Our Company
Written by Michael Krochmal   
Monday, 27 August 2007 19:19

Very briefly :

Serving science since 1979
Incorporated in Victoria in 1984
Web presence since 1995
Systems installed in 25 countries (as of 2007)
C-tick (EMC regulations) accredited

Briefly:

Autoscan Systems Pty. Ltd. is an Australian scientific instrument manufacturing company which first manufactured equipment for the  geological technique of fission track dating in 1979, and which was incorporated under the current name in 1984. Since that time, we have become the world's leading manufacturer and supplier of automated microscope stages. Our equipment, which has sold well in 25 countries to date, takes the tedium out of techniques associated with optical microscopes, and is known and respected as the "Rolls Royce/Cadillac" of microscope stages.

We offer complete solutions for a range of scientific disciplines based on our special-purpose high-precision PC-controlled fully integrated 3-axis dc servo motor-driven stage systems for use with optical laboratory microscopes.

Our stages fit all popular microscopes and are controlled by our own Windows™ (all versions) software which may incorporate image processing. Our Autoscan Software Development Kit (ASDK) is available for stage control via user-generated programs.

NEW : Our latest ASDK now includes Active-X libraries which allow stage control from MS Word™ and MS Excel™ (among others). Please contact us to request our demo CD (which includes the ASDK, all manuals and software demo/walkthroughs).

If you find yourself in the vicinity of our office in Melbourne, Australia, please drop in (see address and contact details below). We will be happy to give you a demonstration of our latest equipment, a preview of our coming software attractions, and a cup of good coffee (life is too short for bad coffee !). If you have any special needs, please contact us.

The full story:

Autoscan Systems Pty. Ltd. is a manufacturer of scientific instruments. Our early beginnings go back to 1979, when our "forebears" created a brand-new tool for use in geological microscope-related techniques. We were incorporated as a company in our current name in 1984, and have since become the world's leading manufacturer and supplier of automated microscope stages. Our equipment, which has sold well in 25 countries to date, takes the tedium out of techniques associated with optical microscopes, and is known and respected as the "Rolls Royce/Cadillac" of microscope stages.

We have been awarded a number of Excellence Awards, and our customer bases growing at a steady rate.

The Autoscan stage is essentially a piece of robotic equipment. It consists of a three-axis motor-driven platform which replaces the "stage" that normally carries the glass slide on an optical microscope. Typically, those stages are attached to their microscopes by a few screws.  Replacement of a standard microscope stage with the Autoscan stage is a simple procedure which can be carried out with standard tools in only a few minutes. Our stage can be fitted to most popular optical laboratory microscope brands and models, both upright and inverted.

Our Autoscan stages use dc servo motors for the X and Y (left-right and forward-backward) and Z (vertical, or focus) motions. The fact that the focus motion is built right into our stages represents a major plus in many applications, as it leaves the microscope's focus mechanism free for separate manipulation. To the best of our knowledge, ours is the only microscope stage in the world which incorporates integral motorised movement in all three axes.

The combination of an AS3000i stage and an AS3500 focus attachment is referred to elsewhere on this site as an AS3000i/f stage system. This combination creates an integral 3-axis stage system, which is used in most of our clients' applications.

Our stages move in sub-micron increments in all three axes. (A human hair, for reference, is typically 50 to 80 microns in cross-section - thickness depends on colour). Movement of the stage is initiated by means of a special 3-axis joystick. The stage is controlled by an electronic controller box, to which commands are in turn issued from a computer.

In its original geological application (known as Fission Track Dating), the Autoscan stage assisted in the comparison of corresponding points contained in two images which are randomly aligned in space, which are mirror-images, and which are situated at different heights on the microscope slide. The difficulties of such a technique cannot be overestimated : our equipment is said to save 80% of an experienced operator's time. The resulting relief from tedium provided by our Trakscan™ package has ensured world-wide acceptance of our system.

The latest, most exciting development of Trakscan™ (which is the result of a 3-year collaborative research project in conjunction with the FTD group at the University of Melbourne, which is headed by Professor A.J.W. Gleadow) is the development of a version of our software which incorporates fully automated counting of fission tracks, both on the apatite grain as well as on the mica. This is a world-first achievement which follows decades of failed attempts by other groups - the many types of artefact and natural defects in apatite crystals, coupled with hitherto insufficiently sophisticated technology, have previously rendered such automation unachievable. In particular, the rise of much faster and more powerful computing hardware and software, as well as the rise of digital cameras with greater image resolution and smaller pixel sizes, have been the enabling factor for this wonderful development in Trakscan™. It is now possible to completely bypass a very tedious aspect of the FTD technique.

In our excursions into other fields of endeavour, we have made contact with specialists working in the fields of Forensic Science, Telemedicine, Blood Products, Radiation Protection, Pathology, Cancer Treatment and many others. Some of our current specialised application packages cater for the use of our system by specialists in these fields.

One of our other exciting software products is called AutoScope™, and is a package which incorporates image processing to automatically find user-defined objects under the microscope. The package also includes a digital camera and a high-end PC. It is used with our AS3000i stage system, and has found a very high acceptance level in various applications.

One application for AutoScope™ is in radiation-protection. The development of these packages is the result of a collaborative effort in conjunction with the Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Authority (ARPANSA), previously known as Australian Radiation  Laboratories (ARL). ARPANSA is the Australian Federal Government radiation monitoring authority. In this application, the software is able to detect, classify and store the location of so-called "alpha tracks" in solid-state detectors. An alpha track is a feature which is indicative of the passage of nuclear alpha-particle radiation through a specialized plastic such as CR39, a specially manufactured type of polycarbonate. The radiation causes damage to the plastic structure which can be made optically visible by means of a chemical etching technique. The resulting tracks (whose shapes resemble bullet-holes) can take the form of circles, ellipses or horseshoes, depending on the angle at which the radiation enters the plastic. The frequency of occurrence of the tracks gives a direct indication of the amount of radiation received.

The alpha-track effect is used in monitoring the amount of radiation to which personnel in relevant areas are exposed, by means of personal special plastic monitoring badges. Such areas include hospital radiography and laboratory areas as well as the areas surrounding nuclear reactors and mines. Personnel exposure is monitored on an ongoing basis, but the counting of the density of tracks is a tedious process which is generally carried out manually.

The automation of this process not only enables the avoidance of tedium and the resultant high variability of counts (due to fatigue in a given operator, and variation between operators), and not only provides a system for ensuring that an entire area under the microscope is scanned systematically without missing or double-counting any fields of view, but has in fact resulted in the gathering of statistical information which has never before been available from manual techniques. This information (such as the area and circularity of each track) is expected to result in new insights into radiation which may include some "world-firsts". Early experiments have indicated a good correlation between results from analysis with our equipment and results averaged from analysis by a number of human operators. ARPANSA has written a paper which documents these encouraging results. Please contact us for copies.

Our product has been featured in many local and overseas publications, including magazines in the UK, India, the USA and Japan. As early as 1986, we gained the coveted QANTAS/AUSTRADE export award for export excellence, and since that time we have either gained, or been nominated for, a variety of other export excellence-related awards. We are extremely pleased to be able to make a meaningful contribution to Australia's export effort.

The four key strengths which we believe make our business successful are :

  1. A high-quality product which answers the needs of the market, and which allows our staff to be convinced of its excellence,
  2. Dedicated and knowledgeable staff, committed to ensuring that the product and the company succeed, and able to provide superior customer service,
  3. A market which recognises the advantages conferred by our equipment. These advantages are the tangible time-savings and the avoidance of tedious aspects of the work with microscopes.
    Such advantages are, to some extent, "recession-proof", since they translate to reduced labour costs and improved quality and quantity of output.
  4. A company ethos based on absolute committment to our customers, and a recognition that a business is only as good as its customers and potential customers perceive it to be.
 

Contact Details

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Autoscan Systems Pty. Ltd.
Street Address : 4/293 Bay Street, Brighton 3186 Victoria Australia
Postal Address : PO Box 112, Ormond 3204 Victoria Australia
Telephone : +61 3 9596 8065 / +61 3 9596 8092
Fax : +61 3 9596 8369
To send us an email - Please click here

Webmaster : Michael Krochmal
This site established 23 October 2007
Supersedes www.autoscan.com.au website established 1995