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Fingertip microscope featured on media
What is Fingertip Microscope (iMicro)?
Since Antony van Leeuwenhoek invented his microscope in 17th century, there has been great progress in microscope technology. Microscopes with excellent performance usually are bulky, heavy and expensive, even for portable ones. We are proud to bring you iMicro, which is a real breakthrough in portable microscopy: it has comparable optical performance to a professional desktop microscope and enables you to carry it with you as easily as you carry your phone.
- Very high magnification power: up to 800x
- Very low distortion: Comparable to a desktop microscope
- Very high resolution power: Down to 1 micro
- Extremely easy to use: "Plug and Play" with your phone
- Extremely low profile: Size of a finger tip
- Extremely low weight: Only 1.5 gram (~1/20 oz)
- Affordable to every budget: ~1% of the price of a desktop microscope
Here are some micrographs taken with iMicro (phone is iPhone 7):
Key features of iMicro
- Extremely high magnification: up to 800x
When used with smartphone, it can observe, for example, at full view the apical bud L.S. at a magnification of ~100x, and then in detail up to 800x magnification.
- Very low distortion
A grid calibration target was used to test the distortion. Even in full view at the edge of the visual field, no obvious distortion was observed.
- Very high resolution
The USAF 1951 resolution test chart was used to test the resolution of iMicro on an iPhone 7. The intervals between the finest test bars are 2.19 micrometer. The finest test bars on the 7th group are clearly seen and this indicates its resolution is far beyond that.
Based on this optical performance test, iMicro has excellent optical performance, definitely comparable to a desktop compound microscope.
A stem of xylophytadicotylendon T.S. was observed under iMicro as well as a desktop microscope Motic DMB-1223 (price ~2200USD for microscope + 500USD for camera attachment). No obvious difference was observed as shown in a side-by-side comparison.
- Extremely low profile
It is about the size of a fingertip, and weighs only 1.5g (~1/20 oz). It is very thin, only 3.5mm (1/8 inch). No parts extrude beyond the edge of your phone when it is installed.
- Affordable to every budget
We like iMicro and would like everyone to be able to afford it. So, even though it has such an excellent performance, it will be tagged with a very attractive price: ~1 percent of the cost of a traditional desktop microscope. This means, with the money you would need to buy a traditional desktop microscope, you will be able to buy many iMicro.
Principle and key Technique
For traditional compound microscopes, the magnification mainly relies on its complex optical system, which includes objective and eyepiece. Its magnification is a combination of the magnification of objective and eyepiece.
For iMicro, three stages of magnification are combined together to achieve the total magnification. First, the lens provides optical magnification to generate the image on the smartphone camera's sensor; second, the image on the sensor is displayed on the much larger screen via the electronic process and magnification; third, digital zoom provides further magnification as a digital magnification to the image. The total magnification is a combination of these three.
Therefore, iMicro uses a different process and technology compared to a traditional microscope. Thanks to the advance of micro-optics and smartphone technology, with the effort and expertise accumulated in the past years, we have enabled iMicro to achieve excellent performance at a low cost.
The key techniques to achieve its high performance
- Dedicated optics: multi-element aspherical micro-lens
The lens is the key component of the system. A small ball lens (van Leeuwenhoek) is a simple approach. But it is well known to suffer from a very limited usable field of view due to severe field curvature effects and spherical and other aberrations. iMicro uses a more complex multi-aspherical lens with a dedicated design, to achieve both the high performance of magnification and low aberration.
- Innovative illumination: integrated light guide
Light and illumination are very important to microscopy. Nowadays, every smartphone comes with a camera as well as flash light. iMicro utilizes the light from flash to illuminate the sample, via an innovative light guide technique to introduce the light to the point of the lens view field and provide strong enough illumination.
- Seamless coupling with smartphone: Nano-pad attachment
Different from conventional adhesive, the nano suction pad mimics gecko's foot-pads, it has thousands of micro air pockets functioning like micro suction cups to hold the device to the phone. Every on and off application will leave nothing on the phone. This newly developed "nano suction pad" is residue-free, non-tacky and repeatable. The use of nano-suction pad has been proofed in our previous product and it is repeatable and easily be cleaned by a PSA tape.
- Precise focus control: automatic + manual focus
Every smartphone now has an auto-focus function. When iMicro is coupled with smartphone, this automatic focus function also works. We have precisely designed and machined iMicro to accurately control the focus point. As long as you put it against a sample plane, the sample falls into the auto focus range and it will automatically focus for a clear image.
- μRuler and Dedicated App: for professional needs
A high quality μRuler (stage micrometer) will be provided (as an option) with iMicro to calibrate the scal-bar in APP and measure size. Please see our previous campaign μRuler - A micro-Ruler to measure the micro objects for more information.
It is important to keep a scale-bar and ensure its accuracy on micrograph. The dedicated APP i-Seeing was designed to take micrographs to meet professional demand. Scale-bar on the micrograph could be tangled on/off to let you be able to embed a scale-bar on the image.
Structure and technical details
iMicro will be coupled with your smartphone by nano-pad. For phones with an extruded camera, a shim pad will compensate the difference between the smartphone surface and the camera. Therefore, iMicro is compatible with most smartphones, and both android and iOS versions of the App have been developed.
To achieve best portability, iMicro (and microRuler, shim pad, reflecting pad) will be packed in a thin case of size similar to a credit card. As well as protecting iMicro, it will be very easy to carry. For example, you can put it in your wallet and use it everywhere.
How to use it?
The iMicro has been designed to be simple for everyone to use. No complex knobs and adjustment: just align it with phone's camera, attach it to the phone, turn on flash light with the App, and then point at the sample or any interesting things you would like to see.
How to clean the nano-Pad?
In case the nano-Pad becomes non-sticky due to collecting dust, simply clean it with a normal pressure sensitive adhesive tape. It will then be cleaned and refreshed. The video shows a nano-Pad that was contaminated by wheat flour and how it was refreshed by PSA tape.
Development path and process
We walked a long path for the development of smartphone based microscopic tools since the first patent in 2012. We have already successfully built a series of smartphone microscope product including iMICROSCOPE, iMICROSCOPE R and the μRuler as well as iADAPTER.
Based on these successfully projects, we shaped the initial idea of Fingertip microscope and polished it according to the great support and comments from our backers and customers. We optimized The optics as well as the design and each step was proofed with prototype to achieve the best performance.
What people say:
Why we need your support?
We are a group of microscopy enthusiasts and experts who aim to provide new microscope tools for you to enjoy microscopic photography and explore the micro-world. We have put our effort into this area for quite a few years and got several patents authorized since April of 2012. After putting such a lot of effort into to developing iMicro, we want to control its cost and make it affordable to everyone. Mass production is very important to be able to control the cost, so we need your support to start our first mass production run.
Q： What is a “Finger Microscope”?
A： It is a tiny lens coupled light guide to attach on phone to be used as a microscope. Because it’s the size of a fingertip, we call it a fingertip microscope. Also, because it is small and portable, it can be a microscope at the reach of your fingertips wherever you are. In addition to its portable size, it has optical performance comparable to a professional desktop microscope. It is a real breakthrough in portable microscopy.
Q: From what I know of lenses a lens that small shouldn’t have that kind of focal power, how did you achieve such strong focus out of such a small lens?
A： Thanks. The focal plane of the small lens is precisely set at the front surface of the unit body. When you put the unit slightly against the sample, the sample will be (roughly) at the focal plane of the small lens. Then the phone camera will do its auto-focus, so the sample image will get further focused and to be clear.
Q： For a product with such excellent optical performance, how can you make it for such a low cost?
A: This is because it has an innovative and simple design compared with a traditional compound desktop microscope. In addition, the production process was optimized to control the cost per unit provided by a larger batch production.
Q: How does nano-pad work on the surface?
A: The nano-pad works well on non-porous smooth surface. But on a rough surface such as a structured one, it doesn’t work well. Because the "micro-grooves" on a rough surface let air get into the "micro-cups" of nano-pad. I suggest you to use a protective case for this situation. First attach nano-pad on the protective case, and then apply the protective case to your phone.
Q: Could you please elaborate on the magnification on different phones?
A: For the fingertip microscope, its magnification is correlated to the focal length of the lens of the phone camera. To be more clear, a larger magnification will be obtained on a phone camera with larger focal length of its lens. For most phones, the focal length is not much different as usually they have a standard lens. The magnification would be around 100x at fullview and around 800x with digital zoom. For some camera with tele-lens, the magnification would be larger, depends on the focal length of the tele-lens.
Q: What phones will the iMicro work with?
A: Compatibility is a very important factor to be considered during design of the iMicro. It will work with most phones if not all, either iOS or Android phones.
The light guide was designed to meet most modern phones, as long as the distance from phone camera to the flash is in the range of 5mm-16mm (center to center), there is no problem for the light guide to work. Otherwise, the lightguide will not work well - a separate light source is necessary - it will only work for a transmittance observation. In some other cases, if the phone flash is at the very edge of the corner of the phone, the nano-pad may not have enough effective area to stand on so it may not strong enough to stick on the phone.
Q: Is there a list for which phones it will work with?
A: There are tremendous number of models of didderent phones in the market, We are only able to test a few:
For iPhone, all the models are compatible, no matter it has single back camera or dual back cameras.
For Android phones we tested, it works with these models:
SAMSUNG S9, SAMSUNG A9, Honor 7C, Honor 8X, MI MIX2S, Honor Note10, MI8 (M1807E8A), HUAWEI Mate 10 Pro, SAMSUNG Note9, VIVO Y97A, HUA nova3i, HUAWEI 2S, HUAWEI Enjoy 8, HUAWEI Enjoy 8 plus, HUAWEI Enjoy 9 plus, HUAWEI P20, HUAWEI Mate 20, HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro, SAMSUNG S8, SAMSUNG Note 8.
Also we found it does not work (for the light guide) with the models: Honor 7X, Honor Note 10, MI 8 (M1808E2TE), HUAWEI P20 Pro, HUAWEI nova 3e.
Risks and challenges
We have established manufacturing capability through accumulated experience in the development and manufacture of our previous products. We carefully select suppliers for OEM of key parts, keep the cost, process and quality under control, and develop good relationships with our partners.
Although we have put a lot of effort and also a reasonable buffer into our project plan to meet the time line, there may be difficulties and problems needed to overcome on the road. We will be engaged in it to solve the problem and update you in a timely manner about the progress of the project.
- (60 days)