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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 for personal manufacturing technologies in the laboratory setting is device prototyping. Research and development teams often stumble into niche problems bound by their specific research practice. Some of these problems don't have commercially available solutions, and when they do, they come with a hefty price tag because their monetization is not driven by high volume sales. In the lab automation environment, where workflows are carried out by an assortment of specialized machines, a simple task, like 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 possibilities of personally manufactured networked devices through Raspberry Pi affordable computers. We successfully employed a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B to tele control and monitor a Robo R1+ 3D printer and a second one to prototype and manufacture a touchscreen kiosk to display the ultra High Throughput Screening sequencing queue, enabled by Google Calendar, and report instrumentation malfunctions, via Google Forms. The touchscreen interface was comprised by a Raspberry Pi, a touchscreen, and a custom 3D printed enclosure. 

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