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A simple full featured portable microscope that works with your smartphone/tablet with powerful 30/50/170 or 30/170/340 magnification!
A simple full featured portable microscope that works with your smartphone/tablet with powerful 30/50/170 or 30/170/340 magnification!
188 backers pledged $20,327 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$20,327

188

Don't worry! If you missed the campaign and still want to back this project or just looking for more information, just visit:

catalystframe.com/projects

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UPDATE6: Everyone gets a 3"x3" square of 1-micron mesh filter. You can take a quart of water (18,920 drops) or more, and use this filter to get rid of all the water while keeping everything bigger than a micron in there. This lets you see everything all at once, making it a lot easier to find amazing microorganisms!  Youtube

UPDATE4: Early Bird delivery date is changed to September. But to help give back a head-start, all early birds will receive two 3"x3" 1-micron mesh filters.

Android HTC One
Android HTC One
Size comparison of microscope with standard lighter
Size comparison of microscope with standard lighter

Features:

  • Simplicity. No need to manually hold focus, focus it once with the knob, and then it’s as easy as holding your phone. Use it to take photos, videos, panoramics, slow-mo, or even time-lapse! Optics click into alignment, samples are held down with a clip, and the illumination is built in using an energy efficient LED with two AAA batteries for hours of battery life. Finally the sample doesn’t touch the lens, which always keeps the lens clean and your samples pure.
  • Versatility with 30, 50, or 170 times optical magnification and 1.5-2 micron resolution, lets you look closer at almost anything, whether it's a detailed macro-view of surface features to the inside of tiny cells. POWERUP pledges features magnification of 30, 170, and 340 times. Also this works in combination with your smartphones digital magnification. For example, you could magnify 4.5 times into an 8-megapixel image and still be looking at a DVD-quality picture. This 4.5x digital multiplies with the 340x optical to provide between 340 to 1530 times combined magnification. Thus each lens has a range of magnification and the upper limit improves as your camera is upgraded! Plus the lens assembly's are swappable and hackable! Finally the use of slides is optional, but we do recommend coverslips if looking at wet samples at high magnification.
  • Compatibility with pretty much any smartphone or tablet with auto-focus through a simple reusable adhesive backing and a very smart design. It can even work with your case still on!
  • Ultraportable enough to fit in your pocket, it goes where you go.
  • Cheaper! Other comparable field microscopes that don’t even work with a camera or comes with only a single level of magnification cost hundreds of dollars! http://microscopeinternational.com/portable-field-microscopes
Human blood smear with brightness reduced and contrast increased. (Each cell is between 6 to 8 microns. 1micron=0.001mm)
Human blood smear with brightness reduced and contrast increased. (Each cell is between 6 to 8 microns. 1micron=0.001mm)
Left: Salt at ~111x (50x optical with 2.22x digital). Right: Sugar at ~111x (50x optical with 2.22x digital)
Left: Salt at ~111x (50x optical with 2.22x digital). Right: Sugar at ~111x (50x optical with 2.22x digital)

 Why pledge?

  • Enable yourself or the people you love to learn more about the world around us, not from a lecture, textbook, or computer, but straight from nature itself. And then fascinate yourself for hours, days, or maybe even a lifetime with the things you’ll end up discovering.
  • In research, microscopes are an undeniably important tool, but this is the first to really give them the versatility along with the power and portability that they need in order to do a proper job. With this tool, one could follow a rare toxic species of bacteria as it zips across the slide, identify an insect under higher magnification, then classify rock samples. My goal is to build a platform.
  • And not only will your support make this microscope a reality, it will enable further research and development to improve upon what we have today. The design although compact is actually still quite flexible, it can incorporate a wide variety of optic systems and illumination systems. And if this project succeeds, I’ll have the resources to invest in improving the design to enable higher magnification, better resolution, less distortion, and possibly even new features such as fluorescent microscopy. This future model may become one of the best field microscopes available.
Esophagus tissue at ~377x (170x optical with 2.22x digital)
Esophagus tissue at ~377x (170x optical with 2.22x digital)

Development / Developing Story!

Transcript Summary: "I come from a molecular biology background, which is incredibly fascinating, but what I noticed was that I missed being able to see these things for myself. Then one day, I read a research article about how to make a cheap DIY microscope with my smartphone. And it kinda worked, was really hard to hold everything in the right place, but it was awesome to actually see something as tiny as individual red blood cells on my phone. And it was around this same time that a friend of mine whose a wildlife immunologist was complaining about how all the field microscopes available sucked. I was interested in working on this project and offered to make her a better one! Long story short, I kept on trying different prototypes and working on it on and off for almost a year until I finally settled on what we have today. In the end, I’m very happy with the results!"

Shows the overhang that avoids features that jut out near the camera, and how the spacers can be used to accommodate cameras at various heights.
Shows the overhang that avoids features that jut out near the camera, and how the spacers can be used to accommodate cameras at various heights.
Panoramic image of a bee worker leg at ~67x (30x optical with 3x digital)
Panoramic image of a bee worker leg at ~67x (30x optical with 3x digital)

Why Kickstarter?

"Cuz I love Kickstarter?" is definitely one of the reasons. But practically the prototype that you see on film costed me over $330 from just the plastic parts alone, due to the high quality 3D printing process needed to produce it. Injection molding, however, allows me to keep the same quality, and drop that cost to a fraction. I may either do this step myself or delegate this task to a US based company, but either way, it takes a substantial amount of time or money in order to make this product affordable. This is why I need the community and momentum of Kickstarter.

But another reason why I choose Kickstarter is because I’m really interested in hearing back from the community, what did you like and not like, how can I make this better? Because there will be another updated model should this project succeed, which will be a real contender in terms of top place for field microscopes.

Pine Stem: Left: Composite image at ~146x (30x optical with 4.87x digital). Right: ~602x (170x optical with 3.54x digital)
Pine Stem: Left: Composite image at ~146x (30x optical with 4.87x digital). Right: ~602x (170x optical with 3.54x digital)

Note: All photos and videos of samples were taken on an iPhone 5s.

Android Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Android Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Apple iPhone 5s with hard-shell case
Apple iPhone 5s with hard-shell case

Patent pending

Risks and challenges

Production Plan:
So the main challenge is the production of this microscope, but there is a well laid out production plan, because I read up on some research on how the top 50 funded Kickstarters delivered on their promises.

The first step after finishing this Kickstarter is finalizing the design by incorporating the last few updates, which although make almost no difference to the aesthetics will definitely improve its ease of use. This will take another two weeks max, mostly taken up by the week and a half needed to get the parts 3D printed and shipped to us. During this waiting period, I will be hiring an appropriate number of helpers, and sending out the surveys.

Once the design is finalized, there are two things that will happen simultaneously:
1. I’m probably going to use a third-party shipping fulfillment service to make sure shipping is handled smoothly, and I will be getting in touch with them early on to get an idea of our shipping deadlines.
2. I will begin working on the getting the injection molds created for the plastic parts. This will either be: A. Me working on the molds themselves because I have access to industrial CAM software, a CNC mill, and the injection molding equipment. And also some of the parts are extremely simple like the knob or lid, and the rest of the components are still not much more complicated than tupperware. B. Outsourcing of the tooling for the molds to a US-based company, because while they’re working on tooling I can work on something else. C. A combination of A and B to push forward the tooling process for the molds as quickly as possible.
3. I will start ordering all the parts except for the 3D printed mounts. These mounts are the size of a pencil’s eraser head and can be printed in a net in the hundreds, and we do want to do this last which will be explained at the end. Most of the suppliers for the parts are already identified, the ones that aren’t are for very generic parts that have dozens of suppliers.
So all of this gives us flexibility, because we can quickly identify which aspects are problematic and then work on addressing it early in the manufacturing process. Suppliers were a big issue for a lot of tech Kickstarters, and luckily nothing we need is particularly exotic. So we can always find additional suppliers, but this way we find out early and avoid delays. And being able to work on the tooling process itself, also gives me additional flexibility to push where it’s needed. We plan on this process taking one month, and how can this all be accomplished in one month? Well, that’s why we hired helpers earlier. If there’s a delay in getting the molds, I will get my helpers started on parts that require additional work, such as soldering all the electronic bits together, while I push forward the tooling.

Once we have all the molds, I will start the production of the plastic parts themselves, and will direct my helpers to start producing and adding in the basic components (whichever ones we have already received): like laser-cutting the acrylic stage cover piece, gluing in the stage cover piece, applying the restickable adhesive, putting in the stage clips, putting in the electronics, and etc, while I work on machining the tubes that hold everything in place. The plastic parts will be designed, such that I can buy appropriately sized round stock to cut the amount of machining in half. Plus this will be done in a jig so that dozens can be produced simultaneously even by someone unskilled in machining. (It’s all automated, so it’s just pressing the stop button if something happens). If any supplier could potentially delay us, I will deal with it immediately and any contract I sign with them will include deadlines with consequences for failure to meet them. For example, canceling the remainder of our order and refunding our money, so that we can purchase from another supplier. Because flat out, I don’t want to have to tell you why your Christmas present won’t make it in time, I will keep my promises. Otherwise we will be producing complete microscopes from start to finish in batches, and checking the quality with measurements and reference slides. This will take two months.

Then I will 3D print the mounts that hold the optics in place and it is here I can compensate for any systematic deviations that occur during production. The last assembly step is just installing the optics and mounts, then we need to get all the packaging done. We expect this to take another month.

Finally there's that last month of buffer and just getting the orders shipped to you.

Everything is going to happen within the US, so I can keep a closer eye on the process. And overall, design considerations to ensure mass-producibility, and the level of control with vertical integration and proximity allows me to ensure delivery along with meeting delivery deadlines. The greatest risk to this project is simply not reaching our funding goal. Throughout the entire process, we will be paying close attention to you (our wonderful supporters!), providing regular updates as we make progress =)

Budget:
*All conservative estimates
- 10% goes to Kickstarter and credit card processing fees
- 15% goes to shipping and packaging
- 30% goes to raw material cost of every physical thing on the microscope (15% of that 30% is for the one high-powered lens)
- The last 45% is composed of the cost of general assistance, in-house production of small parts for the microscope from raw materials, assembly, making the molds, and then whatever profit we make.
- As for the prepared microscope slides, and blank slides and coverslips, it costs just a little less than what we charge. It’s just for your convenience =)
If we hit our bare minimum of $15,000, it would be a break-even if we outsourced all tooling. This is why in this case I would do some of the tooling myself and handle all the small part production and assembly, because $15,000 represents ~150 orders, which means it takes less time to fulfill and doing some tooling myself allows more buffer. So as you can see, if we hit our funding goal, we can definitely deliver without asking for more money. And if we exceed our funding goal, I can just delegate more of the work and still avoid a net loss.

This meticulous research, planning, and attention to detail is what makes sure you get an excellent product on time.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Thank you for being one of the proud supporters who helped make this low cost powerful tool a reality!!!

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    Pledge $89 or more About $89

    EARLY BIRD SPECIAL - One Catalyst Frame Microscope shipped to your door! An enticing deal for those who want to start exploring as soon as possible and with a few extra bucks in their pocket to boot! Free shipping within the US.

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    Reward no longer available 100 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $99 or more About $99

    BASIC - One Catalyst Frame Microscope shipped to your door! This will probably end up retailing over $100, and Kickstarter supporters get first dibs. Get yours before Christmas!!!! Free shipping within the US.

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $109 or more About $109

    MINI-PACKAGE - One Catalyst Frame Microscope shipped to your door! PLUS 10 prepared microscope slides and 20 blank microscope slides with coverslips. This will probably end up retailing over $100, and Kickstarter supporters get first dibs. Get yours before Christmas!!!! Free shipping within the US.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $119 or more About $119

    BIG-PACKAGE - One Catalyst Frame Microscope shipped to your door! PLUS 20 prepared microscope slides and 50 blank microscope slides with coverslips. This will probably end up retailing over $100, and Kickstarter supporters get first dibs. Get yours before Christmas!!!! Free shipping within the US.

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    Limited 3 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $119 or more About $119

    POWERUP with a set of lenses capable of 30/170/340x magnification!!!
    BASIC - One Catalyst Frame Microscope shipped to your door! This will probably end up retailing over $140, and Kickstarter supporters get first dibs. Get yours before Christmas!!!! Free shipping within the US.

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 15 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $129 or more About $129

    POWERUP with a set of lenses capable of 30/170/340x magnification!!!
    MINI-PACKAGE - One Catalyst Frame Microscope shipped to your door! PLUS 10 prepared microscope slides and 20 blank microscope slides with coverslips. This will probably end up retailing over $150, and Kickstarter supporters get first dibs. Get yours before Christmas!!!! Free shipping within the US.

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 23 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $139 or more About $139

    POWERUP with a set of lenses capable of 30/170/340x magnification!!!
    BIG-PACKAGE - One Catalyst Frame Microscope shipped to your door! PLUS 20 prepared microscope slides and 50 blank microscope slides with coverslips. This will probably end up retailing over $160, and Kickstarter supporters get first dibs. Get yours before Christmas!!!! Free shipping within the US.

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 27 backers
    $
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Funding period

- (30 days)