Scotty goes to China to make a custom iPhone from spare parts

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I’d have given him mine for free.


Maybe this is a stupid question ( ok, probably), but is it safe to use a laser engraver without eye protection?

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That depends on some factors like whether or not the laser is enclosed. In the US, this laser would require serious PPE because it operates completely in the open. If your laser is in an appropriate enclosure you are fine to operate it without safety/laser glasses, but that’s because an appropriate enclosure involves either frequency-blocking glass or something that attenuates the reflected light enough to be safe.

This situation does not look safe in terms of optics. Who knows if that fume extractor is doing any good either.


I thought they also gave off toxic fumes.

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They do, especially when you’re vaporizing metals, but also most plastics, paint, and even some types of wood give off nasty vapors if you use a laser on them. That’s why I was questioning the utility of that “fume extractor” which appears to be some dyer vent hose that I assume is attached to a fan, but that wouldn’t likely be considered adequate by American standards.

That laser is some serious shit, too. There’s no way in hell it should be operating out in the open like that. I take considerably greater precautions with much smaller lasers.

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Seems more like he found someone in China who knows how to build iphones and had that person find the parts needed and instruct him (Scotty) on how to make an iphone.

Scotty has a much chubbier face than that!

Scotty here - dude in the video. I have never seen one of these lasers with any sort of enclosure around it. Nor do they sell them with any kind of enclosure… Not saying you’re wrong though:)


What’s wrong with just getting a nice case/cover?

Seriously, that’s the one thing I really like about iPhones - due to a constant form factor, at least per model, you have an almost limitless choice of covers. And you can customise those as well.

They’re pretty common and come in all shapes and sizes. My local hacker space leases two. Great machines!


I’ve got an engraver as well as some other powerful-enough-to-hurt-you lasers. It’s hard to know for sure, but this thing looks very similar to the neodymium fiber laser that I helped rehabilitate for a nearby hackerspace (roughly the same size lens and similar focal length, used for the same purpose, though the one that I worked on was capable of marking things like tool steel, which this may not be able to handle). There is a classification system that goes from class 1 which includes things that any amount of exposure is unlikely to cause permanent damage up to class 4 which is where most medical, research, military, and industrial lasers lie. There are a lot of subclasses, but the last class before 4 is 3B which means a max output of 30mw.

Class 4 lasers, in the US anyway, require a key switch and safety interlocks, and laser engravers are usually inside of enclosures that tie into that switch and safety interlocks in such a way that the laser can only be operated if no harmful amount of light can escape. The laser in this video is almost certainly a class 4, which means that even exposure to diffuse or non-specular reflections could result in serious eye damage.

My guess is that the only reason these gents haven’t got scabs where their eyes ought to be is because they do appear to be operating with short pulses instead of a constant beam. That helps by limiting the potential exposure length to a short enough amount of time that the blink reflex becomes effective, but it’s still horrifically unsafe to operate a laser like this in this manner.

I am not particularly surprised that they’re being operated in this manner in Shenzen since there’s kind of a wild-west meets cyberpunk thing going on there, and I don’t seem to think the Chinese government has an agency of equivalent scope and power as OSHA to enforce safe working conditions. I could be off on the latter, but even if they do, the standards are almost certainly different.

Either way, I’d avoid spending too much time around the laser engraving places if this is how they’re operating, and if you ever hear a “popping” sound coming from one of your eyeballs, go to a hospital. That’s often the first symptom that many people notice upon experiencing serious laser-induced eye damage–the lens of the eye focuses the light from the laser down to a fine point on the retina, which causes the tissue to superheat and explosively boil which produces what sounds like a “pop” inside your head. Pain and noticeable vision problems don’t usually come until later. There’s probably not much that can be done about a damaged retina in that case, but it’s still a pretty good idea to get it checked out.

Stay safe!

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