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.

15 thoughts on “Shop-built Inspection Camera Lends Optical Help On A Budget

  1. It’s funny, I just finished making an inspection “scope” today to get a better view of those tiny resistors on the MacBook Air motherboard waiting on my bench. I used stuff that was around and a couple of 3d printed parts to put all that together.

    pictures here >

  2. It’s not fancy but “stuff what you just whack together to do other important stuff with” speaks to me a bit.

    Gotta get round to rigging something for the Intel QX3 I picked up the other week at a yard sale. Might get lazy and lash it to an old anglepoise lamp arm. Macro slider would be nice though… might cobble it up from a 5.25 disk drive head mechanism.

    Wonder if you could do a 100:1 reduction waldo so you can solder down a SM resistor like you were mortaring a brick in place.

  3. Three-joint articulating vesa monitor arms that bolt to the table edge are also great for holding microscopes. Gives you a free table to work on because it doesn’t need the stand. I use a Hama one attached to my stereo microscope almost every day.

  4. I have used one of the super cheap endoscope from Aliexpress with a helping hand. Works okay since I can change angles to look under ICs to check for loose solder balls. It’s also small enough that I can leave it in place while I solder. The bad part is it overheats after a couple of minutes if you set the builtin lights at full intensity.

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