A 3D Printed Tool for Producing Thin Slices of Soft Materials

Published: 19 May 2022| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/5tjchtxwhv.1


A tool for producing thin sections of soft materials was designed and 3D printed in order to facilitate sample preparation for microscopic and spectroscopic techniques. The tool consisted of a leadscrew aiding the linear movement of the sample secured on a sample holder. Having taken into consideration the leadscrew pitch and the number of teeth on the gears rotating the leadscrew, a simple relationship was established between the amount of rotation and linear displacement of the sample. Following the displacement, the cut can be made using the blade sliding through its channel, housed in a case along with all of the above. The information given in the article will allow the readers to 3D print the components of the sectioning tool, and to assemble them along with a leadscrew and a razor blade acquired from the market. It will also provide guidelines for using the sectioning tool. It is anticipated that using this tool will allow users to produce thin sections of their samples with a better quality compared to manual cutting. The making of this tool relies on 3D printing of the design files of various of its components, which have been attached below. All images are of ‘.stl’ extension and can be viewed/edited using most computer aided design (CAD) software packages. Using these image files, all plastic components of the sectioning tool can be fabricated on a 3D printer. The file names and their descriptions have been provided below: (1) Case.stl - Main body of the tool which houses all the other 3D printed and non-printed components as well as the sample. (2) Nut and Sample Holder.stl - This part holds the sample, which can be moved forward and backward through the rotation of leadscrew, which displaces the nut, also fitted within the part. (3) Blade Channel.stl - Channel which guides the movement of blade to ensure that the cut is made at the same position every time. (4) Blade Holder.stl - Holds the blade and slides through the blade channel. (5) Blade Holder – Narrower by 200 microns.stl - Same as “Blade Holder.stl”, but narrower. Different materials for 3D printing have different surface roughness which may require in some cases a narrower blade holder to facilitate smoother sliding movement. (6) Sample Clamp.stl - The clamp which secures the sample on the sample holder. (7) 32T.stl - Gear with 32 teeth (32T) which is connected to the leadscrew. (8) 8T.stl - Gear with 8 teeth (8T) which is operated by the user and is connected to the gear with 32 teeth. (9) 32T Ring.stl - Ring which secures the gear with 32 teeth to the main body. (10) 8T Ring.stl - Ring which secures the gear with 8 teeth to the main body.


Steps to reproduce

The design files need to be 3D printed and the individual components need to be assembled together. A publication titled 'A 3D Printed Tool for Producing Thin Slices of Soft Materials' in the journal HardwareX (yet to be submitted) will contain the instructions to assemble the components and to use the tool.


University of Birmingham School of Chemical Engineering


Spectroscopy, Histology, Microscopy, Three Dimensional Printing, Open Source Product