Using the Foldscope

1. Foldscope Assembly - do you have step by step video instructions?
Yes, we do! Here are links to our official Foldscope video tutorials, which can also be found under the Tutorials menu tab. You can find tutorials in other languages via the Translations tab.

2. How do I focus? (My sample appears blurry, or I cannot see my sample at all)

  • Firstly make sure that you’re using the focus ramp (component A4) properly! The focus ramp is, as the name suggests, a ramp that is thick on one end and thin on the other. Sliding the focus ramp from left to right changes the distance from the lens from the sample, shifting the focus. To start at the lowest focus, put the thin side of the ramp between the lens and the sample. To adjust focus, push toward the thick side while viewing your sample until you can see the sample clearly.

  • Secondly, make sure you are viewing objects that are translucent, or allow light through. Completely opaque objects can not be viewed using transmission light microscopy.

  • Third, errors in the assembly process can result in difficulty focusing. Please review the videos above to ensure you have properly built your Foldscope.

  • If these tips do not improve focus, please email and we’ll do the best we can to help you!

3. I don't seem to have or can't find my lenses.

Lenes & Couplers-01.jpg

The lens piece is a small circular item, composed of a tiny glass bead held within a black plastic ring and a silver magnetic ring. Magnetic couplers are square shaped pieces, composed of black plastic with small holes along one side, a large hole in the center, and a silver magnetic ring.

Due to their magnetic attraction, lenses and couplers will be stuck together in a stack when you receive your kit. This is normal! Simply separate the pieces and you are ready to assemble. (Video here: Magnetic Couplers & Lenses). 

4. I have a missing or broken component in my kit.

We do extensive quality testing, but in the rare event a piece is missing or damaged, we will send a replacement part! Please fill out this form, and send us a picture of your product at This will ensure that we properly log your request. The form requires your shipping address information and the batch code for your Foldscope, so please have your shipping information and Foldscope shipment available as you complete the form.

5. Do I need a camera phone to use the Foldscope?

Our design philosophy is to bring the microscopic world to every child worldwide. Thus, the Foldscope is designed to be an independent instrument and does not require a phone to use.

Having said that - Foldscopes work fantastically when coupled to phones/iPads/ recording devices. No special app is required- your standard camera application will suffice! Learn how to collect photo and video data here: Foldscope Viewing: With Your Phone Camera.

(Note: for iPhone X series users, place the coupler over the camera located closest to the top of the phone.)

6. What ages can use Foldscope? 

Foldscope has been enjoyed by users across all ages! Due to legal regulations relating to choking hazards, we officially recommend the product for ages 8 and up. However, with adult supervision, younger science enthusiasts can also enjoy the Foldscope!

The Foldscope is made out of high-strength, plastic-coated paper, making it sturdy and durable. It can be used for both the simplest observations and for thorough scientific studies, and all places in between.

7. I seem to have seen a new life form - What is it? What do I do next?

Discovery is an integral part of exploration. We built this tool so that anyone could make new discoveries while exploring the microscopic world.

  • The first step in discovery is sharing and documenting the observation. Please document as much about your discovery as you can.

  • Please register and share your explorations with the rest of the Foldscope community at

  • You will be given a DOI number - which makes your observation citable and archived forever with your name. This is a community website with standard Creative Commons license.


1. Can I buy Foldscopes?

Yes! Our products are available now on our store. Don't be fooled by imitations! We also have global distributors; please email to find contact information for our global distribution partners.

2. How can I purchase large numbers of Foldscopes (for instance for an entire school, school district, NGO, etc.)?

Aside from our Classroom Kit offerings, for these types of orders please contact us at for contract pricing.

3. How can I buy accessories for the Foldscope?

We offer an LED Magnifier Kit accessory pack. This includes 20 LED Magnifier tools, ideal for pairing with the Basic Classroom Kit.

Our other accessories come as a set in the Deluxe Individual Kit.  The Large Classroom Kit comes with 20 sets of these accessories for 100 Foldscopes. We do not sell standalone accessory packs beyond the LED Magnifier Kit mentioned above.

4. I live in the Bay Area in California. I’d like to buy Foldscopes in person. Do you have a physical store?

Our office does not include a retail storefront, but we are happy to coordinate pick-ups for our Northern California customers in our office. Please complete this form to help us schedule a time for pick-up. If we are able, we will send you an email with further instructions. We do not allow pick-ups that have not been scheduled beforehand. Until we confirm via email, your requested pick-up time has not been scheduled.

5. Where do you ship?

We are currently shipping worldwide; order through our store. Please, inquire about purchase orders by contacting us directly

For more details on international shipping, please read “International Shipping Information” on our store page.

6. Refunds (US orders only)

First, we're sorry to hear you don't want your Foldscope!  Please see our video tutorials for troubleshooting help, and if you’d like more customized support, please reach out to

For orders sent within the United States, if you are not 100% satisfied with your purchase, you can return the product and get a refund for the product cost (Shipping cost is non-refundable). You may get a refund within 30 days of receipt of product. You must return the product to us at your own cost and provide tracking information to us. When we receive it we will then issue the refund.

We do not accept returns for orders delivered outside of the United States.

7. I am a distributor of devices, toys, and/or other goods, and would love to bring this tool to my community. 

We are looking for partners to engage to bring Foldscopes (with the vision of affordable science) to communities around the world. Please write to to discuss your ideas with the Director of Sales.

8. How do I support Foldscope Instruments’ vision of affordable science for everyone? 

We are very thankful for the community support we receive. This is the only way we can bring affordable scientific tools to everyone (not just communities who have the resources - but everyone).

You can directly support our mission through the purchase of a Deluxe Individual Kit or a donation. Deluxe kits provide an individual with everything they need to start exploring (cell separation tools, microfluidics, and dark field and phase contrast modules). Not only are these kits fantastic to help you get the most out of your Foldscope,  but their proceeds directly subsidize our extremely economical option: our classroom kits.

Classroom kits are designed for educators, humanitarian projects, and causes looking to cater to large groups of explorers. Thanks to the proceeds of Deluxe Individual Kits, we are able to bring the costs of classrooms kits down to $1.75 per Foldscope in large scale.


1. What is the optical performance of Foldscope?

Currently, Foldscope uses a 2.38 mm borosilicate glass lens, which provides 140x magnification and 2 micron resolution. This is sufficient to distinguish red blood cells and even watch live bacteria. 

2. What can you see with the Foldscope?

So much! See for yourself on our Microcosmos community website. Foldscope can be used to observe biological samples like bacteria, copepods, tardigrades, tetrahymena, diatoms, rotifers, nematodes, spider eggs, ants, vorticella, mites, daphnia...pretty much anything you can stick on a slide.

Foldscope can also allow the observation of non-biological samples, such as particulates detrimental to air quality, or the microscopic crystalline differences between real and fake medications. Despite a number of amazing applications already demonstrated, we know there is so much untapped potential. Make the journey your own!


1. What is the global reach of Foldscope?

As of 2019 we have distributed nearly one million Foldscope units to 135+ countries, building a community of users around the world.  As a globally focused organization, we hope to democratize access to science across resource-rich and resource-poor areas, and to uncover the amazing biodiversity of the entire world.

2. What is the Foldscope community?

We believe that the most important aspect of our company is not the tool itself, but the communities that use them. By broadening access to scientific tools, we have seen an incredible diversity of applications for Foldscope, many of which we could not have ever foreseen. The Foldscope community spans many countries, many ages, and many levels of scientific background. Our members share their experiences together on our community blog, Microcosmos.