Polymeraze Chain Reaction is a procedure of multiplying DNA and RNA strains. It was invented by Kary Mullis in 1983. Since then the procedure has become an invaluable tool in research and diagnostics.
A thermal cycler is a machine that enables the PCR. By precision alternation of sample's temperature it enables the multiplication of the desired DNA strand(s). Thermal cyclers ARE PRICEY but we want to change that! It's already happening: DIY low cost instruments are revolutionising biotechnology. Help us kick-start the production of the first low cost DIY thermal cycler.
The strategy has been to offer the cheapest possible cycler, but with basic functionality intact.
The development can be divided in 4 segments: software, electronics, thermal components and enclosure. Once you have a proof of principle it turns out that the enclosure is a tough problem in the light of low pricing. We've made it cheap with an innovative approach of laser cut plexi glass and rods.
We've built the electronic from scratch from the mosfets up. This significantly lowered the cost.
We also decided to drop the power supply. Since almost everyone has a power supply lying arround somewhere, we decided to offer our whiteBox without it. Instead we'll offer detailed instructions how to re-use an old computer power supply.
We considered using a display but opted for status LEDs instead. LEDs are cheap and convey the basic information. Detailed status of the protocol can be viewed if there is a computer connected to the box. The LEDs are positioned inside the box and give a warm glow through the plexi glass.
Where we are:
We've already got the all the vital components assembled and working and tested!
We've financed all the development by ourselves. Check out the development of the whiteBox on http://www.arduino.si/blog/
We've got all the components chosen! We know our production with the uncertainty of 10% percent. The final product should be just under or just over 200€.
Where we want to go:
We wan't to gather a sum of $20000 which will enable us to buy material for a batch of 100 cyclers plus some initial expenses (mostly tools for semi-serial production). We are choosing the fixed founding (should we fail to reach our goal..you get your money back) option as buying components in quantities below that number would not allow us to keep the price tamed as promised. On the other hand, more is better.
This is an open source project. All the data, schematics, software, firmware will be documented and available online: either on the blog or github! Everyone will be able to build their own whiteBox and improve the hardware and software. Every component supplier will be listed to the last bolt.
Specs of the box:
dimensions 16x16x16 cm
weight approx. 2kg
heating and cooling speed >1C/s
capacity 16x 200ul well
protocol upload software open source in Qt / compiled for Windows
can work without computer with protocol uploaded
display status LEDs
When can a backer expect her/his product
With the current pace I'd say a fair estimation is middle 2013.