Weekend of Wonder: 3D printed stand for Plugable's USB microscope

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Nice, but the printing potential is underutilized here. An actuator with a knob and rack-pinion assembly could be used for the vertical positioning.

There is also further space for improvement. Both the vertical axis and the x-y sample positioning can be actuated with small motors (model servos, small geared-down steppers, the $2-a-piece kind…) and used for automated image acquisition, for both focus and area stacking.

If we reverse the flow of light through the lens array and build a spherical housing, we can get a working model of the death star.


Use a green laser pointer. With good optics it could burn tiny spots even with just moderate laser power.

(I once did some safety calculations for a laser cigarette lighter, based on a 1-watt blue laser diode. The result was that with 30-degree divergence, using optics for convergent-divergent beam (with focal point about a half-inch from the output lens), the eye-safe distance is just a few centimeters. I should’ve kept notes, now I’ll have to redo them when needed again…)


I bought this item and I have to say I was super impressed with the quality for the price.

I almost never use the stand -I just press it against the object and focus - which is hard to do. The focal depth of course is very small, but I had fun looking at my bugs in amber.

I need to find my slides and some dye and try to look for cells. When I go home I am going into my dads fish tanks looking for rotifers on the algae.


Awesome ideas, Shadduck. If you design this and upload it to Thingiverse I will post it and thank you profusely.

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Will take a bit of time, as my 3d printer is still not assembled (Kossel XL, the kit takes quite more effort than expected, and the build instructions often have parts assembly in uncomfortable order when parts mounted together get in the way of the tools in the subsequent operations, and the Allen wrench supplied had to be cut a bit to fit). Then I have to find that what I thought I know about 3d modelling is totally wrong and I have to relearn from scratch (which is normal). And getting familiar with slicers and all other kinds of software involved. And finding that there is a can of worm in the physical behavior of the printing materials that makes the printed parts not being exactly as modeled, and how, and how to compensate for it, because real-world materials are quite different from ideal ones.

Interesting times ahead!

Free or cheap advanced lab tools are a must.

…also learning Python. Another long-distance trek.

On a side note, Python and ImageMagick are a good combination for generating images. I am writing a tool for making measuring scales (laser print, laminate or paint, attach to whatever you need a scale on). Going via the MVG vector language of ImageMagick, instead of via the API and generating the bitmap directly, to allow manual editing of the generated stuff for optional further handling (always better to be prepared for the unexpected - like with chess, the move that constraints your options is not a good idea). (I had something like that written earlier, but in PHP for HTML/CSS, and the positioning had jitter. Attempt with SVG failed on the browsers’ and Inkscape tendency to not print in exact scale, and a measurement scale that is in 1.1 cm increments is generally rather worthless. So bitmap generation it is. Then the images can be both laser-printed and laser-engraved (and then optionally etched, using a mask paint on metal to be laser-burned away, like when making circuitboards), as desired.)
Experiment has to be done in phase 2 to find if the scales can be printed sufficiently accurate to act as verniers.

The same approach can be used for instrument gauges, for e.g. analog meters. Also done earlier in HTML/CSS too messy to publish unless you really want to see, and needs to be redone better.

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