From UCLA Miniscope
Jump to: navigation, search

Below you will find answers to common questions about our microscope system. Is you have a question that is not address here consider asking it on our Discussion Board.

Are you selling your system?

We are not selling any part of our system. Rather, we have provided the design files, specifications, and part numbers so that anyone can build a system. While we understand many people may prefer an off-the-shelf product, we have made every effort to make our system as easy to build as possible.

How much does your system cost?

In general, our miniscope system will cost around $3-5K for 5 miniscopes, a DAQ board, and all associated hardware and software. Each additional scope will cost ~$400. You can find a general breakdown of costs on the master parts list. In general, costs can be substantially reduced by buying in bulk so we highly recommend partnering with other labs to reduce costs.

What skill sets are needed to setup a miniscope system of my own?

Basic soldering knowledge is needed for soldering wires to PCBs as well as possibly soldering connectors to coax cables. Some great soldering tutorials can be found here. Physically assembling the miniscope system does not require any specialized knowledge or skills.

What support do you offer if we have trouble with our miniscope system?

This wiki is designed to answer the most common questions that arise from using our miniscope system. We have a Discussion Board where any user can post and answer any questions about any aspect of the system and we will monitor this board as much as possible. While we do not have the resources to personally troubleshoot every problem, we hope that the collective knowledge from the community of users will allow everyone to solve any problems they encounter.

What design software do you suggest using to modify the miniscope system?

The machined plastic parts of the scope are designed using SolidWorks which is a powerful, easy to use and affordable 3D CAD program.

Cypress EZ-USB FX3 SDK contains the programs needed to modify the DAQ firmware, GPIF II interface, and flash the firmware to the DAQ hardware.

I use Microsoft Visual Studio to develop our DAQ software which can be downloaded for free through Microsoft DreamSpark but is not necessary for writing your own DAQ software. The miniscope hardware enumerates as a generic webcam which means it can be controlled through other open source and commercial webcam software. OpenCV libraries also provide a nice starting point for building your own DAQ software.

Where can I find all the design files related to the miniscope project?

All downloadable content can be found on our Files for Download page.

Where can I find more information on GRIN lenses and GRIN lens related issues?

Take a look at GRIN Lens Information.

How does the Miniscope system differ from the nVista system from Inscopix?

Advantages of our Miniscope system
Cabling: The Miniscope system using a single coaxial cable to connect the scopes to the DAQ box. These coax cables are commercially available, very robust, cheap, lightweight, and flexible.
Commutator compatible: Due to our cabling and data protocol used in our system, a commutator can be hooked up between the scope and the DAQ box minimizing cable and animal strain and expanding the possibilities of what can be done with miniature microscopes. We have successfully used a 2 channel commutator from DragonFly.
Open-source: Our system is the opposite of a black-box. We think science benefits the most when scientists understand what their equipment/analysis is doing and how they can modify it to best suit their needs.
Cost: Building a Miniscope system consisting of 4 scopes and 1 DAQ box will cost around $3k. A comparable system from Inscopix costs around $250k. Most labs can afford to build a Miniscope system for each researcher interested in using it. This removes the complications that arise from sharing equipment during time sensitive experiments.
Focusing Mechanism: The Miniscope system uses a sliding, rather than rotating, focusing mechanism for adjusting the imaging plane. No rotational imaging registration is needed and we have noticed that finding the correct imaging plane is easier with a sliding focus.
Advantages of the nVista system from Inscopix
Works out of the box. No need for assembly.
Support: Inscopix provides commercial support for their system.

Can the Miniscope body be 3D printed?

Yes but we do not recommend it. CNC machined Delrin plastic can achieve greater strength and precision, thinner walls, and is generally cheaper than 3D printed parts. Also, Delrin is chemically resistant so you can clean them with acetone.