Printed microscope. The three gears at the front control lateral motion and focus. A white LED and the lens from a raspberry pi camera are visible. source
We have overcome many of the limitations of 3D printed mechanisms by exploiting the compliance of the plastic to produce a monolithic flexure translation stage, capable of sub-micron-scale motion over a range of 8 × 8 × 4 mm.
This enables us to construct a miniature microscope with excellent mechanical stability, perfect for time-lapse measurements in situ in an incubator or fume hood.
In a scientific context, access to the design of an instrument allows a deeper understanding of its performance and limitations, and facilitates customisations and improvements.
The primary benefit of open source scientific hardware, as with software, is not lower cost; it is the ability to investigate, verify, and improve the method.
Can the Open Flexure microscope replace expensive lab microscopes. In this note Mathew Lippincott describes how he replicated an early version of this 3D printed microscope and slide stage, his experiences, assembly issues, and suggestions. post
See also, Foldscope, an ultra-low cost microscope made from common materials such as paper. It is designed to be produced affordably, to be durable, and to give optical quality similar to research microscopes. site