Flavio Spedalieri - My Story

Flavio and Linda
A Journey begins...

Since my early childhood, I have had very strong passion and interests in electronics, science and technology. As a child I remember dismantling anything with electronics and building electronic kits and wondering how things work, well perhaps not uncommon for those with similar interests in the technical fields such as engineering.

1988 was the year of Australia's bicentenary, I recall many laser shows being projected onto various buildings around Darling Harbour. These laser shows sparked excitement with a wow factor that would rival all others... The thoughts running in my mind, "I want one of those at home".

Photonics - A Journey into the light

Some 30 years ago, in early 1990 ushers in a new field of interest, as I began to further my studies in photonics, specifically with LASERS. I began collecting and reading all available texts in the school library on lasers, and how they worked. I started to research materials, power supplies (exciters as per the texts), active mediums I contacted various companies to discuss materials and all the necessary components to build a laser. Much to my surprise, I was met with negative responses in that they are "dangerous", and that I was too young (rather not have the knowledge to be working with lasers)... This just drove my motivation even more.

With all the theoretical knowledge, the incentive became too strong to a point where I wanted to build a laser and apply my knowledge and build on practical experience.

I have to say that another trigger point was when my Aunt and Uncle had given me their old Marantz model CD-44 CD-Player (released on the Australian market late in 1984) as it developed faults. I can recall the excitement that came with obtaining my first laser to experiment with. At the time, CD Players were fairly new technology, and semiconductor lasers of the time were very expensive.

Removing the covers off the unit, I was very impressed by the build and the interesting design of the optical pick-up (the renowned Philips CDM1). This laser operated in the Infra-red spectrum with a wavelength of 780nm and therefore barely visible.

My First Helium-Neon visible laser
My First Helium-Neon Laser

I recall in October 1990 I had visited Dick Smith Electronics city store, and I had asked if they had any laser kits available. I was then referred to an article the Australian Electronic magazine, Silicon Chip in their new November 1990 issue, on building a Battery Powered Laser Pointer. This project was based on a small 1mW Helium-Neon laser. The supplier was a small electronics business to the south of Sydney, Oatley Electronics.

I recall reading over the article several times to fully understand every facet of the circuit's operation. The project presented a new scope of learning and experience with high-voltages and high-voltage power supplies.

I contacted Oatley Electronics and arranged a visit in early December to meet the owner, Branco Justic and shortly after placing an order.

It took around a week for the kit to arrive, I recall the anticipation during this time. Once the package arrived, I set about assembling the kit.

Helium-Neon Laser Tube and Power Supply

Construction of the high-voltage power supply was very straight-forward. The capacitors and diodes were of high-voltage ratings, and this provided an interesting experience building such a power supply. I then carefully connected the laser tube, and the moment came where I was ready to apply power...

Immediately, the laser tube fired, with the characteristic neon colour discharge, and projected a small brilliant dot of red coherent laser light onto the wall. This was the first time I had seen actual laser-light up close - I had my very own visible laser.

Laser Pointer Drawings

Early Sketches of the laser pointer design, and subsequently built during my high school years in 1992. This is also the design built and sold to my high school at the time, Marist College North Shore.

A laser pointer; - My knowledge and experience recognised
Completed Laser Pointer

In March / April of 1992, I had designed and built a small laser pointer which used a semiconductor laser diode. The design of the device featured an internal rechargeable battery and a touch switch to activate the laser. There were two modes of operation - pulsed and continuous. At the time, laser diodes were very expensive at around $200 for a 5mW 670nm bare laser diode, although they had been starting to drop in price as the technology developed.

I had taken the pointer to school to demonstrate in science class. The head of Science, Mr M. Withnall had shown great interest and was so impressed with the design that he asked if I was able to build one for the school, Marist College North Shore. Once completed, I had received $200 payment for the laser. My school had published an article in its newsletter; High Notes.

Marist College 1992 High Notes

Article written in the school's newsletter, "High Notes", 19th May, 1992

Final years of high school

During my final years in High School, I continued my studies in the field of optics and lasers. I continued to strengthen my fundamental understanding, knowledge and operation of different types of lasers.

Throughout the same period, I had also developed strong interests in the field of night vision technology. I have built several night vision systems including a 3-stage image intensified viewer. I have been collecting different types of night vision systems since.

Flavio with 3-Stage Nightviewer

For my school work experience programs, I had taken up positions in the field of electronics assembly in a PCB assembly business which later became a part-time holiday job, then in the service and repairs department at a computer firm, testing and repairing laser printers, power supplies and monitors.

On 1st April, 1993, I began working part time in retail at Dick Smith Electronics.

On 3rd May, 1993, I published an article in the Australian Electronics Magazine, Silicon Chip. The article detailed a project to build a low-cost mini gas laser. The project featured very small Helium-Neon laser tubes allowing for a design of a very small and compact laser.

Throughout 1993, Oatley Electronics began to stock some used Argon-Ion laser tubes, these being the NEC-GL3030 which were used in high-speed laser printers. An Argon Laser produces a higher-power output in the Blue-Green spectrum.

As exam time was looming, I had to put aside the projects, however I had already layed out plans once exams were over.

On 15th November, 1993, I had finally completed the HSC and with it, ending my 13 years of school life. The very next day, I ventured down to Oatley Electronics to purchase one of the Argon Lasers.

Professional Career, Experience and Accomplishments

In December 1993, I worked full time at Dick Smith Electronics in the position as a purchasing assistant. I continued to work for the company until end of July 1995.

In August 1995, I accepted a position at Harvey Norman Computer Superstore, building on experience in retail, customer service and computer technical support. During the same period, I was also supporting a small family firm, managing and supporting the Novell Netware server, and local area network. It was during the mid-90s where I began to cut my teeth and develop a career path in Information Technology and completing my Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) studies and exams.

In February 1996, I progressed my career in Information Technology, accepting a full-time position in a small computer store servicing PCs, and gaining experience with field support / on-site customer support.

In July, I was offered a technical support position at Gateway 2000 as a helpdesk technical support technician, building on experience with managing and supporting customers over the phone, covering all areas including hardware, software problems.

In 1997, I received a phone call if I was interested in a position with a large international IT vendor; (formally Madge Networks) who specialised in Token Ring Networks and Video Conferencing systems. My role was in the capacity of internal systems administration and local I.T. Manager. My position was made redundant in 1999 as the company was in financial difficulty.

In 1998, NightLase Technologies was officially registered as a business in Australia.

On 3rd July 2000, I accepted a position with the large IT outsource company, EDS Australia as a Field Services Engineer. Based at Sydney International Airport, my main responsibilities included supporting the Australian Customs Service Account, and managing the Customs infrastructure at Sydney International Airport, including the passenger processing systems, passport scanners and biometric systems.

My role also included desktop field support to the Australian Taxation Office and also the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. A requirement in working within the government departments, I required to have Security Clearance to a level of 'Highly Protected' for both The Australian Customs Service and The Australian Taxation Office.

In 2004, I returned to North Sydney TAFE to undertake new studies. completing a Diploma in Telecommunications Engineering in 2007.

In December 2008, my position was made redundant along with a 10% reduction in staff numbers within the field support cost center, and the overall reduction globally under the merger of HP and EDS.

Following the redundancy from EDS, this marked the start of a 2-year period out of a full-time salary, and a career change away from Information Technology, and further commencing independent support work to a local astronomy retail store through December 2008 and March 2009.

2009, I gained further qualifications, completing my ACMA Open registration (cabling license), and completing a certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

In July 2010, I was offered a position with Cutera (Australia) as a Field Service Engineer, servicing cosmetic and aesthetic lasers, commencing a career in the medical field.

In August 2012, I accepted a position with Heidelberg Engineering Australia as the Australian service manager working with Ophthalmic imaging instruments.

Creative Works
Flavio R. Spedalieri Photography
Yellow Geissler Tube
Steampunk Dimmer Lamp
Enigma Lamps Boilerplate

In 2006, photography became a serious creative outlet forging a portfolio of high-quality, professional photography which is available through my website at:
Flavio R. Spedalieri Photography.

In 2007, I joined Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP).

I also hold a strong interest in early scientific achievements and devices, including early designs of laser tubes and also the predecessor to the modern discharge tubes; The Geissler tube, invented in 1857 by the German physicist and glassblower, Heinrich Geissler.

In 2009, I was awarded a Silver-Distinction for my photographic work of a Geissler tube.

Continuing with the creative side of life, I began developing in the art of espresso coffee, latte art, and understanding of the technical aspects of espresso machines. Much of my finer understanding on espresso machines came with my role at Espresso Company Australia. My in depth and appreciation of coffee and coffee roasting developed over the past 10 years though my close friends, Dean and Rose Kiner, owners of Siboni's Coffee, Pymble

In September of 2016, I was looking to design a unique lamp featuring the warmth of the old filament, Edison style, antique light globes that have become available and synonymous with the industrial age of steam and electricity.

Further inspired by cafe lighting designs and pipe-lamps, I began to research available lighting designs, materials and electrical components that would fit within the design element of the old days of industry, steam and electricity. A genre that is a fusion of aesthetic design and science, inspired by the industrial revolution is "steampunk".

On 17th November 2016, my first creation was lit, with it launching a new website, Enigma Lamps to showcase unique bespoke lamp collection.

Community contributions and other interests

In March 2002, I had completed the design and construction of a professional laser graphics display projector. This projector featured a completely enclosed / sealed optical module that housed a pair of high-end Cambridge scanners, associated delivery optics, Audio-acoustic modulator (for beam blanking), and power supplies.

The design and construction took over 3 months of work to complete.

Over the course of 3 weeks, I had prepared and programmed a custom laser graphics display for the Forest Care's Forest Youth Expo, a local government and community initiative.

I was presented with a certificate of appreciation for support and contribution to the community project.

As I continued to develop my foundation in lasers, optics and electronics, I set about seeking out interested people over the world who also shared similar interests.

I have contributed heavily in providing help and support and guidance to many people around the world involved with lasers, electronics and other technologies.

I am constantly answering emails on the alt.lasers newsgroup, and also other people from across the world to support this field and respond to questions. I find it very rewarding in assisting and helping others who have same interests and achieve same goals.

A large number of my past contributions have been included on of the best laser resources, Sam's Laser FAQ.

On 29th March 1999, I founded "The Laser, Optics And Holography Ring" (Internet Archive, 10th December 2004). I had launched the WebRing to bring websites with related content together as a community, unfortunatly the webring now remains a historic legacy and no longer exists.

I also have a number of interests in subject areas including model engineering ( steam engines, Stirling Engines ), high-voltage studies such as Tesla Coils, high-voltage display apparatus and many other early electrical and electronic devices such as Nixie tubes, which are now finding a resurgence and being pressed into use as displays for clocks.

Present Day & Current Projects
Completed K6 Grinder Conversion

2020 was an interesting year, plagued by lockdowns due to the global pandemic and much of the year, I would say was turmoil and ended with Christmas and the new year written-off in lockdowns within our local government area.

However, a sliver lining to all the mess was the opportunity to work on various projects.

I completed a coffee grinder conversion on 25 June 2020, then in late August, I commenced working on a Tesla Coil, completing the project with a working coil on 25 November 2020.

30mm Tesla Coil with Large Toroid

HF Tesla Coil Flame Discharge

Immediately following the completion of the coil project, I embarked on the massive task of completely rewriting the Nightlase Website, not to mention undertaking work on my other two websites.

During this time, I also was working on a lamp project that was close to heart. For more details on these lamps, please head over to Enigma Lamps.

2021 was supposed to be a fresh year, however as I again write this (July/August 2021), we again are under strict lockdowns that seem ever endless.

February saw the completion of a High-Frequency Solid State Tesla Coil (HFSSTC) and shortly after, a long-desired project to build a Nitrogen Laser, which was successfully fired for the first time on 7th June 2021.

Nitrogen Laser Pumping of Coumarin 1 Dye

Yellow highlighter Dye illuminated with 365nm UV

With a successfully functioning Nitrogen Laser, I am now working with Dye Lasers and testing out various dyes including the successful lasing of yellow highlighter ink in distilled water.

Both the Nitrogen Laser and Dye Laser are now part of Sam's FAQs:

Nitrogen Laser: "Flavio Spedalieri's N2 Lasers".
Dye Laser: "Lasing of Yellow Highlighter Ink in Distilled Water".

Please checkout the projects section for more details on all my projects.

- Flavo Spedalieri -
Written: 9th November 2020
Updated: 30th October 2021

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