Manufacturing Monday – Microscope inspection… When your parts get small, it can get really tough to see whats going on with them. Especially if your vision is only so-so, having some assistance with inspection is an easily solved problem. When we were at school, the lab had a really sweet confocal microscope. You could really see quite nicely and solder while looking thru the microscope. It was wonderful but unfortunately a bit too expensive for the common user.
Now we have our own lab, and instead of a massive scope, we decided to go with a more portable USB microscope. These are neat in that you can easily take photos/screenshots – but you do need a computer to view the images which makes it a little less flexible than a full microscope.
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I have a LOMO SF-50 stereo microscope with a swing arm and ring light, and love it… I just checked on opticsplanet.com (where I got mine from) and the price is down to about $290… $50 less than I paid a couple of years ago. What I don’t have for it – and kinda wish I did – is a trinocular head, so I can mount a camera to it and still look thru both eyepieces.
I also have a cheap $20 eBay no-name-special stereo microscope, that works OK as well… however, it’s a fixed magnification scope, and doesn’t have a swing arm, so it only works for small boards. It’s also plastic, so care is required when working with a hot soldering iron under the scope.
Right after a good soldering station, I would recommend getting a microscope. I’ve tried the head-mounted magnifiers, and several kinds of arm-mounted magnifiers (the lamp type, the smaller “helping hands” type, etc)… and a real scope beats them all.
Those look nice, but I was surprised to see how expansive they are.