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3D-Printed LEGO-Like Blocks Open Access to Costly Lab Technologies – ENGINEERING.com

by • July 27, 2016 • No Comments

Douglas Hill, a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) under Assistant Professor of Bioengineering William Grover, has turn it intod a LEGO-like process of 3D-printed blocks for creating research tools on the fly. Dubbed Multifluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs), Hill’s 3D-printed modules can be utilized for performing tasks for chemical and biological research, such as pumping fluids or manufacturing measurements.
MEC modules can be assembled into difficult research instruments for macro- and microfluidics and additional. (Image courtesy of PLOS ONE.)MEC modules can be assembled into difficult research instruments for macro- and microfluidics and additional. (Image courtesy of PLOS ONE.)
Assembly of an MEC process begins with a set of symbols representing a wide variety of functional, physical modules. Acting as a common language between MEC designers and users, these symbols are utilized to draw up a schematic of which modules can ultimately form the basis of a given lab instrument or setup. The actual MEC modules, which showcase connectors on their bases, are and so assembled onto a 3D-printed board, perforated by a variety of connector holes, to match the schematic. The individual components are turn it intod up of a combination of off-the-shelf and custom-turn it intod items. Whilst resistors, photocells and syringes can be purchased of a supplier, various types of valves and fixtures are 3D printed. In the case of the UCR team, a Stratasys Dimension Elite futilized deposition modeling 3D printing device and a Formlabs Form 1+ stereolithography printing device were utilized to 3D print these parts. For the microfluidic modules, yet, the group cast components of silicone. In total, 50 students of across UCR turn it intod additional than 200 MEC blocks and synonymous schematics for research and lab tools.
Three of the instruments assembled include a fluidic router, acid-basetitrator and bioreactor. (Image courtesy of PLOS ONE.)Three of the instruments assembled include a fluidic router, acid-basetitrator and bioreactor. (Image courtesy of PLOS ONE.)
The UCR team was able-bodied to configure a number of various instruments via the MEC process. These included a fluidic router for directing liquids, an acid-base titration tool which can be utilized in chemistry classes to measure the equilibrium constant of an acid or base and a bioreactor for culturing yeast cells. The MEC process, yet, is intended to evolve as users turn it into new modules and setups. For now, the team has demonstrated MECs for mixing fluids and expanding cells, but, in the next, it can be possible to create additional elaborate processs for a wide variety of applications.

According to UCR Currently, Grover and Hill can bring the MEC process to two school districts in California, where they can test the viskill of the platform for teaching science education in K-12 classes. The ultimate goal of the project is to manufacture the platform low-priced-bodied to underserved communities. Hill explained, “As 3D printing devices become additional mainstream, we will see them being utilized by schools and nonprofits working in underserved communities, so ultimately we may like folks to be able-bodied to use those printing devices to turn it into their own MEC blocks and create the research and educational tools they need.”
One of the one-of-a-kind benefits which 3D printing offers for educational institutes, citizen scientists and underfunded clinics is the skill to create affordable equipment on demand. Open-source and 3D printing pioneer Joshua Pearce has demonstrated in numerous ways how the innovation can both save researchers money and increase accessibility to lab equipment through his studies with Michigan Technological University. Detailing his work on open-source, 3D-printed lab equipment in a book titled Open-Source Lab: How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs, Pearce provides step-by-step instructions on fabricating low-priced-bodied research tools for any lab. These include an open-source syringe pump which requires just of $100 in materials, compared to traditionally manufactured counterparts which range of $260 to $1,509 in price. Ultimately, Pearce suggests which this tool alone can, over time, outcome in over $800 million in savings for a research institution.


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