Approaches to Open Source 3-D Printable Probe Positioners and Micromanipulators for Probe Stations

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  • Iiro Hietanen, Ismo T. S. Heikkinen, Hele Savin, and Joshua M. Pearce. Approaches to Open Source 3-D Printable Probe Positioners and Micromanipulators for Probe Stations. HardwareX (2018), e00042. open access
  • Open Source License (a) Cc-by-SA, (b) and (c) GNU General Public License (GPL) v3.0
  • Cost of Hardware (a) $5-99, (b) $25, (c) $145 for manipulator, with $56 probes
  • Source File Repository (designs, files, BOM, videos)


Three types of highly-customizable open source probe positioning systems are evaluated: (a) mostly 3-D printed, (b) partially printed using OpenBeam kinematic constraints, and (c) a 3-level stack of low-cost commercial single axis micropositioners and some printed parts. All systems use digital distributed manufacturing to enable bespoke features, which can be fabricated with RepRap-class 3-D printer and easily accessible components. They are all flexible in material choice for custom components. The micropositioners can be set up for left-right use and flat or recessed configurations using either mechanical or magnetic mounting. All systems use a manual probe holder that can be customized and enable a quick swap probe system. System (a) is purchased for $100 or fabricated for <$5, (b) fabricated for $25, and (c) fabricated for $145. Each full turn of a knob moves an axis 0.8 mm for (a) and 0.5 mm for (b,c) providing externally measured positional control of 10 microns for the latter. All three designs can utilize a customizable probe holder and tungsten carbide needle for $56. The designs are validated using microchips with known feature sizes and underwent mechanical stress tests. The maximal deflection of (a) was >200 microns, (b) 40 microns and (c) 10 microns. A tradeoff is observed for 3-D printed percent between cost and accuracy. All systems provided substantial cost savings over proprietary products with similar functionality.


open source hardware; Gimbal system; 3-D printing; Rotator; Optoelectronics; Transmittance; FOSH; open hardware;Manipulators; Micromanipulator;Open source scientific equipment;Probe;Probe holder;Probe positioner;Probe station

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