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!

Just In: Audio Equipment Needing Love!

Hey audiophiles! Christmas just came in the form of audio equipment. We have:

  • an Ion iMX02 mixer. The crossfade is a little fuzzy, but the panel cover can be unscrewed, and the crossfade can easily be cleaned or replaced.
  • a Gemini PS-700i 4-channel mixer. The balanced output doesn’t work but is probably fixable, and the booth output works fine.
  • a mini-KP Kaoss Pad for special effects processing. The plastic covering on the touchpad is dented, but slap new plastic on it and it should be good as new.
  • a DIY talkbox, looks brand new and never used. I recommend looking carefully at the wiring and the jack— the person who dropped it off had never used it, so we cannot vouch for it.

Stop by the shop any day, noon to midnight, to check out the new toys and make us an offer!

New Workshop: Intro to Inkscape!

The lasers are incredibly powerful tools, able to do anything from blast out furniture to etch text on custom business cards. In this workshop, get oriented to making files for the laser using Inkscape, the most common open-source vector imaging software.

We will go over basic concepts (why do we need a vector image?), design and basic tools of Inkscape, and tips and tricks for making an image our lasers will be happy with. 

Bring a laptop with Inkscape already installed and open (boot-up time can be significant). No experience necessary.

Tuesday, November 19, 7-9 PM, $50.

Intro to Electronics is back!


If you have been checking the blog and our calendar for the past few months, wondering when the Intro to Electronics workshop will be offered again, now is your chance to sign up! The workshop will be on Saturday, November 9, from 2 PM until 4:30 PM. 

Weather you’ve had a project in mind for awhile or are looking to learn something new, we’ll help you take those first steps towards making your great ideas work. The workshop is designed for complete beginners but it is also a good refresher for those who haven’t done electronics in awhile. We will go over some fundamental electronics components, such as resistors, diodes, capacitors, switches, potentiometers, and simple integrated circuit chips. Through a series of hands-on circuit building exercises we will cover proper wiring, reading circuit diagrams, voltage, and current. 

The $50 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. 

Scenes from Circuit Church.  

Simply the fastest electronics design to fabrication exercise on the planet.  

From a list of parts to programming in under 6 hours.

  • You get your Bill of Materials at 6pm
  • ~2 hours design time on Upverter's Cloud PCB Design tool 
  • The circuit is cut on our LPKF Protolaser system
  • SMT Assembly, Soldering and Program/Test by midnight.

Every Sunday Night at Metrix Create:Space

Four Years on Broadway

Four years ago, we opened our doors, put out the sandwich board and you came in to Make Something Awesome.  

Let’s put down the tools and party.  

This Saturday, October 12, 8 PM 

Introducing Circuit Church.

We are proud to announce the First Circuit Church is happening this Sunday. 

Circuit Church is both a learning exercise and a skills challenge.  A night of quick turn electronics with a curated Bill of Materials (B.O.M.).   

Building hardware is hard, and like most hard things, only experience eases the pain.  Circuit Church is designed to skill us all up on making electronics from scratch, fast.  


At the beginning of the summer, Metrix Create:Space added a LPKF Protolaser S to the robot roster and we built out our Advanced Circuit Lab as an adjunct to the Open Hardware Lab.   For those of you that don’t know, this machine allows us to create circuit boards more accurately and on more materials than chemical processing with no hazardous materials impact.   It’s more reliable than milling, and it is faster than anything else out there, including the fastest quick turn pcb houses.  It allows us to go from design to physical board in minutes rather than hours, days, or weeks.    

Just like 3D Printing’s rapid results change the way we think about physical fabrication, this tool changes the way we think about electronics projects, the speed in which we implement, the materials we pick, and the chances we can take when we’re not waiting weeks for an iteration.   

We know that having a tool like this is a game changer.

Additionally, we’ve been lucky enough to find Upverter, a cloud-based PCB design tool that gives us the ability to share designs quickly. It runs on limited resource computers, yet is powerful enough to do very complex boards and its free to use for Open Source / Open Hardware projects.  We’ve found that its easy to learn even if you only have a basic knowledge of electronics, and we’ll be learning more and more about this tool as we go down our path.

Circuit Church is a program that we believe will get us all up and running towards and making the future we want.   

Circuit Church is Sunday nights and costs $30.  
Space is limited, so call or come by to sign up.

Here’s the basic agenda:

  • We drop the BOM at 6pm
  • Participants design boards in upverter until 8pm(ish)
  • Designs get sent to CAM and are processed by 9pm.  
  • PCB/Parts are distributed
  • Assembly/Test/Showing off on the white tables until closing time 

All participants will bring a computer for designing their board in upverter.  

All participants get a chance at each step.  If you don’t finish a design, one will be provided for you for the assembly process.   Help will be provided, but this is not a workshop environment with step by step instructions.  This is an exercise to help you learn and advance your SMT skills in a fun and collaborative environment. 

Circuit Board Design with KiCAD

Kicad is an open source software suite for electronic design automation (EDA). This allows you to design schematics of electronic circuits and printed circuit boards (PCB). This workshop will cover the user interface, schematic layout, footprint selection, PCB layout, and Gerber file export. You will also learn how to make your own components and footprints. When we are done you should have the knowledge to design your own PCBs and prepare them for production.

What to bring: Laptop with the current version of Kicad installled. (available here: Mouse with scroll wheel (optional) - a scroll wheel makes zooming easier but it is not required

Target audience: Beginners with basic electronics experience. You should know what a resistor, capacitor, and diode are and what a schematic looks like.

To sign up, call us at 206-357-9406, or drop by the shop! 623A Broadway E, Capitol Hill, Seattle.

Shiny New Rate Sheet

Have y’all seen the newly redesigned rate sheet, complete with new textiles membership options? Feast your eyeballs on this!

New Toy Alert: Laser Etch Drinking Glasses!

Good news, everyone!

We recently got the rotary attachment on our laser up and running, meaning we can now laser etch wine glasses, pint glasses, and anything else round and non-toxic you may have lying around. 

Questions? Concerns? Chomping at the bit? Email, drop by, or call us at (206) 357-9406.

3D Design with Google SketchUp


Saturday, July 27, 2-4 pm.

Want to watch something 3D print, but tired of printing other people’s designs? Like 3D modeling, but hankering after something free and intuitively designed? Wondering what all the fuss is about SketchUp?

Come in and get oriented on the basic tools and interface of the program. Designed for beginners. Please bring a laptop with SketchUp already installed. 

$50. Come in or call (206) 357-9406.