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December 11, 2014 AT 4:00 pm

3D-printed robot helping discover the origins of life #3DxScience #3DPrinting #3DThursday

While the consumer sector struggles somewhat to sell the case for open source desktop 3D printers for everyday users, the adoption and exploration of open source printing platforms in science and research continues to ramp up and amaze. It is in the spirit of science to share your findings and your experimental frameworks, so this is no surprise.

Besides, who can pass up an article with a dropquote: “First time that robot-assisted evolution has been done in chemistry…”?

3D-printed robot helping discover the origins of life. From WIRED UK:

…The system is wonderfully simple. Using the RepRap 3D-printing platform a team of chemists at Glasgow University created a robot that can do incredibly precise experiments with no human input. The PlayStation camera then snaps pictures for further analysis.

“Right now, evolution only applies to complex cells with many terabytes of information but the open question is where did the information come from? We have shown that it is possible to evolve very simple chemistries with little information,” professor Lee Cronin from the department of chemistry at Glasgow University tells WIRED.co.uk.

Creating life from scratch is hard — and we know little about the origin of life before biology — but the use of simple robots is speeding up our understanding. The robot places four droplets of the same chemical composition into a Petri dish and uses the camera to see what happens. This process is repeated over and over again with randomly different compositions of droplets.

The droplets behave differently: some shake, some split up, some clump together and some wobble. Using a computer algorithm the robot selects the “fittest” molecules and carries these into the next experiment. The research is detailed in the journal Nature Communications.

“By hacking together this kit we have in effect built a highly sophisticated machine that can fully automate the life cycle of a chemical protocell model. We’ve then used the robot to explore lots of different types of ingredients to try and come up with interesting recipes that show ‘life-like’ behaviours,” Cronin says….

Read More.

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Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

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