Rapid production of specialized animal handling devices using computer-aided design and solid freeform fabrication.
PURPOSE: To develop a process for rapidly and inexpensively producing customized animal handling devices for small animal imaging. MATERIALS AND METHODS: To meet the specific needs of a particular imaging experiment, measurements are taken from imaging data and the animal handling devices are designed using 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software. Parts are produced in a few days using solid freeform fabrication (SFF, a.k.a. rapid prototyping). RESULTS: This process is illustrated with the production of an animal handling system for stereotaxically prescribed therapeutic ultrasound and MRI of the mouse brain. The device provides integrated head-fixation, anesthesia delivery, and physiological monitoring in a modular system. Design and production took approximately 1 week and the cost was a small fraction of a traditional machine shop. CONCLUSION: Commercial animal handling products typically have limited functionality and are not integrated with other laboratory infrastructure. However, using CAD and SFF, sophisticated animal handling devices can be produced to meet the specific experimental needs. This process is typically faster and less expensive than using a traditional machine shop, and the products are more robust than typical homemade devices. Using high-quality purpose-built devices permits experiments to be executed with greater consistency and higher throughput.
Howles, GP; Nouls, JC; Qi, Y; Johnson, GA
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