Tales of the lab: 1 Tape experiments

After a few days of intensive lab training with a new student – which I like to call my little “padawan” – I can finally sit and blog peacefully while samples are being prepared.

Of course, this still involves “being around” to make sure that everything still goes well. I am therefore sitting in the “lab”, which we call the “high bay” due to the large windows. It is basically a very large room with all sorts of equipment. Big equipment. Being part of a mechanical engineering lab, I am surrounded by vibrating machines (simulating vibrations of airplanes), 3D printers for automated lay ups, cameras, big screens, and quite a few things I have no clue about.

There is also one area for the chemistry part. It has the tiniest fume hood I have every seen, three key-locked cabinets for flammable chemicals, and a table for the experimental set-ups we are developing.

Now staring at it, I am struck by the “do-it-yourself”-ness of our set-ups, compared to the automated machines of the surrounding.

Instead of screws and wires, the table is covered… with a large variety of tapes: double sided tape, transparent tape, small tape, extra-large tape, aluminium tape, scotch tape…

Even though they do not look very professional, “tape experiments” are the best. First of all, it is cheap and you do not need any particular knowledge to set it up. It is purely DIY, you are independent, no need to wait months before someone cuts the pieces at the right dimensions to assemble them in a very complex machine.

It is also remodelable and totally customable. Easy to modify for each experiment. Eachtime. With little price and effort.

And tape can be used for so many things! Right now I have an aluminum tape (150 µm in thickness- of course, good characterization of the tape is crucial) that I can heat up to 200 °C without problem, that I can use not only to make casting molds for my resins, but it also sticks so well that I prefer to use it instead of screws to attach aluminium bars and clamps.

And look at that very simple tape, onto which you can write the name of the sample. Easy to cut by hand, it sticks enough to porous plaster that you don’t have to use the 5-min epoxy to attach the mold and that does not go inside the pores of the plaster. The sample can be taken off later without struggle and the plaster can even be reused.

And I have to say, using magnets, tapes are very safe: no risk of getting attracted. All my magnets are wrapped in polystyrene foam and tape to prevent any accidents. Electric tape is also perfect to secure electrical wires.

One drawback would be that tapes, and glues in general, have little resistance to solvent… but actually, it also means that it can be cleaned with a little bit of acetone!

Oh, my “padawan” needs me. Back to labcoat, gloves, goggles and respiratory mask.


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