OpenFlexure Microscope for soil samples

I an excited to build a microscope to use to look at microbes in soil. I am not a scientist, rather I love making things with 3d Printers, code, nuts-n-bolts.

I currently have a Swift 380T microscope that I use at 40x to 400x. It takes about 400x to start seeing the bacteria swim around. The microbes also have 3D depth in the water.

I thought the OpenFlexure design is amazing and am hoping this will work. I also like it being raspberry pi based/python.

There seem to be modifications to the OpenFlexure microscope that might be beneficial as well as does it make sense to fit it for microscope optics?

Basically, where would you start if you were interested in videoing and imaging microbes in soil? Thank you.

I am glad you are looking to use the Openflexure microscope. If you are starting with printing new parts, I would recommend the version 7 design A new alpha! v7.0.0-alpha2 - Announcements - OpenFlexure Forum. It is still labelled as an Alpha release, but we have now built several and there are no real issues in the hardware. Most of the instructions are a lot better than the V6 release on the main website. If you have any problems you can always drop in here for advice!

Your previous experience has suggested that a 40x objective lens is needed. You may be able to get away with the Raspberry Pi lens, which has a roughly equivalent field of view to a 20x objective, but does have remarkably good resolution. It is quick to try anyway, you just need to print the low cost optics part. @nanocastro has posted in this forum on soil microscopy, with a nice guide linked from that post.

Note also that the Openflexure microscope is an ‘inverted’ design. This means that the lens is below the stage, so you will need to use a coverslip and turn the slide over to get a high magnification lens close enough to the sample. ( 40x Objective Can’t Focus - Request Help - OpenFlexure Forum. There is an Upright configuration in V7 ( OpenFlexure Microscope - V7 upright - instructions)

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Thank you @WilliamW for your kind advice. I am jumping in, currently printing the v7 main body. @nanocastro 's soil microscopy posts / zine is exceptionally well done. Thank you for the link. @nanocastro - I was delighted with the zine. This is all stuff I am learning to look at so I will learn from your work.

@WilliamW - have you seen Pimoroni’s microscope lens? Perhaps these optics could be integrated? I have one and am very impressed with the image quality.


I have not seen one in the flesh. Glad to hear that it is as good as it looks in practice. As it is quite low magnification, the precise x-y-z motion stage is less necessary and may be too slow and too small a range of motion. The optic looks quite heavy and long, it would probably fit best on the Delta stage, where the optics are attached to the fixed base. The motion can be speed up a bit with 1:1 or 1:1.25 gear ratios, instead of the standard 2:1, but it would probably still feel a bit slow.

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Good timing, we just “officially” released the finalized verion of the guide on archive… and we are celebrating tonite with an evening of tuak and soil microscopy.
We are presenting it tonite, 19:00 CEST at another european wide indo biolab online call. see info here.

Yes, also in Spanish, and working on Japanese and Indonesian versions too!

There is a page on different microscopes that can be used. Of course the openflexure is in there… i personally think though for many of those small critters and fun microscopic live in the soils, a simple hacked webcam DIY microscope does the trick “good enough”.
Here is an instruction for that:

Btw. you can add Indonesia to the map of where the openflexure is being used. Brought one here, and producing 2 more at this very moment.

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