The Plugable USB microscope is an incredibly versatile and fun product to use. When I plugged it in, I was immediately struck by how even the most mundane objects became totally fascinating. This week I designed a rigid stand for the microscope to allow stable picture-taking and durability. Here is the design.
While the gooseneck stand included in the box is quite useful, it does have some limitations. It is tricky to get the microscope to sit perfectly square to the object. Also, the top-mounted snapshot button requires a very delicate touch to avoid sending tremors down the arm. The stand I designed is meant to compensate for these things and also harken back to the classic look of laboratory microscopes.
Early in the design process, I was fascinated with the idea of using a series of gears to have the microscope glide up and down a track. While interesting, using gears would actually have been a step in the wrong direction. Extremely tight tolerances would have been necessary to prevent the gears from sliding under the force of pushing the snapshot button, which would have pushed the limits of lower-end 3D printers. So instead, I opted for a simple rod and slot system. This solved not only the durability and printer tolerance problems of gears, but also lets the rod slide on a horizontal axis. This sliding action means the camera can accommodate wider items than before.
The arm for the stand is specially designed so both right- and left-handed users can easily access the rings for adjusting LED brightness and focus. As a lefty myself, I really appreciate products that offer this kind of flexibility. Anyone can use their dominant hand to make the necessary precise adjustments while using the other hand to grasp the spine of the stand and keep it in place.
Cable management was another interesting problem to tackle with my new stand. The USB cable is held in two spots: the back of the sliding rod and at the lower part of the stand. Together, these locations elegantly angle the cable out of the way. I’ve also included a simple clip to secure the cable to the gooseneck arm that comes with the microscope.
To provide the largest viewing area, the stand was designed as wide as possible, while still fitting a standard six-inch-square printer bed. Because the microscope arm can be extended out to 100 mm (four inches), the legs had to be long enough to counterbalance the stand’s top-heaviness and high center of gravity. The printer bed size also limited the maximum height of the stand. While the provided gooseneck arm gives almost an extra inch in height, the new rigid design makes up for that with the horizontal extendability.
The USB microscope is a great fit for science classrooms and desktop labs. Hopefully this stand redesign can help users enjoy new levels of discovery.
This post is part of an ongoing series about using 3D printing to enhance Plugable’s products. This summer, Design Intern Justin Taylor is creating and testing CAD models of mounts and bracket systems for our various products. Here is the link to the growing archive of posts on this project.