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DIY lab equipment, courtesy of 3D printing

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DIY lab equipment, courtesy of 3D printing.

A lot of scientific software is freeware or free/open source software (FOSS). That’s appropriate: just as the process of science should be open to enhance reproducibility, its tools should be as transparent as possible. Researchers often share their data and algorithms, and publish the output from their simulations on open-access databases such as Cornell’s arXiv. Research hardware—including computer hardware—is another matter entirely. Even small, common pieces of laboratory equipment can be costly, and may not be hackable without (at minimum) violating warranties or terms of use.

Imagine a world where lab workers can create their own custom equipment in-house, using either their own designs or ones they’ve downloaded. A glimpse of that world appears in today’s issue ofScience, provided by 3D printing, the relatively low-cost fabrication technique where ceramics, polymers, and other materials are deposited in layers to build up a three-dimensional shape.


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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

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