Surgical Microscope Gets LED Retrofit

[Roberto Barrios] picked up a surgical microscope to add to those other fun lab toys you seen in the background. These work very well when soldering small components because they don’t have to be as close to the viewed objects as traditional microscopes. But [Robert] didn’t care for the heat generated by the incandescent bulb so he build his own LED replacement. If you recognize his name it’s because we saw a beautifully crafted in-visor GPS system that he built back in April. This project exhibits the same level of craftsmanship in which he utilized the base of a spare bulb to add an LED, heat sink, and driver board that is adjustable on all three axes.

He also mentioned that he overhauled his site design and it now plays nicely with all browsers.

16 thoughts on “Surgical Microscope Gets LED Retrofit

  1. I have to ask, what surface mount component requires a surgical microscope to solder!?

    The only time I’ve used the microscope at work was when I had to tack ~40 guage mag wire to the ribbon cable traces that led to the touch screen on an iPhone. Anything else, my colleagues and I can solder with glasses off, or with a standard desktop magnifier…

  2. I’ve been looking for a microscope like that for a while, now.. Even the cheapest ones I’ve found are much too expensive for hobby-use. I’ll have to get by with my watchmaker-loupes.

    Very cool setup, though! I only get as far as a scope, a multimeter and a soldering station…

  3. I did the same in our lab with a 5 Watt white LED. Worls well and is brighter than 20 W halogen, which it had originally. Important for this is however, that the chip of the LED is big enough to fill the area of the filament. If it is too small, the field will be uneven, if it’s too big (for 20 W LED say) the brightness goes to waste.

  4. Nice. I’ve had to solder under X30 microscopes before (Avionics Devices). Wish I’d had access to this, it can be difficult to fit the tip of a Metcal under the optics.

  5. @JAKE – the guy who wondered why someone would need a microscope to do SMC work…

    For most adults starting some time around 40, the opening of the eye that the lens attaches to has grown so large that the muscles (which are slowly decaying) no longer have the ability to hold a close focus at distances of less than 18″.

    For a guy who used to be able to see defects in the plating on SOTC packages, it came as quite a shocker that over the course of six months or so I could no longer hold something up to my face and see the hairline cracks in a pcb trace, and later to be unable to read trade paperbacks at certain times of day. I think it was happening before that, but I hadn’t done any PCB work in a year or two. I freaked.

    It turned out that my near sight vision had been 10 instead of 20, and going to 20/20 felt like going blind. But the loss of focus at close range was worse than anything else. It also turns out that it affects almost everyone eventually.

    Mentally, I still see myself as 27 (and sometimes 19, which is always good for a laugh when hitting on a 20 something hottie) but now as I approach double that age, I am amazed at how many things I knew about but ignored are becoming issues.

    Word of advice to my fellow can-do guys swilling gallons of pop and spending more time with skinny (or fat) ass-in-chair than anyone else they know: Your joints require regular impact to stay healthy. It turns out that unless you apply pressure to them frequently, the membranes that are used to act as shock-absorbers get clogged. Over time, they will stop fixing themselves and atrophy. You will regret this, and since no one ever told me this, I had no idea it was coming.

    Seriously – walk around the block (or farther, if you care about your heart continuing to work) twice a day. It will keep those joints from turning into crappy noisemakers.

  6. It looks like the scope he has there is a Zeiss OPMI 1. They sell used for over $1000. I have one that was pulled of a LASIK machines. Very nice scope if you can find one. Mine uses fiber though.

  7. A (stereo-zoom) microscope is worth every penny.

    Found an immaculate 1975’s Reichert Stereo Star Zoom (0.7-4.2) 570 recently with 10xWF & 15xWF oculars (with reticle).
    It zooms nicely from 7-42x or 10.5-63x depending oculars (and it is upgradeable with a Barlow lens for a higher mag.)

    Working with it is great, the details you can see are amazing.
    The best thing: real stereo view! Which is great for tool handling.
    (now, where is that wedge-bonder with affordable shipping fees ;) )

  8. Agreed with the need you update your scope with a LED retrofit. More people are doing this all the time as bulbs are vanishing from the market. I did this for myself and friends with scopes. Then I figured a way to produce them for a small market. I have LED retrofit kits for Zeiss, Leitz, Wild, Nikon, Olympus, & Reichert. Visit us at and see if we can help you especially if you are not going to take on the task of designing your own retrofit.


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