Public Lab Research note

Community Microscope Assembly Instructions

by bronwen with warren |

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Assembling a microscope of your own? You can build one with the following supplies:

  • Coroplast, cardboard, or pre-cut acrylic sheets
  • long bolts
  • nuts (regular and wingnuts)
  • washers
  • screws
  • webcam
  • foam tape
  • small flashlight
  • clip (if necessary to hold flashlight: small reading lights are also great!)

This iteration is shown with a webcam serving as both camera and lens (more information about the lens conversion is available here). Stay tuned for instructions relating to assembly with a RaspberryPi camera and additional lens configurations.

Step-By-Step Instructions

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Cut out your microscope stages. Cut or punch holes for your bolts on both pieces, and in the top, cut a hole that is be enough for your lens to pass through. You do not need to do this on the bottom piece, but lining the two pieces up and tracing the hole on the bottom piece will help you to place your camera.

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Push the long bolts through the holes on the bottom piece and secure them in place with washers and nuts.image description

Add springs (or rubber bands if that's the version you have!) to each bolt.

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If you have the rubber band version, you'll add those last, like this:
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Prepare your webcam microscope. Full instructions for conversion can be found here.
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Place your webcam microscope on the bottom stage, centered underneath the hole, then add the top stage and the remaining washers and wingnuts.

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The clothes pin and binder clip can be used to position your light and hold its button down, but it's not perfect -- show us how you've solved this problem!

Connect your camera

On a laptop, use Photo Booth for Macs, or you can go to in most browsers to access your webcam.

If you have an Android phone, you can use this app to connect to a webcam directly if you have an OTG USB adaptor; scan this QR code to get the app:

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You're ready to go! Place a slide over the hole and get started: use the wingnuts to raise and lower the stage, and adjust the distance and angle of the light until your sample is in focus.

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