wouldn’t call either to be boring. Soccer is boring. Fireplace is not.

An explosion is just a quite fast flame. This one is slow.

I thought “a real world version of the Space Invaders game” would involve real aliens.

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Shooting down swarms of border patrol drones? (Well, it’d would be rather inverse, but anyway. After all, from the point of view of the Space Invaders, the laser tank below is the alien…)

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Oh, lord no. Do you really want to stick with that? Now, really think about it first, because it’s such an incredibly wrong statement. This is your one and only chance to change your mind before I post a long list of things that can explode with no flame of any kind involved.

Yes and no. My quip was grossly incomplete; anything that releases enough energy in short enough time in small enough space will result in an explosion.

(Sorry… and thanks for the nitpick!)

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