Andrew Alliance’s Andrew, is an impressive little automatic liquid handling robot. For example, my friend who works in a cancer research lab, uses it extensively in his everyday wet lab experiments. One of the problems associated with these sophisticated robots is that they have a very high cost for their accessories. In Andrew’s case, it uses a spring loaded tray to hold a PCR tube/ tip holder box. This tray doesn’t have to do anything other than holding the box in its place firmly. The company priced it over 300£ which is not well justified. If there is anything that is a bit complicated, is the tray that uses the tension of the spring to hold the box in its position. That’s is all about it. It has no electronic component or anything that could push the price over £10, still these companies price it for over £300. Don’t forget the VAT, import taxes, shipping time and costs involved. 3D printer. These reasons lighted up a solution for us here. We’ve decided to 3D print the holder and fix a spring to it. It took me no more than 2 iterations and now we are flying. While it took a little more time than expected to get the spring to function properly. However, I found what I needed in a knit shop- a small railing that need to hold the spring axially. That’s it and the holder is now in my friend’s lab, doing what it is supposed to do, hold the box in its position. It’s funny how such things are so simple and still these companies price them so high. However, with the advent of DIY 3D printers our jobs are getting simpler, reducing the time and costs involved.
What I’ve learned from this little experience is that, many such accessories, like the Andrew’s tip box holder in this case, once we know how to 3D print and design a few simple designs we could make as many of them as possible. We were able to make 3 holders for less than $30 and in no time. 3D printer made this look a kids play project. This little example, shows a perfect use of 3D printers in scientific labs or for printing DIY stuff for your own daily needs.
Credits: Vamsi, for throwing the problem and providing the feedback. Uday, for his help with fixing the rails and springs