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Tricorder Project Releases Prototype Open Source 3D Printable Spectrometer 41

Posted by samzenpus
from the scan-me dept.
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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Tricorder Project Releases Prototype Open Source 3D Printable Spectrometer

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  • by rossdee (243626) on Monday September 09, 2013 @05:22PM (#44802775)

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

    • Re:Cue (Score:4, Funny)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Monday September 09, 2013 @05:32PM (#44802873) Homepage Journal

      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.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      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 c

    • Re:Cue (Score:5, Informative)

      by usmc4o66 (1605139) on Monday September 09, 2013 @06:08PM (#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."
      • 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.

      • by jeremyp (130771)

        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.

        • by cellocgw (617879)

          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)

    • by PPH (736903)
      Dammit Jim! I'm a doctor, not a copyright attorney!
  • 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?

  • What's this for? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mcelrath (8027) on Monday September 09, 2013 @05:56PM (#44803117) Homepage

    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?

    • by jfengel (409917)

      What would you use this for?

      Getting on Slashdot.

    • by Quelain (256623)

      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

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        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.

        • 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? (Score:4, Informative)

            by upontheturtlesback (2605689) on Tuesday September 10, 2013 @12:10AM (#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.
          • by rubycodez (864176)

            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.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      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.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    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.
  • 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.

  • 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

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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!

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell

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