Well, it's now December and a lot of people are getting excited about a special day that's coming up … that's right, we're talking about Dec. 17th, the opening day of Star Wars - The Force Awakens. In honor of the event, German laser-tinkerer Patrick Priebe has created a "working" model of the original Death Star. It may not be able to destroy planets, but it can certainly melt metal.
Priebe started with an inflatable rubber beach ball, which he coated in successive layers of fiberglass. Once that outer shell had cured, he cut a hole in it and inserted a cluster of LEDs. When powered up, these cause the sphere to glow from within.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
He then glued a series of aluminum panels to the outside, which he painted grey. The illuminated gaps between those panels simulate the trenches on the surface of the "actual" Death Star.
The hole in the sphere is taken up by the circular reflector from a halogen floor lamp, around the edge of which are mounted 14 6-watt lasers. By tweaking four adjusting screws on each laser, Priebe was able to get their beams to converge at one point in front of the sphere. The result is an 84-watt hot spot that cuts through carbon steel in just a few seconds.
So no, unlike the Death Star from the movies, the individual beams don't all converge to form one big beam – if Darth Vader were using this thing and wanted to hit multiple targets without placing each one at the hot spot, he would have to continually readjust the angle of the lasers in order to get them to meet at the desired point in space. The one-big-beam effect can be simulated, however, by placing a clear plexiglass rod at the point where the 14 beams converge.
Priebe tells us that he spent around US$3,000 on the lasers, with an additional $1,500 going into creating the sphere. He adds that the finished product incorporates 25 m (82 ft) of electrical wiring, 110 screws, 80 m (262 ft) of glass fiber, one gallon (3.8 l) of paint, and three square meters (32 sq ft) of aluminum sheeting.
That said, it still sounds cheaper and easier than building a real Death Star.
The first video below provides more details on the production process, while the second shows the thing burnin' stuff.
Source: Laser Gadgets by Patrick Priebe