Nov 29, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers from the University of Houston have released an open-source dataset for turning a smartphone into a 3D printed microscope. Such a microscope can be used to detect waterborne pathogens and carry out other helpful diagnostic functions.

When you get too stuck into Facebook or Candy Crush, it’s easy to forget that a smartphone can do truly incredible things. You can turn it into a 3D printer, as the ONO smartphone 3D printer proves, and you can even use 3D printed accessories to transform a smartphone into something else entirely.

A new project at the University of Houston uses 3D printed components to turn a smartphone into a microscope capable of carrying out important medical functions. It’s fully open source, and the transformed smartphones can be used in rural areas and developing countries where more traditional microscopic equipment isn’t yet available.

By attaching an inkjet-printed elastomer lens to a standard smartphone, the Houston researchers have been able to develop a system capable of fluorescence microscopy, a process used in biology, medical diagnostics, and other fields to detect otherwise undetectable information about cells and tissue.

This means the partially 3D printed setup is able to detect waterborne pathogens—micro-organisms that can transfer disease—and perform other diagnostic functions. This could be helpful not only to medical professionals, but to those like backpackers who want to quickly test the contents of river water, for example.

The research into this project actually goes way back: associate professor Wei-Chuan Shih and his lab developed their first external microscopic smartphone lens back in 2015, and that research was then developed further using a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s citizen science initiative.

Now, after Shih’s lab created a company for the specific purpose of producing and distributing those smartphone lenses, the researchers have managed to improve the microscope with additional features, including a platform made of low-cost parts and LEGO bricks. The platform can be used for high-throughput quality inspection of the inkjet-printed lenses.

The lenses themselves use LED lighting and a 3D printed cartridge which holds a glass slide, with both the LED and cartridge attaching to a smartphone. Light is input from the side of the 1-mm-thick slide, and travels through the glass, refracting to present the microscopic image.

To see if the DIY microscope is really effective enough for its designated purpose, the researchers tried testing water samples for pathogens including Giardia lamblia and Cyrptosporidium parvum. Both the 3D printed setup and a regular tabletop optical microscope were tested, and results showed a resolution of two microns with the smartphone device—lower than the regular microscope, but still more than capable of detecting the pathogens.

Shih and the other researchers are now excited to see how the 3D printed smartphone device performs in real-world applications outside of the lab.

Their latest paper on the research, “Open-source do-it-yourself multi-color fluorescence smartphone microscopy,” has been published in Biomedical Optics Express.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Paul Morelli wrote at 11/29/2017 8:44:30 PM:

you might want to check in on ONO.. Its now OLO and looking like a complete scam. Not sure it this printer will ever hit the backers.

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