This page is devoted to helping you adapt what we do to your own projects.  It is divided into sections on hardware and software.


In the hardware section, we provide a link to our description of setting up a desktop CNC router and describe a couple of low-tech methods for fabricating aluminum plate.


In this section, we discuss the kinds of software used in our projects, where to download the programs and the source code, and how to get started modifiying the code we wrote.


Low cost aluminum plate fabrication.


When making something, you frequently will want a plate to bolt stuff to and aluminum is a good choice.  The best way to fabricate plate is with a CNC mill or CNC router.  If you do not have access to CNC equipment, there are still ways to make accurate plates.  We describe a few approaches below.

CNC Router: 

We spent less than $1000 to set up a CNC router based on a kit from OpenBuilds.  The $1000 figure includes all mecahnical hardware, the router, the electronics, a selection of endmills and software.  We have written up some of our experiences and observations in a white paper that you can find here.  We use the free program Sketchup Make to do design work and the free plugin Sketchucam to convert the design to g-code.

Low Tech Methods:

If you do not have access to CNC equipment, you can still make something with fairly tight tollerances.  

  • One approach that I have not tried, involves using a drill press vice with an articulating stage.  Look on Amazon for "Wilton drill press vise".  You can get a vise that can handle 3" stock and can be accurately moved in two dimensions (Wilton 11693) for $85.  You can get other brands on Amazon  cheaper.  Another thing that has caught my eye is a vise that will rotate stock about 90 degrees.  You can get that (Wilton 11753) for $60.  While we have not tried this approach, it seems reasonable and can be accomplished on limited budget.

  • A method we have had some success with involves generating templates to guide drilling and cutting.  To help lay out something with fairly tight tollerances, we generate full scale pdf files to use as templates, print out the template and glue it to the aluminum stock.  This allows us to cut and drill the stock based on the template.  To generate the pdf file, we write sketches in the program Processing.  Check out the video link to the right to see how it all works.




Software (aka, hacking our stuff)


All our hardware and sofware is open source and should be available from our GitHub page.  That means you can get in and modify it to meet your own requirements.  Looking at our YouTube channel may help you figure out whether our products fit your needs. If you want help deciding what files to use, let us know.  If you do make substantial improvents to one of our designs, please consider contributing your modifications so that others may benefit.


To modify our designs, you will need to download the programs and the source code.   Typically, a project will consist of (1) electronic hardware driven by a Texas Instruments Tiva LaunchPad microcontroller board, (2) microcontroller software and (3) a graphic user interface.   Source code for our microcontroller and GUI programs can be found on our GitHub page (see button below).  If you don't see what you want on GitHub, send me an email from our contact page.


If you would like to make something that you see on this site and would like help, let us know.  If you have a suggestion for something that you think would be useful, let me know.  We might be helpful.  If you see something on another maker's site that you would like us to fabricate, let me know and we can talk about what would be required to make it happen.


We write our microcontroller code using a program called Energia that can be downloaded for free from  Energia is an easy to learn language that is very similar to Arduino.  Our graphic user interfaces are written in a language called Processing that can be downloaded for free as well.  Processing is somewhat less user friendly than Energia.  Electronic hardware is developed using the program Cadsoft Eagle. 


Design files making 3 dimensional objects (3D printed or milled with our CNC router) are developed using Sketchup (free download).  For 3D printing, these files are translated into printable STL files using Simplify 3d (not free).  If I were to do it over from scratch, I would use a free program called Cura to generate STL files.  For CNC milling, we genereate G-code using the phlatboys Sketchucam plugin for Sketchup.


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August 2020:

  Work during summer 2020 focused on the WheeTrometer spectrometer and on the WheeStat potentiostat.

  The spectrometer is coming along.  We are currently working to improve the intensity resolution by adopting a high resolution analog to digital converter.

  Our work on the WheeStat is focused mostly on increasing the current output available.  In addition, we hope to increase the range of frequencies that can be obtained by adding a digital to analog converter.

August, 2017:

   Work during summer 2017 focused on two projects, the WheeStat potentiostat and the stopped flow spectrometry apparatus.

  •    Work on the WheeStat included changes to the user interface, firmware and hardware.  The newest version of the user interface, WheeStat6.0c, has a new zoom feature and a few bugs from the older interface have been fixed.  We believe the new hardware will be out by the end of 2017.  The new hardware will have an improved method for turning off applied voltatage between experiments.  This is a hardware fix that requires modification of the firmware as well.  We will offer an add-on for our earlier hardware versions that incorporates this feature.  Addditional changes include increased current ranges and the potential for significantly increased scan rates.

  • Work on the stopped flow spectrometry project focused on increasing the injection speed.  Our initial effort focused on developing a rack and pinnion drive for the syringes.  This improved injection speed relative to the lead screw drive but failed to meet target speeds due, we believe, to limited torque provided by the small NEMA 17 motors we chose.  Our next attempt employed larger NEMA 23 motors.  These have significantly higher torque.  Unfortunately, our flow cell was unable to contain the generated pressure and began leaking.  Current efforts are focused on developing a lab-built UV-vis cell that will hold higher pressures.


September, 2016:

  • Our work to automate solid phase synthesis of peptides / DNA, etc has progressed well, although the chemistry is more involved that I had origianally thought.  We have made our first attempt at synthesis of a cystiene modified tri-peptide

  • Our application for recognition by the IRS as tax exempt under 501(c)3 has been approved.

  • We have begun work on a low cost visible spectrometer that will use home built reflective optics.

  • We are working on developing a stopped flow kinetics instrument based on commercially avialable spectrometer.  Our current prototype is able to acquire spectra within 120 ms of mixing.  This dead time appears to be limited by the power of the motors we used.  We are investigating the use of larger motors and hope to get the dead time down to below 12 ms.






Presentation  in Atlanta, GA,  March 6-10, 2016

Our talk was well recieved at the Educational symposium at PittCon


4989 Tilley Creek Road

Cullowhee, NC 28723

Tel: 828-293-7781



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Oct 23-27, SouthEast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Columbia SC

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