3D printing a better lab

The 3D printer is already proving useful after just one week in the lab. It’s now so easy to make custom objects I am seeing lots of opportunities to use the printer in the lab instead of cobbling together random odds and ends. In the last few days I have been designing labware on the train, and one item has come out really well. This is simply a flexible modular grid system which I designed to hold about 100 small petri dishes in position over a long term experiment.

In the video you can see the printer in action building a single module for 9 mini petri dishes, which takes about 2.5 hours to print. The modules can be joined together to make a larger grid, and the design is parametric which means key dimensions like height, cell size, and number of cells can be easily changed.

Parametric interlocking grid system.

Parametric interlocking grid system. The 3 images show the same design. In the second image the height parameter is increased, and in the third image the number of cells parameter is increased.

The printer is the BCP-01 based on a RepRap design and was supplied by local engineer Keith Bradburne who develops and produces the printers with his son Colin. My process for printing new lab equipment goes like this:

  1. Design in OpenSCAD and export to STL
  2. Import to Repetier-Host
  3. Slice with slic3r which is integrated within repetier
  4. Copy the .gcode from slic3r onto a micro SD card
  5. Put the card in the printer and select the file to print

The flexible grid design can be found in my new GitHub repository – parametric-lab.

6 modules joined together to form a 9x6 grid for 54 mini petri dishes.

6 modules joined together to form a 9×6 grid for 54 mini petri dishes.