Holy Workshops, Batman!

Holy Workshops, Batman!

Hey! Did you notice we just put up a bunch of new workshops? You'll find Metrix classics like electronics and soldering, plus new workshops in old capabilities, like a new textiles class focused on clothing repair. 

The joy of Intro to Electronics

The joy of Intro to Electronics

First up is Intro to Electronics with member/engineer/sailor Pierce Nichols. He'll guide you through building your first basic circuits, and send you home with an electronics starter kit. Total beginners totally welcome. For more information on that or our other offerings, hop over to the calendar page, give us a call at (206) 357-9406, or stop by!

#BTBootcamp: Optimize your World with Bluetooth Low Energy

Our redesigned two-day Bluetooth Low Energy workshop was incredibly successful, leaving enough space in the curriculum for a robust question-and-answer, plus independent work time with access to our facilitating EE, Morgan Redfield. We had participants coming from as far as Spokane to be a part of our unique mix of intensive technical education, banter with our Capitol Hill walk-in public, and free-flowing Cafe Vita dark roast. 

August 2 and 3, we are building on that success with another Bluetooth Low Energy weekend intensive. In this workshop, you'll build on any existing app design and electronics knowledge to learn how Bluetooth Low Energy works, what makes it different from Bluetooth Original, and everything you need to design, assemble, and test a custom circuit board/custom app pair.

You could build a phone-controlled cat toy. Or you could equip your house to only heat whatever room you (and your phone) are in. You could have your oven remind you to turn it off before you leave the house. Dream big! 

In order to get the most out of this workshop, you will need some base knowledge in electronics and/or app design plus an idea of what you'd like to accomplish. However, people of all experience levels and even a particularly brilliant teenager have participated and made huge progress.

Your $400 registration gets you eight hours of active instruction from Morgan Redfield, who specializes in Bluetooth Low Energy and wearable electronics, plus a custom prototype circuit board with same-day turnaround ($100-180 value). To sign up, stop by the shop, call us at (206) 357-9406, or register online.

Made at Metrix: BLE Temperature Sensor

Tom Lanhaus, a participant in one of our Bluetooth Low Energy mega-workshops, put up a great YouTube video showing off his finished project. Tom came into the workshop with almost no hardware or Android experience, and designed a working temperature sensor that communicates wirelessly with his phone.

Check it out, and stay tuned for the next session of the Bluetooth Low Energy mega-workshop, planned for late summer.

Metrix Pro Tip

the record player at Metrix Create:Space has priority one.

the record player at Metrix Create:Space has priority one.

Staff on shift picks the music.  But vinyl is priority one.  Bring a record and you get to listen to what you want, no unreasonable dead air or it switches back.

Artist in Residence: Pieces of Desire Chessboard and Puzzle

Artist in Residence: Pieces of Desire Chessboard and Puzzle

I want to let you win but I do not know how /  Voglio farti sincere ma non so come

I want to let you win but I do not know how /  Voglio farti sincere ma non so come

Created as part of my Artist Residency at Metrix Create: Space, this word-puzzle chessboard is a collaboration with fellow artist and author Lauren Banka. Words by Duncan Smith. Laser-cut and engraving on acrylic mirror, purple and silver. 

-- Iole Alessandrini

Bluetooth Low Energy Boot Camp is Back

The Bluetooth Low Energy workshops that we offered through IndieGoGo last month were hugely popular, and we've had a lot of requests for another. We went through the feedback from the past set of workshops and totally revamped the curriculum. The workshop will now span two days (May 31 and June 1) to give people a chance to soak up the information at a more reasonable pace.

Day one of the new and improved BLE boot camp will be a grounding in the basics of BLE hardware and firmware with instructor Morgan Redfield. Then we set you loose to design the hardware side of your dream BLE project! After the workshop ends at 5, go out on the town while elves cut your circuit boards in the night-- or, hang out with the elves and watch our laser go. 

On day two of our Bluetooth Low Energy class, Morgan will prepare you to design an Android app to go with that sweet board you designed on day one. After that, the remaining workshop time is devoted to assembly and testing. Support will be available until 5, but feel free to stay later if you're on a roll.

You'll need a Windows laptop and a basic understanding of electronics and programming. Not sure if you're ready? Shoot us an email. The $400 registration fee covers two days of instruction plus board fabrication and all project-standard components. 

Spots in this workshop are expected to go fast, so jump on it. You can call us at 206-357-9406 or come in to sign up. It's designed as a two-day workshop, so you cannot register for one day only.

Intro to Electronics May 7: Prepare for the Robot Revolution

Intro to Electronics May 7: Prepare for the Robot Revolution

Comrades! When the glorious robot dawn arrives, electronics knowledge will be the only way to earn nutrition pellets. Get a head start on the rest of the humans with this tried and true Intro to Electronics class.

Instructor Pierce Nichols (of Logos Electromechanical and Curiosity Hacked) will provide an overview of basic electronics concepts and lead you through simple circuits with basic components like LEDs, resistors, capacitors, and potentiometers. You'll walk out with a starter kit of basic electronics bits to jump-start your next project. 

Intro to Electronics pairs great with Intro to Op Amps (May 28) and Intro to Arduino (June 11).

May 7, 7-9 pm. $50 fee covers all materials-- just show up ready to learn. Kids and absolute beginners welcome. To sign up, drop by the shop or call us at 206-357-9406.

New Workshop: Intro to Digital Electronics

New Workshop: Intro to Digital Electronics

OK, so you know the difference between voltage and amperage, and you've built enough blinking LED circuits to give yourself a headache. But what's the difference between a pull-up and a pull-down resistor? How do you talk to a 3.3V sensor with a 5V microcontroller? Intro to Digital Electronics sets you up to understand the logic behind sophisticated circuits and design your own from scratch. 

This workshop pairs awesomely with Intro to Electronics for a thorough grounding, or with our weekly Circuit Church circuit design exercise, so you can branch out and get really unique boards made. 

You'll bring a laptop and Intro to Electronics-level knowledge; we'll supply an Adafruit Trinket and the expertise.

Topics covered will include basic digital concepts (edges, levels, active low/high, open
collector/drain, pull ups/pull downs), buffers, Schmitt triggers, shift registers, level shifters, and pulse-width modulation.

April 23, 7-9pm, $50, all materials included. Stop by the shop or call us at 206-357-9406 to reserve your seat.

Intro to Arduino is back!

If you've been waiting and wondering when we're going to hold another Intro to Arduino workshop again, today is your lucky day! We are holding it again on Tuesday, April 1 at 7:00 pm, and there are still spaces available. 

Whether you've had a project in mind for a while or are looking for something new to try, we will help you get your feet wet with the Arduino platform. We will cover basic Arduino programming and both digital and analog input and output. Through a series of hand-on exercises, you will learn basic Arduino programming and how to interface with LEDs, switches, and potentiometers. We will be using the Sparkfun's Arduino compatible RedBoard for this class.

The $60 workshop rate covers all the materials and two and a half hours of instruction. To sign up, give us a call (206 357 9406) or come down to our space on Broadway.  A laptop is required.

We're the BLE of the Ball!

We're the BLE of the Ball!

Oh man. Support for our Indiegogo campaign to run intensive Bluetooth Low Energy workshops has been completely overwhelming. During the campaign itself, we blew past our goal, thanks in part to being tweeted by BoingBoing and BluetoothSIG.

We've continued to get emails since the campaign closed, from people who missed it but want to register, and from companies who want to support us.

We're thrilled to announce that Bluegiga will be providing the bluetooth modules themselves. We looked at a lot of modules before Bluegiga reached out to us, and they're really set apart by their ease of use and the phenomenal support material available on their website. We pride ourselves in being the most accessible, open-source makerspace around, so that feels like a great fit.

What you're seeing in this photo is the Bluegiga module on our BLE breakout board. That board is the secret sauce for your Bluetooth project-- the part that actually talks to your Android device. Right now, it's just letting you blink that LED with your phone. The part where it does something fancy? That's where you come in.

Also, did we mention we made it with lasers?

The official workshop dates are:

  • March 22 [SOLD OUT!]
  • April 5
  • April 19

We're still chasing down a couple of our Indiegogo backers, so we don't have exact numbers on how many spaces are available in each workshop, but we do know that they're all almost completely full. We will open the remaining spaces to the public on March 22 at $300 a seat. You'll want to move fast, because these spaces will go very quickly. If there's enough interest, we'll happily schedule a fourth date.

Excited? Got questions? Want to get on our radar as interested in those extra workshop spots? You can call the shop at (206) 357-9406, or contact workshop instructor Morgan Redfield at morgan@metrix.net. 

Bluetooth Low Energy(BLE) Workshop: On Indiegogo now!

Crowdfunding is something we generally stay behind-the-scenes with, but we think we've found something that really requires us to come out from behind the curtain.

Public intensive workshops are something that we've wanted to do for some time now.  We've done private workshops occasionally, but usually we have been approached with an idea, and then we've run with it.  They've always come out well, but our data has shown that advanced workshops are harder to promote and we've stayed with the Introduction series for the core of our workshop offerings.

With the addition of the LPKF and Advanced Circuit Lab, we have the ability to do something no other venue can.  We can take you through a complete design+build electronics exercise in a single day.

It's time for us to reach out.

From the campaign page...


Ever wanted an oven that would warn you if it was still on when you left the house? What about underwear that tells you when it needs washing? Are you making model rockets and you want to control them with your phone?   Maybe you just want to add another *thing* to the Internet, or learn the process of making electronics from scratch, soup to nuts.

After coming to our workshop, you'll have the hardware and the know-how to make it happen.

We are designing a workshop that will teach Android Developers how to use Bluetooth Low Energy in their own projects. By funding this campaign, you reserve your spot in this workshop. Your funds allow us to pre-order all of the parts that we need before you get here, give us an idea of the potential audience out there, and try out something new, without taking a whole lot of risk. 

When you come to this workshop, you will learn about BLE and you will get to make your very own custom BLE hardware device using Surface Mount Technology. 

The device will be a custom PCB, etched on site with a pre certified antenna module, so you wont need FCC approval on the radio.  The custom PCB will be designed by you, not us, but it can be forked from one of our open source reference designs.   We're going to not only provide you with the basics, we'll also have other parts on hand as well, so you can make more than just a simple beacon.

The workshop will cover:

  • An overview of Bluetooth Low Energy. What it is, how it works.
  • BLE Modules and how to use them in your schematic. 
  • Creating a schematic and PCB layout.
  • Rapid prototyping of PCB and SMT assembly
  • Basic BLE operations in Android.

The workshop will be in two 3 hour sections. The three hours will cover BLE and hardware. At the end of it you'll have a schematic and layout for a BLE module based board that suits your custom application.  

After a one hour break, the last half of the workshop will cover circuit assembly and programming.  

Workshops will be scheduled based on the number of people who donate. They will all be on a Saturday, and run from 12pm to 7pm with a 1 hour break in the middle.

Attendees should have a background in Android development and some electronics experience. Please bring a BLE enabled Android phone, a laptop set up for Android development, an account on upverter, and an idea.

tl;dr epic workshop coming, you have a week to sign up.  do it now.

Sunday night in the Advanced Circuits Lab


What can you build with our Advanced Circuits Lab?  How about simple USB programmable electronics?   Morgan Redfield created this 3.3V basic trinket board on Upverter.  It's based off of the Adafruit Trinket It is 2 layers, with 5 wire vias.   It takes a little over 2 minutes on the Protolaser.  It's a pretty good start for any basic attiny85 project.

Basic Trinket - LV2 by motred 5d1d1e7d31a8d7a2 - Upverter

On one of our small panels, I can get 3 boards.  They look OK, but they don't really show off the laser.  


It was a really slow Sunday what with Seahawks in the SuperBowl and all, so I thought I'd fork Morgan's design to give myself something to do.  Idle hands...

Octotrinket by mattw d63764ca4c58f0b5 - Upverter

I didn't have any real project in mind for this board, so I just picked fun features as I went along.

I decided I should make the board smaller, smaller is always better. Pad only USB A plugs are cool.  I also perforated it in case I wanted to get rid of it once it is programmed.

Adding a battery also seemed like a good idea.  We have 2032 snaps, and this gives it some versatility if I come up with a project that requires it on the next rev.

Through hole headers didn't make sense to me. This isn't going on a breadboard any time soon, so I just made pads go to the edge and turned off the holes in my CAM step.  Totally lazy, but it really is a one off, and I didn't feel like taking more than an hour to work on it.  

I really enjoy the zen of routing single sided boards, so I used a couple of 1206 zero ohm resistors and ran 6 mil traces. 

The battery on the back stopped me from dropping vias altogether, so I made them 1mm drills and avoided a toolchange on the PCB plotter.

PCB View of Octotrinket

PCB View of Octotrinket

Building the board went pretty fast.  a little under 2 minutes per board (both sides), and only 1 toolchange on the plotter.


Assembly, because it's all SMT also went quickly.  Syringe on paste and place the components. A little bit of quiet time in the solder room.  It took an hour to paste and place all 4 boards on the panel.

After paste, I dropped the boards in the reflow oven on wave 2, and it was done in about 7 minutes.  I used paste and the Metcal pencil on the wire vias and the back snap.


Assembled boards,  They need testing, but all in all not bad for 4 hours on a lazy Sunday.  

Hand-Printed Valentines, Now with Extra Lasers

Hand-Printed Valentines, Now with Extra Lasers


I've been chatting with people for months about how easy it would be to use the lasercutters to make printmaking plates. Last week, I figured I'd put my Europop references where my mouth is. From a printmaking perspective, these are a little rough around the edges, but we're zeroing in on the best practices for making a really reliable plate. (Printmaking 101: Don't assume things that are supposed to be flat are actually flat.)

I forgot to flip the text the first time I made these plates. So much for my fancy printmaking education!

I forgot to flip the text the first time I made these plates. So much for my fancy printmaking education!

A plate like this is super easy to make. You just cut out everything that you want to print, and a back plate to adhere them to. You can etch or mark the back plate to help you align your pieces, or freehand it. Just remember-- if you're printing text, the cut-out pieces need to be reversed for it to print straight. After that, glue them down in a way that keeps them as flat as possible. Hot glue is a hot mess; wood glue takes a while to really dry but is the best long-term plan. 

Interested in learning more? I'm teaching an Inkscape class on 2/4 (7pm, $50) on the basics of preparing a file for the lasers, and I'll be going over how to prepare a plate like this. 

Or if you really just want the hands-on part, I'm teaching a valentines-printing workshop on 2/11 (7pm, $60, all materials included). I'll guide you through designing, assembling, and printing the plate. If you have paper or cards you really want to bring and print on, feel free; otherwise I will supply enough for five of your sweetest sweet-hearts. 

The √144th Man


Acrylic: $18.50

Electroluminescent wire: $30

Laser time: $15

Repping your home team and basic mathematics at the same time: priceless.

Shock Me! Thrill me! Dot Matrix Me!

The resolution on this is actually higher than the camera could capture.

If you've been in the shop in the last few months, you may have noticed little lasered Tesla photos floating around. We got a bug in our ear about using the lasers as dot matrix printers, and considering the Little Blue Laser is 600 DPI, I couldn't rest until I got a really flawless grayscale effect. 

I know what you're thinking: What is this sorcery, and how do I make it mine?

Blood, sweat, and sacrifices to our robot deities.

The first step is to convert your grayscale image into a dot matrix. Photoshop has a highly customizable tool for this (Filter > Pixelate > Color Halftone), or you can just use Rasterbator.

If you use Photoshop (or anything that gives you a raster/bitmap output) the next step is to get an accurate vector tracing of that file without breaking your vector program. If you use Rasterbator (which spits out vector PDFs), you have to fuse any overlapping dots. Why? Because if the laser's engrave setting will assume that the overlapping parts are not to be lasered out-- so you end up with an image full of static.


Fritz Rodriguez opted to swear at the file himself. For him, the lasercut was just the first step. He then photographed and printed the burned, woodsy version of this image of flowers, which is a royalty-free patent illustration.

Here's a close-up. Fritz is an art student, but he didn't make this for a class-- just to see if he could.

Here's a close-up. Fritz is an art student, but he didn't make this for a class-- just to see if he could.

I've crashed both Inkscape and Illustrator many times trying to get beautiful, hi-res Teslas. I've uploaded what I thought were perfect files only to find that the laser sees a scribble instead of a dreamy inventor, or inverts the dark information into white. So if you want to laser out a dot matrix image of your very own, bring your computer into the shop and plan to spend a few hours swearing at it, or take advantage of our very reasonable design/labor fees.



In the spirit of the Hallmark Holiday, I've been cooking up a Tesla doily valentine. Here's the first iteration. I'm thinking about doing a whole set of them-- imagine Hedy Lamarr with "Call me. Text me. Email me. Chat me." around her head.


What do you think? If I make a whole set of Science Dreamboats, who can't you live without?

To find out more about preparing images for the laser, check out the Inkscape class this upcoming Tuesday 1/14/14, from 7pm to 9pm. Call ahead to reserve a space.

Intro to Inkscape


Have you always been amazed at the precision of projects coming out of the laser? Interested in making custom boxes, brackets, or paper art projects? Our lasers can cut wood, paper, acrylic, leather, and stamp rubber, and etch all that plus anodized aluminum and wine glasses-- but first we need a file.

This workshop will introduce the bare beginner to Inkscape, the most popular open source vector image program out there. Just a few weeks before Christmas/Solstice/non-denominational winter gift times, this workshop will allow you to make unique gifts with time to spare. 

Come with a laptop with Inkscape already installed and open, and plenty of ideas and dreams. Kids welcome.

December 17, $50. Stop in the shop, or give us a call at 206-357-9406 to reserve your space. 

Robot Reproduction requires Humans


If you've been in the shop lately, you've probably noticed the robots are multiplying.   This is only possible with awesome humans going through the process.

One group build is by 3D Central, SCCCs own 3D Print Club.  Formed by Daniel Aldridge earlier this year, their goal has been to build a club robot.  This October they started building during their weekly meet up events.     For being new to the process, they've been making excellent progress.

They're building a green OpenBeam Kossel Mini, recently featured in Make: Magazine's Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing.    

The shop team has also been building a cluster of Mini Kossels for the sole purpose of printing more kits, so its been a lot of fun swapping stories, parts and frustrations. 


Kossels aren't the only additions to the local robot population.  Gordon Messmer was just in recently to put some final touches on his beautiful purple reprap prusa.   

A long time friend and colleague of Matthew Wilson, this printer was one of the earliest sets printed by a Brainwave enabled printer, but as can often happen with projects, it lay dormant for some time.  Not much time really, but a year in 3D printing feels like forever. Maybe its just the suit and the instagram effect, but the Prusa just seems old-timey now.

I'd have to say seeing the results of Gordon's build that it was worth the wait.  The tidiness and build quality here is great!

If you're interested in meeting some more of the humans behind the 3D Printing effort in Seattle,  Check out 3D Thursday, the weekly 3D Printer night at Metrix Create:Space.   This week's event we are closed for Thanksgiving, but we will be back on Thursday December 5th!

Sitting is the new smoking.

Sitting is the new smoking.

Morgan Redfield, long time friend of the shop and one of the original pretengineers is currently in the midst of an Indiegogo to curb sitting.   This tiny hexagon (we love hexagons) keeps track of your lack of activity and gives you helpful reminders and creates a scoreboard between you and your friends.  

We've been watching the prototype go together, and thinking about the possibilities of tiny motion-tracking Bluetooth Low Energy devices, and I have to say we're thrilled to see this thing pick up.  


At last night’s 3D Thursday, Johann brought a Kossel Clear to assemble.  No instructions needed.

Giant Foam MRI at Metrix.


If you have been to Metrix in the last few months, you have probably noticed the tiny bits of pink foam floating around and clinging to everything. They happened to be the byproduct of the largest fabrication project Metrix has worked on so far. It was a fun and experimental project that led us to get to know our biggest robot, the giant router, very well.

Several months ago, Frederick “Fritz” Reitz wandered down the stairs into Metrix to find out more about all of our fabrication capabilities. He needed a full-scale replica of an MRI machine. We certainly hadn’t done anything of that size but we love a good challenge so we took on the project. 

After much discussion, we chose to work with 2 inch thick, 4 ft by 8 ft sheets of rigid foam insulation. The material is great for shaping with the router because it is light, uniform, and can be easily finished with a bit of sandpaper. It provides a good structure for complex geometries that will need to get epoxied and painted. 

What made this project particularly exciting was that it had a pretty great real-life application.The replica was requested by Tom Grabowski, who is a professor of radiology & neurology at the University of Washington. His plan is to use it to get test subjects used to the machine off-line. Time on the real MRI is very expensive so this allows for refining testing teqniques and getting the subjects more comfortablewith the machine. He went to the Center for Human Development and Disability at the University of Washington for help on this. The Center is funded by a NIH grant to support research in human development and disability in such areas as autism, language acquisition, and cognitive development. The Center has their own Instrument Development Lab, where Fritz works. The Lab was tasked with the actual fabrication of the replica-MRI, which is what brought Fritz to Metrix. 

While his lab has many great tools for production, the scale of this particular project required outside help. Our router has a 4 ft by 8 ft cut bed and the z axis has about 8 inches of variance depending on the cutting bit size. Since the project required a lot of complex geometry shaping we had to really learn the 3D z-cutting capabilities of the router, which was new for us so we looked forward to doing some testing.

Below are the first test of the finished surface quality of the foam pieces. We had to use specialty bits designed for cutting foam and soft plastics. When working with something soft like foam, maintaining a very sharp cutting edge is essential in getting a smooth surface. Otherwise the finished surface ends up looking very rough and dented where larger bits of foam get pulled out. The nice thing about working with these specialty bits is that they are super sharp and come in extra-long options because the chip load with foam is quite low. Having the extra length gives much more flexibility in the z-depth shaping of a piece.


In order to achieve a high degree of detail, first we ran a rough finishing pass using a 1/2” ball-end bit with a fairly large stepover. Then we used a 1/8” ball-end bit with a smaller stepover to do a finishing pass. The stepover is the amount the bit moves over with each pass and it is determined as a percentage of the bit diameter. The size of the stepover and the length of time it takes to finish a pass are inversely proportional. We went with a 50% stepover for the rought finishing pass and a 25% stepover for the final finishing pass with the small bit. Usually the roughing passes run faster to save time with the knowledge that the finishing pass will smooth everything out. 

The project took many weeks of testing, troubleshooting, buying more foam, calibrating the router, and calibrating the router some more.


Our amazing new technician/pretengineer Seth Crowell is a master with the router. He has put many hours bringing the robot to the glorious life it was meant to have.

Below is the raw assembled product standing full-height in the Instrument Development Lab.


The front round piece is made up of a total of eight sections. Each half is assembled from four layers of various thickness. The back section, which subtly curves in to simulate the funnel of the MRI, is constructed from eight single layers of the foam. While all the pieces went through a rough finishing with the 1/2” bit and a final finishing with the 1/8” bit, the top two layers of the front part also required an additional initial roughing pass. The roughing pass was done with a 3/8” flat-end extra long bit.

This pass is used with thicker pieces of material when the geometry requires deeper cuts. It removes the bulk of the material in order to make room for the rough finishing pass with the ball-end bit. The roughing generally happens in several set-z drops where each pass removes the extra material at a specified level, and the bit drops down another level for the next pass. The stepover for this can be set as high as 100%. The rought pass is generously off-set from the finished surface of the geometry so that any accidental gauging of the final piece can be avoided. The rough finishing pass with the large ball-end bit removes most of this excess material. While the roughing of a piece involves several fast passes, the rough finishing and final finishing are single, slower passes that trace the final surface of the geometry with increasing degrees of precision. 


Some initial patching with joint compound was necessary in order to smooth out any little dings from the routing and moving processes. The full piece stands 7 feet tall by 7 feet wide and about 3 feet deep.


Once the pieces were assembled, Fritz embarked on the long and patient process of finishing the final product. First he applied an undiluted coat of drywall mud to fill in the assembly-joint seams and any dings. Then he smoothed out the surface of the pieces with a few coats of diluted finishing mud to get them ready for sanding and coating in plastic.


The next step of the process was fine-sanding the pieces to give them an extra smooth finish.



Once sanded, the pieces were ready for their shiny plastic coating. Fritz used a single coat of pour-on ultra-glo plastic for this part.



As you can see, the pieces are looking more cohesive with each step. In the future of the giant foam MRI you can expect to see painting and perhaps even some sound and lights rigging. One of the great things about this project is that while it was requested by Professor Grabowski, many other researchers at the UW will be able to take advantage of the availablity of this tool. Metrix is very excited to have been part of not just this amazing challenge of lungs and maneuvering skills but also of the advancement of science.

Stay tuned for updates on the finishing progress of the giant foam MRI!