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This DIY kit helps analyze materials and contaminants. We need your help to build a library of open-source spectral data.
This DIY kit helps analyze materials and contaminants. We need your help to build a library of open-source spectral data.
1,633 backers pledged $110,538 to help bring this project to life.

2013 Public Lab Barnraising

(Above: a group kite-mapping session on the nearby canal.)

Hi, all -- I wanted to extend this invitation to you all to join us this upcoming October 4-6: 

The global Public Lab community will be meeting up at our third annual conference, called the Public Lab Barnraising -- at a research station in the wetlands of Cocodrie, Louisiana. Dormitories are available, and the 3-day event will include unconference-style sessions, workshops, brainstorming sessions, outdoor activities like boating, kiting, ballooning, and other fun forms of DIY environmental research (not to mention late-night fishing on the dock). 

The Barnraising is free to attend, and lodging is an affordable $20/night. This year's theme is education, and I wanted to point out in particular that there is a gas flare near the LUMCON research station which we are planning to attempt to scan with our spectrometers, following up on the ongoing research on flare spectrometry.

Barnraising: October 4-6, 2013 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) 

Below: a DIY spectrometry session at the 2012 Barnraising

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:

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.

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!)

#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.

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