3D Printing & Imaging Science
Printable gel casting kit from cathalgarvey
HobbyGel_display_medium.jpg

If you’re interested in doing gel electrophoresis (e.g. for DNA fingerprinting) at home, there are certainly easier ways to get a gel casting kit, but I wanted to throw some more props at Thingiverse user cathalgarvey, who recently also brought us a printable microlathe and a printable centrifuge attachment for a motor tool. He’s fast making a name for himself as a forerunner in the design of practical printables. Might I suggest a printable microtome next?

From the pages of MAKE:

Make Vol 7 Gel Box.jpg

MAKE Volume 7, page 66 – Backyard Biology

8 thoughts on “Printable gel casting kit from cathalgarvey

  1. Printing gel casting kits? Wtf? Has he ever cast a gel? You can make one from some clear acrylic sheets with a normal small saw. This would also have a significantly better surface finish, important for reproducibility!
    But what is much more the problem here: chemicals and power supply. Electrophoresis works at high voltages and a general lab benchtop pwr sppl is not going to cut it. Easiest there is probably to clip 10×9 V batteries together.
    But for the gel it needs pure SDS, mercaptoethanol and other interesting stuff that one will have problems buying at CVS.
    So what do we learn? Not everything that can be made should be printed.

    1. Indeed, using sheet acrylic is probably going to be easier/better considering the simplicity of the parts and superior surface finish.

      For reproducibility, it might well make quite a difference, and chemicals etc. could be hard to get, but there seems to be quite a community around home biochemistry!
      One thing we might find out is that super precise conditions as used in the lab might not be so important after all, at least to get a DIY-grade result!

      To Make:
      The batteries in the picture are not in series as they should be (and stated in the article) but in parallel.

      How about a self-contained laser cutter toolhead for the Reprap/Other 3d printers, something like this http://hackaday.com/2010/01/27/building-a-bigger-better-laser-engraver/

      Or, for thin plastic sheets (as used in some gels), a craft knife toolhead would be very easy (just put a blade on a stepper motor).

      Thoughts?

  2. Yes, cathal garvey has probably made quite a few gels. His whole point is that a lot of this lab equipment is way more expensive than it really should be. So, he is experimenting with printed materials to make them cheaper and more accessible. Of course, these are still prototypes, so there are issues like finish and safety features to be worked out, but he should still be applauded for such a practical effort.

  3. Thanks for the mention Sean! It’s always uber-satisfying to have people take an interest in something I put together.

    To those wondering about the value of a printable casting kit; I designed the kit for sale through Shapeways, where the finish would be perfectly smooth and the acrylic polymer translucent (and thus possibly appropriate for transillumination and visualisation with UV). You *could* print one on a makerbot/reprap and smooth it down also, and I’d love to see it. But if your gripe is the finish on a Makerbotted item, that wasn’t really the point.

    Of course, you could make one from acrylic sheet and glue. Go right ahead! I love to see DIY, that’s why I read Make every day! But for people disinterested in that aspect of DIY who want to get right to the biology work, I’m offering it as a kit on http://www.shapeways.com/shops/labsfromfabs at as low a price as I can manage, and it can be used right away with a tupperware box and some batteries.

    Also @printme, this gel boat was designed for agarose DNA gels, rather than SDS-PAGE gels. Agarose Gels can also be cast with Agar with Methylene blue as a DNA dye, keeping the costs low and requiring no difficult to obtain or dangerous chemicals.

    Thanks again!

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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