"DIY science is taking off" an article in The Economist

Hi everyone, this was shared pretty extensively over the weekend on Twitter, but for those who missed it check out this article featuring Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action, Public Lab, Safecast, Joshua Pearce’s lab, TREND in Africa, Exploratorio Sombrero, Lifepatch… https://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21732703-growing-movement-seeks-make-tools-science-available-everyone-including


:tada: Really good to see these projects get this kind of exposure! The article did strike me as overly optimistic though.

Cheap 3D printers and computer-aided design programs that allow design files to be shared online mean that ever more apparatus can be made in the lab, rather than ordered from a catalogue. The economic argument for doing so is compelling. A plastic test-tube rack can cost more than $20. Downloading one of the many different files for the rack of your choice and printing it costs a tenth of that. A $1,000 laboratory jack for lifting and levelling equipment can be made for $5.

Even mass-produced plastic trinkets and household goods are cheaper to print than to buy.

I am not sure the Economist has the economics right on this. When you factor in labour, i.e. if you paid someone to do the work and maintenance of the machines, I don’t think this is true at all. Anyone care to differ?

Thanks @shannond! Unfortunately the article looks like its behind a subscription/paywall? I can’t see to see it, is there another way to read it? Thanks!

Hi, I’d love to read this. Is there a chance you can create a PDF version of this article? it requires subscription. Thanks :slight_smile:

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I could access it fine earlier, now it’s not even accessible when I’m logged in - maybe only accessible to print subscribers?

Hi @hpy @jcm80 @fiestin I think The Economist mistakenly released the article early, took it down, but now it’s back up if you click the link. Sorry about that!

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Yes it works for me now, hope it does for everyone. Thanks for the update @shannond! Looking forward to reading it.

Hi @kaspar,

Although I think you have a very valid point, as there is a tendency to oversell what you can do with a 3D printer and how they are going to revolutionize everything from shoes to space exploration and world hunger, this makes somewhat sense I think… If you consider the following extreme case (assuming numbers I consider realistic/conservative, from experience working with printers):

A new, calibrated, “take it out of the box and print” original Prusa i2 mk3 costs ~1000€. From their videos/adverts, it spends ~100-120w when working with PLA

If I buy one of those (that includes 1kg of filament) and print 10 lab jacks, this would require (considering the printer works unattended) ~4 hours of human labor in total considering unboxing, starting prints, removing prints and starting new ones, etc. Plus let’s say another 96 hours of print time.

If the printer needs servicing after that, the offset of having these cheap labjacks has already made it worth it to chuck the whole thing in the bin and get a new one. Which is an ABSURD idea! Together with the idea of getting a printer to produce more useless plastic trinkets, but cheaper than ever before.
but logically, the numbers seem to make sense…

Happy to discuss it further! :slight_smile:

I’m not an Economist subscriber, and am getting the you’re pass your free article limit. I did find more info about the very cool DYI spectrometer, featured in the article: https://publiclab.org/wiki/economist

I’ll visit a library later in the day.

Open NanoCarbon - Open Sci community efforts to solidify 660 GtC in decades. Seeking volunteers: sci and engineering for open hw R&D. autofracture.com/opencarbon