Modified 3D Printer Makes A Great Microscope, Too

A false-color polarimetric image of sugar crystals floating in water.

Look past the melty plastic bits, and your average 3D printer is just a handy 3-axis Cartesian motion platform. This makes them useful for all kinds of things, and as [E/S Pronk] shows us, they can easily be modified into an automated polarimetric microscope!

The microscope build actually took two forms. One, a regular digital microscope any of us may be familiar with, using a C-mount microscope lens fitted to a Raspberry Pi HQ camera. The other, a polarimetric microscope, using an Allied Vision Mako G-508B POL polarimetric camera instead, with the same microscope lens. The polarimetric camera takes stunning false-color images, where the color values correspond to the polarization of the light bouncing off an object. It’s incredibly specialized hardware with a matching price tag, but [E/S Pronk] hopes to build a cheaper DIY version down the line, too.

3D printers make excellent microscopes, as they’re designed to make small precise movements and are easily controlled via G-Code. We’ve seen them used for other delicate purposes too – such as this one modified to become a soldering robot. Video after the break.




15 thoughts on “Modified 3D Printer Makes A Great Microscope, Too

  1. Well, a 3D printer doesn’t really make a good microscope. It makes a good microscope stand.

    I’m not even sure I would call it good. Good enough for some purposes. Versatile certainly, and computer controllable, but for high quality micro photography more mass and stiffness are required.

    1. But the results are here to see. Are you saying these results are not good enough for your purposes? Or are you accusing someone of faking them?

      Short of that I don’t get why people argue reasons something won’t work after being shown pictures of it working.

      I’ll grant you this, the mass and stiffness of 3d printers do vary. Too many 3d printers don’t have enough mass or stiffness to be good 3d printer either! But that doesn’t mean the better ones won’t work.

        1. STD said: “but for high quality micro photography more mass and stiffness are required.”

          Even though there was some pretty good looking examples right there in the article. I didn’t see any wobble problems, did you?

          What, you and cmboggs thought I was talking about his other point, the trivial semantic argument? That’s dumb. He turned it into a microscope by adding optics. Or he turned it into a microscope stand by adding a microscope. You say po-tay-toe, I say po-tah-toe, who cares?

          If I intended to argue about trivial semantics I would have written about trivial semantics.

    2. Are you sure? My relatively low end printer after fine tuning, squaring, plumbing and tramming it in is capable of repeatedly bringing the nozzle to 1/100th of a mm. Incredibly useful for any microscope work that requires repeated monitoring from an accurate reference frame.

        1. That depends on the drive style – you can need to calibrate the head moves with some setups to get anything like accuracy, Delta designs are terrible for precision based on the kinematics alone, and even simpler mechanisms for real precision can need calibration as the gear ratio are not perfect, there is signifiant backlash etc.. Also any lack of squareness in the frame can theoretically at least be mapped and corrected for to gain better accuracy too.

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