Are you planning to repair printed circuit boards or perform surface mount soldering? One thing you'll need is a tool that gives a clear view. From stereo microscopes to digital microscopes to the accessories you can't go without, AmScope has it all.
Developed in 1936 by inventor Charles Ducas, the modern-day printed circuit board (PCB) has come a long way since its inception. It now powers electronic devices in applications across a wide range of industries. The PCB found in your phone houses components with more computing power than the ones NASA used to put the first man on the moon.
How do you repair such small and intricate devices? Whether you're fixing damaged PCBs or soldering on new components, the first thing you need is a microscope that will let you see what you're doing. To that end, stereo microscopes and digital microscopes both help technicians and hobbyists perform their PCB repairs by giving them a crystal-clear view of those tiny interconnections. They work great as QA microscopes, and while they function in different ways and come with different magnifications and accessories, both get the electronic job done.
Stereo Microscope and Digital Microscope Applications
As with all magnifying devices, stereo microscopes and digital microscopes give an enlarged and clearer view of the objects in their field. Some common applications of these two devices are:
- Surface mount device (SMD) soldering
- PCB inspection
- Scanning for fractures and defects
- Circuit board analysis
Many other applications outside of the electronics industry exist for these soldering microscopes — spotting counterfeit currency, jewelry repair, and watch-making, to name a few. The applications for electronic repair microscopes may be quite diverse but they all have something in common: They all require a high-precision view.
Two of the most common uses of stereo microscopes and digital microscopes are PCB inspection and SMD soldering. In PCB inspection, components — like batteries, transistors, and sensors — are carefully viewed to examine any potential defects like cracks or short circuits. In SMD soldering, new components are attached to existing circuit boards or broken interconnections are mended to repair damaged devices.
Stereo Microscope and Digital Microscope: What's the Difference?
While you may find them in similar applications, stereo microscopes and digital microscopes work very differently.
There are several differences between stereo microscopes and conventional compound microscopes, most of which pertain to how they form the image in your view.
Rather than magnifying transmitted light as compound microscopes do, stereo microscopes bring reflected light back to the user's eye — although some use a light fixture underneath the sample for transmitted illumination, as well. This makes stereo microscopes ideal for viewing objects with high opacity, which could not be viewed with a standard scope.
Another difference is that while conventional microscopes only have a single ocular tube, stereo microscopes have one for each eye. The two are mounted at slightly different angles so that light can be refracted from different vantage points, and the result is a 3D image of the object in view.
Regarding magnification, stereo microscopes often possess two options:
- Fixed: The fixed magnification is determined by multiplying the power of the eyepiece and auxiliary lens.
- Zoom: The continuous zoom feature offers a range of magnification powers as a dial is adjusted. Generally, stereo microscopes deliver a magnification between 40x–1,000x, but 10x–200x will usually suffice for electronics repair and SMD soldering.
While stereo microscopes use analog methods for their magnification, digital microscopes are altogether different. By making use of a digital camera, these repair microscopes work by taking pictures of their object and outputting them onto your computer or phone.
Digital microscopes provide several advantages over their analog counterparts, namely:
- Comfort: No more hunching over your scope with these devices. Digital microscopes allow you to view your object from your monitor while sitting upright.
- Clarity: Features like anti-halation to prevent glaring and high dynamic range (HDR) for sharper color and contrast give the crisp image that electronics repairers need.
- Sharing: An open-monitor view lets colleagues view images more easily than with a standard scope, and many digital microscopes can use a memory card to store their pictures for later use.
- Portability: Some electronics repairs may need to be done on the go, and the smaller size makes digital microscopes the only choice for such applications.
Once they have taken a picture of the sample, the device attached to the scope converts the data into an image based on the monitor's pixel ratio, so the exact magnification will vary depending on the size of the screen that projects it. Generally, though, digital microscopes have a magnification of 40x–7,000x — well beyond that of a stereo microscope, and certainly enough for electronics repair and SMD soldering. When choosing your digital microscope, remember that it must be compatible with the operating system you plan to connect it to. Check for OS compatibility before you make a purchase.
Stereo Microscope and Digital Microscope Accessories
Once you choose between a stereo or digital microscope, you still may need some accessories to help your project along. Some of the most common stereo and digital microscope accessories are:
- Circuit board mounts
- Memory cards
- Gooseneck lights
There are many microscope accessories to choose from, and AmScope carries a wide selection of tools that you'll need for your scope.
Which Type of Microscope Is Best?
The exact type of microscope you use will depend on the needs of your project, but to help you find the one that's right for you, we've put together this list of some of our favorite scopes.
What You're Looking For
Best Selling Scope
3.5X-90X Trinocular Stereo Microscope with 4-Zone 144-LED Ring Light, Awarded #1 2017 Top Microscope on Ezvid
Best Digital Microscope
1080p 2MP HDMI Digital Microscope with 11" Articulating Arm
Best High-end Scope
3.5X-90X Articulating Stereo Microscope w 80-LED Light + 9MP USB Digital Camera
Best Scope on a Budget
5X-500X 2MP Handheld USB Digital Microscope with LED Illumination
Best Intermediate Scope
10X-20X Compact Fixed-Lens Stereo Boom-Arm Microscope with Gooseneck LED Light
Best Beginner Scope
8x Binocular - Gooseneck Arm Stereo Microscope with 8W Fluorescent Ring Light
As you can see, we have a huge selection of stereo microscopes, digital microscopes, and all the accessories that your electronics repair project will need. Visit our site today and find the one that's right for you!
- Olympus: What Is a Digital Microscope?
- TheOptics.org: 5 Best Microscopes for Electronics Repair – All Problems Solved
- MicroscopyU: Introduction to Stereomicroscopy
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