AFMs are expensive pieces of kit however –way beyond the means of most private individuals.
Another technology that fascinates me is the 3-D printer, which is used for rapid design prototyping in three dimensions. 3-D printers are really coming into their own in recent years with the cheapest models starting to become affordable for private buyers and the concept of desktop manufacturing starting to take off.
So, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across this tutorial that shows how to build a cheap AFM head using a 3-D printer.
As the author explains:
As the acquisition cost for commercially available AFMs is in the order of some hundred thousand dollars, this is an approach to make these instruments available to more research groups. Most of the structure can be made with rapid prototyping mehods, all that is left to do is to screw together the pieces. Nevertheless the user is supposed to have some experience with the matter as he doesn’t get the support that comes with a commercial instrument.
While I won’t be making an AFM anytime soon –I lack the time and expertise to do all but dream– it’s great to see the DIY spirit entering the world of high-tech microscopy.
BTW, check out the fabbaloocious Fabbaloo blog for regularly updated news about the world of 3-D printing. Is it inconceiveable that in the future we will be able to print out new limbs for people using their personal genetic code?