Scanning probe microscopy (SPM) has been an important tool to image and manipulate micro/nano scale structures. The measurement is based on the optical detection of a very small deflection of a flexible cantilever while traveling near the sample surface. However, the use of a cantilever with a sharp oxidized conical tip is quite costly, very difficult to scale up and unable to scan variable hardness surfaces, such as cell membranes in vivo. A concept of in-plane probe tip is developed. It has a carbon nanotube tip, built-in actuator and a tip deflection sensor, all assembled in the same plane. Most of all, an in-plane probe design would enable the stiffness of the probe to become tunable by using MEMS clutched springs. This allows a continuous measurement of samples with inhomogeneous surface hardness without changing the probe in the middle of a measurement.