3D print your lab equipment

Friday, 21 July, 2017

3D print your lab equipment

Neuroscientists from the Universities of Tübingen and Sussex have developed ‘FlyPi’ — a low-cost imaging and microscope system for research, training and teaching. The findings of their research, led by André Maia Chagas and Tom Baden, have been published in PLOS Biology. 

The intricate equipment necessary for modern neuroscience experiments can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars when relying on commercially available solutions. FlyPi, on the other hand, can perform many standard lab protocols, including light and fluorescence microscopy, optogenetics, thermogenetics and behavioural studies on small animals such as roundworms, fruit flies and zebrafish larvae. 

The design is based on a 3D-printed framework holding a Raspberry Pi computer and camera, cheap LEDs for lighting and simple lenses, and optical and thermal control circuits based on Arduino, an open-source microcontroller. Taken together, the components cost less than €100 ($147) for the basic system and can be modified to suit the lab’s purposes. The FlyPi system provides modular, low-cost options for research and assembly, and instructions for use are made available free of charge via open-source platforms.

The developers of the FlyPi system share a keen interest in spreading ‘open labware’. Together with co-author Lucia Prieto Godino of the University of Lausanne, the developers have taught courses in 3D printing, programming and DIY lab equipment at universities in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania.

“Many institutions around the world have little money to spend on costly equipment,” said Baden. “We think it is very important that neuroscientific training and research open up to larger numbers of students and junior scientists. So we hope that, with open labware such as our FlyPi, we can offer a starting point.”

Image caption: A 3D model of FlyPi (left) and the assembled FlyPi (right). Image credit: Tom Baden.

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