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
- Micro-rocket robot with all-optic actuating and tracking in bloodon May 11, 2020 at 12:29 am
Researchers now report that lasers can be used to safely move tiny robots in the blood. Dr. Dengfeng Li and Mr. Chao Liu from the City University of Hong Kong in China and colleagues used 3D printing ...
- Broken 3D Printer Turned Scanning Microscopeon May 7, 2020 at 5:00 pm
This requires some very precise control over the microscope, which just so happens to be exactly what 3D printers are good at. All [Wayne] had to do was remove the hotend, and print some adapter ...
- The LEGO Microscope That's Capturing IBM Researchon May 6, 2020 at 2:35 pm
With some LEGO bricks, a 3D printer, and a Raspberry Pi computer, you could have a world-class microscope. Powerful everyday hardware has made microscopy more accessible than ever. The IBM engineer ...
- 3D Printed Microscope Costs as Little as $18on May 6, 2020 at 7:09 am
Researchers at the University of Bath in the UK have developed a 3D-printed microscope design, called OpenFlexure, which is open-source and can be ...
- Lego Microscope Does Researchon May 5, 2020 at 10:08 pm
We’ve seen a lot of practical machines built using Lego. Why not? The bricks are cheap and plentiful, so if they can get the job done, who cares if they look like a child’s toy?
- 3D Print a Customizable Microscope for as Little as $18on May 4, 2020 at 9:16 pm
This microscope took about five years to make, and it didn't even have to pass the rigorous checks that medical devices are subjected to. Dr. Bowman noted that it seems unlikely that 3D-printed ...
- Cheap UK open-source 3D printed medical microscope uses Raspberry Pi camera and processingon May 4, 2020 at 8:12 am
The University of Bath has designed an open-source medical-grade microscope that can be made for as little as £15 in its most basic form Called OpenFlexure microscope, “it is unique among 3D-printed ...
- Print your own laboratory-grade microscope for US$18on May 4, 2020 at 7:02 am
For the first time, labs around the world can 3D print their own precision microscopes, thanks to an open-source design created at Bath.
- Build Your Own 3D Printed Open Source Motorized Microscopeon May 3, 2020 at 12:28 am
He posted about his work using 3D printing, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Lego bricks to make an open source, motorized microscope. But, the microscope itself is not fully 3D printed – instead ...
- Controlled packing and single-droplet resolution of 3D-printed functional synthetic tissueson April 30, 2020 at 2:15 am
Precise patterning of lipid-stabilised aqueous droplets is a key challenge in building synthetic tissue designs. Here, the authors show how the interactions between pairs of droplets direct the ...
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