Simple pick and place of surface mount component example

This example is a simple demonstration how a nozzle can be programmed to pick and drop a surface mount component. The objective of this post is to demonstrate how a macro for controlling this can be programmed. This process involves positioning a nozzle over the SMD, opening the 3-way valve connect the nozzle to the vacuum pump and turning on and off the vacuum pump. The Macro editor is used to assemble the different steps which then can be exported into a macro or you can run in it. For more details about how the scheduler system please check out this link:

Video targeting for pick and place applications

Using a camera makes it more convenient to select target areas for positioning a nozzle. The example demonstrates how the LabBot scheduler software can work with video targeting for pick and place applications. In order to use this, the image resolution (which will vary depending on the distance from the camera to the target and the camera focus) and the distance from the nozzle to the viewing area needs to be calculated. The image processing tool makes it possible to enter the values in order to calculate the target position which is displayed that can be send eventually to the LabBot scheduler macro.

LabBot configuration that integrates circuit fabrication with 3-D printing
LabBot modification that makes it possible to 3-D print and to print traces and place parts for circuit fabrication. There are 3 nozzles: 1) pick and place aspirator tool 2) conductive paste extruder which is heatable and 3) FDM direct drive extruder. The print head also has a camera for visualizing parts the offsets are used to calculate the difference between the nozzle and the camera viewing area.
LabBot camera controller tool for taking images
LabBot robotic scheduler enables the possibility of selecting cameras over the network, this camera makes it possible to adjust the focus and exposure. The images can be saved in a timestamp folder and displayed. There is a link for loading the image into the coordinate mapper tool for mapping coordinates within the image.
LabBot coordinate mapper tool for selecting targets within image which is used for pick and place applications
LabBot coordinate mapper tool makes it possible to click on targets displayed in the image and have the coordinates displayed. There are inputs for adjusting the resolution (mm per pixel) and offsets from the nozzle to the camera.
LabBot pick and place example
After the target is selected the coordinate is displayed this factors in the offsets from the nozzle to the camera.

Part crusher and extruder for making parts using recycled plastic

Recycling plastics is an emerging and needed area that compliments 3-D printing. Another program cooking is to create a system for fabricating LabBots and other types of 3-D parts using recycled plastic. One of the ideas is to set up special configured 3-D printers with solutions for recycling plastics.

The idea is to pulverize plastic parts into small bits that can be melted and reformed into filaments that can be used for 3-D printing. We are working on two systems to do this. The first being the part shredder and the second the filament extruder. Hopefully soon we can update more about this technology and eventually integrate this into the LabBot ecosystem.

Plastic part shredder for recycling 3-D printing
Plastic shredder for crushing plastic parts into little pieces that can then be put into the filament extruder
Filament extruder for recycling plastic
Filament extruder for forming 3-D printed filament from recycled plastic

LabBot scheduler software for 3-D circuit printing

One of the developmental directions going on is to create a solution that integrates electronics into the part as its getting printed in 3-D. To do this, the LabBot is being adapted to work with 3 different types of nozzles: 1. pick and place vacuum aspirator, 2. conductive paste extruder and 3. FDM direct drive extruder. The LabBot scheduling software has already been designed and described here at There is also a camera that is used for visualizing part positions.

LabBot configuration that integrates circuit fabrication with 3-D printing
LabBot modification that makes it possible to 3-D print and to print traces and place parts for circuit fabrication. There are 3 nozzles: 1) pick and place aspirator tool 2) conductive paste extruder which is heatable and 3) FDM direct drive extruder. The print head also has a camera for visualizing parts

Piezoelectric dispensing (inkjet) small amounts of powders

It is actually possible to dispense some types of powders using a piezoelectric dispenser. If the particles are small enough they can be aspirated into the piezoelectric nozzle (using a syringe pump), then the piezo actuator can drive the dispensers. 

labbot 3d printer powder dispensing using piezoelectric inkjet nozzle
A – The piezoelectric tip moves above the powder sample before aspiration. B – Powder sample gets loaded into tip by aspiration effect driven by an attached syringe pump. C – Small amounts of powder is dispensed out of piezoelectric nozzle using piezoelectric actuation (by drop on demand effect). The more actuation the more powder dispensed

Inverted imaging to show inkjet spot morphology

Inverted microscopic imaging is a straightforward yet very useful tool to show how different types of spotting buffers affect spot morphology. From this point of view just using a brightfield imaging system like a microscope can clearly show the different types of polymorphs that can be shaped just by adjusting the sample liquid composition when being dispensed using a piezoelectric inkjet dispenser.

Different polymorph inkjet spot morphologies LabBot 3d printer piezoelectric dispenser
Array patterns and droplet appearance after spotting. (A) 2mg/ml mouse antibody IgG in 20mM sodium phosphate and 30mM NaCl; (B) 1mg/ml mouse antibody in PBS (137mM NaCl, 2.7mM KCl, and 11.9mM phosphate buffer); and (C) 1mg/ml bovine serum albumin 2% pluronic F68 in PBS. The top row shows the spots visualized by an inverted microscope and the bottom is the array shape on water-sensitive paper. 


We have been developed various tools for developing piezoelectric dispensing applications on the LabBot 3D printer platform. Some of the tools are displayed on our inkjet page:  Also we have a general purposed microfluidic and programming tool that makes it possible to run piezoelectric (inkjet) dispensers which is documented at Demonstrated is how to attach a piezoelectric nozzle on the system. 

labbot 3d piezoelectric dispenser attaching a inkjet pipette
Diagram that shows how to attach a piezoelectric dispenser on a LabBot 3D printer, the pipette holder is modular to allow for attaching different types of pipettes

In addition to the microfluidics we also have been in working on using LabBot to do combined inverted imaging that works with the dispensers. So when the pipette is moving in the XYZ direction on the top, a camera at the bottom can move at the bottom in synchronization that can record the dispensing and visualize the polymorphs. While we use adjustable focusing cameras that work with RaspberryPi computers,  it can also be possible to move the bed up and down to control for magnification or the camera can move and down using a servo driven 3D printed linear actuator. 

LabBot 3D printer stacked corexy positioning systems this allows for inverted imaging
Inverted imaging configuration that can be set up on the LabBot, the XY moving shuttle includes a focusing camera that works with the RaspberryPi. It can include a small linear actuator for moving the camera up and down also it is possible to have the bed move up and down too.


Analog sensing for inkjet printing

Inkjet printing is great since it can be used with a variety of different materials. Therefore there are many opportunities to develop innovative applications.

We have also developed techniques that allow for very precise synchronization of the piezoelectric dispensing process with other devices such as cameras, light sensors, and illumination modules (ie., LEDs). This allows the possibility of detecting the droplet whether it is coming out of the nozzle or as it hits the substrate surface.

Inkjet printing analog detection
Analog timing with inkjet dispensers examples that show 2 different techniques, 1 of which demonstrates how to visualize droplets in flight and 2 shows how a camera can be triggered to take a photo at a precise time. These techniques can also be used with other dispensing methods but the inkjet demonstrates the concept.

This can be used to characterize the sample as it is coming out of the dispenser. For example, say you wanted to dispense fluorescently labeled cells (ie., similar to a FACS cell sorter). Using this technique we can flash a LED for exciting the fluorescence and using a filter in front of the camera (or it could be a photodiode) and collect the signal at the same time as the flash which is both done at a precise time after the nozzle dispensers.

Like cell sorting, this can also be applied to doing chemical reactions. Data can be collected immediately after the dispensing so take pyro DNA sequencing for example, in this case, if a nucleotide is incorporated during the DNA synthesis process, light is released which can be measured. We can put 4 different smart dispensers on a system (A,T,G, and C) and read feedback as the nucleotides get incorporated.


PCR on a 3D printer

LabBot is essentially a 3D printer and this example demonstrates how to configure a system to run as a PCR machine. The motivation for developing this is that 3D printers can also be seen as platforms for developing laboratory automation. They can be used to make the parts for assembling systems and work on open source toolchains (mechanical, electrical, and software) processes which we build on.

That is what this shop is all about. Demonstrating how 3D printers can be used as lab automation platforms and creating educational tools to support people to use them for this purpose. Great healthcare access is about sustainability and these have both socioeconomic and environmental impacts (since the reactions can be performed consuming minimal plastic waste and 3D printers can be made in many different ways). Harnessing the potential of 3D printers as a healthcare tool can be constructive in improving the current situation. 

This example demonstrates how to use a relatively reliable commonly used thermocycling PCR reaction using a Taqman probe. The system is like real-time PCR, because the tube-based reactions are monitored after so many cycles which can be user-defined. 

Details are posted

Portable thermocycler for Taqman probe based nucleic acid detection using PCR

Decentralized (like at home based) nucleic acid detection that uses parts from 3D printers has been described on this .  Basically I thought it would be interesting to see if you can make a thermocycler using parts from a 3D printer extruder. Sure enough its possible and it looks like this thing:

Thermocycler for portable PCR detection
CAD view of the thermocycler assembly. It has an imaging station for visualizing fluorescence using something like a cell phone camera. When the Taqman probe binds to the amplified sequence the color change goes from red to green.

It uses heaters and thermistors that also used by 3D printer extruders. It also comes with a pipetting system that can be washed a reused. Actually so can the PCR tubes that you do the reactions in. It takes around 4 hours to do 30 cycles but the block can hold up to 5 PCR tubes at once. The cool thing with this is that you could potentially run tests inexpensively.  

The voltage divider circuit and PID controller were modified from 3D printer derived firmware too (Marlin). So it’s run using an Arduino shield which was custom-made. 

Arduino micro shield that controls a thermocycler for PCR
Arduino micro shield for portable thermocycler for nucleic acid detection and potential decentralized testing platform for SARS-CoV-2. This tool has been validated for Taqman probe PCR