skip to main content

Title: 3D Printing a Low‐Cost Miniature Accommodating Optical Microscope

This decade has witnessed the tremendous progress in miniaturizing optical imaging systems. Despite the advancements in 3D printing optical lenses at increasingly smaller dimensions, challenges remain in precisely manufacturing the dimensionally compatible optomechanical components and assembling them into a functional imaging system. To tackle this issue, the use of 3D printing to enable digitalized optomechanical component manufacturing, part‐count‐reduction design, and the inclusion of passive alignment features is reported here, all for the ease of system assembly. The key optomechanical components of a penny‐sized accommodating optical microscope are 3D printed in 50 min at a significantly reduced unit cost near $4. By actuating a built‐in voice‐coil motor, its accommodating capability is validated to focus on specimens located at different distances, and a focus‐stacking function is further utilized to greatly extend depth of field. The microscope can be readily customized and rapidly manufactured to respond to task‐specific needs in form factor and optical characteristics.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Advanced Materials
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    3D printing of optics has gained significant attention in optical industry, but most of the research has been focused on organic polymers. In spite of recent progress in 3D printing glass, 3D printing of precision glass optics for imaging applications still faces challenges from shrinkage during printing and thermal processing, and from inadequate surface shape and quality to meet the requirements for imaging applications. This paper reports a new liquid silica resin (LSR) with higher curing speed, better mechanical properties, lower sintering temperature, and reduced shrinkage, as well as the printing process for high‐precision glass optics for imaging applications. It is demonstrated that the proposed material and printing process can print almost all types of optical surfaces, including flat, spherical, aspherical, freeform, and discontinuous surfaces, with accurate surface shape and high surface quality for imaging applications. It is also demonstrated that the proposed method can print complex optical systems with multiple optical elements, completely removing the time‐consuming and error‐prone alignment process. Most importantly, the proposed printing method is able to print optical systems with active moving elements, significantly improving system flexibility and functionality. The printing method will enable the much‐needed transformational manufacturing of complex freeform glass optics that are currently inaccessible with conventional processes.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Laser scanning microscopes can be miniaturized for in vivo imaging by substituting optical microelectromechanical system (MEMS) devices in place of larger components. The emergence of multifunctional active optical devices can support further miniaturization beyond direct component replacement because those active devices enable diffraction-limited performance using simpler optical system designs. In this paper, we propose a catadioptric microscope objective lens that features an integrated MEMS device for performing biaxial scanning, axial focus adjustment, and control of spherical aberration. The MEMS-in-the-lens architecture incorporates a reflective MEMS scanner between a low-numerical-aperture back lens group and an aplanatic hyperhemisphere front refractive element to support high-numerical-aperture imaging. We implemented this new optical system using a recently developed hybrid polymer/silicon MEMS three-dimensional scan mirror that features an annular aperture that allows it to be coaxially aligned within the objective lens without the need for a beam splitter. The optical performance of the active catadioptric system is simulated and imaging of hard targets and human cheek cells is demonstrated with a confocal microscope that is based on the new objective lens design.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Optical lenses require feature resolution and surface roughness that are beyond most (3D) printing methods. A new continuous projection‐based vat photopolymerization process is reported that can directly shape polymer materials into optical lenses with microscale dimensional accuracy (< 14.7 µm) and nanoscale surface roughness (< 20 nm) without post‐processing. The main idea is to utilize frustum layer stacking, instead of the conventional 2.5D layer stacking, to eliminate staircase aliasing. A continuous change of mask images is achieved using a zooming‐focused projection system to generate the desired frustum layer stacking with controlled slant angles. The dynamic control of image size, objective and imaging distances, and light intensity involved in the zooming‐focused continuous vat photopolymerization are systematically investigated. The experimental results reveal the effectiveness of the proposed process. The 3D‐printed optical lenses with various designs, including parabolic lenses, fisheye lenses, and a laser beam expander, are fabricated with a surface roughness of 3.4 nm without post‐processing. The dimensional accuracy and optical performance of the 3D‐printed compound parabolic concentrators and fisheye lenses within a few millimeters are investiagted. These results highlight the rapid and precise nature of this novel manufacturing process, demonstrating a promising avenue for future optical component and device fabrication.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Macroscale additive manufacturing has seen significant advances recently, but these advances are not yet realized for the bottom-up formation of nanoscale polymeric features. We describe a platform technology for creating crosslinked polymer features using rapid surface-initiated crosslinking and versatile macrocrosslinkers, delivered by a microfluidic-coupled atomic force microscope known as FluidFM. A crosslinkable polymer containing norbornene moieties is delivered to a catalyzed substrate where polymerization occurs, resulting in extremely rapid chemical curing of the delivered material. Due to the living crosslinking reaction, construction of lines and patterns with multiple layers is possible, showing quantitative material addition from each deposition in a method analogous to fused filament fabrication, but at the nanoscale. Print parameters influenced printed line dimensions, with the smallest lines being 450 nm across with a vertical layer resolution of 2 nm. This nanoscale 3D printing platform of reactive polymer materials has applications for device fabrication, optical systems and biotechnology.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Advancements in three‐dimensional (3D) printing technology have the potential to transform the manufacture of customized optical elements, which today relies heavily on time‐consuming and costly polishing and grinding processes. However the inherent speed‐accuracy trade‐off seriously constrains the practical applications of 3D‐printing technology in the optical realm. In addressing this issue, here, a new method featuring a significantly faster fabrication speed, at 24.54 mm3h−1, without compromising the fabrication accuracy required to 3D‐print customized optical components is reported. A high‐speed 3D‐printing process with subvoxel‐scale precision (sub 5 µm) and deep subwavelength (sub 7 nm) surface roughness by employing the projection micro‐stereolithography process and the synergistic effects from grayscale photopolymerization and the meniscus equilibrium post‐curing methods is demonstrated. Fabricating a customized aspheric lens 5 mm in height and 3 mm in diameter is accomplished in four hours. The 3D‐printed singlet aspheric lens demonstrates a maximal imaging resolution of 373.2 lp mm−1with low field distortion less than 0.13% across a 2 mm field of view. This lens is attached onto a cell phone camera and the colorful fine details of a sunset moth's wing and the spot on a weevil's elytra are captured. This work demonstrates the potential of this method to rapidly prototype optical components or systems based on 3D printing.

    more » « less