Think outside the scope of a full microscopic setup and analyse it from scratch: You will find that many of such setups are based around 4f configurations, where focal lengths of adjacent lenses can be concatenated. Perfect conditions for unitised optical building blocks, which are the basis for our general optical toolbox – UC2. Following the users‘ needs, the modular building blocks can hold specific functions such as lenses, mirrors or displays to realize a wide variety of different setups. Basically there is no limitation to not use the blocks for many more applications from magnifying glasses to tele- and microscopes or simply just as building blocks for your creativity. The UC2 System is more than just the sum of all individual components.
Worldwide, almost 2.5 billion smartphones are actively in use. Above, small and affordable computers such as Raspberry Pis are gaining acknowledgement and many different fields of application. Two computational resources that are worth considering when dealing with image acquisition or even image processing. The UC2 design incorporates these thoughts, enabling the control of the setup and imaging with easily available cell-phones or Raspberry Pis. This is assured by small micro-controllers, which bring the blocks to life. Communication over an I2C-Bus and shared commands – everything´s build around the famous Arduino to keep complexity and cost as low as possible.
The initial idea was to build a modular toolbox for (micro-)optical systems. Obviously, it does more. It can act as a framework for all kind of lab-work. Place your electric circuits in the frames and stack them together, connect them over the already implemented I2C-system and make advantage from it´s modular design. Nevertheless, optical systems are benefiting the most, due to the already predefined optical axis. Time-consuming alignment will be a thing of the past. Small magnets and their magnetic counterparts are taking care of a stable connection which enables any type of visible circuit.
For a long time, it was almost impossible to get creative with code-hacking. Even for electronic experts, the availability of simple circuits for Do-It-Yourself projects was very poor. This changed dramatically, when the open-source project Arduino came into place. It simplified starting to code small electronic projects by making micro-controllers, including the programmable devices and software, available to almost everybody. Through its open and modular design we hope, that UC2 acts similarly and incorporates many people, because outside the scientific community access to optical components is very limited – yet. Hence, we host all our designs openly on the crowd-accepted collaboration platform GITHUB. FIND OUR REPO HERE.
We considered the wide-spread availability and easy operation of 3D-printers, when we designed the little UC2 building blocks. The cubes can be made with off-the-shelf printers (ABS, PLA, etc.) at a cost of around 500 Euro. The inlets, which define the functions in the optical setup are also coming from off-the-shelf resources. The famous Raspberry Pi delivers a high-quality camera, whereas the maker-community brought up cheap, but precise actuators for positioning the sample. Based on the UC2 system, an entire (fully-automated) fluorescent microscope costs less than 250 Euro in consumables.
A set of basis cubes and functions are already compiled to provide a quick-start in your project. Similar to software giving you specific solutions, we offer cubes with prebuilt functions. To realise your own ideas, you can add self-developed algorithms to our cube design. Your project is thus more than just the sum of all individual parts. UC2 and the community benefits the most, when you share the new designs across the web, thus inspiring others and involving a bigger group of people into high class science.