If you’ve worked in a bio or chem lab, you’ve probably found yourself handling all manner of plastic. Test tubes, fixtures, clamps — there’s a cavalcade of this stuff that fattens up the order books of lab suppliers every quarter. Sometimes, though, the commercial solutions aren’t quite what you need. For [AtomicVirology], the solution was to 3D print custom lab accessories to make work easier.
Some of the devices are straightforward, like simple holders for upright storage of centrifuge tubes. Others are fun twists on the theme, like the Millennium Falcon tube holder or one shaped like the Imperial Star Destroyer. Meanwhile, a resuable plastic tube cover serves as a way to protect tubes from light without the fuss of covering them in aluminium foil. It’s less wasteful, too!
Our favorite, though, is a simple adapter for holding fraction tubes in a AKTA fraction collection device. Stock, the AKTA device will hold 30 small tubes in the inside ring, and 30 larger tubes in the outside ring. Thanks to a simple printed part, though, it can be modified to hold 60 tubes of the smaller size. This allows the collection of 60 small fractions in a shorter period of time simply by moving the delivery head from the inner to the outer ring, without having to swap out 30 tubes halfway through a chromatography column, for example.
It goes to show that a 3D printer is good for more than just churning out Pikachus. It’s a Swiss Army knife for solving fiddly little problems without having to rely on some company to injection-mold you 10,000 examples of whatever it is you want. Of course, if you do want to injection mold something, we’ve covered how to do that before, as well.
We’ve all had to shake jars of nail polish, model paint, or cell cultures. Mixing paint is easy – but bacteria and cells need to be agitated for hours. Happily, laboratory tube tumblers automate this for us. The swishing action is handled with rotation. The vials are mounted at angles around a wheel. The angular offset means the tubes are inclined as they rise, and declined as they fall. This causes the liquid in the tube to slosh from one side to the other as the wheel rotates. [Sebastian S. Cocioba] aka [ATinyGreenCell] released his plans through Tinkercad and GitHub, and with a name like Sir Tumbalot, we know he must be cultured indeed.
Grab your monocles. Version 2 features a driven wheel lined with magnets to attach tube adapters, and he’s modeled 50mL and twin 15mL tube holders. The attachment points look like a simple beveled rectangle with a magnet pocket, so if you’re feeling vigorous for vials, you can whip up custom sockets and tumble any darn thing. A Trinamic StealthChop chip on a custom PCB controls the pancake stepper, and the whole shebang should cost less than $50USD. We’re wondering what other purposes this modular design could have, like the smallest rock tumbler or resin print rinser.
There’s plenty of specialized, high-end scientific equipment out there running on antique hardware and software. It’s not uncommon for old lab equipment to run on DOS or other ancient operating systems. When these expensive tools get put out to pasture, they often end up in the hands of hackers, who, without the benefit of manuals or support, may try and get them going again. [macona] is trying to do just that with a 740AD spectrometer, built by Optronic Laboratories in the 1990s.
Originally, the device shipped with a whole computer – a Leading Edge 386SX25 PC running DOS and Windows 3.0. The tools to run the spectrometer were coded in BASIC. Armed with the source code, [macona] was able to recreate the functionality in LabVIEW. To replace the original ISA interface board, an Advantech USB-4751 digital IO module was used instead, which dovetailed nicely with its inbuilt LabVIEW support.
With things back up and running, [macona] has put the hardware through its paces, testing the performance of some IR camera filters. Apparently, the hardware, or the same model, was once used to test the quantum efficiency of CCDs used on the Hubble Space Telescope.
The build consists of a 3D printed base, containing a simple brushed motor. This is hooked up to a motor controller fitted with a simple potentiometer for adjusting the speed of rotation. The motor is then fitted with a small 3D printed spinner containing two magnets. A similar 3D printed part acts as a stirrer, and is fitted with a matching pair of magnets, and dropped into the solution. The magnets in the stirrer are attracted to the ones on the end of the motor, and so when the motor spins, the stirrer spins in the solution, with no physical contact required.
Ham radio, especially the HF bands, can be intimidating for aspiring operators, many being put off by the cost of equipment. The transceiver itself is only part of the equation and proper test and measurement equipment can easily add hundreds of dollars to the bill. However, such equipment goes a long way to ease the frustrations of setting up a usable station. Fortunately [Ashhar Farhan, VU2ESE] has been at it again, and recently released the Antuino, an affordable, hackable test instrument for ham radio and general lab for use.
As you can probably guess from the name, it is primarily intended for testing antennas, and uses an Arduino Nano as a controller. It has quite a list of measurement functions including SWR, field strength, cable loss, RF cable velocity, modulation, and frequency response plotting. It also provides a signal source for testing. Its frequency range includes the HF and VHF bands, and it can even work in the UHF bands (435Mhz) if you are willing to sacrifice some sensitivity. The software is open source and available with the schematics on Github.
Most of the active ham radio operators today are of the grey haired, retired variety. If the hobby is to stand any chance of outliving them, it needs to find a way to be attractive to the younger generations who grew up with the internet. The availability of affordable and hackable equipment can go long way to making this happen, and [Ashhar Farhan] has been one of the biggest contributors in this regard. His $129 μBITX HF SSB/CW transceiver kit is by far the best value for money general coverage HF radio available.
See a short demonstration of the Antuino video after the break
Some of biology’s most visually striking images come from fluorescence microscopes. Their brilliant colors on black look like a neon sign from an empty highway. A brand new fluorescence microscope is beyond a hacker’s budget and even beyond some labs’, but there are ways to upgrade an entry-level scope for the cost of a few cups of coffee. [Justin Atkin] of The Thought Emporium published a scope hacking video which can also be seen below. He is becoming a reputed scope modder.
This video assumes a couple of things for the $10 price tag. The first premise is that you already have a scope, a camera adapter, and a camera capable of shooting long exposures. The second premise is that you are willing to break the seals and open the scope to make some reversible mods. Since you are reading Hackaday, maybe that is a given.
The premise is simple compared to the build, which is not rocket surgery, the light source from below illuminates the subject like a raver, and the filter removes any light that isn’t spectacular before it gets to the camera.
We’ve all been there: you need a specific tool or gadget to complete a project, but it’s not the kind of thing you necessarily want to fork over normal retail price for. It could be something you’re only going to use once or twice, or maybe you’re not even sure the idea is going to work and don’t want to invest too much money into it. You cast a skeptical towards the ever-growing pile of salvaged parts and wonder…
Inspiration and a dig through the junk bin is precisely how [Nixie] built this very impressive spin coater for use in his ongoing homemade semiconductor project. If you’ve never had first hand experience with a spin coater, don’t worry, not many people have. Put simply, it’s a machine that allows the user to deposit a thin layer of material on a disc by way of centrifugal force. Just place a few drops in the center of the disc, then spin it up fast enough and let physics do the rest.
[Nixie] only needs to spin up a fairly tiny disc, and realized the hub of a 40x40mm brushless case fan was just about the perfect size. A quick pass through the lathe stripped the hub of its blades and faced off the front. Once he found a tube that was the exact same diameter of the fan’s axle, he realized he could even use a small vacuum pump to hold his disc in place. A proper seal is provided by 10 and 16 mm OD o-rings, installed into concentric grooves he machined into the face of the hub.
With a way to draw a vacuum through the hub of the spinner he just needed the pump. As luck would have it, he didn’t have to wait for one to make the journey from China, as he had one of those kicking around his junk bin from a previous project. The only thing he ended up having to buy was the cheap PWM fan controller which he mounted along with the modified fan to a piece of black acrylic; producing a fairly professional looking little piece of lab equipment. Check out the video after the break for a brief demonstration of it in action.