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. 2016 Aug;21(4):489-95.
doi: 10.1177/2211068216649578. Epub 2016 May 19.

3D Printing in the Laboratory: Maximize Time and Funds With Customized and Open-Source Labware

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Free PMC article

3D Printing in the Laboratory: Maximize Time and Funds With Customized and Open-Source Labware

Meghan Coakley et al. J Lab Autom. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the computer-guided process of fabricating physical objects by depositing successive layers of material. It has transformed manufacturing across virtually every industry, bringing about incredible advances in research and medicine. The rapidly growing consumer market now includes convenient and affordable "desktop" 3D printers. These are being used in the laboratory to create custom 3D-printed equipment, and a growing community of designers are contributing open-source, cost-effective innovations that can be used by both professionals and enthusiasts. User stories from investigators at the National Institutes of Health and the biomedical research community demonstrate the power of 3D printing to save valuable time and funding. While adoption of 3D printing has been slow in the biosciences to date, the potential is vast. The market predicts that within several years, 3D printers could be commonplace within the home; with so many practical uses for 3D printing, we anticipate that the technology will also play an increasingly important role in the laboratory.

Keywords: 3D printing; computer-assisted design; equipment; prototyping.

Conflict of interest statement

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Examples of 3D-printed lab equipment noted with white arrowheads. (A) Coverslip spinner holder, lab equipment, 3D-printed parts, http://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-001230. (B) RO/DI tubing mount for laboratory faucets, http://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-000114. (C) Tube rack, http://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-000490. (D) Homogenizer tube holder, http://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-001227. Model and image credits: (A) Sam Lord (user samjlord); (B) screenshots from “Multiple uses for 3D Printing around NIH Labs,” NIH 3D Print Exchange YouTube Channel, video by Jeremy Swan published on February 6, 2014; (C) Darren Boehning (user boehninglab); and (D) Peter Allen (user pballen).
Figure 2
Figure 2
Custom 3D models from the laboratory of Dr. Darren Boehning 3D-printed parts noted with white arrowheads. (A) iPhone microscope adapter to accommodate microscopy image capture using an iPhone 5S camera, http://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-000491, and (B) raw image of HeLa cells in culture. (C) Magnetic Perfusion Manifold Holder, 3D printed and augmented with neodymium magnets, shown here securing a Warner Instruments perfusion manifold MP-6, http://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3dpx-000531. Image credits: Darren Boehning.
Figure 3
Figure 3
(A) Holding tanks at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Zebrafish Facility; the white arrow indicates the hole in the tank lid through which zebrafish were able to escape. (B) Renderings of the 3D design iterations of the 3D-printable feeding plug designed by the Burgess lab at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (http://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3DPX-000110). Image credits: (A) Screenshot from “Examples of 3D Prints at NICHD,” NIH 3D Print Exchange YouTube Channel, video by Jeremy Swan published on January 31, 2014; (B) Harold Burgess, “3D Printing at the Bench: Singular Solutions for New Frontiers in Biology.”
Figure 4
Figure 4
3D-printed flange for high-throughput drug screening. (A) A Greiner 1536 propylene plate with flange, held in the gripper of a robotic arm. (B) Replacement flange printed in black ABS on an FDM printer alone (left) and attached to a 1536 microplate without a flange (right). (C) Plate, with flange, held in the gripper. The 3D model was created by Eric Jones; files and more information are available at http://3dprint.nih.gov/discover/3DPX-000368. Image credits: (A–C) Screenshots from “How 3D Printing Helps with High Throughput Screening at the NIH,” NIH 3D Print Exchange YouTube Channel, video by Jeremy Swan published on February 6, 2014.

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