If You Want to Spend on a Microscope

A quick check of the usual Chinese websites will yield USB microscopes for a very low price. However, many of these are little more than webcams with some cheap optics. Not that they can’t be useful, but they probably won’t compete with an expensive instrument like a Dino-Lite. [Shahriar] looks at the latest offerings from Dino-Lite and shows how they can be useful when examining electronics. You can see the video below, but be warned: these little microscopes are not cheap. The entry-level model starts at about $100 and they go up  — way up — from there.

Still, many of us spend as much or more on necessary gear and these days a microscope for inspecting tiny circuits is pretty handy. In addition to the optical instruments, [Shahriar] also looks at a stepper motor-driven microscope stage, which is interesting.

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Hacking a Metallurgical Microscope

[Amen] wanted to inspect ICs on the PCBs for suitability for reuse, so he bought a metallurgical microscope that illuminates from above rather than below, since it normally looks at opaque things. It has a working distance of 0.5 and 10mm, which isn’t a lot of room to solder.

The microscope didn’t come with a slide tray, so [amen] found a cheap one on eBay. Needing a connector block, he melted down some food trays into an ingot, which he then milled down into a block shape, drilled, and used to attach the slide tray to the microscope.

The thing came with a manual XY table, which the operator adjusts by turning knobs. It’s fine for most basic applications but it’s also a pain for more complicated projects, like tiling together a huge photo of a die. [amen]’s currently working on a powered XY based on a DVD drive’s stepper assemblies.

If you’re looking for more microscope projects, read up on the hacked inspection microscope and a Pi Zero ‘scope we previously published.

Microorganisms Can’t Hide From DropoScope

The DropoScope is a water-drop projector that works by projecting a laser through a drop of water, ideally dirty water crawling with microorganisms. With the right adjustments, a bright spot of light is projected onto a nearby wall, revealing a magnified image of the tiny animals within. Single celled organisms show up only as dark spots, but larger creatures like mosquito larvae exhibit definite structure and detail.

While simple in concept and requiring nothing more high-tech than a syringe and a laser pointer, getting useful results can require a lot of fiddly adjustment. But all that is a thing of the past for anyone with access to a laser cutter, thanks to [ingggis].  His design for a laser-cut a fixture lets anyone make and effortlessly adjust their own water-drop projector.

If you’d like to see some microorganisms in action, embedded below is video from a different water-drop projector (one identical in operation, but not lucky enough to benefit from [ingggis]’s design.)

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Hacking an Inspection Microscope

Sometimes I need to be able to take photographs of very small things, and the so-called macro mode on my point-and-shoot camera just won’t cut it. And it never hurts to have an inspection scope on hand for tiny soldering jobs, either, though I prefer a simple jeweler’s loupe in one eye for most tasks. So I sent just over $40 off to my close friend Alibaba, and a few weeks later was the proud owner of a halfway usable inspection scope that records stills or video to an SD card.

Unfortunately, it’s only halfway useable because of chintzy interface design and a wobbly mount. So I spent an afternoon, took the microscope apart, and got it under microcontroller control, complete with WiFi and a scripting language. Much better! Now I can make microscope time-lapses, but much more importantly I can take blur-free photos without touching the wiggly rig. It was a fun hack, so I thought I’d share. Read on!

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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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