Handheld Laser Engraving

Laser mouse: A quick-and-dirty tool for engraving large images

4 min read
WORK IN PROGRESS: The prototype mouse engraver uses a microcontroller and a laser lashed to a US $10 mouse [top] connected to a PC.
Photo: Paul Wallich

Photos: Paul Wallich

WORK IN PROGRESS: The prototype mouse engraver uses a microcontroller and a laser lashed to a US $10 mouse [top] connected to a PC. Initial testing with a checkerboard image [above left] produced almost random marks, but reducing the load on the PC leads to improvement [above right].

Click on image for a larger view.

Previously, I’ve written about how to build a low-power laser engraver from the guts of a DVD burner [see “Laser Cuts Paper,” IEEE Spectrum, June]. My fully automated setup was similar in spirit to that of a commercial engraver, and while effective for small areas, this approach quickly becomes unwieldy if you want to burn larger areas. You need longer rails and leadscrews, bigger stepper motors, more structure, and more space. 

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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