How to care for your automated microscope stages
Posted in Microscope automationMotorized stages Nov 23rd 2022
Maintain the efficiency of motorised microscope stages
Our precision microscope automation and nanopositioning systems are manufactured to the highest standards. They are backed by comprehensive technical support, repair services and warranties, so that if you have a question about initial setup or subsequent use you can be sure of a fast and effective resolution.
In addition, there are several simple steps that you can take to improve the operation and longevity of your stages still further.
Perhaps the easiest but often forgotten action is to follow a regular cleaning regime. This does not need to be complicated or particularly time consuming but will help to ensure that precision positioning mechanisms and sensing devices function correctly at all times. Using a 70% ethanol solution applied on a lint-free pad to the external surfaces is all that is normally required, while ensuring that any spillages or other contamination are removed promptly.
For customers with older stages, it’s worth bearing in mind that it is possible for degraded grease to accumulate on ballscrews. This grease needs to be periodically cleaned and the ballscrew regreased. The work can be carried out either by returning the microscope automation unit to our service department or on-site by a suitably experienced technician; if this work is done by a member of your staff then it is important to follow the correct cleaning instructions, which are available from our service team.
A further area where we occasionally see issues occur is with high-speed linear stages. Problems can arise if wires such as the stage and encoder cables are constrained. This can cause positioning errors and potentially result in the controller shutting down the motor to the axes. To prevent possible problems, ensure that all the cables attached to the stage have sufficient slack to eliminate any force or tension being applied to the stage.
Additionally, our linear stages have a high magnetic field around them so should be appropriately shielded if other magnetic equipment is being used in the immediate vicinity of the stage.
Repair and servicing of microscope automation stages
Even with the best care during use, sometimes one of our microscope automation stages will need a repair by our engineering team.
The first step is to let us know about the fault using our RMA form. We’ll explain how to remove the stage safely from the microscope and pack it correctly for shipping. Once we’ve received the item, we aim to carry out repairs within one to two weeks, although this is dependent on workload at the time.
We’ll initially inspect and test the unit to identify the fault. Once this has been rectified we put the unit through a comprehensive series of tests, running over 500 cycles at its default settings, to confirm that factors such as accuracy and repeatability are within specification. We’ll then produce a test report, which is returned to you with the repaired unit.
When you receive your stage back make sure that you adhere to the unpacking and setup guidelines. In particular, remember to remove the transit bolts (if they have been fitted), which prevent the plates within each stage moving during shipping, and do not apply excessive force during removal as this can potentially distort the plates.
When installing the stage on a microscope or optical table ensure that the holding bolts are torqued down evenly, one at a time, and tighten the bolts in sequence across the diagonal axes.
Note that the transit bolts are the only fixings that are usually intended to be removed by the end-user. All other fixings, such as the screws securing the top plate, should normally be left in-situ and not be adjusted, as this may result in the stage being out of specification and affect your warranty. If the limit switch needs to be adjusted, or the drive cover dissembled, then please contact our technical team for instructions.
Once installed, you should run the stage at its default settings to check that it is operating correctly before using it for the first time; again, if settings need to be changed our technical team is on hand to talk you through the process and ensure that you’re ready to continue your research or laboratory work.
Our microscope automation systems are precision instruments. They are designed to operate reliably, accurately and consistently for extended periods. In common with all such devices their performance is ultimately determined by the way in which they are used and cared for. Our service team will provide considerable support and assistance, but with a few simple and common-sense measures you can improve levels of performance, efficiency and operating life of your stages still further.
Contact our service team to learn more