And so we come to the final finalist bio for The Hackaday Prize. In only three days, we’ll know whether [fl@C@]’s RamanPi Spectrometer or one of the four other projects to make it into the finals round will be making it to space, or only Japan.
There are a surprising number of spectrometer projects out there on the Intertubes, but most of these setups only measure the absorption spectrum – literally what wavelengths of light are absorbed by the material being measured. A Raman spectrometer is completely different, using a laser to illuminate the sample, and measuring the scattering of light from the material. It’s work that has won a Nobel prize, and [fl@C@] built one with a 3D printer.
Bio below, along with the final video that was sent around to the judges. If you’re wondering who the winner of The Hackaday Prize is, even I don’t know. [Mike] and a few Hackaday overlords do, but the rest of us will remain in ignorance until we announce the winner at the party we’re having in Munich next Thursday.
What was the ultimate inspiration to create a Raman spectrometer? You say you needed to do spectroscopy for another project, but why did you choose Raman spectroscopy? There are several other photoemissive spectroscopy projects out there. Is it just an issue of being able to scan everything, or just wanting to a project for the hackaday prize that replicated work that won a Nobel prize, or something else?
I’ve been working on my larger project for about 5 years now.. It’s not an open source project unfortunately, maybe some day.. So without going into too great of detail, it worked out that I needed to determine bond angles and Raman shift in a sort of before and after scenario, as that would indicate if I was on the right path while testing. That naturally led me to a Raman spectrometer.. I didn’t have the funds for a used one and the larger project depended on it. I hadn’t seen any other projects out there that provided this type of information, so I just decided to build it. Nothing as glamorous as seeking to replicate any Nobel winning works. :)
You're building complex optical paths with a 3D printer, and 3D printing is obviously a 'good enough' solution for building a prototype. Given unlimited funds we know you wouldn't be using a DaVinci printer, but would you still use filament-based 3D printers if you were to do this all over again? What problems did you encounter in printing the spectrometer?
Constructing it with 3D printed parts seemed like a fast and inexpensive way to build it. When the contest came into the picture, the idea of sharing the plans and making it easier to build came more into focus. Keeping the 3D printed parts seemed like a very logical way to make it easy for people to build since more and more people have access to 3D printers than other methods. So, I think to do it all over again I would still keep the 3D printed parts. It seems like the best middle ground, giving the maximum availability to people who want to build one for themselves.
Having said that, given ‘unlimited funds’… I might choose machining the parts from aluminum, or possibly from some less expensive material like nylon or HDPE (not sure how HDPE compares to aluminum in price/lb though). The biggest problems I encountered in printing were compensation for the ABS shrinkage, the obvious printer issues, and what to do with the countless pieces that had minor mistakes or errors. Shrinkage took a little while to master. This was my first actual project using a 3D printer.
Keeping a local database of spectrometry is insane, and in your documents you say you're using online spectrometry databases. Is there an issue in getting the data from these databases into a coherent format, and what does the future of these proprietary databases look like, given that the RamanPi will eventually be released into the wild?
Getting data from the online databases in a coherent format isn’t really an issue. I believe most of them are in comma delimited format anyway, or something similar. I think most of the databases are maintained by big companies that charge money for access to the data. That’s where I see the biggest issue. There are a couple out there that are free, and I’ve gotten permission from them to access the data so long as it isn’t downloaded in full. Keeping a local database is kinda crazy, and that’d be a full time job just cataloging all the spectra from whatever materials you could find. It would be nice to see the future be a sort of peer to peer database where people share their data and contribute to it sort of like a Napster for spectra!
Have you given any thought to the commercialization of your project? How much are you looking at to turn this into a product (if you even can), and from the responses, what do you think a product based on the RamanPi would cost?
Originally, I gave no thought to commercialization. I was just building it for myself. Then, after the contest began, and people started to take an interest, asking if I was planning on selling kits, etc. I’d like to offer a couple versions. I would like to have a low end version with less expensive optics and a Raspberry Pi camera module, a middle version with less expensive optics and a CCD.. and a more expensive version with good optics and a CCD. I would also like to offer just the spectrometer without the Raman system for use as just a regular CCD spectrometer. As for cost, I think the lower end should be around $300, middle around $500, and the high end around $700 – $800. The spectrometer itself being the most expensive part would probably be around $350.
Hypothetical, and we’re not going to hold you to whatever answer you give. You win the grand prize, a trip to space or about $200,000 USD. Which one to you take, and what is your reasoning for doing so?
So, I thought long and hard… If I were to be lucky enough to have to make a choice between space and money… I originally said space, without a doubt. It was a done deal for me.
I think that changed after looking at the options for travel, and this being before the recent accident. I just didn’t trust the Virgin Galactic option. I am all about automation, removing the pilot from the ability to make errors. Being a pilot, I know where this can be a factor.
I’ve also never been a huge fan of Rutan’s work. I didn’t care for the others because I haven’t seen the numbers..and this is my life after all. The idea of taking a trip in the Virgin’s SS2 doing mach 3.5 sounds more fun than space to me. But at this point… I would have to honestly say the cash option. Investing the cash into my larger project will probably pay for a trip later.