The idea was that they would be able to be fitted to any of a wide range of microscope brands and models.
In addition, they would also accommodate a wide range of samples and sample supports.This was partly spurred by the observed use of many types of sample sizes and supports in Fission Track Dating (FTD). So, for instance, the traditional EDM technique generally (but not always) used two rectangular samples (grain and mica) of approx. 1 cm on each side, with a space of about 1 cm between them.
Sometimes, the samples were flat cylindrical slugs instead of the more common rectangular mounts. But in both cases, these samples were usually supported on readily available 25 x 75 mm (1 x 3 inch) glass microscope slides. However, the newer FTD techniques have given rise to other support glass sizes. This has been partly driven (for instance) by the maximum sample size which can be loaded into the La-ICP MS equipment now used in the most advanced FTD techniques.
The resultant glass support sizes include 25 x 30 mm slides (cut down from the standard 25 x 75 mm slides), 27 x 46 so-called "petrographic slides" (which are commercially available), and 25 x 46 slides, produced from the standard 25 x 75 mm slides (I call these "pseudo-petrographic slides", as they are cut to the same length as the petrographic ones, but are narrower). The idea is to create the maximum surface available for the FTD samples to be observed, which will still fit into the processing and analysis equipment. This means that more of the sample grains can be mounted at once, leading to better statistics (and shorther processing times, compared to having the same number of grains on separate slides).
There are in fact still other sample support sizes in use around the world, both within and outside of the FTD discipline. For instance, in Brazil I have observed FTD support glasses which measure 24 x 48 mm, and are 2 mm thick (standard slides are usually approx. 1 mm thick). And in the Life Sciences, glass support plates measuring 50 x 75 (ie the equivalent of two standard slides) are common. One of our slide holders, for the Life Sciences, will actually accommodate either a single large slab or two standard slides.
In addition to that, there are very many microscopes available around the world. The most common brands are ones such as ZeissTM, LeicaTM, NikonTM and OlympusTM. And each brand usually supplies several different models.
So, what to do ?
We put our thinking caps on, and with the assistance of two of our best resources (Garey Laken, our mechnical expert and concept genius, and Wesley Tan, a very capable mechanical engineer and industrial designer) we came up with a totally radical design. The result is a series of slide holders which already fit a number of different stages, and accommodate a number of different supports. The design is so radical that we have been able to apply for a patent for it, so we are very pleased with ourselves right now. In addition, we have also designed an adapter which allows our current Autoscan Stage Slide Holders to be used in conjunction with ZeissTM and MärzhäuserTM stages.
Our use of 3D plastic prototyping allows rapid evaluation of requirements for novel applications, and gives our clients a chance for "hands-on" testing prior to production in metal. In this manner, any possibly unpredictable issues (such as the minute clearances required to clear high-power objectives) can be quickly, cheaply and effectively avoided. (A typical 3D manufacturing cycle is a matter of just a couple of weeks). Since our final manufacturing process involves CNC machining, we are able to produce quite complicated and customer-specific product details. (Unfortunately, current plastics used in 3D manufacturing are not yet suitable for the accuracies we and our clients require. We therefore need to manufacture the final versions in metal).
The advantages of our new slideholders are :
1. Possibility of rapid loading and unloading of samples
2. Reduction of the risk of breakage due to mishandling
3. Reduction of risk of damage due to stresses applied by the holder
4. Possibility of using multiple slide holders to increase throughput
5. Simple loading of slide holder on to stage
6. Flexibility of design allows adaptation to most microscope brands and models
7. Possibility of custom shapes, colours and labelling
We hope to be able to assist YOU with these slide holders. Please contact us and let us know your requirements, so that we can suggest some assistance, with either an existing or adapted version of our new product.
Garey is one of the most fertile brains we have known, who has unique ideas by the bucketful.
We have the highest regard for Wes' capabilities, and look forward to further development work with him.
NOTE 1 : All trademarks referred to in this Newsflash [and marked TM] are the property of their respective owners.
NOTE 2 : All photos supplied by Wesley Tan. Thank you, Wes !
Here are some images of a selection of our products :