The Searcher: our new electrode manipulator

Commercially available manipulators typically cost $500-$1000 and are made of high quality steel. Using a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic and Replicator, we have designed a manipulator, code named: The Searcher (see below), made of tough ABS plastic, that is now for sale!

This manipulator has 4 degrees of freedom (an x-axis, y-axis, z-axis, and angle of attack), is hand operated, and has been used to successfully record muscle and neural activity in crickets and earthworms. We use 6-32 machine screws that travel 1 inch per 32 turns. The whole design was printed on a MakerBot Replicator within 3.5 hours and assembled within 1.25 hours using superglue, epoxy, and light machine oil. The magnets in the base secure the “Searcher” to the metal platform common in electrophysiology lab rigs. Our previous prototypes, made of 21 wood pieces, took a week to build and broke easily.

Notably, we have also used our Searcher to record electrical responses from muscle tissue in optogenetic fruit fly larva (larva with special ion channels in their neurons that are sensitive to blue light).

Our current build of the Searcher is all its glory! It's 3 inches on a side.

But what does it move like? See with your eyes.

Here are our raw materials from our Searcher: five 3D printed moving parts, three 3D printed knobs, three 6-32 long machine screws cut to length, 14 nuts, 4 magnets, and one small machine screw with nut.

And yes, it's open-source! if you have a MakerBot Replicator, you can load the .s3g file right on an SD card, place it in your machine, and push "print! Let us know if you built it yourself and send pictures!