Local Company Makes Affordable Microscopes Through 3-D Printing

March 02, 2018 08:09 PM

(ABC 6 News)--Science rooms in schools often times don't have enough microscopes for each student, sometimes it comes down to cost. Imagine if each student could actually take their own microscope home and it doesn't cost the school lots of money.

A local company may turn that into a reality.


An organization with Mayo Clinic called InSciEd Out created its own science curriculum but was using very expensive microscopes in their programs.  

"In order to engage the entire classroom during the program they wanted to have a low-cost microscope option," said Chad Attlesey, Principal Engineer at Area 10 Labs in Rochester.   

That's when InSciEd Out reached out to Attlesey.

"One of the issues is that when you've got an expensive piece of equipment, $5,000 to $6,000 microscope is that kids are afraid to touch it," said Attlesey.

With schools focusing on STEM programs, being afraid is the last thing anyone wants. Instead, Area 10 Labs created a high quality, inexpensive, microscope each student can use.

“Created something that was manufacturable and decided to put the whole thing into a lunchbox size case, so that the kids could not only have the classroom experience, but they can also take it home," said Attlesey.

A Pine Island company called Progressive Tool & Manufacturing built the plastic parts using a 3D printer.

"We were able to work with him and build the tooling. I think it's a really good idea and I think they turned out very well," said Steven Stark with Progressive Tool & Manufacturing.

The eight-piece portable microscope can be put together in about a minute.

"Anywhere from the ballpark of $250 a unit to $100 a unit is our goal. Right now something equivalent to this a school would purchase for about $2,500," said AJ Montpetit, experience designer with Area 10 Labs.

"250 microscopes are out in the field right now in the hands of students here in the United States, but also in India and Ghana"

The next step is to figure out how to mass produce the microscopes.

Since the microscope doesn’t have a viewfinder, it connects to Wi-Fi. You can then see the images on a phone, tablet, or laptop.


Marissa Collins

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