Kickstarter Campaign: November 21, 2016

If you didn't get to be a Beta tester for the Foldscope, this might be your chance to get one of these great tools. 

UPDATE:  The Kickstarter has been funded

8,457 backers pledged $393,358 to help bring this project to life.

Delivery is expected in August 2017.

For anyone who doesn't know, a Foldscope is a very simple and cheap microscope that is being developed by a research team at PrakashLab at Stanford University

I have been on their list as a Beta tester and should be getting their paper microscope soon (I hope).

Being a bit impatient, and having made a few simple cardboard van Leeuwenhoek microscopes before, I just had to try building my own FoldScope.  While it did not turn out anywhere near the quality of a real one, it does work.

Plans for a very nice replica have been posted by Alan Shinn.

No idea if he is still making any of these to sell but if you want a nice replica without building it yourself, you might try contacting him.  His price is probably around $175.

The picture above came from

It can be printed out and used to make your own paper microscope.  All you need is a lens.  That can be salvaged from a scrap CD/DVD drive or you can make a tiny glass ball to use with a propane torch and a couple pieces of broken glass.

Here is a site with good instructions for making your own glass lens.

A nice video just showed up on YouTube of someone else making their own copy of the FoldScope.

and his video of trying it out.

That YouTube channel has lots of other great videos.

I first printed out the templates for the FoldScope V2.0b onto a sheet of cardstock and cut out the pieces.  I wasn't sure exactly how this was supposed to be assembled so I'm sure I got some parts wrong.  I also skipped the back piece which would have the light assembly on it and instead just hold it towards a light.  Again, not as good as a real one I'm sure but it did work.

For the all important lens, I used one that was salvaged out of an old computer CD drive.  On previous attempts at building simple microscopes, I made my own glass spheres using a couple pieces of a broken jar and a propane torch.  It took many tries to get a good lens that way but those that did work worked real good.

One thing I noticed about my homemade microscopes was that they had to be held VERY close to my eye to get them in focus.  The real FoldScopes are now being made with a magnetic attachment so you can take pictures and even videos with them using your cell phone camera.

As you can see from the picture below, I made a multi-section, slide using cardstock and clear tape.

The only part of that first slide that really worked out good was the one on the right side.  It is some fibers from a piece of yarn.  You can see that most of it is outside of the tape window but a few fibers can be viewed with the paper microscope.  The other sections are various pieces of plants but they are a bit too thick to show much detail.  I'm sure with some better samples, my simple microscope will show the internal details I was hoping to see.

Tape is not the ideal material to use for making microscope slides but it works good enough for some quick tests.  My version must have printed out a tiny bit too small so a standard 1"x3" glass microscope slide (which I don't have anyway) would not quite fit but this could be fixed with a little bit of extra cutting.  I'm sure the real FoldScopes will be sized to hold standard slides as well as homemade paper and tape versions.

I look forward to trying out the real FoldScope and will post updates here as well as on the official forum.  I'm pretty sure if and when the FoldScope is available for anyone to purchase, it will sell good.  Until then, try building your own.

UPDATE:  After a couple more attempts at making homemade slides, I got much better results.  One that worked the best was from a dead fly that I found on the window seal.  That one also showed me that, although harder to position and focus, my homemade lens in a Leeuwenhoek style microscope is higher powered than the CD drive lens.

Next I made another cardstock and tape slide and put one drop of water on it.  The water was from a small jar filled with straw.  After a little time positioning and focusing on this drop of water, I found what I was looking for.  ANIMALCULES at last!!!  Probably paramecium.  They were small but there was quite a few of them in that drop of water.

This test with the drop of water convinced me that this design, and the whole FoldScope idea, is a very good one.  Except for the lens, you are likely to have everything needed to build your own already.  All I used was a piece of cardstock and some tape if you don't count the lens.  Once I get a new tank of propane for my torch, I plan to make up some more glass sphere lenses and another paper microscope or two while I await delivery of my own real FoldScope.

After a couple hours, my water drop slide turned a white color.  Some very tiny creatures were still visible and moving around but I could no longer locate any of the original, larger paramecium.  This was likely a reaction to the glue in the tape with the water.  Some of my older slides have a ring of white around the specimens.  If you try the water drop experiment, view it as soon as it is made and don't expect it to last a long time.  I expect that even with glass slides, the tiny living creatures would eventually dry up and die or run out of air under the coverslip.