Quick and Dirty High Performance EE Microscope

I bought an iPad and constantly look for more real life use cases. Turns out it's an excellent electronics microscope!

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On a lame Saturday, I realized the iPad Pro and other new iOS devices come with an app called Magnifier. Seems simple enough but it did spark an interesting idea: What if we can use these devices as actual microscopes for electronics? This is my weekend solution...

STL file can be found on Thingiverse:

  • Building the weirdest iPad stand in existence...

    Timo Birnschein08/03/2021 at 04:15 0 comments

    After about 9h of printing... okey. After three failed attempts, about 20h total, I hold in my hand the largest print ever to come off my printer.

    It took almost the entire platform and almost the entire available height of my Malyan M180.

    The printed holder leaves enough space to place a desk lamp as additional lighting to the flashlight the iPad already provides.

    The iPad can simply be slid into the holder for easy access and should be stable even for the large iPad Pro 12.9.

    The app allows to adjust the camera settings in magnification, brightness, contrast, and false colors, as well as taking photos and I think also videos (needs to be checked).

    The magnification at 50% is already quite substantial, especially on the large screen! 0603 parts can easily be seen and worked on. Part designations can be read, traces followed and LGA parts checked for proper soldering.

    It's just brilliant, to be honest!

    This is a closeup to the screen, what the quality actually looks like. But keep in mind, at the bottom there is the menu, so this is a really small part of the screen. There is also high reflectivity because of the angle of the part to the light source. So this can look much better if you hold the part slightly differently. All in all, you can guess how much more detail can be seen when using this instead of just your eyes...

    Adding to this thing, I would think about two things:

    • A ring light
    • a Fan to blow flux smoke away from the camera lenses. Flux smoke is bad for your lungs and I'm sure it's not great on coated camera lenses either...

  • It's often just a quick idea that ends up being great...

    Timo Birnschein08/03/2021 at 04:06 0 comments

    Most of us would probably argue, the iPad Pro is a super expensive YouTube viewer and not much more. Obviously, that stops being true when you actually use it with the various really powerful software suites that exist for it (music making is one of those). However, some great tools are built in but seem underrated. For example, I have never seen anyone talk about the Magnifier app that comes with newer iOS devices.

    Apparently, Apple has realized that their cameras are now so good that they can see more than the human eye at close distance. Exceptions to the rule apply. So they decided to add a magnification app to their latest devices which allows high magnification levels than the normal camera app. Obviously, the quality at that magnification isn't great but it's better than what a human can see comfortably by quite a long shot.

    So here I was, holding my eye iPad in my hands thinking hard what I can do with it that would benefit me in real life. Yeah, it has the most powerful processor ever to be put in a tablet but I'm still only using it for watching YouTube and reading Hackaday. 

    But then, the Magnifier app caught my eye. I click on it, play with it and start thinking. I realized that by holding the iPad upside down and diagonally, I had a camera at the bottom and a large screen at the top. Kind of what you want when using a microscope. Makes it somewhat pleasant on the neck! I also realized that the diagonal form factor would allow the operator to reach in under the microscope with, say, a soldering iron and a pair of pliers! Wait. This is a perfect electronics microscope!!

    Last Sunday, I decided to give it a shot and started designing. An iPad Pro 12.9 model was quickly found and designing that stand only took about an hour. It was supposed to be a quick test, so I didn't want to spend lots of time on it. 

    The print on my new Hemera extruder using PLA took only about 9h so that wasn't even a big deal!

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