Open-source lab jack

by jpearce, published

Open-source lab jack by jpearce Aug 13, 2012
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29473Views 4761Downloads Found in Physics & Astronomy


This is a lab jack, which is a height adjustable platform ideal for mounting optomechanical sub-assemblies, which require height adjustment.

This component is part of the Open-source optics project, whose goal is to radically reduce the cost of scientific optical hardware: by the Michigan Tech's Open Sustainability Technology Research Group.

For similar see the Open-Source Lab How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs


Lab jacks cost between about $30 and several hundred dollars. Use the OpenSCAD files to customize it for your application, print on your favorite open source 3-D printer and enjoy for a few bucks.

This works well and can get a good quality z-axis small change for any standard optical arrangement. However, the gearing is a bit sticky so will need improved if you are going to automate with lots of precise height changes.

Full information here on appropedia

Thanks to Nick for the designs and GregFrost for the gears.

This component is part of the Open-source Optics Library: Zhang C, Anzalone NC, Faria RP, Pearce JM (2013) Open-Source 3D-Printable Optics Equipment. PLoS ONE 8(3): e59840.

This is part of a larger project to reduce the cost of scientific equipment using open-source hardware. Read more here

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Was there a list of hardware somewhere? If so then I missed it.

The holes seem to be sized for M4 or M5, both of which is a bit problematical to get here in NZ. However, the pictures look like its using M6 (which I can get easily).

Could anyone point me in the right direction here?

Thanx in Advance.

You can adjust the openscad script to fit your size of fasteners ++ the smaller the better the resolution you will get ++ see the list in the misc part of the top of the code:
screw_d=3; //Screw Diameter
screw_hd_d=6; //Screw Head Diameter
screw_n_d=6; //Screw Nut Diameter
screw_n_t=6; //Screw Nut Thickness
t_rod_d=4; //Threaded rod Diameter
t_rod_n_d=7; //Threaded Rod Nut Diameter
t_rod_n_t=3; //Threaded Rod Nut Thickness
x=6; //Tube Outer Diameter for Central BArs


Are the central bars provided both supposed to be used? I have tried to assemble the lab jack with them and it doesn't move as it should. I feel like the bar with the rounded circular parts (for a nut) isn't really usable as the hole for the bolt across the jack does not go through it (the hole is blocked off). Is this supposed to be the case?

I'm assembling this by looking at the pictures alone - if there are any instructions for the build that I am unaware of then they would no doubt be very helpful. There are a few other things that have puzzled me which would likely be cleared up by such material :)
If you like, I could post an "I made one" with a few pics so you could see where I've made a mistake?

Thanks in advance.

I'm considering building two of these to work together as a Z axis component to a desk-top CNC. I'd prefer to cast this in carbon fibre as I need strength. Apart from aggregating the base and table components and turning one of them by 180 degrees so the static joint is on the outside edge, do you have any thoughts on this? The use cases for the CNC are around soft materials such as brass, aluminum, wood and plastics so it's more like clock or jewellery making. I want to use it for rapid prototyping PCBs and small mechanical parts.

That is an interesting application -- although for something like a CNC I would recommend using either the normal RepRap style axis -- or we have also recently made a linear actuator for syringe pumps that might be useful to you: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:475841

Open source syringe pump
by jpearce

The new tech hub at the Toronto Public Library is charging 5 dollars per minute of print time to a max of two hours so is there any estimate on print times per part / device total and does any part take more than 2 hours to print?

The print time will depend on the type of printer and the slicing settings. But I have to tell you $5/min seems insanely expensive unless it is printing in gold. There are lots of online places to find people with printers that will charge you /cm^3 try MakeXYZ to find someone in your area.

I would like to know if nuts and threads are the metric or imperial ones? Thanks.

Wondering has anyone built a BOM for the hardware required?

Just wondering if you have details of all the other parts that are needed for the jack? I can see they are all threaded rods? But not sure what is between the scissor bits just below the top platform?

Thanks Joshua!

I wanted to design one myself, but for quite a different application:
Holding test equipment for Radiation Quality Assurance Testing...


Thanks! I would love to see it.

I knew it was just a matter of time before someone beat me to this :-D

In that main photo, is that upper level in a wrong way? I thought it should only move up/down, not sideways in doing so..

And that stickynes in gearing.. Slower ratio should make it smoother to use, now there is 2:1 ratio and your turning two nuts.. So one turn of crank makes basicly 4 turns for nuts. 1:1 would be better, 1:2 might be smooth (and you only need one more bigger gear to test it). 25% speed might be a
little slow for handcrank thought..

I dont know how much smooth movement is needed, but i would probably add some way for quick adjustment.. Say about 20-50mm steps for quicker adjustment.

As for the build platform, it only moves up and down. What do you mean by "Moving Sideways"

We are using M4 Threaded Rod. So I designed it using a 2:1 Ratio to give it a speed advantage so it doesn't take 5 minutes to raise and lower it.

The quick adjustment is a very good idea, I'll look into making that work.

How do i explain this.. Those bearings for upper and lower platforms should be in same end of your device for it to only move up/down. Now if you crank that device in that main photo to it upmost position, that upper platform would end up hanging more than half of its length outside of that base, probably trying to tip over to its "nose".

And for the quick-adjust, my first quick thought was to add more nut-traps and make them open, so you may just lift both threadrods +nuts from their traps and stick them to other traps.. It might raise some other problems, but should work. Or keep only one trap-system, but make multiple hooks/pin
s/whatever to connect to those scissor-ends.

Ha -- talk about being too close to something to see it -- you are right -- I turned the platform around and posted a fixed image. Thanks I really appreciate it.

The additional nut traps would work - but would mean lifting the whole platform manually to move it. Normally these are used in situations where you want more control between changes.

lt;- two thumbs up

Could also have many other applications too.

I see the crank is using threaded rod which appears to go into a nut?? So does the crank move in and out, then how do the gears align?

What am I missing?

Thanks! You got it right - the threaded rod spins in place.

Ahh...Loktite I presume.

There is a nut trap in the handcrank, you slip a nut into it and then tighten it against a nut on the threaded rod. If that makes sense...