Practical Print Makes IPad A Magnificent Eye Piece

Be it the ever shrinking size of components, the miniscule size of the printing on such pieces, or the steady march of time that makes visits to the optometrist an annual ritual, many of us could use some assistance when things start getting fuzzy at the workbench. Arm-mounted LED magnifying lenses can be a handy helper. Zooming in on a macro photo on a smartphone is also a common option that we’ve used many times.

[Timo Birnschein] started down a similar path when he realized that his iPad Pro comes with an app called simply “Magnifier”. A 12” iPad isn’t exactly the most convenient device to hold while trying to solder small parts, so he spent some time designing and 3D printing a specialty iPad stand that he calls a “Quick and Dirty High Performance EE Microscope.” We call it a magnificent tool hack!

Rotating the iPad diagonally so that the camera is closest to the subject leaves plenty of room to work and makes great use of the available screen space. [Timo] reports that at 50% magnification the 12” screen makes even 0603 SMD parts easy to read. Now he rejoices to have more to do with his iPad than watching YouTube and reading Hackaday- although we don’t know why you couldn’t do both.

The STL files have been released on Thingverse for your experimentation. [Timo] notes that he’d like to add an LED ring to brighten things up, and a fume extractor to protect the delicate lens on the iPad. We have to wonder if some plastic wrap over the lens might produce the same effect at almost no cost. Whatever [Timo] decides to do, we’re sure it’ll be brilliant.

If you don’t have an iPad and a 3D printer, you might enjoy an earlier post that shows how you can use your phone as a microscope. If Lego and Raspberry Pi are your go-to parts, you can set your sights on this Lego/Pi/Arduino microscope.

Do you have your own preferred solution for seeing yourself through a hazy situation? Be sure to write it up, and then drop it in the Tip Line!





Hacklet 111 – Advanced Microscopy Projects

Last week on the Hacklet we covered optical microscopy projects. Those are the familiar scopes that many of us have at work or even at home on our benches. These are scopes that you typically can use with your eye, or an unmodified camera. This week we’re taking a look at more extreme ways of making small things look big. Electron streams and the forces of a single atom can be used to create incredibly magnified images. So let’s jump right in and check out the best advanced microscopy projects on!

blubeamWe start with [andreas.betz] and BluBEAM – a scanning laser microscope. [Andreas] aims to create a scanning confocal microscope. The diffraction limit is the law of the land for standard optical microscopes. While you can’t break the law, you can find ways around it. Confocal microscopy is one technique used quite a bit in medicine and industry. Confocal scopes are generally very expensive, well outside the budget of the average hacker. [Andreas] hopes to break that barrier by creating a scanning confocal microscope using parts from a PlayStation 3 Blu-Ray optical drive. Optical drives use voice coils to maintain focus. [Andreas] had to create a custom PCB with a voice coil driver to operate the PS3 optics assembly. He also needed to drive the laser. BluBeam is still very much a work in progress, so keep an eye on it!

stmNext up is [MatthiasR.] with DIY Scanning tunneling microscope. Open atmosphere scanning tunneling microscopes are popular on I covered [Dan Berard]’s creation in Hacklet 103. Inspired by Dan, [Matthias] is building his own STM.

Environmental vibration is a huge problem with high magnification microscopes. [Matthias] is combating this by building a vibration isolation platform using extruded aluminum. He’s currently working on the STM preamplifier, which amplifies and converts the nano amp STM values to voltages which can be read by a digital to analog converter. [Matthias] is using the venerable Analog ADA4530 for this task. With an input bias of 20 femtoamps (!) it should be up to the task.

desemNext we have [Jerry Biehler] AKA [macona] with Hitachi S-450 Scanning Electron Microscope. Scanning electron microscopes have to be the top of the microscopy food chain. Jerry got his hands on a 1980’s vintage Hitachi SEM which was no longer working. The problem turned out to be a dodgy repair made years earlier with electrical tape. Fast forward a couple of years of use, and [Jerry] has done quite a lot to his old machine. He’s learned how to make his own filaments from tungsten wire. The slow oil diffusion vacuum pump has been replaced with a turbomolecular pump. The SEM now resides in [Jerry’s] living room, which keeps it at a relatively constant temperature.

Bild1Finally, we have [beniroquai] with Holoscope – Superresolution Holographic Microscope. Holoscope is a device which increases the resolution of a standard camera by using the physical properties of light to its advantage. Precise tiny shifts of the object being magnified cause minute changes in a reflected image, which is captured by a Raspberry Pi camera. The Pi can then reconstruct a higher resolution image using the phase data. [beniroquai] has put a lot of time into this project, even sacrificing an expensive Sony connected camera to the ESD gods. I’m following along with this one. I can’t wait to see [beniroquai]’s first few images.

If you want to see more advanced microscopy projects, check out our new advanced microscope projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy, just drop me a message on That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!