Three-Dimensional Printing of a Model Atomic Force Microscope to Measure Force-Distance Profiles

Daniel M. Gruber, Tynan Perez, Bege Q. Layug, Margaret Ohama, Lydia Tran, Luis Angel Flores Rojas, A. Xavier Garcia, Gang Yu Liu, William J.W. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We report a simple means to build a model atomic force microscope (AFM) using 3D printing of thermoplastic materials that are commercially available. The model has many of the key parts of an actual AFM including a z-axis stage, an AFM head with a cantilever assembly, and a laser source that reflects off of the back of the cantilever. Using a magnet attached to the tip of the cantilever and a metal sample, this model AFM enables acquisition of force-distance profiles with characteristic snap-in, pull-off, separate, and contact regions. The model AFM was designed, printed, and used by first- and second-year undergraduate students. Through completion of this project, students learned scientific instrument design and construction via 3D printing and obtained first-hand practice in the measurement of force-distance profiles and the elastic constants of cantilevers. The open design of the model can easily accommodate additional capabilities in which students are interested, e.g., topographical scanning and using cantilevers made from different materials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • Analogies/Transfer
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Applications of Chemistry
  • First-Year Undergraduate/General
  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Nanotechnology
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Surface Science
  • Undergraduate Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Education


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