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New Real Life Laser-Rifle Cuts Through Metal Like a Blowtorch

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the like-a-hot-knife-through-butter dept.

Shark 143

dryriver writes "We've seen real laser guns before pulling off tricks like starting small fires, or popping black balloons. That's cool, sure, but it's got nothing—on this handheld laser rifle. Developed by TWI this laser-cutter was initially designed for use by robots, but a few recent tweaks including a pistol-grip and a trigger made it into a human-sized rifle. It is designed specifically with nuclear decommission in mind, specifically chopping up huge pieces of metal infrastructure into bite-sized bits that are easily disposed of. And while it's definitely suited for that, it has some short-comings compared typical rifles. That range is pretty low, for instance, and it's not exactly mobile."

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of course it isn't mobile (5, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | about 7 months ago | (#44986127)

WE don't have high energy portable power sources.

We really need to figure out an iron many style reactor to power the next generation of cool toys that we can dream but not really use.

Re:of course it isn't mobile (4, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 7 months ago | (#44986193)

WE don't have high energy portable power sources.

We really need to figure out an iron many style reactor to power the next generation of cool toys that we can dream but not really use.

Also, it should be able to operate in frickin' saltwater. In fact, the frickin' buoyancy might even help with the frickin' portability.

Re:of course it isn't mobile (4, Insightful)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 7 months ago | (#44986253)

Jarvis and the reactor were the two most under-rated bits of tech Tony put together.

The reactor would have ended war.

But Jarvis... a real AI? That's far beyond anything else we've ever built.

"End war"? (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about 7 months ago | (#44986653)

The reactor would have ended war.

Nonsense. People simply aren't that evolved. If we aren't fighting about energy we'll fight about something even more absurd like skin color or which imaginary invisible man in the sky we should all believe in.

Re:"End war"? (3, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 7 months ago | (#44986927)

Wanna start a real fight? Tell her that dress makes her butt look big. That will surely start WWIII.

Re:"End war"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987821)

Fortunately, we can just play the audio from the linked video demonstration of the laser cutter and put the whole enemy team into a deep coma.

Re:"End war"? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about 7 months ago | (#44988247)

I've found exactly the opposite. Tell her that it isn't the dress that is making her butt look big. That will start a fight. Telling a woman that her dress is ugly is like telling her that her dress is stuck in the back of her nylons. If you are not a jerk about it, she will appreciate it.

Re:"End war"? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 7 months ago | (#44987225)

Sue Richards is the Invisible Woman, not Man. Although her brother Johnny did have her powers for a while as a herald of Galactus.

Re:"End war"? (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 7 months ago | (#44987483)

I'd like to think you have that backwards: fighting over silly things like skin colour and sky fairies is just a cover for fighting over even sillier things like land, fresh water and oil.

Re:"End war"? (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about 7 months ago | (#44987585)

Humans have been fighting with each other since there were enough people to chose sides. Beating each other the head with clubs to win the bigger cave and prettier women. Today the fights are pretty much the same except for much better weapons.

Re:"End war"? (2)

LunaticTippy (872397) | about 7 months ago | (#44988299)

Humans have been faced with life threatening scarcity for all of history up to present day. I don't think anyone knows what will happen when literally everyone can trivially have plenty of food, clean water, and energy very cheaply. If and when it happens, there is no doubt that it will change many things.

Re:"End war"? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 7 months ago | (#44988591)

I'd like to think you have that backwards: fighting over silly things like skin colour and sky fairies is just a cover for fighting over even sillier things like land, fresh water and oil.

If energy is cheap and plentiful, things like clean water and fuel are a lot easier to make.
Arable land is also less of a problem when cheap energy can be used to make fertilizer.

Re:of course it isn't mobile (5, Funny)

Subm (79417) | about 7 months ago | (#44986259)

"You're going to need a bigger shark."

Re:of course it isn't mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986795)

We Need Bigger FUCKING GUNS!

Re:of course it isn't mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987969)

WE don't have high energy portable power sources.

We really need to figure out an iron many style reactor to power the next generation of cool toys that we can dream but not really use.

Also, it should be able to operate in frickin' saltwater. In fact, the frickin' buoyancy might even help with the frickin' portability.

I'm not worried about carrying around the device. I'm worried about carrying around the 1" solid steel plate this device is using as shielding (so you don't cut what is unintended.

Re: of course it isn't mobile (4, Informative)

pollarda (632730) | about 7 months ago | (#44986251)

This isn't very impressive. If it isn't mobile, then it is like any other cutting solution. Of course, if you want to see something really impressive for cutting metals, Petrogen [petrogen.com] is the way to go. It is an oxy-gasoline cutting torch and can cut up to 14 inches of steel at once. Be sure to check out their videos. Super impressive.

Re: of course it isn't mobile (3, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | about 7 months ago | (#44986329)

This isn't very impressive.

What I find more impressive is that they somehow made a laser rifle. I wonder what does it do: shoot a helical beam like those in some games?

Re: of course it isn't mobile (2)

Ferzerp (83619) | about 7 months ago | (#44986397)

It emits a circularly polarized beam of light of course!

Re: of course it isn't mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986759)

I didn't see any light... this must be either an IR or UV laser.
Next question would be: is the laser housed in the "rifle" ?

Re: of course it isn't mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987839)

The interesting thing with laser beams. Unless they are aimed at your eye you don't actually see the beam regardless of color.

Any matter that could reflect the light is vaporized very quickly.

Re: of course it isn't mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44989131)

Unless you are in a particularly clean room, you start seeing scattering of intense beams off of air and any particular matter, regardless of how fast they vaporize. If anything, dust makes IR beams more visible when you start seeing streaks through the beam in a dirty environment. Even in a clean environment, you would see quite a bit of light off of any reflective or transmissive optics. The diffuse light coming off where the beam hits lenses and mirrors is usually bright enough in even mildly intense beams to be used to get a beam profile with a camera.

Re: of course it isn't mobile (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about 7 months ago | (#44989395)

Petrogen, impressive indeed. If I heard it correctly, cuts 10" for 10hrs. on two gallons of fuel. Multi-fuel, at that.

Re:of course it isn't mobile (3, Interesting)

godrik (1287354) | about 7 months ago | (#44987447)

Actually, how much power does it need to operate? There must be some energy cost per time unit. But I could not figure it out.

Re:of course it isn't mobile (1)

fa2k (881632) | about 7 months ago | (#44987525)

Maybe now that there's a demonstrable military use we will finally see some breakthroughs in the energy storage business. [don't really think it's that bad, but it had to be said]

Re:of course it isn't mobile (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#44989037)

what do you call "high energy"? we have 3.5 kW generators that weigh less than 50 lbs. Imagine charging cycle of twenty seconds followed by firing for one second....

handheld rifle (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986169)

...but truck-sized power supply. Just in case the Space Patrol thinks this is Star Trek. Plus, the atmosphere is a great shield; a 1$ bullet has more lethal range...

Re:handheld rifle (4, Insightful)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 7 months ago | (#44986241)

Yep, this article should have been titled "New Real Life Laser-Cutter Cuts Through Metal Like a Laser-Cutter"

Pulse Rifle (4, Funny)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | about 7 months ago | (#44986179)

"Phased-plasma pulse rifle in 40-watt range".

If only...

Re:Pulse Rifle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987631)

Carry a laser down this road that I must travel.

Re:Pulse Rifle (1)

torsmo (1301691) | about 7 months ago | (#44989913)

At the end of that cool video, just for an instant, I thought it listed Paris Hilton as the person to contact for inquiries. Turned out, it was a Paul Hilton. Would've been fun, wouldn't it?

Safety at Work (5, Insightful)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | about 7 months ago | (#44986181)

"designed specifically with nuclear decommission in mind, specifically chopping up huge pieces of metal infrastructure into bite-sized bits", which it vaporizes and then throws all over the operator (photo in TFA).

Note to self: do not apply for that kind of work, no matter what the rate.

Re:Safety at Work (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 7 months ago | (#44986271)

I'm a trifle surprised that they'd be using some fancy laser apparatus in this situation:

There are aspects of nuclear decommissioning (if memory serves, some lucky sucker got to deal with the 'eh, we don't know what this is, so we'll just weld it into barrels and leave it for the future' supply stored at Hanford, much of which was virulently radioactive, some, which one is always a surprise, also chemically unpleasant and/or explosive) where you can't get away with the heat, open flames, and vaporized-bits-getting everywhere that you see with lasers, various cutting torches, or high powered saws. For that sort of thing, you have somewhat exotic toys like liquid nitrogen cutting jets. If you are allowed to expose the sample to ridiculous temperatures and open flames, though, why expensive lasers rather than boring (and mature and relatively cheap) cutting torches or thermic lances?

Re:Safety at Work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986429)

What is wrong with cutting stuff the way people handle cutting easily work-hardened materials? That generally means submersing it in water and using very normal, cheap, boring tools like angle grinders and sawsalls.

Not everything demands six digit priced tools and years of research to get done.

Re:Safety at Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987463)

That generally means submersing it in water

What do you do with the now-radioactive water?

Re:Safety at Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987559)

Filter and/or dispose of it, with more ease than the air if using tools like this that spray crap everywhere.

Re:Safety at Work (1)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 7 months ago | (#44986535)

If you are allowed to expose the sample to ridiculous temperatures and open flames, though, why expensive lasers rather than boring (and mature and relatively cheap) cutting torches or thermic lances?

Because they're freakin' laser beams! It's awesome!

Re:Safety at Work (1)

WheezyJoe (1168567) | about 7 months ago | (#44989277)

If you are allowed to expose the sample to ridiculous temperatures and open flames, though, why expensive lasers rather than boring (and mature and relatively cheap) cutting torches or thermic lances?

Because they're freakin' laser beams! It's awesome!

THIS.

and maybe because there's something problematic about delivering and burning an oxidant and fuel in the intended environment.
but mostly, it's just awesome. freakin' laser beams, hand-held, and with a squeeze trigger. I'd stand in line to try that sucker out.

Re:Safety at Work (2)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 7 months ago | (#44986591)

If you are allowed to expose the sample to ridiculous temperatures and open flames, though, why expensive lasers rather than boring (and mature and relatively cheap) cutting torches or thermic lances?

Possibly because focused light energy can't become radioactive with prolonged contact with radioactive substances, whereas everything else you mentioned... does. Everything you use to handle nuclear waste materials with, itself eventually becomes nuclear waste material. I'm sure slashdot of all places will recognize a recursion problem when it sees one. Even putting a few feet between the torch and the material extends its service life before it has to be thrown in with the other waste... root square law and all that.

Re:Safety at Work (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986625)

Neither does a flame... Why are your posts always so wrong? Eagerly wrong too.

Re:Safety at Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987273)

What will really get your gears turning is the frequency of which girlintraining (1395911) gets modded +5 in controversial topics with unverifiable or outright wrong information, only to be modded down to oblivion within a day or two.

Re:Safety at Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986779)

Even putting a few feet between the torch and the material extends its service life before it has to be thrown in with the other waste... root square law and all that.

Although this will end up operating similar to a torch, or even possibly with slightly less operating variability. The particular kind of laser cutting (as referenced in the video) requires compressed air, and a lot of laser cutting equipment usually has a narrow range of distances over which the focus of the beam is useful for cutting. The advantages and disadvantages of a setup like this comes down to what has easier logistics: dragging around gas tubing, a fiber bundle, or a gas tank.

Re:Safety at Work (3, Informative)

flimflammer (956759) | about 7 months ago | (#44987011)

The robotic version was made for nuclear decommission. There is no operator in the vicinity in that situation. The video here is just demonstrating the same laser beam technology with a mounted pistol grip for manual use.

Re:Safety at Work (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 7 months ago | (#44988673)

I guess the question is in terms of "thowing whatever it is that is being cut up arround" is this better or worse than more traditional soloutions like cutting discs, thermal lances, plasma cutters and so-on.

I don't need metal-cutting (2)

overshoot (39700) | about 7 months ago | (#44986197)

I do need (semi) portability, as long as it's good for line-of-sight use on pigeons.

Re:I don't need metal-cutting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986227)

use high power ultraviolet light

more torch then rifle (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986201)

I find it hard to call this a "laser rifle." Aside fromt he fact that rifles are rifles because of the rifling in the barrel (grooves which cause the bullet to spin), Rifles have a medium to long range. This appears to have only a slightly greater effective range then my Oxy-Fuel torch (which is to say, less then a foot).

Re:more torch then rifle (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 7 months ago | (#44986289)

Indeed, my friends and I have wondered what the term for rifle-sized lasers will be, since they don't actually have any rifling.

Probably rifle, the same way we still use a 3.5" disk for the save icon and the rotary handset icon for "make a call".

Re:more torch then rifle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987901)

Further, by the time we refine the technology such that the energy projected has a useful range, it probably won't qualify as a laser anymore (it will be something laser-like but other than "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation").

So, it will be neither laser nor rifle. And, in all likelihood, we will call it a "laser rifle." Humans are weird like that.

Re:more torch then rifle (1)

Chrontius (654879) | about 7 months ago | (#44987939)

I suggest "carbine" - most rifles tend to be rather longer than this system's beam director.

Re:more torch then rifle (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | about 7 months ago | (#44986613)

I find it hard to call this a "laser rifle." Aside fromt he fact that rifles are rifles because of the rifling in the barrel (grooves which cause the bullet to spin), Rifles have a medium to long range. This appears to have only a slightly greater effective range then my Oxy-Fuel torch (which is to say, less then a foot).

It looks like it'd be simple to move the lens and refocus the beam further away. Then the blower to get the debris out of the way wouldn't work though. And it'd probably also be really hard to keep the thing on target. I can't even hold a little laser pointer without looking like a spaz.

Re:more torch then rifle (1)

leuk_he (194174) | about 7 months ago | (#44987445)

Wouldn't cause reflection on a real parralel laser (without some focus point) cause bit problem...

Some reflection.... oops there goo all the camera's on the site...

Some reflection ... I hope you were not to attached to that arm of yours...

Re:more torch then rifle (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44988861)

A lot of systems use a focusing beam shape in part so that the highest intensity part of the beam is not limited by what the optics can do. Even high quality optics will easily get damaged by a laser beam that is a little too small or focused (or in real life scenarios, slightly uneven with a hot spot), so you use a large beam until you actually want it to cut something. Even then, depending on the optics you use, there is a limit to how far it will stay parallel-ish (if you had a ~1 mm beam, you would start having trouble keeping a ~1 micron Nd:YAG beam parallel for more than a meter).

Re:more torch then rifle (1)

Flere Imsaho (786612) | about 7 months ago | (#44987787)

They'd be pretty stupid to have a columnated beam that went cuts anywhere along it's length, with only attenuation being the limiting factor. I suspect it's deliberately designed with a short focal length so that it's easy to keep objects at the focus of the beam, and to make it more efficient / less dangerous.

Gotta love how pedantic comments like yours get modded up on /.

Re:more torch then rifle (1)

jon3k (691256) | about 7 months ago | (#44988325)

If it cuts metal in seconds at one foot, I wonder what it does at 100 feet to a person? The real problem is the power supply, of course.

Finally! (2)

Arkiel (741871) | about 7 months ago | (#44986265)

A solution to deal with all those Sectoids infesting rural plots in middle America!

Re:Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986421)

Sectoids? Nah! You can just shoot those with regular rifles.
You need the lasers when the Snake Men show up!

And what is the advantage over a plasma cutter? (4, Insightful)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 7 months ago | (#44986407)

The only one I can see is that it works from a couple inches away, and doesn't need an electrical ground return connection to the workpiece.

Other than that, a plasma cutter is cheaper, less hazardous, and can cut thicker materials.

Re:And what is the advantage over a plasma cutter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986873)

Technology only gets better. Don't boo-hoo it just because it isn't good enough -yet-.

Re:And what is the advantage over a plasma cutter? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987539)

The "not needing an electrical ground return" thing is huge. Transients may turn on stuff that you really don't want to be turned on.

Re:And what is the advantage over a plasma cutter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987569)

If this thing could cut concrete with minimal dust, vibrations and sound, the apartment owners with ongoing bathroom renovations would be pleased all over the world.

Clicked on the link fully prepared to be disappoin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986409)

and I was. As an expert on laser ablation, I knew full well that it is highly unlikely that a laser system capable of ablating metal (which is still much much much easier than ablating quartz) could be made in the size of a rifle. But I clicked anyway, and what did I see? An optical cable attached to a hand-held lensing system.

Meh...

Yes, but can it cut a tomato? (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 7 months ago | (#44986677)

Introducing the new Ginsu 3000W, it can slice a watermelon AND cut a tomato with grace and ease!*

*not dishwasher safe

So what happens if the metal is polished? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986683)

You know, with a mirror like finish?

Re:So what happens if the metal is polished? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44986881)

It takes you a fraction of a second longer to cut through it then. Mirror like finishes help if something was marginal, but even high quality mirrors meant for high power laser development will nearly instantly darken and become non-reflective if you focus the laser enough on them.

Fascinating... (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | about 7 months ago | (#44986699)

Looks like it uses a gas stream as a laser waveguide... Perhaps a noble gas, like Argon. That would account why there appears to be a force upon the melted debris.

Re:Fascinating... (2)

Kiraxa (1840002) | about 7 months ago | (#44986839)

Looks like it uses a gas stream as a laser waveguide... Perhaps a noble gas, like Argon. That would account why there appears to be a force upon the melted debris.

if you listen to the narrator he says exactly what the "gas stream" is. Air. Its just blowing air out to move the slag out of the way.

Re:Fascinating... (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | about 7 months ago | (#44986857)

Ahh... While I am doing programming, I watch videos on mute because it will disrupt the music.

Re:Fascinating... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987057)

On a related note, while I am shaving my balls I try to hold the sack taut so I don't lacerate my scrotum.

Re:Fascinating... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44988069)

'Lacerated Scrotum' is almost as good a band name as 'The Episiotomy Scars'.

That's an interesting definition of "rifle". (4, Informative)

mpoulton (689851) | about 7 months ago | (#44987191)

Apparently I already have a plasma rifle in my garage! It shoots plasma and cuts metal with it - and just like this laser rifle, it requires compressed air and a remote power supply connected by an umbilical. I also have a MOLTEN METAL WELDING RIFLE! Similarly, it requires a power supply and umbilical assembly. Strangely, none of my actual rifles need cables or power supplies attached to them in order to operate.

Re:That's an interesting definition of "rifle". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44988581)

I actually have a pistol version of this.

Now its probably not as powerful, but it mostly requires a tank of flammable gas for fuel. And the range is only about an 1"

Re:That's an interesting definition of "rifle". (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44988709)

Gunpowder is a power supply. That is, in essence, a chemical battery.

Already have 'em? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44987351)

My high school drafting teacher (waay back in the 1980s) told us about operating a prototype backpack-mounted laser weapon that could easily cut through solid metal doors, when he was in the Army. I always just assumed he was a little eccentric. But he also told us about participating in the mock invasion and takeover of an entire civilian town somewhere down south, and that turned out to be real. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvKc-d4hUek. So who knows.

Hand aimed (2)

giorgist (1208992) | about 7 months ago | (#44987709)

Hand aimed would be more accurate. The harness is bit of a giveaway. I wonder what that piping attaches to. Nice toy though

Why not use an atomic hydrogen torch? (1)

ka9dgx (72702) | about 7 months ago | (#44988533)

Atomic hydrogen torches have been around since the 1940s... here's a GE training film about them [youtube.com]. They produce insane amounts of heat and a reducing atmosphere, perfect for cutting almost anything.

Fukushima (1)

sonamchauhan (587356) | about 7 months ago | (#44988679)

Send in Giant Robot armed with this to neutralize the place

Seriously, about time the stuff there was made sub critical. We can't keep cooling it forever.

Crablogger! (1)

Traf-O-Data-Hater (858971) | about 7 months ago | (#44989009)

Reality catches up to science fiction... the Thunderbirds episode 'PATH OF DESTRUCTION' had International Rescue using handheld laser cutters to cut into the cabin of the mighty Crablogger. That was back in 1965.

Why do the sparks go in one direction? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 7 months ago | (#44990031)

This may be a naive question, but why do the sparks blow off away from the gun? Is there also a stream of air from the gun specifically to do this? Or is it just how the physics works when the laser hits the metal?
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