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3D printable microscope for home or lab

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The following instructable describes a 3D printable microscope that you can make at home using low cost 3D printing. Almost every part on this microscope is 3D printable with the exception of the lenses, which you can get from disposable cameras. I got my lenses from a local photography shop and they were very kind to give me a bag full. Since I had so many, I designed it to work with them all. I have also upgraded it with a focus lock and a smartphone adapter so that you can take digital photos of your specimens. The quality of the image is not yet sufficient for scientific work but it is still an excellent educational tool or and can be quite useful around the workshop. You can also find this model and some nice user remixes for high end lenses on thingiverse: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:77450
 
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Step 1: Get lenses from disposible cameras

You need to locate 4 copies of a disposable camera. The best place to go is a local photography shop or wherever you can get them developed. Ask nicely and people are probably going to be very willing to help.

(CAUTION there is a significant shock hazard if you plan to open a flash camera from the capacitor!)

You will need to print out a different optical tube for the Kodak lenses vs the Fujifilm lenses, STLs for both are attached in the next step. I have tested this design with the following camera models:

Fujifilm QuickSnap Outdoor
Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash
Fujifilm Flash

Kodak FunSaver Flash
Kodak unaned
Kodak Max Outdoor

Use some pliers or otherwise to remove the faceplate on the camera and remove the objective lens. Once again, if you plan to get it from a flash camera, be really careful with the capacitor. Non-flash cameras are trivial. Take good care not to scratch the lenses.
swisel7 months ago
A truly amazing project! It is fascinating what you can make a reality with 3d printers! I am planning to one day get one for my own uses, but currently I am thinking about getting something cheaper and simpler like a 3d printing pen. Anyways, this project is awesome, and you have taken some really cool pictures!
nikkiclau1 year ago
Very cool project.
What's the magnification factor on this microscope?
kwalus (author)  nikkiclau1 year ago
should be near 75X
Arghus1 year ago
my mind is blown sir, that is a really good project
kwalus (author)  Arghus1 year ago
Thank you!
clazman1 year ago
Very nice design!

3D printing is excellent for those one up needs. Unlike injection molding where cycle times and multiple cavity molds greatly reduce part costs, 3D printing is the exact opposite.

Since printing times are an issue, time could be reduced by thinning cross sections or even lightening holes where the stress in the structure is quite low. This, unfortunately, creates another problem. That is material flow would then be a step function (start-stop of material flow in most of the layers).
Material stoppage is not a “nice” situation with an extrusion process which needs to be continuous. Or is that a problem, since most objects I have observed must have many interruptions in material flow in filling a particular layer?

In this project, for example, there are several areas in this project where material could be reduced. One being the vertical support. It appears that it might be a solid. The material in the center is not needed since in the working stresses are near zero. Another is hollowing of the base. This has possibly been done, but since there is no view of the bottom I cannot verify that. Neither have the knobs have not been hollowed out.

I am in no way criticizing this project (I voted for it). I am just asking if these suggestions would be feasible where an organizations needs are for large quantities. It requires more CAD time, but this might be an attribute since, in the case of a classroom scenario, it would teach students the intricacies of product design.
kwalus (author)  clazman1 year ago
Thanks for the feedback (and the vote!), its wonderful to get such a great response in general to this project.

I can certainly see ways to improve printing time, including as you suggested removing sections that are low stress. However, you have to keep in mind that most fused filament fabrication printers allow the user to set an "infill" percentage, and for many of the parts here, that can be very low, essentially leaving a shell with some infill for basic support. As a result the build time does not scale linearly with volume. In some cases, for example the vertical support post, hollowing out the central volume, would not save a huge amount of time, and may actually increase the build time as the printer would be forced to implement the inner surfaces and any infill structure between them. I did not experiment with a range of infill options, but that would be something very useful. I was hoping that we could do that as a community.

Thank you again for the feedback, I will consider some options for reducing build time as this is not the first time that this has been suggested. I hope you will also have a chance to build one and let me know how it goes.
clazman kwalus1 year ago
I was unaware of the infill capability. I understand what you mean. I was concerned about that but forgot to mention it. Printing on air is rather difficult proposition "lol". If the vertical support post was made from two channel cross sections would be a solution.

Isn't this fun. Designing with a concern for cost, which is a function of material costs and manufacturing time will always be a challenge.
Lindie1 year ago
Very Nice!
Chinasaur1 year ago
Nice project! You should really look into lenses from Surplus Shed. They're cheap but good quality for the price.
kwalus (author)  Chinasaur1 year ago
I agree totally. I have always been keen to develop useful tools that reuse other disposable objects. One of my objectives here was to do something innovative but also contribute in some way to sustainability and reuse. Having said that, an optional upgrade for better optics is definitely of interest. You can find one example of that here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:94315
cnegrea1 year ago
best of the best
kwalus (author)  cnegrea1 year ago
Thank you very much!
destrip1 year ago
Truly amazing project, it has very good magnification level! But I am just wondering if you can get better lenses buying them from internet in order to increasing still more the power of this unit. Thanks, I really like this kind of projects.
I'll also vote for Surplus Shed as a good source for lenses. That is what I used for my iPhone macro lens instructable:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-an-iPhone-4-or-4S-slide-on-macro-lens/
kwalus (author)  appsman1 year ago
Thank you, I am definitely looking into some higher end lenses. Clearly there are ways to improve the quality of the image, including an upgrade to handle a standard objective. My goal was to make this model something that anyone with a 3D printer could make with minimal work and additional costs. Building on this base, I have been working on some upgrades, and better optics is definitely on the horizon.
This is a well executed instructable.
kwalus (author)  MidnightMaker1 year ago
Thank you!
capricorn1 year ago
This is really really good. I wonder if i cannot simply search online for lenses , but aside from that it is well executed and a real masterpiece.

I salute you and thank you for sharing my friend
kwalus (author)  capricorn1 year ago
Not sure if you can get the disposable lenses online, but there is a thingiverse user that added an upgrade that works with higher end Thorlab lenses. Check it out here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:94315
elvic1 year ago
This is beautiful, i really want to buy a 3d printer because of things like this
kwalus (author)  elvic1 year ago
Thanks, hope you get one!
3366carlos1 year ago
awesome.
kwalus (author)  3366carlos1 year ago
Thank you!
kelseymh1 year ago
This is really freaking amazing. Thank you for putting together an Instructable!

I do have one "suggestion," if you are interested and have the time. In addition to just being able to print out and assemble the "kit" you've designed, some of the design process itself would be cool to incorporate into the steps. How did you determine the length of the tube (e.g., the calculations)? Why four lenses instead of just two (like a telescope)? And so on.
kwalus (author)  kelseymh1 year ago
Thanks, that is great feedback, I will definitely plan to do that.
elvic1 year ago
This is beautiful, i really want to buy a 3d printer because of things like this
ilpug1 year ago
Oh man, this is intense!
kwalus (author)  ilpug1 year ago
Thanks!