OpenTrons Robot


An important part of synthetic biology is to use standardized parts to quickly assemble and test multiple constructs. Community labs do not have the equipment needed to actualize this, as the liquid handling robots necessary for automation of the process cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The DIYbio community has produced classic reverse-engineered lab equipment such as the Pearl gel box and the Open PCR. We felt that a liquid handling robot could be similarly constructed. OpenTrons is the name we have given our program to reverse engineer several critical pieces of lab equipment. The liquid handling robot is the first.

The OpenTrons DIY BioBot robot shown in the picture above was the first iteration. It cost less than $2000 to build. It is open source, and we hope that the users will customize it and develop it further to suit their own needs. It can pick up and move tubes, deliver liquids, and generally be modified to do a number of tasks found in protocols. We are very excited about its potential to bring high-throughput synthetic biology to community labs.

We have since designed the next version, compatible with mass production, and will demo it at iGEM.

The assembly guide for the initial version is hosted on Synbiota under OpenTrons. It is in four sections:

  1. Assembling the X, Y, Z, and A carriages.
  2. Assembling the robot's frame.
  3. Connecting all the wires, motors, and homing switches.
  4. Moving your robot and building your first automated task.

We are extremely grateful to the developers of the open-source technologies we were able to use in developing OpenTrons.

Synthetos' TinyG motion controller is an amazing contribution to open robotics. It is a professional grade 3-axis motion controller that you can easily communicate with over Bluetooth. The work they have done is essential to this DIY BioBot, and we could not be more thankful for their openness and excellent documentation.

The Shapeoko CNC and Inventables have done a ton to make 3-axis robotics easier for makers. Their excellent assembly instructions were super helpful at the beginning and are an inspiration for anyone making kits in open hardware. Videos of the robot in action can be found here:

OpenTrons Videos