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Researchers Design LEGO-Like 3D Printable Modular Blocks That Can Be Used to Build Customized Lab Instruments

by • July 20, 2016 • No Comments

3dp_MECblocks_Uc_riverside_logoIf you want to turn it into a basic electronics project it is in fact relatively easy to do. Most parts are made to be modular and work with other parts, and in fact there are entire kits full of random electronic parts that can be utilized in a wide array of projects and devices. Unfortunately this system of multi-use parts and components does not exist for other disciplines like the life sciences, where lab research equipment needs to be made of scratch for every different types of experiment. Not only does this add extra
time to the project spent creating specialized lab tools, but it can be complex to manage in resource-limited environments like high schools and underfunded labs.

But a team of researchers and students at the University of California, Riverside have been working on a solution, and it borrows of the concept of standard electronic part turn it into and turn it intoing block systems like LEGO. When graduate student Douglas Hill joined UCR’s Ph.D. program in Bioengineering, he had may aleager spent years turn it intoing electronics via components that were intentionally made to work with every other in a wide variety of ways. He was surprised that there was no much like system of parts or components in place inside his new area of study, so he proposed the thought of turn it intoing one with William Grover, assistant professor of bioengineering in UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering.

Various Multifluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs)

Various Multifluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs)

“When Doug came to UC Riverside, he was a little shocked to find out that bioengineers turn it into new instruments of scratch. He’s utilized to putting together a few resistors and capacitors and building a new circuit in only a few minutes. But turn it intoing new tools for life science research can take months or actually years. Doug set out to alter that,” Grover explained to UCR Currently.

Design standard for the MEC system.

Design standard for the MEC system.

Typically when researchers in the life sciences need to run an experiment or return it into a biological or chemical reaction they need to turn it into a custom lab device that can work without influencing the data. But after proposing a set of 3D printable turn it intoing blocks much like to LEGO that may be utilized to rapidly and cheaply turn it into custom chemical and biological research instruments, Hill and Grover succeded in a grant of National Science Foundation’s Instrument Development for Biological Research program to fully turn it into it. They published their work in a paper titled “MECs: ‘Building Blocks’ for Creating Biological and Chemical Instruments” authored by Douglas A. Hill, Lindsey E. Anderson, Casey J. Hill, Afshin Mostaghim, Victor G. J. Rodgers and William H. Grover.

A group of UC Riverside undergraduates took part in the turn it intoment of the different types of block components by turn it intoing new blocks and via existing turn it intos to turn it into functional instruments. The flexible and adjustable blocks are called Multifluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs) and were made to perform a important function that may be needed for the createion of real-world testing and research devices. Tasks as easy as measuring data, micro-pumps, fluid storage space and measuring, LED user interfaces, mixing components, sensing modules and parts that stimulate skeletal structures are all considered relatively standard. Because all of the MECs were made specifically to work with every other, components can be utilized to rapidly create equipment like bioreactors or devices that measure chemical or biological reactions.

Designing and turn it intoing a custom instrument via the MEC system.

Designing and turn it intoing a custom instrument via the MEC system.

So far additional than 50 UCR students have took part in the turn it into and turn it intoment of the MEC blocks system and have made additional than 200 of them. They have in addition helped turn it into a collection of basic schematics that can instruction users in the assembly of MEC turn it intoing blocks into working instruments. The outcome is a library of functional components or blocks that can be utilized in settings as diverse as a high school science class to a world-class research lab to create virtually any type of research, scientific or diagnostic tools. In order for the blocks to truly be functional across all of the life sciences, the project needd that Hill and Grover to work with students of all over the campus of a wide variety of disciplines.

“This is a truly interdisciplinary project—we’ve had desktop science students write the code that runs the blocks, bioengineering students culture cells via instruments created of the blocks, and actually art students turn it into the graphical interface for the software that controls the blocks. Once the students have made these instruments, they in addition know how they work, they can ‘hack’ them to manufacture them advantageous, and they can take them apart to turn it into a thing else,” Grover continued.

The following step in the MEC turn it intoment system is a pilot program that Hill and Grover are planning to bring to two California school districts. The blocks can be utilized to conclude not long ago enacted “Next Generation Science Standards” that are part of a national initiative to improve STEM education in public schools. The relative affordability and high rate of functionality manufacture the MEC Block system thoughtl for k-12 settings where funding is frequently limited and science teveryers frequently end up purchasing supplies and components of their own pockets.

Two examples of functional, integrated components.

Two examples of functional, integrated components.

“The Next Generation Science Standards need that science teveryers provide their students with engineering experiences, but sometimes that’s complex for teveryers to do, especially in biology and chemistry classes where they can not have the tools they need. By via our blocks, the students can obtain an engineering experience by turn it intoing, turn it intoing, and refining their instruments, and in addition a science experience as they use their instruments to learn of biology and chemistry,” Grover said.

Once the testing and evaluation of the MEC Block system has been concluded and the blocks are eager to be utilized in standard lab settings Hill and Grover plan to manufacture the inexpensive
system widely on the market. Because the blocks are 3D printable they may be easily accessed by schools in underserved communities, nonprofits and actually turn it intoing nations. This week Hill and Grover published their MEC Block research and data in the science journal PLOS ONE, that you can access here. Discuss additional over in the 3D Printed Modular Life Sciences Equipment forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Video: UCR Currently / Images: UC Riverside via PLOS ONE]