Aug 3, 2017 | By Tess

Just days ago we wrote about an open source 3D printed microscope that could be made for as little as €100 ($118). Now, another project, undertaken by researchers from the University of Bath in the UK, has even higher aspirations than that as it has made a prototype of a 3D printed microscope for only £30 ($40).

The innovative 3D printed microscope is being developed by a joint team of researchers which includes Dr. Richard Bowman from the University of Bath’s Department of Physics and researchers from the University of Cambridge and Tanzania’s “digital blacksmiths” STICLab.

The project, which aims to use low-cost consumer electronics and 3D printed components to create accessible medical and scientific tools such as microscopes, was recently awarded with £1 million in funding, which will be provided by the Global Challenges Research Fund over the next three years.

The ultimate goal of the project is to make such devices and medical resources more available in developing regions of the world to improve disease diagnosis and scientific research. By making them open source, the researchers hope that others will not only be able to recreate their scientific tools, but also improve them.

Currently, the researchers are testing a prototype of an optical microscope which is made from a 3D printed frame, a Raspberry Pi mini-computer, and commercial (mass produced) lenses. The prototype, which was made for only £30, is capable of magnifying up to 1.5 millionth of a meter, making it suitable for identifying parasites such as malaria in blood or water samples.

(Images: Dr. Richard Bowman)

 “I think we’re quite used to the idea of open source software, but not necessarily open source hardware,” commented Dr. Bowman, who conceived of the low-cost open source microscope while working as a research fellow at Queens College, Cambridge.

 “With consumer electronics being so cheap nowadays we can actually get a surprisingly long way and make a high-quality instrument for serious microscopy. By releasing the designs as free, open-source products we want to enable local entrepreneurs to produce the medical and scientific equipment that will improve healthcare, education, and research in some of the poorest areas in the world,” he added.

Down the line, the research team will also investigate the potential to make the 3D printed microscopes automated, which will make them easier to operate and free up valuable time for healthcare professionals. They also said that having the ability to store images of tested samples digitally could be beneficial, as it would enable second opinions, training opportunities, and more.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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