Controlling an Ettan Spot Picker lab robot with custom software

I believe many lab robots are scrapped purely because the control computer and the control software become obsolete. With the ability to write new software such robots can become useful again, and not only in DIY-bio settings. There is however very little documentation as far as I can see. I had opportunity to experiment for a weekend with an Ettan Spot Picker lab robot, and found that reverse engineering its communication protocol was not very hard. Unfortunately most of my documentation in text files and programs were eventually lost together with the old command computer of the robot, as I forgot to move them off. I hope what is left can be still of some help in starting, if someone is in a similar situation.

An Ettan Spot Picker (Wikimedia Commons).

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Some robot drawings

Some drawings made by a repurposed lab robot (an old Ettan Spot Picker to be disposed of), using a mechanical pencil. It became a universal robot arm (and thus an able draughtsman) after some reverse engineering of the communication protocol.


Pencil lead run out at some point . . .

Having freshly drawn XKCD comics instead of having to view them on a screen is of course luxurious. Never shall there be a shortage of mazes to fill out either. With the recursive division algorithm the robot can draw an infinite number of different mazes.


Many thanks to the Proteomics group for offering their old machine for some experimenting.