Mice studies are ubiquitous in neuroscience labs and require a huge amount of time and expertise. And both of those things cost big $$$ which makes the field less accessible. University of Minnesota scientists Leila Ghanbari and Mathew Rynes (along with a long list of collaborators) have developed an impressive robot which can perform cranial surgery on mice.

UPDATE 5/29/2020: A new paper focused on building and operating the Craniobot has been published. You can also now buy a Craniobot directly from Labmaker for $4000.

Since the “craniobot” is really a jacked up CNC milling machine, like the ones used in woodworking, the whole thing comes in under $2000. They supplement the milling machine with a combination of simple machined parts and commercially available equipment to enable it to take skull surface profiles and perform drilling with depth precision of ~10um.

The software to control the machine is up on GitHub and the paper lists all of the parts used. They’ve got some nice pictures in their Figures and the Supplementary Information which one can reference for building, but no explicit instructions which makes it a little intimidating. Nevertheless, this is a nice (and cheap!) tool for making science much much easier and more precise.