Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Advisor 1

Joshua M. Pearce

Committee Member 1

Yongmei M. Jin

Committee Member 2

Paul G. Sanders

Committee Member 3

Chelsea Schelly


This research aims to make science more accessible through the use of open source 3-D printers.

A new control system for CNC machines in general and 3-D printers specifically, is developed and presented that enables web-based control of 3-D tools from any Internet connected device. The system can be set up and controlled entirely from a web interface.

A tool was designed to help apply science to the developing world. The developing world remains plagued by lack of access to safe drinking water. A methodology is provided for the design, development, and technical validation of a low-cost open-source water testing platform. A case study is presented where the platform is developed to provide both colorimetry and nephelometry. This approach resulted in equipment that costs between 7.5 and 15 times less than current commercially available tools.

A syringe pump was designed and manufactured using an open-source hardware and software. The design, bill of materials and assembly instructions are available. The cost of the entire system, including the controller and web-based control interface, is on the order of 5% or less of a commercial syringe pump having similar performance. The design should suit the needs of almost any research activity requiring a syringe pump.

A low-cost, open source 3-D microscope stage is presented. A RepRap 3-D printer was converted into an optical microscope equipped with a customized holder for a USB microscope. The machine is able to operate with USB or conventional microscopes. The repeatibility is below 2-D microscope stages, but it is adequate for the majority of scientific applications. The stage costs less than 3% to 9% of the closest proprietary commercial stages.

A deformation model for PLA was expanded to use a physics based temperature gradient. This generalized the model to 3-D printing in a room temperature environment. Tests confirm that this is a valid model for predicting warpage of thin vertical walls of PLA. Additionally, the effect of annealing was examined. It was found that at a temperature of 50°C, no shrinkage or crystallization takes place, but at 90°C the plastic rapidly crystallizes to around 20% crystallinity.

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