Abstract

The basic elements of a fairly complete optomechanical kit based on the use of LEGO are presented. Taking advantage of the great variety of standard LEGO elements, and adding a few custom components made of Plexiglas, we show how most of the mechanical parts of an optical setup can be built with little effort and at an extremely reduced cost. Several systems and experiments are presented, mainly in the fields of optical filtering and interferometry, to show that the proposed mounts are excellent for didactic purposes and often perfectly suitable even in applied research.

© 1998 Optical Society of America

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References

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  1. F. Quercioli, A. Mannoni, B. Tiribilli, S. Acciai, “Play optics with LEGO,” in Fifth International Meeting on Education and Training in Optics, C. H. F. Velzel, ed., Proc. SPIE3190, 233–242 (1997).
    [CrossRef]
  2. J. Bell, “Toy box supplies parts for teacher’s light table,” Opto Laser Eur. 44, 32–34 (1997).
  3. See the official LEGO website: http://www.lego.com/professionals/history.asp .
  4. See the related site on MIT’s web: http://web.mit.edu/6.270 and related links.

1997 (1)

J. Bell, “Toy box supplies parts for teacher’s light table,” Opto Laser Eur. 44, 32–34 (1997).

Acciai, S.

F. Quercioli, A. Mannoni, B. Tiribilli, S. Acciai, “Play optics with LEGO,” in Fifth International Meeting on Education and Training in Optics, C. H. F. Velzel, ed., Proc. SPIE3190, 233–242 (1997).
[CrossRef]

Bell, J.

J. Bell, “Toy box supplies parts for teacher’s light table,” Opto Laser Eur. 44, 32–34 (1997).

Mannoni, A.

F. Quercioli, A. Mannoni, B. Tiribilli, S. Acciai, “Play optics with LEGO,” in Fifth International Meeting on Education and Training in Optics, C. H. F. Velzel, ed., Proc. SPIE3190, 233–242 (1997).
[CrossRef]

Quercioli, F.

F. Quercioli, A. Mannoni, B. Tiribilli, S. Acciai, “Play optics with LEGO,” in Fifth International Meeting on Education and Training in Optics, C. H. F. Velzel, ed., Proc. SPIE3190, 233–242 (1997).
[CrossRef]

Tiribilli, B.

F. Quercioli, A. Mannoni, B. Tiribilli, S. Acciai, “Play optics with LEGO,” in Fifth International Meeting on Education and Training in Optics, C. H. F. Velzel, ed., Proc. SPIE3190, 233–242 (1997).
[CrossRef]

Opto Laser Eur. (1)

J. Bell, “Toy box supplies parts for teacher’s light table,” Opto Laser Eur. 44, 32–34 (1997).

Other (3)

See the official LEGO website: http://www.lego.com/professionals/history.asp .

See the related site on MIT’s web: http://web.mit.edu/6.270 and related links.

F. Quercioli, A. Mannoni, B. Tiribilli, S. Acciai, “Play optics with LEGO,” in Fifth International Meeting on Education and Training in Optics, C. H. F. Velzel, ed., Proc. SPIE3190, 233–242 (1997).
[CrossRef]

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Figures (26)

Fig. 1
Fig. 1

LEGO frame housing a 5 cm × 5 cm colored glass filter.

Fig. 2
Fig. 2

Iris diaphragm holder realized with standard LEGO hinges. Also the small post holder is a common LEGO element.

Fig. 3
Fig. 3

Tilting table realized when two LEGO bases are connected with two hinges. The tilt angle can be adjusted when the Plexiglas screw is turned.

Fig. 4
Fig. 4

Beam director assembly with two tiltable mirror holders for a fine adjustment of the steering angle.

Fig. 5
Fig. 5

Large bar-type lens or filter holder. The component shown is a 3-in. pellicle beam splitter.

Fig. 6
Fig. 6

Prism holder with straight clamping arm, carrying a cube splitter.

Fig. 7
Fig. 7

Lens holder assembly made up of two 6 × 6 stud plates suitably machined to create the room necessary to sandwich a 1-in. lens between. Thicker lenses can be accommodated when one or more spacers is inserted as that shown at the center.

Fig. 8
Fig. 8

Self-centering mount holding a 10-mm-diameter interference filter.

Fig. 9
Fig. 9

Linear positioning stage suitably integrated to house a small optical component (a Glan–Thompson crystal polarizer).

Fig. 10
Fig. 10

Two-axis positioning stage consisting of two superimposed single-axis stages. As in Fig. 9, the upper positioner can be modified to hold several kinds of optical components.

Fig. 11
Fig. 11

Three-axis stage used to adjust the position of a microscope objective finely (to be used in a spatial filter arrangement). The Plexiglas adapter needed to fit this component to the vertical frame of the positioner is described in the text.

Fig. 12
Fig. 12

Custom-built rotary stage. The structure of this component and the design concepts employed to obtain a smooth rotary motion are described in the text.

Fig. 13
Fig. 13

Tilter with a 0.5-in.-diameter mirror attached. The two Plexiglas screws visible behind the L-shaped structure provide an excellent adjustment sensitivity as well as remarkably good stability.

Fig. 14
Fig. 14

LEGO plate with a round hole in the middle to house a compact CCD camera. The circuit board is screwed to the back of the plate.

Fig. 15
Fig. 15

Positioning lift (laboratory jack), constructed with standard LEGO plates and beams together with a few Plexiglas rods. (The longer one is threaded and acts as a screw, providing the means to raise or lower the platform.) The component can easily support a low-power He–Ne laser.

Fig. 16
Fig. 16

Microscope realized with a few LEGO elements connected by four long Plexiglas rods. The objective is mounted on a suitable adapter, as is the CCD camera on top of the instrument. A black cardboard tube shields the path of the rays from ambient light.

Fig. 17
Fig. 17

Image of a detail of a small LEGO pulley taken with the microscope of Fig. 16, working in reflection.

Fig. 18
Fig. 18

Dark ground image of a crosswire still taken with the same microscope (in transmission). The two small components on the right are, starting from the edge of the image, the source (a LED housed in a LEGO brick) and the spatial filter that keeps the light from reaching the center of the condenser lens, thus creating the proper illumination pattern.

Fig. 19
Fig. 19

Experimental setup employed to perform spatial filtering experiments: Source S (a fiber bundle) with a diaphragm to reduce the effective source size; O, object; L, lens; beam splitter that sends part of the light to the CCD camera, I, where an unfiltered image of the object is formed and part to the spatial filter assembly, F, followed by a second camera that records the filtered image, FI.

Fig. 20
Fig. 20

Schlieren image of a Fresnel cylindrical lens obtained with a setup similar to that of Fig. 19. (The beam splitter is removed so that only the filtered image is observed.) As described in the text, the knife edge is actually the edge of a tiny LEGO plate.

Fig. 21
Fig. 21

Modern version of the Abbe–Porter experiment performed with our system. Both the filtered (left) and unfiltered (right) images are shown. The filter is a slit obtained when two small LEGO plates are placed close to each other.

Fig. 22
Fig. 22

Frequency doubling in the spatial domain demonstrated with our setup. The object is a Ronchi grating whose Fourier transform has its zeroth order stopped by a thin wire glued to the xyz positioner for fine adjustment.

Fig. 23
Fig. 23

Low-pass spatial filter realized with a 10× microscope objective and a 50-μm pinhole whose position can be finely adjusted with our three-axis stage. Also visible are two mirror tilters (one realized with two small hinged LEGO plates) and the laboratory jack described in the text.

Fig. 24
Fig. 24

Detail of the xyz positioner with the pinhole used in the low-pass filter described in Fig. 23.

Fig. 25
Fig. 25

Twyman–Green interferometer built with our LEGO-based components. The mirror on the right is mounted on a tilter, which is in turn fastened to a linear translation stage. The source is a laser diode. The fringes are expanded by the microscope objective and can be observed on the white screen.

Fig. 26
Fig. 26

Mach–Zehnder interferometer with a He–Ne laser source and a double output. One of the two fringe patterns can be seen on the white screen on the right, whereas the reciprocal one is projected on the rotating ground disk visible at the center of the image, just above the laser tube, and is imaged by a CCD camera whose output can be seen on the TV monitor.

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