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Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQ

What is Foldscope?

Foldscope is the paper microscope with 140X magnification.

Why invent a paper microscope?

Microscopes are important tools for science, but they are often expensive to access and own. Foldscope’s design uses low-cost materials (like paper) to provide a research quality microscope for a fraction of the price so that everyone can explore the microscopic world.

What is Foldscope made of?

Foldscope is made of a lens, magnets, and paper. The lens is a glass ball that magnifies things. The magnets align and place the lens, and help devices attach to the Foldscope. The rest is of the Foldscope is a waterproof paper!

What can you see with a Foldscope?

Foldscope’s lens has a magnification of 140x. With that, you can see tiny things like bacteria, blood cells, and single-celled organisms like copepods, tardigrades, tetrahymena, diatoms, rotifers, nematodes and more. As well as larger things like a insects, fabrics, tissues! 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!

See for yourself what Foldscope users are exploring on our Microcosmos community website.

Is Foldscope a real microscope?

Yes! Foldscope is a simple light microscope with standard magnification of 140x. Foldscope is a twist on a traditional technology, combining the basics of an simple light microscope with super low-cost materials.

Do I need a camera phone to use the Foldscope?

No. Our philosophy is to bring the microscopic world to everyone. For this reason, Foldscope is designed to be an independent instrument and does not require a phone to use.
Foldscope can be 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 Tutorials.

What age should you be to use a Foldscope?

We recommend age 8 and above for use of the microscope. Some younger children are able to use it with adult supervision.


What is the Foldscope community?

The Microcosmos is the collective term used for the Foldscope community & online platform. The best part of Foldscope is not in the tool itself, but the people that use it!

What is on the Microcosmos?

The Microcosmos website is where Foldscope users from around the world connect, share their observations, ideas, and problems! It is a place to collaborate, find inspiration, and learn from fellow explorers. With over half a million Foldscopes in the world, it is quite the far-reaching and fascinatingly diverse community.

Can I join the Microcosmos?

If you have a Foldscope, yes, you can create a Microcosmos account.

Visitmicrocosmos.foldscope.com and select the ‘register’ tab. Complete the form to create and account. The form requires the code from your unique ID Sticker, shown right. The sticker’s code is your ticket into the Microcosmos!

If you do not have a Foldscope, you cannot create a Microcosmos account.

However, you can still browse the website and see what users are up to!

What is the global reach of Foldscope?

As of 2020 we have distributed over one million Foldscope units to 135+ countries. 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.

Product Questions

Why the difference in price between Deluxe Individual Kits and Classroom Kits?

Our mission is to bring bring affordable scientific tools to everyone (not just communities who have the resources - but everyone). For any of this to be possible, our business model balances our cost of operations with offering extremely low-cost (low-profit) products. 

We find this balance through a pricing structure that operates on a 2-tier system: high price point kits for individual Foldscopes (Deluxe Individual Kits), and low price point kits for bulk Foldscopes (Classroom Kits).  

We arrived at this pricing structure for many reasons, but primarily because the reality of fulfillment and shipping means we cannot ship a single Foldscope that costs roughly $1 in parts to produce at a $1 dollar price while being sustainable. Overall, we make a profit only from our high price point kits, this profit allows for us to exist and produce any microscopes at all, and this profit also subsidizes our low price point kits (which we do not profit off of), in which offer Foldscopes for as inexpensive as $1.75 each!

Learn more about the different kits below:

Deluxe Individual Kits provide a user with a Foldscope and everything they need to start exploring (cell separation tools, microfluidics tools, 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 classroom kits. By purchasing a Deluxe Individual Kit, you directly support our mission!

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 down to $1.75 per Foldscope.

I can't find my lens.

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). 

I think 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 info@foldscope.com. 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.

Sales FAQ

Orders & Shipping

When will I receive my order?

For US shipping addresses: in-stock items ordered from the Foldscope store will ship immediately, typically within 1-2 business days. You will receive a tracking number once your Foldscope ships, and transit typically takes another 2 - 10 business days.

For shipping address outside of the US: in-stock items ordered from the Foldscope store will ship typically within 7 to 14 business days. For more details, please read “International Shipping Information” below.

NOTE: Please pay attention to announcements for out-of-stock items!  You can still place purchase out-of-stock items (back-orders), but the items will start shipping at a later estimated date in the order they are received. 

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

Contact us at sales@foldscope.com for contract pricing.

What are the payment options?

We accept credit card and PayPal in the online Foldscope store.

If you want to do a purchase order, please email sales@foldscope.com. We accept ACH payment, check, or wire transfer. With wire transfer, please also pay for the transfer fee.

When will my credit card be charged?

We will charge your credit card at check-out for all orders.

For which countries are the products currently available? How are shipping costs calculated?

Foldscope products ship worldwide.

Shipping is charged based on using USPS / DHL.

For international shipping, there may be additional customs fees which are paid by the recipient at the time of delivery. Please note that the customs fee varies by the destination country, and the Foldscope team cannot predict the amount. For more details, please read “International Shipping Information” below.

We are working to open several distribution centers across the world, and to find reliable cost effective shipping partners. 

Refunds (US orders only)

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.

International Shipping Information

Your Foldscope will ship from China.

You will receive your tracking number 7 to 14 business days afteryou place your order.

Import duty / tax is the recipient’s responsibility

Please be advised that for any orders shipping outside of the US, additional custom/import fee may be levied by the destination country's customs office at the time of custom clearance. Custom/import fee isnot included in the shipping cost.
It is the recipient’s responsibility to follow up with the courier/customs office to proceed with the custom clearance.

Before placing your order, please confirm that:

You understand your responsibility for customs clearance

You understand that you are responsible for any additional payment of import duty / tax to the local customs office.

You are able to provide any documents required by the local customs office for customs clearance.

You understand that the Foldscope team does not have control over the amount of import duty / tax incurred and that the Foldscope team cannot predict what the amount may be.

If you would like to contact your local customs office to estimate how much duty/tax you may be charged, here is useful information:

Our Foldscope products are classified under the following International HS Code (Harmonized Schedule for import duties):  9011.80.0000

Possible Additional Fees

If your shipping address is marked “remote” by DHL:

Shipments to “remote” address incurs extra remote fee of US $35 to 40depending on destination. When your shipping address is remote, you will be notified and given the following options:

Provide us with an alternative address to try with DHL

DHL - fast and reliable, additional remote fee

Postal service - slow and limited customer support on tracking, no additional fee

Cancel and receive a full refund

Your shipping address is Hong Kong (S.F. Express)

Additional fee will be asked to pay at the time of delivery.

Delivery to a residential address incurs additional fee of HKD20.

Delivery to a remote address incurs additional remote fee of HKD30.

If your shipment is unclaimed for an extended period of time, it will be abandoned.

If neither the courier nor the Foldscope Team can reach you when the shipment is left unclaimed, we will need to abandon the shipment at your cost.

During customs clearance, your attention and timely follow-up is essential.

Please track your shipment frequently and pay attention to any notification from the Foldscope Team and the courier.