Are Microscopes a Must-have for Your Shop?

February 22, 2021 9:57 am

Do you regularly use microscopes in your shop? You should. Microscopes are crucial to the inspection and measurement process and essential to see those miniscule features, either on a part or a tool, that are untraceable to the naked eye.

For example, the cutting tool edge should be checked to ensure it is not dull. When a cutting tool becomes dull, it is subject to smearing the metal instead of cutting it. So if you want your parts to be precise and your cutting tools to be sharp, a microscope is your friend.

To understand the function of such a sophisticated tool and why it should be part of any shop measurement toolset, it’s important to take a step back and understand the difference between inspection and measurement.

Inspection relates to qualitative findings whereas measurement refers to quantitative ones. Therefore, there are different optical measurement systems (microscopes) for each process.

Microscopes can also be used directly on the machine. This approach is not the focus of this article, but if you want to check out what that looks like, join the conversation, Machining with microscopes on the Practical Machinist forum.

Digital vs Conventional Microscopes

It’s no surprise that digital microscopes are becoming more popular. The digitalization of microscopes does not in any way change the tasks that they perform. Digital and conventional microscopes are used for the same purpose. It really comes down to preference when determining which style microscope you wish to use.

There are several functional advantages of a digital microscope. For example, digital microscopes can include a built-in measurement tool that records and stores any footage taken of the given part. If these features aren’t relevant to your inspection and measurement needs, digital and conventional microscopes are pretty much one in the same.

It is possible to add a camera onto a conventional microscope, but you’ll want to ensure the conventional microscope is compatible with an add-on camera.

Inspection Microscopes

As mentioned above, inspection microscopes are used for obtaining qualitative insights about the part under the microscope. Inspection techniques, in this case, determine whether the part fulfills any aesthetic expectations like surface finish or if there is any damage or wear. Inspection microscopes are perfect for examining surface details, but not to be mistaken as measuring instruments.

Measurement Microscopes

Measurement microscopes are designed for obtaining quantitative information about a part. A measurement microscope is necessary for when you are trying to determine the length of a part’s feature, if a hole is in the right position, or if a part’s angle meets the required specifications.

Below you will find a mix of different microscopes on the market. Check them out.

Microscope Models

AmScope 100X Portable Shop Measuring Microscope + USB Camera

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This model is considered a high-quality, widefield shop microscope. It includes a digital camera that features advanced editing and processing abilities, along with measuring software.

Koolertron 4.3-inch 1080P LCD Digital USB Microscope

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This microscope was recommended by John Saunders of NYC CNC, watch his review here. This digital microscope has its own metal material stand which makes adjusting the height very convenient. The microscope can achieve through focus and reach the maximum 220X digital zoom, and the ergonomic design provides users with a better experience.

Omano OM2300S-JW11-7.5x-45x – Binocular – Zoom Stereo Microscope

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The Omano inspection microscope includes a boom stand and has been considered a workhorse and well-proven model for more than ten years. Magnification is a crisp 7.5x-45x zoom with included LED ring light. The microscope also includes an 84mm focus bloc, eyecups and a dust cover.

AmScope SM-4TX-144A Trinocular Stereo Microscope

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This inspection microscope comes with a specially designed control box that allows you to turn on/off each portion of the ring light separately and change the lighting direction to obtain the best stereo images. This microscope offers high resolution, super widefield of view, large magnifying zoom range and long working distance.

Fowler 53-640-280 Xtra Range Microscope

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This measurement microscope has a measurement range of 7.878 to 8.27″ and is accurate to +/ – 0.00006″. The gauge in this system has constant spring pressure for repeatability and includes FastFit measuring heads for rapid measurement.

Aven 26700-209-PLR Mighty Scope Digital Handheld Microscope

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This digital inspection microscope features 10x to 200x magnification, a polarizing filter to reduce glare and enhance contrast, and a 1/4″ color CMOS image sensor. The setup includes an adjustable, metal tabletop pole stand and focus wheel for optimal resolution.


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