IBM Research engineer Yuksel Temiz developed a $300 modular and motorized microscope that combines his three favorite hobbies: Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and LEGO.
His goal was to develop a lab tool for their research work on microfluidics for point-of-care diagnostics. The reasoning behind the microscope was rather simple: He was frustrated that his lab's microscope kept producing bad footage, and he thought his childhood obsession, LEGO, could help.
He wanted to replace the very expensive and sizeable macro lens imager platform at this lab with something cheaper and more comfortable to use.
In order to do that, he developed an open-source microscope using Raspberry Pi, Arduinos, and a LEGO frame. And boy, does it work...
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The recipe for the perfect microscope
In order to make his vision a reality, Temiz used LEGO bricks, a Raspberry Pi computer, an 8MP Raspberry Pi camera, and a 3D printer to put together the 10-micrometer resolution microscope.
The Raspberry Pi computer and the 8Mp camera enables the user to capture images and video footage. The Arduino uses a high-power LED to illuminate and drives the six stepper motors. Including the camera angle, sample position, magnification, and focus, the microscope is designed to be fully motorized. To top off all that, it features an HDMI display to enable an easy viewing experience.
On the outer shell, the microscope's main body is constructed entirely out of LEGO bricks and 3D-printed parts.
The LEGO microscope's functions can be controlled using a keyboard connected to the Pi, or a separate custom-built Arduino joystick. What a fun ride!
Cost only $300
The project cost him about $300, and the end product is so good that it rivals store-bought microscopes that cost a lot more.
Temiz and his colleagues in the microfluidics lab at IBM Research have been using the LEGO microscope for the past two years and including the images, they took with it in their papers.
They've been able to take images of several things, ranging from microfluidics to blood and urine to be used for cancer and infectious diseases research, and more.
Walkthrough on GitHub
The great thing about this whole project is that Temiz has shared a detailed walkthrough on how he assembled the microscope on GitHub, by including all the files needed for the 3D-printed parts and schematics for the electronics.
The instruction manual is perfectly in the LEGO-style, and here, you watch the step by step DIY video, and if you happen to have access to a 3D printer, Raspberry Pi computer, and an 8MP Raspberry Pi Camera, you can make one for yourself too.