OpenAFM - Atomic Force Microscope

I am building atomic force microscope based on OpenFlexture delta stage and microscope.

The idea of open AFM is to make it available to anyone in this world regardless of origin or social/economic status, just like OpenFlextire.

There are a lot of resources online but most of them old/broken links and most of them are not easily reproducible

openAFM is a bit tricky, it is both electronics, software and mechanics combined (and bit of chemistry)

I’ve already done some work:


@Someone, thank you for sharing your progress. It is a very interesting combination of different projects.

This is super cool - I know there have been a few efforts in this direction in the past, but I didn’t see any that made it as far as imaging things yet! I really like the way you’ve pulled out different bits from OpenFlexure in that system - that was always the way I hoped people would use it :slight_smile:

I always wanted to see if I could integrate piezo buzzers into the block stage for ultra-fine motion - but I never found a good enough excuse to justify the time it would take. Your solution is way simpler, and I am excited to see where it takes you.

I agree! Very cool. Could you expand on how you plan to prepare the tip? I didn’t understand the two objects you have on your site. ALso, where did you find the piezo disks?

Lets start from how it’s done. You need NaOH solution (You can take two spoons of NaOH tablets and 50ml of water). Then you have to immerse the copper loop into the NaOH solution. Once copper loop reemerge from the solution, it will get kind of NaOH bubnle and the Tangsteen wire inside of it. Sometimes the bubble may pop, in such a case you need to start the process from scratch. I was afraid that in the process of creating the bubble, I will spill the solution. That’s why I made this two pieces with springs in between, you just press the upper part down and it dips the copper loop inside NaOH solution. It’s not necessary but it makes the process bit safer.
And the piezzo electric discs are something old I have, for now Its POC and I didn’t buy something fancy with low creep/linear, but once I will understand more the need of the system I will use something more appropriate.

If you want real AFM probes, they’re not very expensive:

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OK, there are plenty of piezo disks on the web so no problem. Do you already have the optics and electronics?
I don’t know much about AFM, so forgive dumb questions :slight_smile: What type of AFM are you looking at? There seems to be many ways to operate one.

You are right those are relatively cheap, the one I found before that cost about 1000$ for package of 10. Here is less than half price.
Unfortunately we still have to fabricate since we want self resonating AFM probe. While those are made to be used with laser.

The goal is FM- QFM (frequency modulated, quartz fork module). Actually in this point we already can use it as STM. (Scanning Tunnel Microscope) but it will good only for conductive surfaces. One more step and it will work with any surface.

Laser read-out is very much in my wheelhouse, I’ve built a module for that before. No promises on available time, but if that’s something that might be helpful in the future, I’d happily give some thought to putting together a neat printed module that does it. If it makes it easier to use commercially available tips, it might be worth the effort. On the other hand, it sounds to me like you have good reasons for going the way you’re going, so don’t let me distract!

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I agree, fab fabricated tips will definitely have better accuracy than anything one will made at home. (Without checking it under SEM for instance)

Actually I like the idea, we can build it in a modular way. One will be able to choose if he wants it the cheapest way and less accurate or invest more and get more accuracy.

But first thing first, lets try to make the simple version.


Same. Worked for years on a Pac Nano that had both though.

Quick question regarding microscopes, I am looking for a lens that can see further than 0.17mm with high magnification say 40. Is there something like that? I want to see the probe, it should be some distance from the lens.

I believe the 0.17 on the objective is the thickness of cover slips it’s optimised for, the spacing between the objective and the sample will likely be a bit higher (not by much, 0.36mm seems typical, some are 0.22mm). If you search for long working distance objectives you can find some options with working distance up to ~3.6mm for 40x.

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0.17 is the thickness of the coverslip. You could buy something like this that has a ring to correct the working distance. It will cost thousands of USD. You also may need to adapt the tube

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You can build a couple OFMs for the price of that objective from Nikon.

If the goal is just long working distance, something like this should work 40X Long Working Distance Plan Achromatic Metallurgical Microscope Objective Lens Working Distance 3.7mm | Boli Optics Microscope Store (assuming the site is legitimate).

Is there some cheaper option? I found microscope for soldering with x1600 for $10. For my usage I don’t need high quality of image.

Magnification is a slippery term in microscopes, particularly digital microscopes. I have used Openflexure with a 4k 65" screen for demonstrations, which is rather more ‘magnification’ compared to the same image viewed on my phone :slight_smile:

Field of view and resolution are the important factors. If you need the high resolution that you get with a 40x objective lens, and if you also want a long working distance, then that is a difficult optic to make and will be expensive. If you want to keep the high resolution (high NA) then prices go up for 3mm working distance compared to the common <1mm (and get really silly for working distance of >4mm).

Thank you for the confirmation. I agree, 3mm with x40 was at $200. Which was too pricey for my project. I bought electronic microscope for $10. The magnification looks more x40 and quality is terrible compared to standard microscope BUT it has working distance of 20mm. And for fine tuning the AFM probe it might be enough.

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Hey there!
this is an awesome project.
I have been working on decapping some modern DDR5 ram chips as essentially prebuilt nanoscopic imaging devices via nanoscopic electrical impedance tomography. (sort of like the Cromemco cyclops camera but even higher resolution and faster frame rate)

I have been thinking of trying an AFM style approach where the ram chip cells are held close to a sample surface to facilitate large area AFM like imaging / electrostatic sample manipulation.

How has your Open AFM been going? and is there any other places online I can keep up with it beyond hackaday?