Cheap Stereo Microscope DIY - SMD Work

Introduction: Cheap Stereo Microscope DIY - SMD Work

NOTE: Images from the microscope are taken with my phone through the eye-piece. In real life it looks 100 times better.

I've always tinkered with electronics and have sometimes found the need to look at things up close.

I like to repair my own things or build out circuits and stuff like that, but often my eyes aren't enough to see what I'm working on.

I do this kind of work as a hobby, so I can't really justify spending $400+ on a decent microscope.

I've tried digital ones, magnifying glasses, but it's just not the same as looking through both your eyes.

This simple tutorial will walk you through the creation of a super cheap stereo microscope for SMD work.

The idea behind this is to work on SMD components, circuits, look up close at traces, and solder.

Resulting Zoom: Between 12X~15X

(Sorry, but I didn't get images of the actual creation process as I only found it to work after completion, so I recreated most steps)

IMPORTANT: This setup will give you lots of room between the work piece and the microscope, so you can easily hold the soldering iron, view the board sideways,etc... Around 4 inch clearance.

Supplies:

Required

Two Kids Binoculars Buy on Amazon(or find them at a toy store locally)

Two 2 inch length pieces of 1.5 inch PVC pipe

5 minute Epoxy (A-B glue)

Hacksaw (we need to do a little cutting)

Optional

Some wood and wingnut screws to make the stand

Step 1: Gathering Our Parts

First we need to take the magnifying lenses from one of the binoculars, these are glued in place, so with a knife (or metal pry tool) you should be able to pry them off by the seam. You should have a pair of lenses.

NOTE: We only need to do this on ONE pair.

Step 2: Putting It Together

Now that we have our lenses we can put them together with our other pair of binoculars using the pieces of PVC pipe. Two inch length worked for me, but you can try a bit shorter or longer.

You can glue these up, but I didn't in mine since it is a tight fit. Also, this allows you to do minor adjustments later (getting both eyes to focus the same, etc...)

So, press fit a lens inside a PVC pipe, then press fit the pipe onto the binoculars.

Note: If you cannot push them in or the fit is too tight, try heating up the PVC pipe with a hot air gun or a lighter to soften the plastic.

Step 3: The View Angle

If you've successfully done the previous steps you can see that the microscope starts to work nicely, but now we need to fix the view angle.

Regular binoculars are parallel since you're looking at stuff that is at a distance. But since we are going to see up close, we need to make our eyes see closer together.

Eye pieces need to stay at the same distance, but the outer lenses need to be touching, like in the image.

To get the barrels in that angle we need to cut up the central focus bridge. I used a band-saw to cut it, but you can use a dremmel or a hacksaw. Please be careful when cutting.

The angle on the binoculars I have is 13 degrees, but that will change depending on the ones you have. Use the triangle method I used to get your angle. (As seen in one of the images)

NOTE: The area we need to cut is symmetrical down the middle of the focus bridge area.

The highlighted "CUT THIS" area should be cut on the other side too, but mirrored.

Step 4: Final Steps

After the glue has dried, you can start using the microscope, just clean the lenses and it's ready to go.

Holder or Stand:

I created my stand out of scrap pieces of wood, but you can use a phone holder, a phone tripod or your hands... I'll leave that up to you.

Hopefully you try this microscope out as it is a simple project to make and it will help you out a ton in your electronics work.


UPDATE: I have attached "plans" for the stand I made.\

Thank you for reading!

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    17 Discussions

    0
    cdevidal
    cdevidal

    1 year ago

    Since the binoculars are sold out (popular article!) could you please link to another appropriate pair? Also I do want details on your tripod construction.

    0
    bgowin
    bgowin

    Reply 7 months ago

    They are back in stock now.

    0
    makzumi
    makzumi

    Reply 1 year ago

    Don't know if you get a notification, but I added plans for the stand

    0
    makzumi
    makzumi

    Reply 1 year ago

    As for the stand, I don't have plans for it, I just made it as you see in the picture as I went...
    (edit)
    Well, if there's more demand for plans on the stand, i'll do a quick tutorial for it, thanks again

    0
    tenbaht
    tenbaht

    1 year ago

    Finally, I found some time to come back to this project. As it turns out, getting the geometry right is difficult for wearer of glasses. The extension tube need to be shorter to compensate for the added distance between the eye and the ocular lens. The exact value doesn't really matter, just shorten the original 50mm by the approximate distance between your eyes and the outer surface of the glasses. Shortening it to 25mm did the trick for me.

    But it looks like that my eyes still have very uneven focus distances, even when compensated by the glasses. The mounting positions look very crooked not because I am unable to measure properly but to get the focus distance to match on both sides.

    I used a small mounting plate to screw on both sides of the cut middle part. A layer of double sided tape help keeping the angle right. I didn't fixate the original side hinges, because they where very helpful when driving the holding screw into the mounting plate.

    Thank you very much for the inspiration to this project!

    my_photo-12.jpgmy_photo-10.jpg
    0
    makzumi
    makzumi

    Reply 1 year ago

    that's great! glad you were able to figure it out! awesome!

    1
    mikezs
    mikezs

    1 year ago

    I absolutely love this, I've modelled in Fusion 360 a little adapter/holder for the parts of the binoculars. No cutting is required, everything is press fit and you remove two screws to separate the eye tubes

    Everything (including my CAD models) is free to use/modify on Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3955880

    The configuration I measured for myself is an inter-pupillary distance of 60mm, which gave me an angle of around 15 degrees when the secondary lens holders touch.

    Just as an aside, the quality of this is amazing. When I was testing I just held the lenses in my hands to check distances for focus etc, but with everything aligned, it's such great quality.

    IMG_3778.jpgIMG_7298.jpgIMG_7794.jpgIMG_6422.jpg
    0
    makzumi
    makzumi

    Reply 1 year ago

    this is awesome! great job on designing that, pretty cool! Wish I had a 3d printer. Please share images once you build the full stand. Thanks for reading and giving it a try :)

    0
    tenbaht
    tenbaht

    Question 1 year ago

    Thank you for this great idea! I am building it right now and all parts work great. The optical quality of these toys is really impressive - totally useless as a binocular, but amazingly good with this modification.
    Only problem for me is the adjustment. How did you manage to get the angle right? I saw your diagram and the 13° but this doesn't work for me. There are too many moving parts: The eye distance, the object distance on both sides, the angle of the plastic joint of the two binocular parts. All this has to match in order to superimpose both fields of view correctly for a real 3D-view.

    To make things easier I am using a small wooden mounting plate on the stand and double sided tape. One side is fixed and I try to find a matching position for the other side. But I can't find any to match both views. There is an internal angle and I can't explain where it comes from.

    How did you do it? Fix the plastic joints first to stop them from moving? And then? Glue it and hope for the best? Got lucky?

    my_photo-10.jpgmy_photo-11.jpg
    0
    makzumi
    makzumi

    Answer 1 year ago

    Hey! Great work on building your own!
    I attached some images of my setup, I used glue to put them together and also glued them in a fixed position. As you can see in the images.
    If looking down, like this: O‾O, they are straight.

    The 13 degrees is referring to when viewed from the top, like in a V shape, but it does not need to be 13 exactly, that is what worked for me.

    And yea, I fixed everything in place with A-B glue once I found the right position and angle.

    "How did you do it? Fix the plastic joints first to stop them from moving?" Yes, i glued the hinge that connects the focus bridge so it doesn't move.

    Thanks for reading and trying it out!

    ms_1.jpgms_2.jpg
    0
    tenbaht
    tenbaht

    Reply 1 year ago

    The pictures are helpful, thank you! I think I know now why it works for you and not for me: I guess you are not wearing glasses? When I try your arrangement and without my glasses both pictures come together nicely. But with glasses on the eye distance is apparently too big and it doesn't work out anymore. My next try will be using shorter extension tubes.
    This should compensate for the increased distance between my eyes and the ocular. I will see (hopefully ;-)

    0
    makzumi
    makzumi

    Reply 1 year ago

    You're right, I just tried my blue light filter computer glasses with the microscope, and yeah, it is hard to see. Due to the glasses, your eyes end up too far from the eye pieces.

    0
    makzumi
    makzumi

    Reply 1 year ago

    Yeah, that could probably be it... and no, I don't wear glasses. Please post pictures of your progress would love to see it. thanks!

    0
    seamster
    seamster

    1 year ago

    This is very clever. Nice work!!

    0
    makzumi
    makzumi

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you!!