Many tasks in biology require tiny, accurate motion – achieved with expensive hardware. We have used inexpensive, 3D printed parts to make high performance mechanisms for low cost science.
Our best example is a microscope small and cheap enough to be left in an incubator or fume hood for days or weeks. This will enable new science, for example by observing cells as they grow in an incubator. We will improve this microscope’s imaging capabilities (adding fluorescence and phase contrast) and demonstrate its use in an incubator. We will also show that printed mechanisms can be used for other tasks, for example the mechanical manipulation of micropipettes for microinjection or patch clamping.
Optical microscopy is fundamental to biology, and relatively high performance microscopes can now be made very cheaply. Positioning the sample and focusing the objective, however, is difficult without expensive translation stages: a microscope is mostly mechanics. Many other tasks in biology require tiny, accurate motion – achieved with expensive hardware such as mechanical micromanipulators and piezoelectric actuators. We have used inexpensive, 3D printed parts to make high performance mechanisms for low cost science, and we propose to apply this technology to problems in synthetic biology.
Our best example is a microscope small and cheap enough to be left in an incubator or fume hood for days or weeks. This will enable new science, for example by observing cells as they grow in an incubator – experiments which are currently impossible to do on a large scale due to the time and resources required. We will improve this microscope’s biological imaging capabilities (adding fluorescence and phase contrast) and demonstrate its use in an incubator at the Light Microscopy Facility in the Cancer Research Institute. This will then allow us to study phototoxicity by monitoring cultures of cells over several days.
Plastic flexure technology could also reduce the cost of mechanical micromanipulators by three orders of magnitude, opening up a range of possibilities. When combined with open-source Arduino microcontrollers, it is even possible to automate these devices for around £100. We will develop and test plastic micromanipulators for microinjection or electrophysiology, and assess their precision and stability. We will also investigate the use of ABS plastic as a potential replacement for PLA, as it has the potential to further improve the performance of printed mechanisms.
Finally, these low cost devices present obvious opportunities for science outreach, and this funding would enable us to create a class set of microscopes that can be taken (or lent) to schools as part of outreach activities, along with some fixed samples and lesson plans for easily-prepared specimens.
Learn more: Open source 3D-printed microscope
The Latest on: 3D printed microscope
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The Latest on: 3D printed microscope
- Malaria Diagnostics: Researcher 3D Prints Microscope Accessory for Imaging on Smartphones on June 12, 2019 at 9:35 pm
In ‘3D-Printed Microscope Accessory: Affordable Technology for Efficient Diagnostics,’ Nicholas Addy-Tayie explores the use of progressive techniques to create better microscopy in malaria ... […]
- Bioprinter headed for space station called ‘milestone’ in quest to 3D-print human organs on June 7, 2019 at 10:04 am
The launch is a significant milestone in the quest to 3D print hearts and other organs ... where heart patches are manufactured in space and evaluated on the ground (under a microscope and, perhaps, ... […]
- Page 2: 3D confocal microscope enables precision measurement of 3D printed parts on May 31, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Using a series of rapid camera trigger delays, the SweptVue system can then collate the stack of images captured at varying depths to produce a depth map, which is of vital importance to the system, ... […]
- Researchers use Magnetic 3D Printing to Make Microrobots on May 28, 2019 at 1:18 pm
TORONTO—Assembling a microrobot used to require a pair of needle-nosed tweezers, a microscope, steady hands, and at least eight hours. But now University of Toronto engineering researchers have ... […]
- Low-cost, portable 3D-printed microscope could be lifesaver in developing economies on May 2, 2019 at 1:24 pm
It’s become something of a cliché to talk about the “transformative” potential of 3D printing, but there is a solid case to be made that, in healthcare at least, the technology can be a lifesaver in ... […]
- 3-D printed microscope promising for medical diagnostics on May 1, 2019 at 8:00 am
Researchers have used 3D printing to make an inexpensive and portable high-resolution microscope small and robust enough to use in the field or at the bedside, notably in remote, low-tech environments ... […]
- Scientists 3D-print inexpensive microscope on April 30, 2019 at 4:41 am
The portable instrument produces 3D images with twice the resolution of traditional digital holographic microscopy, which is typically performed on an optical table in a laboratory. Scientists have 3D ... […]
- New 3D printed microscope promising for medical diagnostics in developing countries on April 29, 2019 at 4:09 pm
Researchers have used 3D printing to make an inexpensive and portable high-resolution microscope that is small and robust enough to use in the field or at the bedside. The high-resolution 3D images ... […]
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