Can 3-D printing reduce the supplies costs of scientists?

In the last several years, 3D printing has progressed to the point where the cost of printers and consumables is within the range of a modest laboratory’s budget. A 3D printer, with the ability to produced custom lab supplies on demand, can be a cost-effective addition to your research. Many lab supplies and consumables can be printed directly as needed. We went through Thingiverse, an open-source database of 3D printing designs, and found three of our favorite cost-saving lab tools.

IMG_1709_preview_featured1. 96-microwell plate. The workhorse of many biomedical and genetics laboratories, according to our forthcoming HappiLabs survey of PCR supplies, the average cost for a commercial plate is $3.44 (sign up to receive the full HappiLabs PCR Report). This alternative can be printed for a few cents worth of filament.

biorad_miniprotean_comb_preview_featured2. Gel Combs. Gel electrophoresis is a simple way to visualize and filter DNAs and other proteins. The little combs needed to create wells in the gel are easy to break, even easier to lose, and expensive to replace. Replacement combs from Fisher go for $73.15. BioExpress is only slightly better at $65.93. Why pay such an exorbitant markup when, with a little 3D printing skill, you can replace broken gel combs for pennies?

bild_preview_featured3.Laboratory Pipette. Granted, a 3D printed pipettor isn’t going to have the precision of a $333.50 Pipetman Classic, yet, but not every experiment demands sub-micrometer precision. For labs that need to transfer fluids but don’t require extremely high precision, a 3D printed pipettor might be the cost-effective choice.

The cost of the 3D printer itself is the biggest barrier to incorporating one into a research lab. That cost is shrinking every month and the latest models can produce high-quality products for less than $1000. A single printer, shared among multiple labs, could result in a major reduction in the cost of laboratory consumables.

If you want help shopping for lab supplies and equipment to cut your costs, give us a call –> Contact Us