What’s the answer? (3-D printers)

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Well, I didn’t see this one coming. Larry Parnell is looking into the future to see where the bioinformatics tasks of the future will reside. But if I was a student today I’d keep my eye on this aspect.

Question: Coding 3-D printers – The newest sub-field of bioinformatics?

As the hype, affordability and practical uses of 3-D printers grows, it is becoming apparent to me that some (or all) programming duties of these devices could or really will fall to the bioinformatics scientist within a lab or department. Right now these printers can produce some very basic lab supplies – gel combs, cracked lids/caps, lost pieces to who knows what – and do so at a very small fraction of the price.

So, do you see the activity of writing and submitting code for these printers as a request or responsibility that will fall to the computational biologist or bioinformatics scientist or to a different kind of technical expert? Right now, I do not program our Tecan liquid handling robot. We’ve hired an outside specialist for that on a one-time basis. Lab equipment is a bit more biological is the reason for its use (in a biological experiment) but its replacement and redesign is clearly something rather like engineering.

In the end, while a printer costs about $1600, we need to plan to whom the programming duties will be assigned. I appreciate your thoughts on this.


What do you think? Go over and contribute to the discussion. And check out the other associated chatter–and especially the blog post linked in the first reply by Alistair Kerr under the question. It’s interesting.