DIY Smartphone Paper Microscope With Simple Materials and Tools.

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Looking at things up-close reveals a fascinating world that hides in plain sight. When magnified a few times, even the most common things look completely different. This DIY microscope allows us to do just that with commonly available materials that cost almost nothing.

A lot of people have made DIY microscopes and this one is just another update on those. However, the attempt here is to greatly simply the focusing mechanism and make it in the most low-tech way possible.

The focusing mechanism in this system works by raising and lowering the height of a triangle paper structure that in-turn moves the phone up and down to focus on the sample. The paper friction is enough to retain the position once good focus is achieved. It is simple, low-tech and easy to make with materials you can find lying around your home.

Some of the notable examples that this design is based off are;

1. Yoshinoks, $10 Smartphone to Digital Microscope Conversion!A neat design! But not everyone might be able to build it as it includes a few power tools.

2. Be_Learners, DIY Microscope Using Smartphone.An extremely simple method that works great because of its simplicity but lacks a focusing stage.

3. The DIY microscopy section on the Hackteria website.These guys play around with open source biological art, DIY biology and instruments. Their website has lots of interesting projects and reads.

Step 1: Things You Need

Materials:

1. Laser pointer (1 or 2) - to extract lens(es)

2. Smartphone - This is what you will view things on

3. Empty cereal box or any similar card paper - To make the microscope stage

4. Clear plastic packaging (Blister packs) - To make slides

5. Thin elastic string 1m

6. Small flash light or another smartphone with flash.

Tools and other items:

1. Blue tack or any other putty like adhesive

2. Thin double-sided tape or white paper glue

3. Scissors

4. Precision knife or a box cutter

5. A ruler and a pencil

6. A screwdriver or other tools - to break open the laser pointer

7. A 3D pirinter (Optional)

8. A printer and A4 paper to print the template

Step 2: Extracting and Prepping the Lens

Probably the most important element of any optic device, these can be easily obtained from cheap laser pointers.

Cheap laser pointers can be found online here or in local shops. The cheapest kind work well and there is no need to buy a high end laser pointer.

You can stack one lens over the other for higher magnification. More than two lenses don’t work as the focal distance reduces greatly.


1. Extracting lenses:

- Remove the top cover of the laser pointer.

- This should reveal a black housing which can be unscrewed or cut open.

- Carefully remove the lens from inside and try to not scratch it in the process.


2. Attaching the lens to the phone:

There are multiple ways to do this. It is important to note that the lens needs to be used in the right direction.

Note that the lens has a slightly rounded bulging part on one side. This side points outwards from the phone camera.


a. Blue tack or reusable putty adhesive:

- Roll up a noodle of blue tack and put it around the edge of the lens.

- Now line up the lens with your phone rear camera (making sure the bulging side faces outwards) and press the tack onto the sides to stick the lens to your phone.

The phone can now be used as a simple microscope with its internal camera application. However, focusing and maintaining a clear image is difficult so we need to build a stage to make focusing easier.

(Note: the focal length is quite short that means, the lens needs to be very close to the sample.)

b. 3D print a lens mount:

- Download the 3D printing file, print the pieces in the finest layer setting and push the lens into it making sure that the bulging side of the lens is on the side of the mount that has a ridge. (The one with a taller ridge is for a double lens set-up and the other one for a single lens)

- You can use either the single lens mount or the double lens mount. In the latter case make sure both lenses have their bulging side pointing outward.

- Now thread a short length (about 8 - 10 cm) of thin elastic cord through the side holes and make knots on the ends to secure it into the mount.

- The elastic makes it easier to fit the lens mount onto various sized phones.

Step 3: The Microscope Stage

This unit makes focusing and viewing the image easier.

Getting the various pieces ready:
- Open up a cereal box to flatten it out and reveal the blank insides.

- Print the template file on an A4 paper (select real size while printing).

- Stick the printed template onto your cereal box.

- Cut the cutting lines as marked.

- Fold over the dotted lines.

Putting together:

I find using thin double sided tape an easy option for this step but you may use regular white glue however, remember to wait for it to dry between steps.

- Start by sticking the piece labelled 1 to the base as shown. Make sure it lines up well with the space provided.

- Now stick the top part of the piece 2 to the base. Again making sure things line up.

- Insert the long focusing tab through the slits as indicated.

- Stick the end of the focusing tab too the free end of piece 2. Line it up well.

Pushing and pulling in the tab should raise or lower the triangle section formed by piece 2. This will move the phone and help focus on on the slide.

Step 4: Making Slides

You may use glass slides if you have access to them but, clear plastic from packaging works well for home purposes.

- Collect your sample.

- Cut a small rectangle from the clear plastic.

- If it is a dry sample, clear tape works well as a cover slip for your slide.

- If the sample is liquid cut another small piece of clear plastic and use it as a cover slip.

Step 5: Using the Microscope

- Mount the lens onto your phones rear camera. Making sure to align it well.

- Place the stage on a slightly raised surface on a flat table. You can use a book for this purpose. Make sure the front square cutout sticks out from the edge of the book as you need to shine light under it.

- Place your slide with the sample in the middle of the cutout.

- Place a light source under the cutout as shown.

- Place the phone over the two triangles on the stage as shown. Make sure the phone camera with the lens mounted aligns with the sample.

- Now move the focusing tab to focus onto your sample.

- Take pictures or videos with your phones inbuilt camera application.

Share your observations with everyone! Try improving the design and share your building experience to help others!

If you have any suggestions for improvement, please share them here! Thank you and happy building!

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    23 Discussions

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    GirishP1

    3 months ago on Step 5

    Anyone can get micro lens fron old CD/DVD reader-writer from PC or home CD/DVD player,. And that one with gud quality lens too...

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    Sajal chuttani

    3 months ago

    You are gonna win
    This is such a great project i cant stop myself from building it

    1
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    suenoname

    4 months ago

    Shame the download button does not work. Great idea though,

    6 replies
    0
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    AdityaJ76suenoname

    Reply 4 months ago

    Thanks!

    Can you specify which download button you're talking about?
    Is it the one for the template, the lens mount 3D model or for the entire instructable?

    0
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    suenonameAdityaJ76

    Reply 4 months ago

    Many thanks.... I have had a premium account since 2008. Must have been a
    problem with my PC as I had the same issue with a few (but not all) the
    downloads I was trying to save. All working fine today.
    Regards
    Sue

    0
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    suenonameericCycles

    Reply 4 months ago

    Many thanks.... I have had a premium account since 2008. Must have been a
    problem with my PC as I had the same issue with a few (but not all) the
    downloads I was trying to save. All working fine today.
    Regards
    Sue

    0
    None
    judgejoycesuenoname

    Reply 4 months ago

    The download only works if you have a premium account. But, expand all the photographs then if it is a Windows computer hit control P and save as a PDF. You'll have the whole set of instructions in a PDF at a location you choose!

    0
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    suenonamejudgejoyce

    Reply 4 months ago

    Many thanks.... I have had a premium account since 2008. Must have been a problem with my PC as I had the same issue with a few (but not all) the downloads I was trying to save. All working fine today.
    Regards
    Sue

    0
    None
    judgejoyceSuejack61

    Reply 4 months ago

    The download only works if you have a premium account. But, expand all
    the photographs then if it is a Windows computer hit control P and save
    as a PDF. You'll have the whole set of instructions in a PDF at a
    location you choose!

    0
    None
    Suejack61judgejoyce

    Reply 4 months ago

    I have a pro subscription. None of the download links are working.

    0
    None
    seamsterSuejack61

    Reply 4 months ago

    This is a known issue that is actively being addressed by the site's engineer team. We're hoping to restore functionality of the download-as-PDF button very soon.

    0
    None
    judgejoyceSuejack61

    Reply 4 months ago

    You should contact Instructables! But in the meantime you can use the Control P and there is a similar command on the MAC.

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    AndresR145

    4 months ago on Step 5

    As always the most simple approach is the best one. Great work!

    1
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    AdityaJ76judgejoyce

    Answer 4 months ago

    You can just use putty adhesive (something like blue tack) to mount the lens onto your phone camera. You can see it in step 2 of the instructable.

    0
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    judgejoyceAdityaJ76

    Reply 4 months ago

    Thanks so much. This will be a terrific thing to do with my granddaughters!

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    JosiahK5

    4 months ago

    Dude, that paper setup is so cool! (also the download buttons work for me)
    I'll definitely make this once I get a chance. My Dollar Tree store has laser pointers for 1 USD, so this project will be really cheap. I think I'll also mess around with a different lens-holder design so that the part lays flat against the iPhone. If I come up with a decent design, then I'll post it here.
    Also, I think I'll try to find out a way to just use a couple white LED's instead of using a flashlight. Maybe I could 3D print a box that will hold up the paper/phone, hold the slide, give a place for a few LED's to be placed underneath the slide, and give the place for some wiring for the LED's. I'll figure something out.

    1 reply
    1
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    AdityaJ76JosiahK5

    Reply 4 months ago

    Sounds great!

    The current lens mount design does have some problems with phones that have cameras too close to the edges and raised from the surface. So, if you come up with a design for that it'll be awesome!

    As for the lights, that sounds good too. I made a tiny LED flashlight by hooking up a white LED to a small battery-pack with an inbuilt switch. Used some solid-core wires so I can bend the light and position it the way I want to. This works for me because some of the lichen samples I'm looking at, are quite opaque and need to be illuminated from the top rather than from the bottom. Heres a picture for your reference!

    flashlight.jpg