We have a Perkin Elmer Thermal Cycler 480. It's a bit of a monster, but it works :).
It has a heating block set up for up to 64 microcentrifuge tubes, each sized for a 0.5ml microcentrifuge tube. It doesn't have a heated lid (but building one shouldn't be too hard) but until then we can just go old skool and use mineral oil.
Just above the screws, there's a big sticker saying "Do Not Open". Hence, [here's a picture of the machine's internals]. At the top of the image, the black square is the underside of the heating/cooling block. Most of the volume is a compressor for the cooling, with the insulated cooling piped clearly visible (Most modern machines are based on Peltier systems, and hence a fraction of the size of this one). At the back of the machine there's a serial port, but this seems to just be a printer port rather than allowing any external control.
The UI is, er, interesting. After spending some time with the manual I think I have it figured out, but it's definitely something that's going to need training and / or practice to learn to use. Over time, we should try to build up a cheat sheet on this page.
Upgrades: If someone can build a heated lid, it could save us a degree of faff later on. Basically, it would be a metal block heated to approx 95 degrees (+/- 5 degrees should be fine) that rests on the lids of the tubes while the machine is running.
How to use it:
Soak (keep at a constant temperature):
- Press File - 1 - Enter
- Enter temperature
- Press File - 4 - Enter
- Enter temperature for denaturation step
- Enter time for denaturation step
- Enter temperature for annealing step
- Enter time for annealing step
- Enter temperature for extension step
- Enter time for extension step
- For 4th step enter 0°C and 0 time to signal end of process
- Enter number of cycles