Open-source 3D-printable optics equipment

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e59840. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059840. Epub 2013 Mar 27.


Just as the power of the open-source design paradigm has driven down the cost of software to the point that it is accessible to most people, the rise of open-source hardware is poised to drive down the cost of doing experimental science to expand access to everyone. To assist in this aim, this paper introduces a library of open-source 3-D-printable optics components. This library operates as a flexible, low-cost public-domain tool set for developing both research and teaching optics hardware. First, the use of parametric open-source designs using an open-source computer aided design package is described to customize the optics hardware for any application. Second, details are provided on the use of open-source 3-D printers (additive layer manufacturing) to fabricate the primary mechanical components, which are then combined to construct complex optics-related devices. Third, the use of the open-source electronics prototyping platform are illustrated as control for optical experimental apparatuses. This study demonstrates an open-source optical library, which significantly reduces the costs associated with much optical equipment, while also enabling relatively easily adapted customizable designs. The cost reductions in general are over 97%, with some components representing only 1% of the current commercial investment for optical products of similar function. The results of this study make its clear that this method of scientific hardware development enables a much broader audience to participate in optical experimentation both as research and teaching platforms than previous proprietary methods.

MeSH terms

  • Computer-Aided Design / economics
  • Computer-Aided Design / instrumentation*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Magnetics
  • Optics and Photonics / economics
  • Optics and Photonics / instrumentation*
  • Printing / economics
  • Printing / instrumentation*
  • Thermodynamics

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.