Low-cost 3D printed lenses for brightfield and fluorescence microscopy

Christopher, Jay and Rooney, Liam M. and Donnachie, Mark and Uttamchandani, Deepak and McConnell, Gail and Bauer, Ralf (2024) Low-cost 3D printed lenses for brightfield and fluorescence microscopy. Biomedical Optics Express, 15 (4). pp. 2224-2237. ISSN 2156-7085 (https://doi.org/10.1364/BOE.514653)

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We present the fabrication and implementation of low-cost optical quality 3D printed lenses, and their application as microscope objectives with different prescriptions. The imaging performance of the 3D printed lenses was benchmarked against commercially available optics including a 20 mm focal length 12.7 mm diameter NBK-7 plano-convex lens used as a low magnification objective, and a separate high magnification objective featuring three 6 mm diameter NBK-7 lenses with different positive and negative focal lengths. We describe the design and manufacturing processes to produce high-quality 3D printed lenses. We tested their surface quality using a stylus profilometer, showing that they conform to that of commercial glass counterpart lenses. The 3D printed lenses were used as microscope objectives in both brightfield and epi-fluorescence imaging of specimens including onion, cyanobacteria, and variegated Hosta leaves, demonstrating a sub-cellular resolution performance obtained with low-cost 3D printed optical elements within brightfield and fluorescence microscopy.