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Weekend Project: Create a 3D Printed Pocket Microscope from E-Waste

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Have an ancient DVD or CD drive collecting dust in your garage? You can use your 3D printer and a recycled lens to create an e-waste pocket microscope. 

For those of us living in the modern world, it’s hard to imagine surviving without the electronics that have become such an integral part of our lives. However, as new and innovative devices replace the electronics of yesteryear, e-waste is quickly piling up across the world.

This is why so many environmentally-conscious makers prefer to salvage useful components from old computers, CD/DVD players, and so on.

One maker, who is aptly named “The-PC-Bloke”, recently shared an incredibly project on Instructables that shows how to make a pocket-sized microscope with your 3D printer and e-waste. The maker had a few goals he wanted to satisfy with this project, including sourcing parts from e-waste, creating something useful, portable, and child-friendly, while also keeping things simple.

His solution was to take the lens from an old CD drive and use 3D printing to transform it into a microscope.

3D Printed Pocket Microscope: What do you Need?

Believe it or not, you don’t need much to construct a functional pocket-sized microscope. Alongside your 3D printer and some PLA filament, you’ll also require an old CD drive that you can disassemble and source the primary lens from.

The maker uses a relatively ancient IDE interface CD drive, but you should be able to find the proper lens in any spare CD, DVD, or BLU-RAY player. In addition, make sure you have a pair of wire cutters and a cross-head screwdriver handy to help take your e-waste apart.

3D Printed Pocket Microscope: Putting it Together

First and foremost, you’ll have to source the lens from an old CD/DVD/BLU-RAY player, which are quite abundant and easy to obtain nowadays. Using the screwdriver, the maker behind this project carefully took apart his old CD drive, saving other parts along the way that could possibly be used for other creations in the future.

For this project, you’ll need to safely retrieve the main focus lens, which is generally held inside the centre of a carriage by fine wires and magnets. You should be able to remove the lens with a pair of wire cutters. Unsure of how well this lens would work for magnification, The-PC-Bloke was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, able to clearly see the pixels on the display of his older smartphone devices.

Once the main lens was unearthed, the maker moved onto the CAD design process, keeping in mind that he wanted something simple with pocket-sized portability. The-PC-Bloke goes into longwinded detail about his design process on his Instructables post, but we’ll go ahead and skip ahead to the fun part: 3D printing.

The model itself is split into four different pieces, each of which was 3D printed with 100 percent infill at 0.1mm layer height. Once the printing process is complete, it’s time to assemble the microscope. You’ll probably want to do a bit of post-processing with high-grit sandpaper, which will help remove stringiness and blobs, as well as sharp corners, from the microscope enclosure.

Lastly, insert the primary lens into the carriage and use some oil to ease the sliding motion and acquire a snug fit. In the project’s instructional guide, The-PC-Bloke concludes with a few test shows using the microscope (one of which you can see below), and the results are quite impressive to say the least!

Check out the Instructables post to learn more about this easy and environmentally sound project!

License: The text of “Weekend Project: Create a 3D Printed Pocket Microscope from E-Waste” by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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