As the hype, affordability and practical uses of 3-D printers grows, it is becoming apparent to me that some (or all) programming duties of these devices could or really will fall to the bioinformatics scientist within a lab or department. Right now these printers can produce some very basic lab supplies - gel combs, cracked lids/caps, lost pieces to who knows what - and do so at a very small fraction of the price.
So, do you see the activity of writing and submitting code for these printers as a request or responsibility that will fall to the computational biologist or bioinformatics scientist or to a different kind of technical expert? Right now, I do not program our Tecan liquid handling robot. We've hired an outside specialist for that on a one-time basis. Lab equipment is a bit more biological is the reason for its use (in a biological experiment) but its replacement and redesign is clearly something rather like engineering.
In the end, while a printer costs about $1600, we need to plan to whom the programming duties will be assigned. I appreciate your thoughts on this.
Were you also intrigued by this blog?
Indeed, and it was one item that prompted this question. It's easy to budget for the printer, but not so easy to adequately plan who will program the thing.
I've been keeping tabs on potential technologies we can co-op into lab equipment. I really like Arduino (http://www.arduino.cc/). I think combining 3d-printing with controller cards like the Ardiuno, we can automate a lot of the repetitive benchwork tasks.
The cost of printing is likely to go up, as the technology gets more popular and patent police get involved and start tacking on ridiculous licensing fees: http://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2012/11/20/506562/10013332/en/3D-Systems-Announces-Filing-of-Patent-Infringement-Suit-Against-Formlabs-and-Kickstarter.html