Joshua Pearce is not one for understatement. "This is the beginning of a true revolution in the sciences," says the author of "Open-Source Lab." For cash-strapped researchers, he could be right.
His new book, published by Elsevier, is a step-by-step DIY guide for making lab equipment. The essential tools are a 3D printer, open-source software and free digital designs. "It's a guidebook for new faculty members setting up labs," he said. "With it, they can cut the cost by a factor of 10, or even 100 for research-grade equipment. Even in the classroom, we can do a $15,000 educational lab for $500."
In keeping with the open-source concept, parts of "Open-Source Lab: How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs," will be freely available at different times on the Elsevier Store. Chapters one and two are free now.
Pearce, an associate professor at Michigan Technological University, began printing out lab equipment in earnest after a seminal moment, when he priced a lab jack at $1,000. "All it does is move things up and down," he said. Using a printer and open-source software, his team made a utilitarian replica for about five dollars.
Pearce hasn't looked back. On his desk is a dual-purpose gadget: it can measure water turbidity, like a nephelometer; and it can do chemical analysis based on color, like a colorimeter. "We've shoved two devices into one, and it's completely customizable," said Pearce. To buy them both with equivalent accuracy would have cost over $4,000. To make this hybrid on a 3D printer cost about $50 including the cost of an open-source microcontroller, sensors and LEDs.
Saving money is just the half of it. "This lets faculty have total control over their laboratory," he said. Because designs are fluid, "devices can evolve with your lab rather than become obsolete."
The technology goes beyond slashing costs; it can also result in better science, says Pearce. Replicating another resea
|Contact: Marcia Goodrich|
Michigan Technological University