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Here’s a hi-powered microscope that you can build yourself using off-the-shelf parts.

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German scientists have created a new system that lets anyone easily build a low-cost microscope with the power of professional microscopes that cost thousands of dollars more. The UC2 (“You See Too”) system uses 3D-printed parts and components you can get from any electronics store.

The UC2 microscope doesn’t use a metal tube to hold the microscope components together. Instead, the UC2 microscope system uses a 3D-printed baseplate as the base or spine for the microscope. The baseplate below has 4 sections to which 4 different “cubes” can be attached. Each cube contains a microscope part, such as a lens or mirror.

UC2 YouSeeToo - How to assemble the baseplate?
A UC2 system baseplate

“Cubes” are 3D-printed and attached to the grid using screws and ball magnets. In the picture below, the ball magnets are sitting on top of the blue baseplate. The cube (orange and black) has screws which stick to the ball magnets holding the cube in place.

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Attaching UC2 base cube to the baseplate using ball magnets

Each cube is about 2-inches wide and can contain various microscope components such as lenses, mirrors, lights, and even cameras.

A cube (black/orange) attached to a baseplate (blue)

Here’s a cube that contains a LED light which is used to illuminate the sample being viewed through the microscope. The black and gray parts are the 3D-printed cube. The gray parts have a slot that a LED light matrix slides into. Then screws hold everything together.

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A LED light matrix cube

Here’s a cube that contains a mirror which is used to “fold the light beam”.

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A mirror cube

The mirror cube was built using the parts below. The cream colored part is the mirror (the back side of it). The mirror is attached to the black part which is then inserted into the orange cube (bottom right of the photo). Then the lid (the orange piece at the bottom-left) is screwed to the cube to hold everything together.

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The parts used to build the mirror cube

A fully assembled UC2 system microscope can look like this.

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A completed UC2 microscope

Cubes can be built and attached in various ways to create very specialized microscopes. Here’s the design for a transmissions microscope. In this diagram, XYZ is a motor that moves the lens around. CAM is a camera for taking pictures. M is a mirror that folds the image around a corner so it can reach the camera lens. MO is a microscope objective (lens). L is a LED light matrix that illuminates the sample being viewed.

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The design for a UC2 transmission microscope

Here’s another UC2 microscope and a diagram that shows how everything is put together.

A UC2 microscope

The UC2 microscope system is pretty cool and we owe the brilliant scientists at the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology in Jena, Germany a huge thanks for giving us such a clever microscope system.

You can read more about the UC2 microscope system from the official website or get materials (including tutorials) from the UC2 github.

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