Today, average microscopes range from seventy to a few hundred dollars.

However, researchers continue to develop more cost-effective alternatives to traditional microscopes. Through the use of different materials, ranging from legos to paper, microscopes are becoming more accessible.

The APSU GIS Center recently 3-D printed a microscope. The Center used a design called the “OpenFlexure Microscope.”

“The OpenFlexure Microscope is a customisable, open-source optical microscope, using either very cheap webcam optics or lab quality, RMS threaded microscope objectives. It uses an inverted geometry, and has a high quality mechanical stage which can be motorised using low cost geared stepper motors.”

The microscope was created by the University of Bath and released as an open source design.

The different microscope parts were printed separately by the center and then assembled. A few outside parts are also needed for the design, including a Raspberry Pi and a camera. Altogether, the cost of production is around $18.

The end result “is a fully automated, laboratory-grade instrument with motorised sample positioning and focus control. It is unique among 3D-printed microscope in its ability to yield high-quality images. It has been designed to be easy to use, with an intuitive software interface and simplified alignment procedures. It is also highly customisable, meaning it can be adapted for laboratory, school and home use.

The design also comes with software to make viewing the slides easier. The microscope can be hooked up to a monitor, allowing multiple people to view the slides simultaneously.

The APSU Biology Department provided several slides to help with the testing phase. So far, the center’s 3-D printed microscope has worked well with all of the provided slides.

The center will continue to refine the microscope and ensure the project is sustainable.

If the project is successful, the GIS Center hopes to distribute printed microscopes to local schools.

For more information about the GIS Center’s current projects, visit us at:

If you have a project idea or are interested in working with the center, please contact us at 1.931.221.7500 or