Johnathan Eisen is a Professor at the University of California, Davis. The main overarching focus on the Eisen's lab is on the "phylogenomics of novelty" in microbes and their major research themes include the genomic basis for the origin and evolution of new functions and the ecology and evolution of microbial communities.
Recently for one of their research the lab had to pay more than $300 for six gel combs from a supplier. They cost $51 each (see the picture below "12 tooth double-sided comb").
Russel Neches, a graduate student in the lab, found it 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.
Neches ordered the plastic filament from ProtoParadigm at $42 for a kilogram, meaning 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) and Neches said the saving on just these gel combs has recuperated 18% of the cost of the printer.
Using a printer Neches was able to print $150 worth of gel combs at a cost less than a cup of coffee.
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. said Neches.
What we like the most in this story is 3D printing made the lab work much easier and saved the lab a pile of money. Because of its higher efficiency than traditional manufacturing it has in many ways improved quality of your work and helped get your project on the fast track.
Posted in 3D Printing Applications
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