Russell's Blog

New. Improved. Stays crunchy in milk.

Why doesn't your lab have a 3D printer yet?

Posted by Russell on November 20, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.
Electrophoresis setups are like Tupperware. You can never find the right lid when you need it, and someone always seems to be borrowing the doohicky you need.

Here in the Eisen Lab, it turns out we've been using Marc Facciotti's electrophoresis stuff for years. He keeps his stuff organized, and, well... that's not been our strong suit lately. John, our lab manager, has been gently but inexorably herding us towards a semblance of respectability in our lab behavior. As part of this, he decided that it was time for us to get our electrophoresis stuff straightened out. So, he ordered a bunch nice of gel combs from one of our suppliers. They cost $51 each (see the "12 tooth double-sided comb", catalog number 669-B2-12, for the exact one pictured below). We bought six of them with different sizes and spacing, for a total exceeding $300.

While I appreciate that companies need to make money, this is a ridiculous price for a lousy little scrap of plastic. $300 for a couple of gel combs is cartel pricing, not market pricing. Fortunately, we happen to have a very nice 3D printer. It is very good at making little scraps of plastic. So, I busted out the calipers and tossed together some models of gel combs in OpenSCAD. A few minutes of printing later, and the $51 gel combs are heading back to the store.

Here's the code for the six well 1.5mm by 9mm comb :

f=0.01;
difference(){
  difference(){
    union(){
      cube( [ 80, 27, 3 ] );
      translate( [ 5.25, 14.3, f ] ) cube( [ 68, 9.3, 7.25 ] );
    }
    for ( i = [ 0:5 ] ) {
      translate( [ 17.1+i*11.0, -f, -f ] ) cube( [ 1.75, 12, 5 ] );
    }
  }
  union(){
    translate( [ -f,   -f, -f ] ) cube( [ 7,  12, 7] );
    translate( [ 73+f, -f, -f ] ) cube( [ 7,  12, 7] );
    translate( [ 0,    -f, 1.6] ) cube( [ 80, 12, 8] );
  }
}
Pretty easy to grasp, even if you've never seen SCAD before.

So, how much did this cost?

I ordered this plastic from ProtoParadigm at $42 for a kilogram. That's about four pennies a gram. Each of these gel combs cost about 21 cents to print. That's 1/243rd the price.

The 3D printer cost €1,194.00 ($1524.62), which is less than the laptop I use for most of my work. The savings on just these gel combs has recuperated 18% of the cost of the printer.

It's also important that I was able to make some minor improvements to the design. The printed combs fit into the gel mold a bit better than the "official" ones. I also made separate combs for the 1.0mm and 1.5mm versions, and the labels are easier to read. If I wanted, tiny tweaks to my SCAD file would let me make all sorts of fun combinations of thicknesses and widths that aren't available from the manufacturer. So, these gel combs are not only 1/243rd the price, but they are also better.

If you read the media hype about 3D printing, you will undoubtedly encounter a lot of fantastical-sounding speculation about how consumers will someday be able to print living goldfish, or computers, or bicycles. Maybe so. Maybe not. However, right now, you can print basic lab supplies and save a pile of money.

Buy your lab manager a little FDM printer and hook them up with some basic CAD training. Yes, the printer will probably mostly get used to make bottle openers and Tardis cookie cutters. So what? Your paper-printer, if you will excuse the retronym, mostly gets used for non-essential stuff too. I'd wager that for every important document printed in your lab, a hundred sheets have gone to Far Side cartoons and humorous notices taped up in the bathroom. It's a negligible expense compared to the benefits of having a machine that spits out documents when you really need them, and the social value of those the Far Side cartoons probably sums to a net positive anyway.

Conclusion : If you have a lab, and you don't have a 3D printer, you are wasting your money. Seriously.

In the time it took write this post, I printed $150 worth of gel combs, and it cost less than a cup of coffee.

Updates : Here is the tweet I originally posted about this article, before the URL for it vanishes into Twitter's memory hole. Here's an encouraging post from the Genome Web blog, and a nice article by Tim Dean at Australian Life Scientist. My article here seems to have spawned a thread on BioStar. Also, it made Ed Yong's Missing Links for November 24 over at Discover, and Megan Treacy did a really spiffy article over at Treehugger.

Many people have asked, and so I decided to see how well these kinds of 3D printed parts do in the autoclave. I tried it out with a couple of bad prints, and they seemed to hold up just fine after one or two cycles. Very thin parts did warp a bit, though, so I recommend printing parts you plan to autoclave nice and solid. Here is a before and after of a single-wall part (less than half a millimeter thick). I was expecting a puddle.

Update 2 : Check out Lauren Wolf's awesome article in Chemical & Engineering News, featuring the infamous gel combs, among other things!

JUAL INVERTER SERVO on April 02, 2014 at 11:31 a.m.

Thank's

collin on April 02, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.

Love the feel of the site, fascinated more by the content within it. Keep it up. SEO Bolton

mike on April 02, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.

The site has excellent content, if you feel promoting the site would help, feel free to contact us.   SEO Lancashire

gerobak murah on April 02, 2014 at 3:05 p.m.

this is a new knowledge for me, absolutely helpful. thanks.

filter air vittera on April 03, 2014 at 9:07 p.m.

Thanks for info

Negara Asia on April 04, 2014 at 12:05 a.m.

Nice and thanks for info

Mark L. Albright on April 04, 2014 at 12:54 p.m.

I've checked Lauren Wolf's post and that's very awesome. hd wallpapers 1080p

Shinta Farida Hasan on April 04, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.

3d printer is our future :D

Najwa Furniture on April 04, 2014 at 8:40 p.m.

Thanks So much

Ahmad on April 07, 2014 at 4:14 a.m.

ASUS Notebook Terbaik dan Favoritku
http://alamsyahrachmat.blogspot.com/2014/03/asus-notebook-terbaik-dan-favoritku.html > share artikel gan!artikel agan bermanfaat.

Beni on April 07, 2014 at 10:19 p.m.

very expensive but worth to try agc wordpress plugin

cara memperbesar penis on April 07, 2014 at 10:23 p.m.

Extenderjilq adalah cara memperbesar penis yang terbaik.
peroses pembesarannya begitu cepat dan aman karena menggunakan alat extender dan sedikit teknik urut arab "jilq"
Tidak ada metode lain yg secepat ini.
hasil PERMANEN

tunggu apa lagi, info lengkap segera kunjungi:
www.extenderjilq.com

Syifa on April 09, 2014 at 8:45 a.m.

Mantep gan informasinya, kunjungi balik ya :)

http://inisukabumi.blogspot.com/

ihsan on April 09, 2014 at 9:16 p.m.

wah bagus bgt nih psoit nya,thanks banyak yah :) klik disini

klik disini

wowo on April 09, 2014 at 9:18 p.m.

wah mantab juga nih,kali2 saya juga ke pengen dong ikut ginian,thanks yah mastah ^^
klik disini
klik disini

paket wisata karimunjawa on April 10, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

infonya sangat bagus sekali gan. makasih...

Maude Ginyard on April 10, 2014 at 10:23 a.m.

Your write-up is pretty informative! Browsing your work has educated me. Discovered a lot from it. I will favorite your webpage and will pursue to go through your new blog posts. Terrific! Thanks a lot! royal-essay.com

sepatu on April 11, 2014 at 9:46 a.m.

sangat bermanfaat sekali,ijin nyimak dulu hehehe

jual sepatu on April 11, 2014 at 9:47 a.m.

info yang bagus nie,maksih min dah berbagi ilmu...

Boku no Blog on April 11, 2014 at 5:58 p.m.

Now much use the 3Dprint. Its simillar with the original object

168sdbet on April 13, 2014 at 5:13 a.m.

Saya ucapkan terimakasih kepada pembuat artikel ini, artikel ini berisi informasi yang sangat bermanfaat untuk smeua pembaca khususnya saya sendiri. Saya tunggu lagi informasi-informasi lainnya yang tidak kalah menarik.
Sukses selalu untuk anda

kunjungi web kami untuk menambah ilmu
Judi Online www.168sdbet.com
terima kasih

Lowongan Kerja Terbaru on April 13, 2014 at 9:05 a.m.

I say thank you to the makers of this article, this article contains information that is very useful for all readers, especially my own. I'm waiting for other information that is not less interesting.
Good luck to you

artikel unik dan aneh on April 14, 2014 at 6:43 p.m.

wah informasi yang sangat menarik dari yang di baca informasi unik diatas menjadikan arikel yang paling aneh, bagus dan bermanfaat. pantas saja situs ini yang paling sering dikunjungi oleh pengguna internet, berita unik banyak yang di buat disitus ini apalagi berita aneh sering dibuat.. semoga situs ini selalu membuat informasi menarik juga berita paling aneh didunia, jangan lupa yah beserta bukti foto anehnya ya (y)

Motivator Kota Malang on April 15, 2014 at 10:50 a.m.

trimakasih atas artikelnya yang berjudul "Why doesn't your lab have a 3D printer yet?"
sangat bermanfaat sekali buat saya dan semoga bermanfaat :)

GAPLEX MP3 INDONESIA DOWNLOAD LAGU TERBARU 2014 on April 15, 2014 at 11:09 a.m.

Thanks for share info :D

Amina on April 15, 2014 at 4:10 p.m.

Good
Mantab
Exelent

Anton on April 15, 2014 at 11:57 p.m.

Thanks your info ,

obat paru paru basah on April 16, 2014 at 9:51 p.m.

I am overwhelmed by your post with such a nice topic. Usually I visit your blogs and get updated through the information you include but today’s blog would be the most appreciable

Melilea Store on April 17, 2014 at 12:16 p.m.

oke,,,nice info!!!

WWW.WEDDINGRTRENDISTA.COM on April 17, 2014 at 8:05 p.m.

very nice blog

168sdbet on April 18, 2014 at 7:38 a.m.

Terima kasih gan atas informasinya, sudah beberapa hari ini saya mencari informasi ini, ini sungguh sangat membantu saya . mulai sekarang saya akan bookmark blog ini agar saya bisa kembali dan melihat informasi yang terbaru.
mungkin agan atau pengunjung blog agan juga membutuh kan infomasi dari saya, silahkan liat artilek saya yang sangat Mohon kunjungi website kami
Judi Online
www.168sdbet.com
Terima kasih

henteuabimah on April 18, 2014 at 11:04 a.m.

siip gan

Agus on April 18, 2014 at 8:37 p.m.

Nice Blog....thanks Info.... i like it

Kusen Aluminium on April 18, 2014 at 9:07 p.m.

Thx for your information.... Kusen Aluminium

Setia Copy Center on April 19, 2014 at 12:11 a.m.

thanks for informations
Good job

Download video bugil 3gp on April 19, 2014 at 7:48 p.m.

3D printer ? wow i like this
Film semi terbaru 2014

Jepara Mebel on April 20, 2014 at 8:51 a.m.

This is a great article, Thanks for giving me this information. Keep posting
Mebel Jepara
Furniture Jepara
Jepara Mebel
Jepara Furniture
Toko Mebel Jepara
Toko Furniture Jepara
Mebel Jati
Mebel Minimalis
Jepara Minimalis

Jepara Furniture on April 20, 2014 at 8:52 a.m.

This is a great article, Thanks for giving me this information. Keep posting
Jepara Minimalis
Kursi Tamu
Kursi Makan
Almari Pakaian
Almari Pajangan
Tempat Tidur
Kursi Teras
Bufet Tv
Rak Buku
Set Kamar Tidur

obat kuat on April 21, 2014 at 10:18 a.m.

selamat beraktifitas, salam sukses dan salam sejahtera
Obat Kuat
Obat Kuat Pria
Obat Kuat sex

Bunda Firzha on April 21, 2014 at 10:32 a.m.

saya kurang faham mas dengan yang di bahas di artikel ini,soalnya tidak ada translatenya tapi saya cukup senang berada di blog ini

Harga Tablet Mito on April 21, 2014 at 10:37 a.m.

Mas jika berkenanan boleh berkunjung ke artikel saya di

Harga Tablet Mito

Harga Tablet Mito T520

Harga Tablet Dan Spesifikasinya

Harga Tablet Terbaru

investasi on April 21, 2014 at 3:35 p.m.

very informative

Harga Pasang Gypsum on April 21, 2014 at 10:15 p.m.

saya belum mengerti maksudnya apa mas bro.. terimakasih ijin liat liat aja

obat herbal xamthone plus on April 22, 2014 at 8:40 a.m.

i didn't have a 3D printer yet, but i want it

agen xamthone jakarta on April 22, 2014 at 8:59 a.m.

nice post, maybe next time i;ll visit here again. thanks

pollen and bleu on April 22, 2014 at 10:26 a.m.

excellent. one of the best articles I have every read. This is the information which I have been searching. Great information. Pollen & Bleu | coco palms | coco palms pasir ris this article is worth bookmarking. keep it up !

canopy kain on April 22, 2014 at 11:02 p.m.

nice post,

teralis jakarta on April 22, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.

http://karyabambooawning.com/

Industrial Springs Manufacturer on April 23, 2014 at 10:58 a.m.

You have delivered a good message to everyone viewing your blog. Excellent topic you chose with proper facts and information, it will help many people. Looking forward for more articles, hope so you would post soon.

jual jaket kulit on April 23, 2014 at 1:25 p.m.

nice post

Ignore this field:
 optional; will not be displayed
Don't put anything in this field:
 optional
Don't put anything here:
Leave this empty:
URLs auto-link and some tags are allowed: <a><b><i><p>.