Monday, 9 September 2013

For the scientists - assembling an OpenPCR machine

One of the reasons I love laboratory work is the toys (you know, all the things a supplier would describe as specialised equipment) that we get to use. Amongst many pieces of equipment that glide, orbit, beep or just hum, the laboratory at Practical Horse Genetics has an OpenPCR machine.

Why do OpenPCR machines kick arse? You get to assemble them! For me, there is no better way to get an understanding of what features a PCR machine should or could have. And, should things ever go wrong, I won't be completely in the dark as to what part may be broken or misbehaving.

The OpenPCR shipping box is like a present, but with more presents inside!

It would be great to say that I put the OpenPCR machine together out of my own sheer awesomeness but actually it's got a very good assembly manual.

Part 1: building the heated lid. Yes, that's laser cut wood.
The first step is building the heated lid that comes down over the PCR tubes. The heated plate that is nested inside the wooden lid sits directly on the tube lids, preventing condensation at the top of the tube. The reactions that require an aqueous environment are therefore more likely to have some aqua to be -eous in.

Part 2: the core. Heating, cooling and the actual bit you put your PCR tubes in.
The second step is building the core surrounding the PCR block. The core provides heating and cooling, which when provided to the appropriate temperature in the appropriate timing does the 'C' part of PCR.

Part 3, the face (left) and Part 4, the body with thinkin' bits (right). More laser cut wood.
The face of the OpenPCR machine has a little LCD screen so you know that it's on and listening to its USB connection. The body keeps all the bits in one place. 

One screw was missing in the face part of the assembly kit, so I recommend against using my OpenPCR machine as a structural shelter during an earthquake.

Part 5: power supply. It's coming together! Pretty, pretty cables!
The OpenPCR machine is powered by electricity as opposed to alternative energy sources like gnomes. As a plus, there is no gnome DNA contamination in the machine.

Being serious though, a simple but important feature: a voltage switch so that the power supply knows what voltage to expect from the mains.( Those crazy Yanks and their 110V.)

Part 6: It fits! It fits!! (Pause to poke bottom cable back into case). It fits!

And there we are: all done! It all fits, the lid shuts, it turns on, and it appears to behave itself! A model laboratory citizen with more awesome steampunk aesthetic than all the rest of the gear put together.


1 comment:

  1. Looks very impressive... Bet you can't wait to try it out!