Having access to a CNC router, laser cutter or 3D printer enables you to both build things which would otherwise be difficult to create as well as reduce the build time of projects which might be too time consuming using traditional construction techniques. As part of the process of testing the CNC router I have been building, I needed to easily shoot pictures and video of small objects. Using the very router, itself, I constructed a mounting bracket to connect an iPhone to a microscope. Without the bracket, it was nearly impossible to hold the camera steady enough to shoot video or take multiple pictures to stitch together. If pictures can be taken through a microscope in a stable way, they can be tiled to increase the field of view (think panorama) or stacked to increase the depth of focus of the image (think panorama in the 3rd dimension). I figured that since I had a CNC router, I could use it to make a bracket to solve this problem.
To hold the iPhone into the foam block, I routed a pocket the same size as theiPhone into the top of the block. Normally, I would have routed the holea little bit larger than the phone to ensure that it would fit, but by making the pocket the same size, the natural give of the foam holds the phone snugly. It took several tries to get the depth of the pocket just right to place the iPhone’s lens the correct distance above the microscope's eyepiece. Because the design files were digital, it was easy to adjust the depth of the cut. Once I had found the correct spacing between the lenses,I cut a plywood plate whichIglued to the back of the foam to provide rigidity. I used mahogany plywood because it adds a touch of class, and I had some left over from another project.
To fasten the camera holder to the microscope, I also used a combination of foam and wood. I used foam to hold onto the microscope's eyepiece without scratching the microscope. I added a plywood ring to the top of the foam ring to give the foam structural support. The inside diameter of the wood ring was slightly larger than the foam ring so that only foam contacts the shaft of the microscope's eyepiece. I added a second foam ring to attach to the second eyepiece of the microscope for added stability.
Having a camera attached to a microscope in a stable way allows one to do several things which would otherwise be difficult. A hands free operation allows one to operate the camera`s built-in zoom feature, focus, or move the subject into the optimal position. It also allows one to do things which require the camera position to remain stationary like focus stacking. Focus stacking takes a number of images with different focal points and combines them to increase the depth of focus of the microscope. Besides having a very narrow depth of focus, microscopes have a very narrow field of view, which means that when looking through the microscope you can only see a small area. This shortcoming can be compensated for by combining multiple overlapping images to increase thefield of view. These two techniques can significantly increase the usability of a microscope, in this case at no additional cost.
This is the type of project that goes from being an expensive, inaccessible technology to a fun weekend project when you have access to a CNC router.If you are interested in learning more about the CNC router I used to make this project, please visit our website at www.makesmithcnc.com. We are hoping to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the next few weeks offering kits including all of the electronics, hardware, and software to build your own CNC router for about $200. We will be showing the machine at Maker Faire Bay Area May 17 and 18 in San Mateo, CA.Please stop by if you would like to see it in action or ask us questions.