Microfluidic systems that move and mix tiny amounts of liquids are used in laboratories for biotechnology, chemistry, and even the development of inkjet technology. Frequently, microfluidic devices are integrated into a single "lab on a chip" but fabricating such systems can be costly and time-consuming. Now, MIT researchers are using customized LEGO bricks to make a modular microfluidics platform. Their prototype system "could be used to manipulate biological fluids and perform tasks such as sorting cells, filtering fluids, and encapsulating molecules in individual droplets." From MIT:
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To demonstrate modularity, (mechanical engineering grad student Crystal) Owens built a prototype onto a standard LEGO baseplate consisting of several bricks, each designed to perform a different operation as fluid is pumped through. In addition to making the fluid mixer and droplet generator, she also outfitted a LEGO brick with a light sensor, precisely positioning the sensor to measure light as fluid passed through a channel at the same location.
Owens says the hardest part of the project was figuring out how to connect the bricks together, without fluid leaking out. While LEGO bricks are designed to snap securely in place, there is nevertheless a small gap between bricks, measuring between 100 and 500 microns. To seal this gap, Owens fabricated a small O-ring around each inlet and outlet in a brick.
“The O-ring fits into a small circle milled into the brick surface. It’s designed to stick out a certain amount, so when another brick is placed beside it, it compresses and creates a reliable fluid seal between the bricks.
Lego's new Star Wars Millennium Falcon set is the largest model kit the company has ever sold. It contains 7,500 pieces and retails from Lego.com for $800. It's sold out for now though, but you can get one from a scalper on Amazon for $1,800. Or you can watch Benjamin Große's video above of him building the kit, 20 hours compressed to less than two minutes.
Last year Polish graphic designer Michał Kulesza completed not one, but two daily Lego projects. For the first half of the project, he spend 135 days photographing everyday objects transformed into Legos. Kulesza writes, “[In the project] simple everyday objects are connected (or totally inverted) into Lego bricks. In this way I created different grotesque or even absurd daily situations. I took photos in minimal composition and every time I showed new ideas. In my work I just wanted to make people smile.”
For the second half of the project, Kulesza was accidentally “transformed” into a Lego figure and photographed himself in everyday situations.
My kids haven't played with Legos in years but somehow the tiny bricks manage to crawl out of the woodwork, waiting for me like caltrops on a dark road. The pain such a tiny colorful piece of plastic can cause for a bare foot is truly indescribable. This episode of "Today I Found Out" explains why.
(via Laughing Squid)
Shubham Banerjee, a seventh grader in Santa Clara, California, invented a Lego Mindstorms-based Braille printer called the Braigo. He's declared his intention to release his printer -- which costs about $350, much less than traditional $2000+ Braille printers -- as open source hardware so that it can be improved by a wider developer community. Read the rest
A Hal Pomeranz from 2010 suggests a great way to teach TCP/IP header structure to students: he builds header diagrams out of legos, then mixes them up and has the students reconstruct them.
The use of color here really highlights certain portions of the packet header. For example, the source and destination addresses and ports really jump out. But there are some other, more subtle color patterns that I worked in here. For example, if you look closely you’ll see that I matched the color of the ACK bit with the blue in the ACK number field. Similarly the colors of the SYN bit and the sequence number match, as do the URG bit and urgent pointer field.
Actually I wish I had a couple of more colors available. Yes, Lego comes in dozens of colors these days, but they only make 2×8 blocks (aka one “Lego Byte”) in six colors: White, Black, Red, Yellow, Blue, and Beige.
So while I tried to use Beige exclusively for size fields, Red for reserved bits, Yellow for checksums, and so on, I ultimately ended up having to use these colors for other fields as well– for example, the yellow sequence number fields in the TCP header. Maybe I should have just bought a bunch of “nibbles” (2×4 blocks) in other colors and not been so choosy about using full “Lego Bytes”.
Since 2010, the lego patent has expired and cheapish wire-extrusion 3D printing has become a reality -- and there's cool procedural models for generating arbitrary-sized bricks and labelling them with arbitrary type. Read the rest