Mar.28, 2013

Using open source software and 3D printers an American researcher has saved thousands of dollars by making everything from his lab equipment to his safety razor.

Last month, together with his team, Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, created their own waste plastic extruder that can shred and extrude milk jugs into a long, spaghetti-like string of plastic.

(Michelson interferometer)

Open-source hardware and software make it possible to drive down the cost of doing experimental science and expand access to everyone. As part of this movement, Michigan Technological University lab has released a library of open-source, 3D-printable optics components to public.

"This library operates as a flexible, low-cost public-domain tool set for developing both research and teaching optics hardware." says Pearce.

(Parametric automated filter wheel changer)

The designs were made customizable using OpenSCAD, an open-source, CAD software, and printed on RepRap 3D printers. The electronics and controls are based on the open-source Arduino microcontroller environment.

(3D printing a filter bracket)

The study found cost reductions generally over 97 percent and to build some component in the lab costs only 1% of commercial product.

"For example, commercial optical rail sells for around $380 per meter, and you can build an open alternative with printed parts for less than what you would pay in sales tax," says Pearce. "And there is no sales tax, shipping costs or waiting for parts to come in stock or ship".

(Open-source lab jack)

Releasing the 3D files of optics components can attract more researchers to participate in optical experimentation.

"Saving money is nice, particularly for cash-strapped schools, but the real advantage of this approach is that it enables researchers to fabricate custom optics equipment in house. You get exactly what you need for your experiments, even if they are not commercially available," says Pearce, "This is the future of scientific equipment. We have only just started."

The full introduction of this library of open-source, 3D-printable optics components is published in PLOS One from the Public Library of Science.

You can download open optics designs on Thingiverse here.


 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

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