Two recent posts on the Micro-Manager mailing list alerted me to the interesting idea of developing open source hardware for microscopy. Open source hardware is analogous to open source software – the schematics, circuit board designs, parts list, etc. are made freely available so that you can easily build your own copy of the hardware.
The first post was about Karl Bellve’s pgFocus – pretty good Focus. A take off on Nikon’s Perfect Focus, as well as similar systems from other vendors, it uses a laser beam to track the position of the coverslip-sample boundary and feedback on the reflection position so as to hold that boundary a constant height above the sample. If you’re interested in more details, links to the designs and documentation are in this post.
In response, Johannes Schindelin posted to announce OpenSPIM, a multi-institution project to develop open hardware plans for building a Selective Plane Illumination system. Their wiki appears to be quite complete and to have just about all the information needed to build your own SPIM system. It’s not trivial – a number of pieces need to be machined – but it seems totally doable to build one.
Open hardware is just getting started but it seems promising- for instance, see Bunnie Huang’s plans for building an open hardware laptop.