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Foldscope Origami-inspired Paper Microscope : FirstLook

Deluxe Individual Kit

A lot of really cool stuff show up at the RainyDayMagazine office. Often, though, the excitement is somewhat localized. The RainyDayKitchen folks don’t get all lathered up when a new piece of astrophotography gear arrives for the RainyDayScience team. The RainyDayScience geeks aren’t all “ooh-ing and ahh-ing” over the latest sous vide cooker that was just unpacked. However, everyone who saw the Foldscope asked “Hey, what’s that???”

When we see that kind of reaction, we know something interesting is in the house!

Foldscope Instruments : The Paper Microscope

Manu Prakash and Jim Cybulski came up with the idea for Foldscope while Jim was a PhD student in Manu’s laboratory at Stanford University,

Manu observed, while working in a number of locations around the globe, that the bulky, expensive microscopes were not being used because people were afraid of breaking them. He also realized that lab microscopes were not designed to be used in field work, which was limiting the amount of in situ (“on site”) science work —much of it had to be done back in a lab, creating a lag time for actual investigations.

The solution required a radical approach, and the quest to design a low-cost, easy-to-use microscope with sufficient optical quality to do real work was on!

The result was the Foldscope.

The Foldscope is part of the approach to what Prakash calls doing “frugal science.” A functional microscope which can be made for $1 is part of that strategy. The paper here from 2014 talks more about how the device works, its capabilities, and the limits of the design.

The Deluxe Kit

Four years later, the Foldscope team, with hundred of thousands of units shipped, has learned a lot more about how to mass produce them and how they function in real life. Along with some tweeks to the origami design of the Foldscope itself, they have also assembled a collection of tools and accessories to make sample collection and field observations easier…enter the Deluxe Kit.

Deluxe Individual Kit comes with the following:

  • Foldscope
  • 2 140X lenses
  • 4 magnetic couplers
  • 1 LED/Magnifier with integrated magnifier (battery included)
  • 1 sheet of diffuser stickers for LED/Magnifier
  • 1 sheet of calibration/measurement grids

Sample gathering and slide prep:

  • 1 sheet of reusable sealable PVC slides with micro-wells and plastic coverslips
  • 3 nylon filter sheets (5, 25, 100 micron)
  • 2 stainless steel mesh filters (1mm and 300um)
  • 3 custom sample collection plastic bags
  • 2 Eppendorf tubes and plastic pipettes
  • 1 plastic pair of tweezers
  • 1 slide box with 2 pre-made glass slides and 3 blank glass slides
  • 1 ultra clear roll of tape for making quick slides/coverslips
  • 1 small blunt end metal scissors
  • 1 sheet of color stickers for labeling slides

There are two layers to the box of the Deluxe Kit. The molded tray holds most of the tools, tubes, lenses, and…stuff. Lifting the tray out reveal a space underneath which is large enough to store a field notebook and ziplock bags of labels, filters, and other flat items.

All of the bits and pieces are interesting additions to the paper Foldscope and will likely make the field experience more enjoyable. We look forward to taking it out and giving them all a try.

Assembly Instructions

The assembly of the paper microscope seems complicated, but is actually a lot simpler than the written instructions make it out to be. A lot of the apparent complication has to do with having to describe how to fold something flat into three dimensions, which is often easier to understand from watching a video.

The tasks for assembly are mainly removing the pieces, folding them along the scored lines, and sliding the pieces together to form the complete scope. As all of the pieces for the microscope have been pre-punched on the sheet, removing them should be straightforward. After looking at the video, the assembly appears simple as well. We’ll let you know 🙂

How to use the Foldscope is also detailed in the instruction manual, along with suggestions for slide preparation, how to gather samples, and how to use the Foldscope with the camera on a smartphone to take photos and videos for sharing.

One of our past RainyDayScience efforts was a series called Backyard Biotech. We think it is again time to add to the series based on this new piece of gear.

It will be exciting to see what we can see once we’ve assembled the scope. Look for the construction write-up soon!

Amazon links to items mentioned:

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