Production progress: 250 units

Today we started producing the first 250 of our 500 initial production batch at Saline Lectronics, a contract manufacturing company out of Saline MI.  No major hiccups, though we had one or two LEDs which were switched and a filter which was incorrectly sized, but those are fixable in the next day.  Luckily we found them after the first 30 units, and not after the first 500 🙂

We spent most of today prepping the case itself (as you can see in the picture), and did a dry run of a single unit through the entire process (from assembly to calibration) to ensure we had everything we needed.  Bluetooth continues to be challenging (connecting mostly), and it’s now my least favorite communication standard by far!  But once you get it connected once it gets easier after that.

Expect to see more updates in the next few days as we continue to move forward.  The current estimated ship date is March 3rd.  If there are problems or setbacks I will update you as soon as they happen.



undergoing PAR calibration!

Validation of MultispeQ v1.0 – Chlorophyll, thickness, PAR

We have been validating the 10 – 15 MultispeQ v1.0 devices we received from the factory.  It’s going extremely well, in some ways better than I had imagined, and I want to share our results:

Relative Chlorophyll (SPAD)

  • The MultispeQ relative chlorophyll correlates well to the industry standard Minolta SPAD 502+ (Minolta = MultispeQ * 1 – .93, r2 = .987, using 11 devices and 68 measurements).
  • Validation was performed on Ficus, Basil, Banana Tree of varying thickness (.07 – .62mm) and greenness levels (Minolta SPAD values from 24.5 – 60.8).
  • Very thick (aloe) or very small leaves may require adjustments to measure consistently, but the measurement range is similar to the Minolta SPAD 502+.


Keep reading! Link to the full results below

Leaf Thickness

  • The MultispeQ leaf thickness is an accurate (thickness = multispeqThickness * 99 + .01, across 11 devices and 209 measurements), inexpensive, and simple field based leaf thickness measurement.
  • Strong magnets or large pieces of metal close to the device can impact thickness calibration.
  • Leaf veins should be avoided when clamping if a very accurate leaf thickness measurement is desired.


Keep reading! Link to the full results below

Ambient PAR

  • The MultispeQ ambient PAR correlates well to a LiCOR LI-250A PAR meter (LiCOR = MultispeQ * 0.95 + 3.99, r2 = .996, using 13 devices with 206 measurements). Devices showed some offsets from the actual PAR, but the noise at any given light level for each device is relatively low (high r2).
  • Validation included measurements in different spectral conditions: cloudy day, sunny day, LED, and fluorescent lights.
  • Additional spectral conditions (for example, inside a dense canopy) should be added to improve the quality of the validation.

Keep reading! Link to the full results below

Ambient PAR to Leaf Chamber PAR

The MultispeQ has to replicate ambient PAR inside the measurement chamber.  This is quite tricky because there is some error in measuring ambient PAR and some error in converting ambient PAR to a defined LED intensity.  Those two errors combine to increase total error.


  • The MultispeQ’s conversion of ambient PAR to LED light inside the leaf chamber is ActualPAR = 0.94*LEDPAR + 12.17 (r2 0.979) using 10 devices, across a range of spectral conditions and intensities, with a total of 253 measurements).
  • MultispeQ LED PAR tended to be shifted higher slightly compared to the actual ambient PAR.
  • Green, red, and blue LEDs (lights 1,2, and 4) correlated the best with the LiCOR LI-250A. The orange LED (light 3) performed the worst.

Keep reading! Link to the full results below

We’re going to continue to validate and check devices as we produce them, and post it through these same projects so everyone can see it.  Expect another update regarding production status in the next few days.

First 20 MultispeQ devices delivered from factory!

We are continuing to make progress on shipping the MultispeQ v1.0.  We now have the first 20 devices from the factory.  These are exactly (!) like the ones we’ll ship to those who pre-ordered.  And we now have all parts in stock to complete all orders and then some.

We are now evaluating these initial 20 devices, adjusting our existing calibration routines, and field testing them to make they hit our high standards.  We did as much of the testing as possible prior to receiving these 20 devices on hand-built versions with 3D printed cases, but due to small changes in manufacturing it wasn’t possible to finish all calibration routines and test all tolerances. Here’s two such examples: 1) 3D printed cases are notoriously slopped in comparison to injection molded ones, so mechanical components needs to be retested (like the bushings for the clamp mechanism); 2) the case material (ABS) has a different light absorptivity than the 3D printed cases we used before, and that changes the absorption and chlorophyll content calibrations.

In addition, we’re fixing some good old fashioned errors, like we ordered a bluetooth module but were shipped the wrong one (currently being reordered), and the USB 3.0 port wasn’t soldered on the board completely, causing confusion during initial calibration (a new soldering routine is being developed by the factory).

These aren’t excuses, but hopefully give you a sense of the kind of troubleshooting and persistence that’s required to get something that works consistently 🙂

Once we’re comfortable with these 20 devices, we will manufacture the remaining devices and ship.  We have about 2 more weeks until the final parts we had to re-order come in, and it will probably take a few more weeks to complete the calibration and final testing before shipping.  But we won’t ship anything until we’re completely comfortable with the device and it’s efficacy.

We apologize for the long delays, we know it can be both nerve racking and frustrating.  We are getting there, and we think you’ll be happy with the result.  Thanks for your patience and support!

MultispeQ V1.0 Testing Results, Production Delays, PhotosynQ Conference, and other news

Lost of updates this week, but for those who pre-ordered make sure to note that we do have some production delays : .  But before you get angry, make sure to read about some of the fantastic initial results we have using the new instrument!

– Greg

Production Delays

Well, as with many manufacturing pre-order campaigns, I’m sad to say we have some production delays due to the time it took us to arrange financing.  We have our contract manufacturer (Lectronics, based in Saline, MI) ready to do the board manufacturing and assembly, but our injection molder (Diamond Engineering out of Lansing, MI) has a 12 week lead time on the injection molded case.  The good news is everyone has started work, so the clock is ticking and work is moving forward.  There are no showstoppers as of yet (and if you read below you’ll see we have some pretty exciting results from our initial tests of the v1.0 device) so fingers crossed that there are no additional delays from here on out.

We’re shooting to ship in early July… I know that impacts some of your plans for this year, but please stick with us.  We’ve worked really hard to change the way people use and buy this type of equipment by dramatically lowering the price, building a data management platform based on collaboration (not data silos), all while hitting extremely high bars for measurement quality.  And we’ve done it completely outside of the traditional start-up path… it hasn’t been easy, but we’re getting there, and you early supporters are making it happen.

So thank you thank you thank you for your support and patience.  We’ll keep sharing updates with progress as we go – but for now please read below about the new device, it’ll make you happy 🙂

Results: The Amazing MultispeQ V1.0

Ok, enough with the bad news.  Here’s the good news: the new MultispeQ has, at a minimum, 2 – 5 times better raw signal quality than the Beta MultispeQ.  Ok – so what does that mean?

  • Chlorophyll Fluorescence of dilute algae solutions (1 – 5ug / L) – no problem.
  • Measure Proton Motive Force in the field (the accumulation of protons in the thylakoid) IN UNDER 3 SECONDS!  (read more below about this)
  • All your normal field photosynthesis measurements (Phi(II), Phi(NPQ), Phi(NO), SPAD, LEF, etc. etc.) will be lower noise, higher accuracy, and improved repeatability.
  • Slimmer leaf/cuvette clamp for more accurate PAR readings in complex canopies

At this point, we’re working with bare boards (no case), and the test setup looks like this:

Bare board MultispeQ v1.0 in testing. Note the big fat battery!
Bare board MultispeQ v1.0 in testing. Note the big fat battery!

Not very pretty 🙂 , but in our initial tests show very good results.  We had three technical tests to pass for the MultispeQ V1.0 – a standard chlorophyll fluorescence test (Fv/Fm or Phi2 type measurement) using a leaf, the same using dilute algae solutions, and the Proton Motive Force measurement using a leaf.  The Proton Motive Force and algae chlorophyll content measurements required the highest quality detector response, and neither were sufficiently high quality to be usable on the old beta device.  Here’s some comparisons between the old a new (this is the raw detector response, but notice the signal to noise on the graphs).

In the first case (Proton Motive Force) there is a 5.5x improvement in signal to noise, while the second case (Chlorophyl Fluorescence in dilute algae) there is a 2.5x improvement in signal to noise!  That has huge impacts on the ability to collect data quickly and efficiently in the field in a wide range of light conditions.  In addition, these methods are relatively un-optimized, so I expect we can squeak out even better quality by adjusting intensities and timing.  Kudos to our amazing hardware design team which includes Robert Zegarac, Jon Zeeff, and of course David Kramer.

So we can now measure, in a few seconds, Proton Motive Force in the field!  There are no handheld devices that we know of which can collect this data, and certainly none which can do so this quickly.  Only $150k Walz machines, or our own $40k IdeaSpec here in the Kramer Lab, can measure Proton Motive Force at all and they are desktop machines.  We think this is going to add a new set of really important photosynthesis parameters (like ECSt, gH+, vH+…) which may be related to stress, yield, and have broad uses in understanding photosynthetic response.

You can find more about measuring Proton Motive Force, and the new Phi(NPQ) and Phi(NO) parameters here:

In addition, there are 3 forthcoming papers from the Kramer Lab about the MultispeQ Beta device, PhotosynQ applications in Africa, and the new short method for estimating NPQ (called NPQt).  As soon as they are out, I’ll post them to the blog.

Expect more technical details about MultispeQ V1.0 on our g+ feed as well as in the next blog post.

PhotosynQ Conference, April 22nd!

Register here!

We are organizing the first PhotosynQ conference next month here at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan!  You can sign up via Eventbrite here.  Everyone is invited, but we’ll also livestream the event.  Dan TerAvest (the organizer) will be following up with speakers and topics, but there will be presentations from many beta testers on crop trials, soil measurements, greenhouse and benchtop applications, MultispeQ mods, experimental design and data analysis workshops, and much more.

Well worth the trip for anyone getting a MultispeQ this year, and you’ll save lots of time and improve the quality of your experiments by learning from the experience of the beta testers.

Open Science Hardware Activism

In early March, I helped organize the first Gathering of Open Scientific Hardware, at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.  Of course I brought the PhotosynQ and talked about our project, but the main goal was to connect with other like-minded developers and scientists who want to make Open Science happen by changing the way we develop tools and technologies used in the lab, the classroom, and field.   A few of my favorite projects (and people!) were Open QCM (a quarts crystal microscope), Safecast (used in Japan to measure radiation during Fukushima disaster), our own MI-based Backyard Brains (neural probes).  In total , there were nearly 50 participants from every corner of the world.

We’re putting together a short manifesto defining Open Science Hardware as a movement, with distinct and important goals related to the broader Open Science community.  If you want to join the discussion, you can find us at the open-science-hardware google group.