This 3D Printed Microscope Bends for 50nm Precision

Exploiting the flexibility of plastic, a group of researchers has created a 3D printable microscope with sub-micron accuracy. By bending the supports of the microscope stage, they can manipulate a sample with surprising precision. Coupled with commonly available M3 bolts and stepper motors with gear reduction, they have reported a precision of up to 50nm in translational movement. We’ve seen functionality derived from flexibility before but not at this scale. And while it’s not a scanning electron microscope, 50nm is the size of a small virus (no, not that kind of virus).

OpenFlexure has a viewing area of 8x8x4mm, which is impressive when the supports only flex 6°. But, if 256 mm3 isn’t enough for you, fret not: the designs are all Open Source and are modeled in OpenSCAD just begging for modification. With only one file for printing, no support material, a wonderful assembly guide and a focus on PLA and ABS, OpenFlexure is clearly designed for ease of manufacturing. Optics are equally interesting. Using a Raspberry Pi Camera Module with the lens reversed, they achieve a resolution where one pixel corresponds to 120nm.

The group hopes that their microscopes will reach low-resource parts of the world, and it seem that the design has already started to spread. If you’d like to make one for yourself, you can find all the necessary files up on GitHub.

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Speakers Make a LASER Scanning Microscope

We’ve seen a lot of interest in LSM (LASER Scanning Microscopes) lately. [Stoppi71] uses an Arduino, a CD drive, and–of all things–two speakers in his build. The speakers are used to move the sample by very small amounts.

The speakers create motion in the X and Y axis depending on the voltage fed to them via a digital analog converter. [Stoppi71] claims this technique can produce motion in the micron range. His results seem to prove that out. You can see a video about the device, below.

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Microscope DSLR Mount Using PVC & Heat

Microscopes are a great way to see the mysteries of the universe hidden at the smaller scale. When they were first developed, scientists had to rely on illustration to convey their findings through the lens. Thankfully we can  now rely on photography to help us out instead. Many microscopes come with a special port — often called a trinocular port — for mounting a camera. Using this, [Brian] developed a DSLR mount for his microscope using a hacker staple: PVC pipe.

squareThe virtues of PVC pipe are many and varied. It’s readily available in all manner of shapes and sizes, and there’s a wide variety of couplers, adapters, solvents and glues to go with it. Best of all, you can heat it to a point where it becomes soft and pliable, allowing one to get a custom fit where necessary. [Brian] demonstrates this in using a heat gun to warm up a reducer to friction fit the DSLR lens mount. Beyond that, the mount uses a pair of lenses sourced from jeweller’s loupes to bring the image into focus on the camera’s sensor, mounted tidily inside the PVC couplers.

PVC’s a great way to quickly and easily put a project together — so much so that there are fittings available specifically for using PVC to build stuff. Video below the break.

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Laser Scanning Microscope

Remember that feeling when you first looked down on a microscope? Now you can re-live it but in slightly different way. [Venkes] came up with a way to make a Laser Scanning Microscope (LSM) with mostly off the shelf components that you probably have sitting around, collecting dust in your garage. He did it using some modified DVD pick-ups, an Arduino Uno, a laser and a LDR.

EPROM die shot

To be honest, there’s some more stuff involved in the making of the LSM but [Venkes] did a detailed Instructable explaining how everything fits together. You will need a fair dose of patience, it’s not very easy to get the focus right and it’s quite slow, an image takes about half an hour to complete, but it can do 1300x amplification at 65k pixels (256×256). From reading the instructions it seems that you will need a steady hand to assemble it together, some steps look kind of tricky. On the software side, the LSM uses Arduino and Processing. The Arduino part is responsible for the steering of the lens and taking the LDR readings. This information is then sent to Processing which takes care of interpreting the data and translate it to an image.

The build difficulty level should be between the DIY Smartphone Microscope and the Laser Sequencer Super Microscope. In the end, if everything goes right, you will end up with some cool images:

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Mouse Controlled Microscope

You might imagine that all one should need to operate a microscope would be a good set of eyes. Unfortunately if you are an amputee that may not be the case. Veterinary lab work for example requires control of focus, as well as the ability to move the sample in both X and Y directions, and these are not tasks that can easily be performed simultaneously with only a single hand.

[ksk]’s solution to this problem is to use geared stepper motors and an Arduino Mega to allow the manual functions of the microscope to be controlled from a computer mouse or trackball. The motors are mounted on the microscope controls with a custom 3D-printed housing. A rotary selector on the control box containing the Arduino allows the user to select a slow or fast mode for fine or coarse adjustment.

It’s fair to say that this project is still a work in progress, we’re featuring it in our series of posts looking at Hackaday Prize entries. However judging by the progress reported so far it’s clear that this is a project with significant potential, and we can see the finished product could be of use to anyone operating the microscope.

We’ve featured one or two mouse controlled projects over the years, though not controlling microscopes. Here’s one mouse controlled robot arm, and we’ve covered another arm with a 3D mouse.

Shop-built Inspection Camera Lends Optical Help on a Budget

As your builds get smaller and your eyes get older, you might appreciate a little optical assistance around the shop. Stereo microscopes and inspection cameras are great additions to your bench, but often command a steep price. So this DIY PCB inspection microscope might be just the thing if you’re looking to roll your own and save a few bucks.

It’s not fancy, and it’s not particularly complex, but [Saulius]’ build does the job, mainly because he thought the requirements through before starting the build. MDF is used for the stand because it’s dimensionally stable, easy to work, and heavy, which tends to stabilize motion and dampen vibration. The camera itself is an off-the-shelf USB unit with a CS mount that allows a wide range of lenses to be fitted. A $20 eBay macro slider allows for fine positioning, and a ring light stolen from a stereo microscope provides shadow-free lighting.

We’d say the most obvious area for improvement would be a linkage on the arm to keep the plane of the lens parallel to the bench, but even as it is this looks like a solid build with a lot of utility – especially for hackers looking to age in place at the bench.

Hackaday Prize Entry: A Cheap Robotic Microscope

The microscope is one of the most useful instruments for the biological sciences, but they are expensive. Lucky for us, a factory in China can turn out webcams and plastic lenses and sell them for pennies. That’s the idea behind Flypi – a cheap microscope for scientific experiments and diagnostics that’s based on the ever-popular Raspberry Pi.

Flypi is designed to be a simple scientific tool and educational device. With that comes the challenges of being very cheap and very capable. It’s based around a Raspberry Pi and the Pi camera, with the relevant software for taking snapshots, recording movies, and controlling a few different modules that extend the capabilities of this machine. These modules include a Peltier element to heat or cool the sample, a temperature sensor, RGB LED, LED ring, LED matrix, and a special blue LED for activating fluorescent molecules in a sample.

The brains behind the Flypi, [Andre Chagas], designed the Flypi to be cheap. He’s certainly managed that with a frame that is mostly 3D printed, and some surprisingly inexpensive electronics. Already the Flypi is doing real science, including tracking bugs wandering around a petri dish and fluorescence microscopy of a zebrafish’s heart. Not bad for a relatively simple tool, and a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.