Hi reddit, I’m a physicist at the University of Bath, UK, working on microscopy and automated instrumentation. I’m very interested in using and developing open source hardware for scientific applications – particularly microscopes. Two projects I’m working on at the moment are developing high-precision positioning mechanisms that can be 3D printed, and creating automated microscopes for analysing blood smears to diagnose malaria. The project teams include scientists and engineers from the Universities of Bath and Cambridge, and Ifakara Health Institute and STICLab in Tanzania.
All the hardware we’ve developed so far on these projects is open-source, available on GitHub, for example:
I hope that, by sharing our designs, we can enable small maker spaces and engineers like STICLab (https://www.sticlab.co.tz/) to produce, and indeed customise, sophisticated products with less reliance on expensive imported goods. It also makes it much easier for people to get involved with the research project, by hacking, tweaking, or replicating our hardware for their own use.
Science relies on experiments being repeatable, but often University labs are full of black boxes (metaphorically – they’re usually beige) which are expensive, hard to customise, and sealed up so you can’t see how they work. Even worse, this proprietary hardware often won’t talk to open software, making it difficult to integrate into complicated, automated experiments. There’s a growing movement of people trying to open up scientific hardware – because this is good for science, even without the cost savings that can come from 3D printing many components in your lab. This is all explained much more eloquently in the GOSH manifesto and roadmap:
I’m quite new to reddit, but I guess this is the part where I stop and let you take over – I'll be back at 10 am ET to answer your questions, ask me anything!
Thanks everyone for the questions - it's been fun! I'm signing off now, though I'll try to keep an eye out in case there are any follow-up questions.
I should also take a moment to thank my sponsors - I have the privilege of being funded to work on this project, by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/P029426/1), the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, and the University of Bath.