Precision & Stability
Magnets holds all parts in place. Misaligning the parts is almost impossible due to the auto-centering working principle. The precision is goverened by the 3D printed structues, but can be compensated with small mechanical actuators which align parts (e.g. Centers lenses). This makes it ideal for educational environments where a telescope can be turned into a microscope with ease.
Form Follows Function
Still unclear what was first? The chicken or the duck? The form or the function? One block alone is pretty much useless, but in combination with a set of other individual blocks, each holding a specific function, the form defines the function. Therefore one can turn an inverted microscope into a lightsheet setup within just a few turns. The final result is thus more than just the sum of all individual parts.
The concept of Fourier optics is the underlying principle of most modern microscopes. This allows correct imaging from the so called image plane to frequency-(fourier-) plane and back to image plane. It reduces the amount of possible additional aberration which could harm the later image quality. The idea is that the focal lengthes of two adjacent lenses fall into each other – thus 4f (2f+2f). In microscopy this is typically known as the infinity corrected microscope. Transferring this idea to a 3d printed microscopy allows the reuse of components, because one block can be used in several systems without always realigning them. Reivnetin
The system relies on the low-cost backilluminated CMOS camera sensor from the Raspberry Pi (v2.1). It produces nice images in our experiments for a very low price. Alternatively one can use cellphone cameras which have even better imaging capabilities in most cases. One simply needs to use a monocular eyepiece to reimage an image formed by e.g. a microscope into the smartphone’s lens.
Optic Meets Electronic
All active components, like actuators, illumination sources or sensors are equipped with a little microcontroller which acts as the communication model being able to send and receive commands over the well known I2C-Bus. The Raspberry Pi acts as the Master which controls all slaves listening to the commands. This makes it possible to have hardware specific drivers taking care of the functions in each cube. LED patterns can be addressed as well as precise motion of the X/Y stages.
3D Prints and off-the-shelf components
When designing the system we made sure to use parts which are readily available. The open-source hardware, especially the robotic and Arduino community approaches a set of easy-to-use and very low-cost components such as motors and LEDs. In combination with a rising number of high-quality 3D printers, it serves as the first attempt to built tools for cutting-edge research for a very low price.
The design of all parts considers limitations of printing resources. Thus the build-volume can be split by a modularized base-plate system. Additionally all overhanging parts such as bridges etc. are circumvent where possible.
The low price and small footprint makes it possible to place several microscopes in the incubator e.g. to image different biological experiments in living environment (in vivo). The software allows to set up the device to produce an image per minute over several days. The later result can be a time-lapse video of intra-cell interactions