Funded! This project was successfully funded on October 5, 2012.

Update #21

Injection molding production run begins, new foldable spectrometer packaging


Hi, everyone - a followup on the injection molding process today: Louis from ProtoEdge sent us samples in 3 different plastics; Polypropylene, ABS, and nylon. We got the final sample on Tuesday (the nylon one, which took a few days longer) and after thoroughly testing the samples, have decided upon ABS as a final material. The molding production run will start this week, and Louis has told us that we can expect the parts to ship to us by the end of next (the 6th) if all goes according to plan.

The rest of the kit has been coming together at Mathew's workplace in Portland, including boxes, etc. We're making final decisions on grating resolution, assembly instructions, and packaging, and should be ready to begin final packing and shipping after the molded parts arrive. That should ideally take only a week before our first kits are in the mail.

Thanks again for your patience, but the end seems to be in sight! The samples seem great and we're eager to finally be putting these in boxes and shipping them out.

New packaging design for foldable spectrometers

Another update -- we've re-launched the foldable spectrometers as well, recently, with a slight upgrade to the packaging which we think looks great. You'll be seeing these for sale on Edmund Scientifics, too, which is great news, and potentially soon at the Exploratorium in San Franscisco. But the best way to support the Public Lab nonprofit is to shop in our online store:

Update #20

Smartphone spectrometer injection molding has begun

Hello everyone -- I sent a message last week to backers of the "backpack" model, which we've started calling the "smartphone spectrometer", promising updates soon and apologizing for our slow progress on our first injection molded project.

This week, I want to announce that we've made our initial deposit on a run of 1,000 3-part molded plastic parts with ProtoEdge, a Minnesota-based provider of fast injection molding manufacturing. They've promised a turnound time of 3-4 weeks and have confirmed that our files are moldale as-is, with no additional modifications needed. That had been the sticking point with previous companies, such as ProtoMold and QuickParts, which had been sending files back to us repeatedly for months, to Mathew Lippincott's unending frustration (Mathew is in charge of the smartphone spectrometer part of the project). In any case, as a result of all the changes we made, the files seem ready and production is moving forward as we speak. 

We're reluctant to interrupt the folks at ProtoEdge for any reason at all, so we won't be asking them for in-progress photos, but we will provide ongoing updates as things evolve.

Another point -- Mathew's uploaded his models to, where you can download, modify, and remix them. However, Brad Dudenhoffer's original design is better suited for 3d printing (as opposed to injection molding), and can be found here. We hope that these open source design files will make it easier for people to make adaptors, such as for DSLR cameras or telescope mounts. 

Thanks again for your patience, everyone, and we're very pleased to finally be making progress on this last major milestone.

Update #19

Resolving Molding issues with Mobile Spectrometers


It has been a rocky month trying to get the mobile spectrometers ready for molding. We thought a few tweaks to our existing models were going to do it, and they got us 90% of the way, but the last few changes required re-building the CAD geometry from scratch.  That process is mostly finished, and we are hoping that all the mold ejection problems will be resolved and approved by the factory in the next few days.

Mathew Lippincott

PS: Very little has changed functionally about the design, but the bottom plate attachment has been completely redesigned.  A few 3D test prints below (the final will still be black, don't worry!)

Update #18

#SpectralChallenge prize for open spectrometry, new store, and more!


Hi! Liz from Public Lab here today... first off, updates on the last few rewards: 

  • All domestic and Canadian countertop orders have been shipped! International orders are awaiting 240v compatible parts and final assembly.
  • The smartphone “Mobile Spectrometers” are about to enter production, just waiting on the final prototype to be printed and last-minute checked.

Announcing #SpectralChallenge

Looking for something to do with your spectrometer? Spectral Challenge is an X-Prize-style call to makers, hackers, and Do-It-Yourselfers worldwide to tackle real-world environmental problems with low-cost, open source spectrometry. We are hosting a crowd-funded prize for community researchers who want to make DIY spectroscopy better, starting with a Stage 1 prize for improving open spectrometric methodology, and a Stage 2 prize for identifying a pollutant in your neighborhood. Entries are now open, and teams are starting to form -- check it out at

Announcing the Public Lab Store

Missed out on the first round, or want more? Our store -- carrying the now $40 DIY Spectrometry Kit and the Foldable Mini-Spectrometer -- is now taking orders: check it out at and follow the link to see all things spectroscopy!

Spectral Workbench API

The Spectral Workbench API is getting a boost with a new system for sharing macros -- As always, anyone who can code JavaScript and/or Ruby on Rails is welcome to join in the coding, it's all open source.

Finally, your fellow spectral enthusiasts are talking and doing up a storm on the Public Lab spectroscopy group. There’s a thread about making a bulk purchase of sampling containers -- like petri dishes, polystyrene cuvettes and caps, optical grade sample bottles, evidence bags, and similar items -- so weigh in if you’d like some or know a good supplier with bulk pricing.

Happy analyzing! See you online at the Public Lab spectroscopy group.

  • Image-228868-full

Update #17

Quick update about last few rewards


Hello all -- quick update on the last few rewards. We didn't quite make the February ship date we expected, but completed Countertop models are now piling up around our workspace, and we're waiting for the last few bits -- sample containers, label stickers, and so forth. They are being calibrated and packed, so we should be shipping out the first batch by the end of this week if all goes well. Sorry for the delay and we hope that'll put us at only one week past the estimated ship date!

International countertop orders will take a little longer, since we are trying to source 220V light bulbs and figure out how to get plugs for any given country. What we may do is ship them with a fairly universal plug like the type that's on the back of most computers, and ask you to bring your own local plug (perhaps we can ship a European standard plug in each box in case you have an adaptor for that pretty common plug). If you have strong opinions about it, or suggestions, please leave a comment here!

We have pretty much finalized the Mobile Spectrometer, and Brad Dudenhoffer has posted a great update:

We were struggling for a bit to figure out how to provide a way to temporarily attach the Mobile Spectrometer to your phone, but have settled on a few options, one including Glue Dots (small, restickable and remarkably strong adhesive dots). We also tried some wacky solutions, like using the glue that's used to stick climbing skins to telemark skis (I happen to be a telemark skier). That last one worked all right, actually! But it was a bit messy:

Anyhow, just want you to know that we're hard at work finishing these off; they are looking amazing and we'll post another update as they start to ship. Thanks!

Here are a few more photos of the Mobile Spectrometer attachment tests: 


Here's me load-testing the double-sided removable foam adhesive: 

One more quick addendum -- we're being careful to choose a type of plastic that minimizes environmental and human health impacts -- but also that absorbs infrared light, and reduces reflection inside the device. I had to use one of our modified infrared cameras to confim this with a range of plastic samples, which ended up looking pretty neat. Read more here:

pledged of $10,000 goal
seconds to go
  • Pledge $10 or more
    You selected

    280 backers

    A fold-up spectrometer attachment for your smartphone. Ships flat -- you cut it out and assemble it.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $35 or more
    You selected

    612 backers

    A proven and tested "desktop" USB spectrometry kit which you assemble inside of a VHS box. 400-900 nanometer range and 3-10 nm resolution. (please add $10 for international shipping)

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $65 or more
    You selected

    235 backers

    An experimental "backpack" which clips to your Android phone's camera and turns it into a spectrometer. If more than 250 backers want this, we pledge to develop a native iPhone app as well. (please add $10 for international shipping)

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $100 or more
    You selected

    282 backers

    All three of the above, as they become available (please add $60 for international shipping)

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $200 or more
    You selected

    5 backers

    A "Classroom pack" of 6 desktop spectrometry kits for teachers and those of you who just can't get enough spectra! Please add $40 for international shipping.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $300 or more
    You selected

    38 backers

    A fully-assembled and calibrated "countertop" model with Pyrex sample dishes and a full-spectrum lamp. Would look great in a coffeeshop, a wine bar, an exhibit or classroom. (please add $40 for international shipping)

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $400 or more
    You selected

    50 backers

    All four -- countertop, desktop kit, mobile, and papercraft spectrometers -- please add $100 for international shipping, as we'll be shipping these separately.

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $1,000 or more
    You selected

    3 backers Limited (2 left of 5)

    This completely egregious "steampunk" spectrometer is made from polished aluminum, brass, and finely finished, laser engraved wood. It's functionally identical to the "countertop" model, but has enough polish to make Isambard Kingdom Brunel proud. Don't back this unless you are a) feeling sooo rad or b) trying to support the Public Lab nonprofit.

    Estimated delivery:
Funding period

- (39 days)