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Tricorder Project Releases Prototype Open Source 3D Printable Spectrometer

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the scan-me dept.

Technology 41

upontheturtlesback writes "As part of developing the next open source science tricorder model, Dr. Peter Jansen of the Tricorder project has released the source to an inexpensive 3D printable visible spectrometer prototype intended for the next science tricorder, but also suitable for Arduino or other embedded electronics projects for science education. With access to a Makerbot-class 3D printer, the spectrometer can be build for about $20 in materials. The source files including hardware schematics, board layouts, Arduino/Processing sketches and example data are available on Thingiverse, and potential contributors are encouraged to help improve the spectrometer design."

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41 comments

Cue (2)

rossdee (243626) | about 7 months ago | (#44802775)

A lawsuit from Paramount in 3 .. 2 .. 1 ..

Re:Cue (3, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 months ago | (#44802873)

A lawsuit from Paramount in 3 .. 2 .. 1 ..

It would be interesting to empress the engrams of the average trekkie upon a computer, the resulting torrent of illogic would be most entertaining.

Re:Cue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44803021)

CBS and this "tricorder" doesn't use LCARS anyway.

Re:Cue (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 7 months ago | (#44803085)

No, it's cue the hundreds of Kickstarter projects that will build you the thing.

Putting designs on the 'net is nice, but people want the stuff itself, and short of putting a kit together, some entrepreneurial type would use kickstarter to do it. Offer it as parts, a kit, a fully assembled unit, add a few bucks for your time effort and profit, and done.

Though, it doesn't always work out - like that half-price made-in-China Makerbot Replicator project (perfectly legal - all the designs were open, though you can tell Makerbot was pissed because the Replicator 2 is no longer as "open").

Re:Cue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44804307)

Yeah, 20 years ago there were tons of projects in the electronics magazines along the same lines. The gas sensor, the cattle prod, the function generator. Remember all the people ordering part kits and building those things? No? Because it never appealed to more than a tiny section of the population, and that won't change now.

Re:Cue (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#44804501)

nonsense, there were and are over a million electronics hobbyists in the world (trivial to prove). I started when I was ten; and couple decades later managed CADD/CAE electrical engineering group.

Re:Cue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44804567)

So, 0.016% of the world's population.

Re:Cue (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#44815523)

so what? what percent of the population writes software? less than that so websites for software writers (languages, tools) should be banned?

Re:Cue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44805009)

I always thought you were not the brightest, but you've just gone to "black body" dim.

Re:Cue (5, Informative)

usmc4o66 (1605139) | about 7 months ago | (#44803223)

Gene Roddenberry saw this coming, and made sure the name was usable without a trademark issue. http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Tricorder [memory-alpha.org] "...due to a clause in Gene Roddenberry's contracts with Desilu/Paramount dating back to the time of The Original Series. The clause specified that if any company could find a way to make one of the fictional devices actually work, then they would have the right to use the name."

Re:Cue (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#44805811)

Why is that even necessary?
Otherwise, making a movie containing a 1000 names could grant you a 1000 trademarks, almost for free.
Doesn't sound like reasonable to me.

Re:Cue (1)

jeremyp (130771) | about 7 months ago | (#44805995)

Last time I looked at an episode of Star Trek, the tricorder could tell the operator anything about the thing being scanned that the plot required. I seriously doubt that the real life version can do any such thing.

Re:Cue (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 7 months ago | (#44809625)

the tricorder could tell the operator anything about the thing being scanned that the plot required

Not to mention the incredible engineering-fu that produced a blackbox to save the Universe -- as described in exacting detail in "Redshirts" (Scalzi)

Thingiverse? what a misnomer! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44802837)

Not a single thing on the site!
And by thing I mean somewhat anthropomorphic polyethylene male fallus.

I guess I'll have to stick to the tried-and-true canonical greased up Yoda doll.

Is there anyone here? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 7 months ago | (#44803065)

This thread has a lot of nerdy topics: 3D printing, Star Trek references, arduino, electronics, open source, real-world science.

My question is: where the hell are the comments?

Re:Is there anyone here? (3, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 months ago | (#44803137)

This thread has a lot of nerdy topics: 3D printing, Star Trek references, arduino, electronics, open source, real-world science.

My question is: where the hell are the comments?

Too many readers are writhing in ecstasy. As soon as they recover they will be with us.

Re:Is there anyone here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44803237)

They're reading the article for once.

What's this for? (3, Interesting)

mcelrath (8027) | about 7 months ago | (#44803117)

Not to be a stick in the mud...but how is this better than the more commonly available CMOS cameras on all our cell phones? It doesn't seem to have the resolution to identify spectral transition lines (and thereby identify chemical compounds). Could you combine it with a laser or two to identify specific compounds? Since air is transparent in 400nm-700nm, it can't tell you the atmosphere is breathable...unless you ionized it first and made it glow.

What would you use this for?

Re:What's this for? (1)

Quelain (256623) | about 7 months ago | (#44803251)

It uses a diffraction grating to split visible light into a spectrum which can then be measured by the camera sensor. Yes, you do have to set fire to your sample. :p

Re:What's this for? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#44804513)

or heat it to incandescence. did a slashdotter really need to have a spectrometer explained? They've only been around in various forms for 200 years.

Re:What's this for? (1)

Ferrofluid (2979761) | about 7 months ago | (#44804663)

Mcelrath wasn't asking what a spectrometer was. His point was that this particular spectrometer doesn't have the resolution required to do anything interesting, like identify chemical compounds.

So again. . . what is it useful for?

Re:What's this for? (4, Informative)

upontheturtlesback (2605689) | about 7 months ago | (#44805021)

I realize that not everyone is familiar with spectroscopy, so I'll try and help outline the contributions that this project makes -- which are centrally in terms of size and cost.

Useful chemical classification can occur with an instrument containing as few as one spectral channel (ie. a narrow band filter). Colorimeters use three spectral channels, like a conventional camera, for determining the concentration of analytes. The similarity in the spectral features between the compounds you're analyzing for a given application determines the spectral resolution one needs to meet that performance. In some cases you may need 10, 100, or 1000 spectral channels, and in other applications, many more.

The architecture used for many contemporary slit spectrometers was invented by Fraunhofer in the early 19th century using a diffraction grating, a slit, and some relay optics. There are different architectures that allow you to improve upon this design (like coded aperture spectroscopy, to increase the SNR), or access different spectral regions (such as interferometer based designs for different wavelengths, like FTIR for infrared spectroscopy), but unless you're getting really fancy for visible spectroscopy, the Fraunhofer architecture is the familiar 200-year old architecture that many folks build in a highschool science class, and these work rather well for a variety of applications. This spectrometer also uses (more or less) this architecture.

Spectrometers are generally big, and many are bench-sized instruments. Currently, an inexpensive visible range (350-1000nm) usb lab spectrometer with around 500 spectral channels is around $2k, and about the size of a bunch of iPhone's stacked ontop of each other -- so it's not at all suitable for being embedded in a tiny handheld device (like an open source science tricorder). Of the commercial mini-spectrometers I'm aware of, this open mini spectrometer has a similar number of detector pixels, a similar spectral range, and a similar size. The current spectrograph on the open mini spectrometer appears to have a FWHM that's about two times worse than these systems, and it's SNR is certainly lower, but it also costs an order of magnitude less. It's also completely open, and you're free to improve the spectrograph design to increase the performance, or potentially use signal processing techniques to increase it's effective resolution.

It's not easy to compare this to something like an iPhone with a spectrometer attachment, because it's intended to be an inexpensive but complete spectrometer module rather than a complete spectrometer with a display, so the audience is different and it aims to enable makers and young scientists to build instruments and incorporate these devices in places they otherwise wouldn't be able to. But if you want to do the comparison, I'm not sure what the FWHM and effective spectral resolution would be for an iPhone with a spectrograph attachment (it depends on the spectrograph you're using, of course), but just the phone without a huge spectrograph hanging off of it is about 10 times larger than this, and for the same price you could probably put 50 of these together.

Re:What's this for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44805141)

Any thoughts if this unit will be useful for detecting alcohol content and acetic acid content of booze?

Re:What's this for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44805117)

Measuring alcohol content is my favorite use of a spectrometer. Hope this one can do that.

Re:What's this for? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#44815491)

nonsense, get yourself a prism, set it near flame on stove in the dark, and photograph with digital camera the patterns made on countertop made by shooting things into the flame of your stove (table salt, baking soda, sugar, talc). did this with bunson burner as kid in school, noting bright parts on graduated arc same as 200 years ago.

Re:What's this for? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#44815505)

for teaching.

and your assertion not useful for identifying is wrong, as 200 years ago the bright areas in light spread by a prism were marked on graduated arc for identifcation of compounds. no reason a normal digital camera with time exposure couldn't be used to replicate the effect with permanent record.

Painfully stupid (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44803265)

So you need extra parts and the active component is made the Luddite way in a gloopy factory, but the 3D printing is what attracts the hype? You nerds have lost the plot, as they say.

For a second, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44803421)

I thought it is now possible to print electronics for 20 bucks. I guess we're still waiting.

Sorry for AC, but I lost my password years ago.

Re:For a second, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44804221)

Well, you can count on someone "3D printing" some sort of sad substrate with a barely conductive path on it which is used to light a small LED. The LED and the battery are not 3D printed, but nerds will now think we're weeks away from 3D printing complete cell phones with the box and everything.

Sensors + usb (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 7 months ago | (#44803673)

Then plug into your phone, which has a LOT more processing power, more rugged...etc etc.

Why keep reinventing what we already have? It only delays really cool things.

Hope it's compatible w/existing open spectrometers (4, Informative)

jywarren (2718221) | about 7 months ago | (#44803923)

There've been open source spectrometers for smartphones and webcams on Thingiverse and PublicLab.org for a few years: http://thingiverse.com/thing:49934 [thingiverse.com], http://thingiverse.com/thing:125428 [thingiverse.com]

http://publiclab.org/wiki/spectrometer [publiclab.org]

And a papercraft spectrometer for $10: http://publiclab.org/wiki/foldable-spec [publiclab.org]

The new project looks great -- I just hope the new project intends compatibility with the growing open/crowdsourced spectral library at http://spectralworkbench.org/ [spectralworkbench.org] -- because the more data in there, the easier matching becomes.

Welcome to the open spectrometry movement!

Printed case != printable device. (2)

BitZtream (692029) | about 7 months ago | (#44804765)

Its not even close. You can't print the electronics or sensors with any printer that matters to us normal people. If you own a 3d printer high enough quality to even approach the basic circuit boards, you probably have FAR better ways to produce the circuit boards and are smart enough to know its cheaper to buy the sensors than try to print it.

This is rather stupid, a clip on sensor and phone app makes FAR more sense. The phone is already full of sensors. Accelerometers, Gyros, light sensors, relatively decent resolution cameras, maybe remove the ir filter from one of the cams on devices that have 2 and you're already well beyond this thing.

For fucks sake, it needs some electronics to go with it, all of which will cost you more than $20 themselves.

Shitty slashvertisements suck ass. At least vet them enough to make it not boned headed ideas by someone who doesn't know what they are doing or enough about the field to use cheaper readily available components.

Re:Printed case != printable device. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44805019)

I think we will hit "3D fatigue" soon enough, but in the meantime us normal folk will have to suffer through the delusions of nutters who think "3D printing" is magical.

Re:Printed case != printable device. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44806769)

It is, but only for one thing as far as I can see –printing lego. That's the only thing I can think of that you need enough volume of that it stands a chance of saving your money.

This is so useful and cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44804783)

I have a new product in design that needs an imbedded low cost spectrometer. This is it. Thank you!

Not free (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44805411)

MPLAB IDE is proprietary
Cadsoft Eagle is proprietary
TAPR non-commercial license is proprietary (and deprecated)
There are required external libraries with no mention of their licenses...

Too bad!

dream | make | share | give (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44805985)

http://www.tricorderproject.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/DSC_0658-720.jpg

Opposed to..

dream | make | sell | PROFIT !!!

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