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Author: Subject: Ideas for Engineering In-Demand Lab Equipment
LabDIRECT
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[*] posted on 26-5-2021 at 11:32
Ideas for Engineering In-Demand Lab Equipment


Hey everyone!
So one of our customers at LabDIRECT is a former NASA and NOAA engineer and programmer but who’s pretty new to the chemistry world. We got to talking and she asked me what I thought were some of the most wanted/needed - but currently way overpriced - pieces of lab equipment out there today, especially electric/electronic controlled equipment, or that could benefit from *adding* electronic control. She wants to collaborate on building a few different prototypes for really great, useful equipment that until now has only been available at absurd prices but that we we could manufacture and sell much more cheaply.

My first thought was a heating mantle/hot plate addon module with a Triac that could smoothly adjust power/ heat (instead of the full on/full off temp control of most budget stuff out there), with a simple interface - maybe touchscreen - that you could plug any mantle or hot plate into and easily program things like slowly ramping up or down to a set temp over a prescribed period of time, holding a certain temp for x minutes or hours, smooth adjustments, alarm functionality to measure if temp spikes or drops (maybe a second thermocouple, one to measure the mantle itself, and one to measure something like distillation temperature and alert when the next fraction has started for example...

What say all of you? What simple lab devices have you guys seen lately that are priced WAY higher that what they have any right to cost? What do you think would be the most useful and in demand across the community as a whole?

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scienceboi
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[*] posted on 26-5-2021 at 14:57


I have no idea what would be the best equipment to work on, however I was recently looking at flash chromatography equipment. It seems pretty expensive for the what its based on.

I think any equipment that purifies source material or tests the purity of something would be useful to have a home/cheap version. We don't need clinical state of the art stuff, just something that works good enough for cheap. But that's just my opinion.




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Jenks
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[*] posted on 26-5-2021 at 15:57


I had a Thermo Scientific Cimarec hot plate/stirrer with a broken shaft for the heating knob. When I replaced the potentiometer, I added wires to it, coming out of the device, that I could use to control the temperature using a Raspberry Pi if I wanted to automate a process. It would be nice if electronic devices like these had a way to externally interface with them built in.

I also looked for a long time at chromatography. Besides the restoration and custom computer interfacing of old GC and HPLC equipment that we all dream of, an unusual concept I ran across was that of MPLC - lower pressure, and therefore cheaper, than HPLC but still high enough resolution for home analysis or separation of small samples.

[Edited on 27-5-2021 by Jenks]
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Triflic Acid
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[*] posted on 26-5-2021 at 16:10


I really want a cheaper centirfuge, and also a heating mantle. I'm currently trying to convince myself that buying a digital heating mantle is worth it. Those things sell like they were plated in gold. The sad thing is that the heating coils are only like 20 bucks but the good digital mantles retail for a hundred dollars more. @LabDirect, I was honestly sad that you don't sell any :( Maybe a tube furnace, that would be another nice addition to any home lab.



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Twospoons
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[*] posted on 26-5-2021 at 19:22


Quote: Originally posted by LabDIRECT  


My first thought was a heating mantle/hot plate addon module with a Triac that could smoothly adjust power/ heat (instead of the full on/full off temp control of most budget stuff out there), with a simple interface - maybe touchscreen - that you could plug any mantle or hot plate into and easily program things like slowly ramping up or down to a set temp over a prescribed period of time, holding a certain temp for x minutes or hours, smooth adjustments, alarm functionality to measure if temp spikes or drops (maybe a second thermocouple, one to measure the mantle itself, and one to measure something like distillation temperature and alert when the next fraction has started for example...



Most of that functionality can be had from a "ramp/hold" type PID controller - pretty cheap out of china.

One of the difficulties with a process controller, such as you are describing, is making it sufficiently generic and easy to program that ppl will want to buy it, yet still keep the cost down. Coding costs money, and something like that needs a very well designed UI. The hardware is the easy bit.

Not saying it cant be done, but having spent the last 30 years in electronic product development I know that these things are never as simple as they seem on the surface.

That priceless moment when you see the clients face after you tell them the cost and time to develop their idea :o




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monolithic
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[*] posted on 27-5-2021 at 04:15


A cheap and modular melting point apparatus. The prices of new (and even used) melting point apparatuses is criminal for what they actually are. https://www.sciencemadness.org/whisper/viewthread.php?tid=15...

aga has a very good proof of concept. http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=32018 A good marketable product might be replacing the bolt with a machined block of aluminum that can accept a few capillary tubes, a standard PT100/PT1000 probe, and a common/off the shelf cartridge style heating element. Not sure how the electronics would be handled. Maybe keep it modular and just include an instruction manual for wiring up an Arduino Nano + RTD breakout board + LCD breakout board + rotary encoder + SSR breakout board with Dupont connectors for maximum modularity and DIY? (A USB microscope can be purchased separately.) Or just design a low cost and reliable PCB that can be manufactured at someplace like JLCPCB for cheap.

[Edited on 5-27-2021 by monolithic]
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njl
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[*] posted on 27-5-2021 at 08:09


1. MP testing equipment
2. Recirculating water heater/cooler, useful for hot and cold water baths as well as distillations
3. Hot plate with stronger magnetic stirring
4. Hot plate with accurate temperature control and programming




Reflux condenser?? I barely know her!
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