MicroStage - Motorized microscope stage for smartphone

Every year Malaria kills millions of people because the time between a blood test and the result is too much to allow an effective treatment. To respond to this limitation Fraunhofer AICOS presented the idea of creating a fast, cheap and autonomous system, fully replicable in third world countries, and capable of giving a preliminary result to this test by analysing 100 spots in the blood smear (as recommended by World Health Organization). This translated to a project were a smartphone was used as the brain and controlled a XY axis table while taking the necessary pictures of the smear. This thesis focused in the table part. It needed to be capable of under 500mm steps in each direction and be fully powered by the USB connection of the smartphone.

The goal of this thesis was to develop a motorized XY axis microscope stage driven by a smartphone. The development had three major components: 1) Exploring Stepper/Piezoeletric motors; 2) Development of a drive circuit, with possibility to use an Arduino board; 3) Allow the smartphone to control the device. The communications between the Arduino and the smartphone was done through USB, and it was implemented a controller application in the smartphone so that a blood smear in the microscope slide would follow a predetermined route to be scanned using the smartphone camera, or navigate through the slide using a joystick smartphone alike application.

Several actuators were studied and tested and two solutions were presented: one based in piezoelectric benders and other based in common DC (Direct Current) motors. Both solutions feature Arduino based electronic drivers and are fully controlled by an Android smartphone application, components fully developed during this thesis.

To allow the replication, a 3D printer was used to produce most of the parts for the solution. The DC motor solution used old CD (Compact Disc) drives and was capable of steps under 300mm. The piezoelectric solution featured a novel design fully 3D printed and featured steps below 250mm.

 

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