HobbyGel - The Parameterised, Makerbot-Printable Gel Casting Kit

by cathalgarvey, published

HobbyGel - The Parameterised, Makerbot-Printable Gel Casting Kit by cathalgarvey Jan 28, 2010
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7392Views 4466Downloads Found in Biology


In the spirit of Open Source Hardware, this design is now compliant with the http://freedomdefined.org/OSHW definition of "Open Source Hardware"! Derivatives are expected to be likewise free.
Gel Electrophoresis is a staple procedure in modern genetic and molecular biology practise. It involves casting a \"gel\" made of Agarose (super-pure Agar, it is possible to just use Agar-Agar also) which contains a dye that binds DNA, and then forcing lengths of DNA through the Gel with a voltage so that they separate by size and collect dye. They can then be photographed and analysed.

Electrophoresis requires Agarose/Agar, a Dye (such as the commonly available methyline blue, or the more hazardous Ethidium Bromide or Sybr-Safe/Sybr-Green), and equipment that should only cost about €50 but is in fact priced closer to €500 at least. The least of this equipment is the casting set used to make the gel and sit it in the tank of conductive buffer, which is what this Thing comprises.

The HobbyGel Casting Kit is composed of a small Gel Boat (with a footprint of 5cm X 6cm) and a selection of \"combs\" used to cast the \"wells\" into which the DNA is injected prior to applying voltage. Depending on the number of samples needing to be Electrophoresed, one can print combs with more teeth or multiple combs.

Also included in this Thing is the larger cousin of the HobbyGel, the LabCompat Gel Casting Kit, which is sized to fit the somewhat-standard \"Bio-Rad Mini-Sub Cell-GT\" Electrophoresis Rig.

Both sets are available from my shop, Labs From Fabs;
I have priced them as competitively as I can, so that a full HobbyGel kit comprising a 7-Well Comb and a Casting Boat should cost $59.73 in Europe, less elsewhere.

I intend to have both available for order in a choice of either opaque, tough plastic or transluscent acrylic. It is my hope that the latter is UV-permeable enough to allow easy transillumination, while the former will be much cheaper but will call for the trivial additional step of removing the gel from the cast before illuminating with UV. (If required! See below for links to home-brew DNA extraction/visualisation projects requiring no such UV and no Agarose!)


If you want a HobbyGel from your Makerbot, try printing the HobbyGel GelBoat and one of the HobbyGel Combs.

I have not yet had a chance to test them, but it is likely that they will require some post-processing to make them practical: You will have to trim back ooze, and even with watertight skeinforge settings it might be helpful to paint on some ABS/acetone glue to smooth out the interior of the casting set and the teeth of the comb so they can easily cast Agar/Agarose without sticking or tearing the Gel.

Printing this out of PLA might allow UV-permeability, so that you could mount UV LEDs under your Gel Rig for ease of visualisation..I don\'t yet know, not having any PLA to hand. Feedback welcome if anyone tries this.

To make a Gel, Extract DNA from something and visualise it at home with minimal non-household requirements, see this fantastic article from the Science Creative Quarterly:

For another great walkthrough on extracting your own DNA using Rum and washing up liquid, see this Instructable:

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We still need the power supply for running the gels. I imagine that's the expensive part.

Also, your wells are super fat!

I printed out a couple of your pieces to show at the recent Humanity+ conference at CalTech in Los Angeles. People were very impressed with them! :)

Now if we could only print a micro-pipette... Then we would have all the tools for DNA lab work available. Centrifuge, gel maker, and micro-pipette :)