Stage Actuator for Microscopic Photography


CPSC Moderator
Staff member
This is one of the many projects I'm working on when I have time. Thankfully with the few days off during Christmas break, I was able to make some more good progress on this project.

The plastic parts are designed in Solidworks (including the objective adapter) and 3D printed in black PETG. The stage actuator is controlled by an Arduino nano, with one Nema-17 stepper motor to turn the lead screw. The lead screw I'm using is 5/16-18 because it has a finer pitch than the common 8mmx2mm.



Software-wise, it's about 90% done. There are five buttons in total: upward, downward, save location (2 max), run automated program, and speed mode (slow or fast).

Result so far is decent, the motion is smooth and the alignment is fine for taking multiple photos for stacking. Unfortunately my old camera is dying so I'm waiting for my new but used camera (out of budget for a brand new camera...) to continue the project.

Drosera paradoxa "Type" seed, stacked with 3 photos; 4x objective lens

Drosera spatulata "Giant" seed, stacked with 32 photos; 4x objective lens

The Drosera seeds are so tiny, it is really challenging to take good photos of them. The objectives I have are AmScope 4x, 10x and 40x, however the 10x doesn't give sharp images, and 40x wouldn't work at all.
With this setup, I think the photos are at least a little better than using the handheld microscope.

Size reference of most Drosera seeds:
Last edited:


Carnivorous Plant Addict
Looking good. I'm using some aluminium stand I bought off Amazon with a USB "microscope" which is just a macrolens attached to a webcam. Works decently but sometimes it doesn't hold the camera securely.


CPSC Moderator
Staff member
Allan Walls is such a big inspiration for me. Watching few of his videos, I realize that my calculation was incorrect. After fixing the focus length in the adapter design and printed a new tube, now the 10x objective works fine.
The new-used A6000 camera has arrived, so my 10 years old Nex5R can now retire as a backup camera.
I rigged up a IR remote to be controlled with the Arduino and finished the code for automated triggering. It works!
It's very satisfying when a project comes to life and works as planned.

Modified IR remote

New RMS to E mount adapter

Drosera capillaris {Ilha do Cardoso} seed, taken with 35 photos each, 10x Objective

Last edited:


CPSC Moderator
Staff member
"35 photos each" - are the photos stitched or layered?
Yes, it's called focus stacking. Since the depth of field is so limited when taking photos at high magnification, it's a technique to take the sharpest from each image in the stack to create a better photo.
I am using Helicon focus, it's a great software, costs about $115usd.


This is awesome, I've thought about building something like this (but hand driven) for higher magnification focus stacking with my camera. This is a really excellent looking design, and it looks sleek too! I like the 3D printed lens adapters too, really clever solution!


CPSC Moderator
Staff member
I bought a new lens, Laowa 2-5x, and updated the stage actuator design to mount it.
The results are great! It takes about 24-40 photos to focus stack one image of a tiny Drosera seed. :)
I use helicon focus for the focus stacking.

Drosera serpens seed

Drosera capensis seed

The setup consists of a mirrorless camera (Sony a6000), the macro lens, and the stage actuator with control circuit programmed with Arduino.





Carnivorous Plant Addict
The images are much more clearer this time around after swapping out the lens. Great work, Willy.