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Laboratory Device Prototyping

Author: Rodolfo Antonio Salido Benítez​

Completion Date: Summer, 2016

Software: Simplify 3D, Arduino, Autodesk Fusion 360, Rasbian

Place of Creation: Califronia Institute for Biomedical Research. (Calibr)


Techniques: Computer aided design & manufacturing, rapid prototyping, and micro controller programming.

Materials: Polylactic Acid (PLA), Ardruino Uno, Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, solenoid valve, pneumatic gripper, and a touchscreen display.

One of the most promising applications of personal manufacturing technologies in the laboratory setting is device prototyping. Research and development teams often encounter niche problems specific to their research practices. These problems frequently lack commercially available solutions, and when solutions do exist, they often come with a substantial cost due to the low volume of sales driving their monetization. In the lab automation environment, where workflows are carried out by an array of specialized machines, even a simple task, such as de-capping a vial, can disrupt a complex multistep procedure.

During my employment at Calibr, I assisted the Lab Automation team tackle the aforementioned problem, programmatically de-capping a vial in a compound management liquid handling workstation. An Arduino controlled pneumatic gripper with a modular base insert compatible with the liquid handler's workstation configuration was installed and scripted to fulfill its function during an automated workflow. In this project, the Arduino Uno controls a solenoid valve that regulates airflow to the pneumatic three finger gripper.

We also explored the potential of personally manufactured networked devices using affordable Raspberry Pi computers. We successfully utilized a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B to telecontrol and monitor a Robo R1+ 3D printer. Additionally, we used a second Raspberry Pi to prototype and manufacture a touchscreen kiosk. This kiosk displayed the ultra High Throughput Screening queue, enabled by Google Calendar, and reported instrumentation malfunctions via Google Forms. The touchscreen interface consisted of a Raspberry Pi, a touchscreen, and a custom 3D-printed enclosure.

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