Automated digital microscopes are designed to include stages which move a sample or objective in x, y, or z motion. We’ve created a unique microscope stage architecture by embedding high performance precision electronics required to control motion within the microscope stage without increasing its size.
Custom Microscope Stage Capabilities
Dover Motion has more than 25 years of experience working with OEMs to optimize motion for objective focusing, and moving samples on a slides, well plates, or flow cells.
Our engineers have developed unique motion control architectures for precision motion specifically tailored to the needs of OEMs developing microscope-based systems and instruments relying on optical imaging as the analytical detection technique. Dover Motion’s novel, patented, SmartStage embedded controls provides key packaging advantages, reduced cabling and cable management requirements, and incredible system value for our clients.
The SmartStage XY linear motor stages surprised us with their speed and silence. They have handily met our need for fast, accurate movements, and long holding stability. We love the internally protected optical encoders, making the stages more reliable and easier to work with.
Microscopy Learning Center
We’ve created this library of resources to connect you the latest information on microscopy and to guide you to expert insights, product documentation, and reviews of key concepts and considerations that will accelerate your next discovery or breakthrough.
This whitepaper provides an introduction to the SmartStage™ XY platform and a comparison to alternative technologies to show why this technology is already transforming automated digital microscopy.
Optimize the performance and cost of your automated optical imaging system with 6 key equations for selecting an imaging sensor, objective lens, Z-focusing nano-positioning stage and XY sample positioning motion.
This white paper addresses high performance Z axis focusing for automated microscopy, along with some recent innovations in this space.
Through concurrent and collaborative engineering, Dover Motion designed a compact custom XYZ stage solution to produce high-precision cell imaging in parallel with the instrument design.
Dover Motion worked closely with Invetech to define the motion system requirements and tightly integrate the hardware in the overall instrument design.
View some of our educational videos here.
Topics that will be covered are selecting the right type of sensor and sensor size, magnification, field of view, pixel size, resolution, depth of field, and numerical aperture for digital microscopy.
Depth of field is an important criteria for selecting the precision and resolution of focusing stages for automated imaging applications. This video explains what depth of field refers to for objective focusing.
When designing complex systems, there are a lot of options to consider. In this video, we explain the XY stage for sample positioning, and Z stage for precision microscope objective focusing motion.
This video covers key formulas for selecting the optimal imaging sensor and microscope objective for your digital imaging application.
Ask an Engineer
Contact our team of experts to solve your application’s specific needs.
What is Digital Microscopy?
Traditionally, microscopes have been human operated, with the user looking into an eyepiece, but increasingly, microscopy is becoming automated. At the heart of many biomedical instruments lies an automated regular or inverted microscope.
What are the functions of a Digital Microscope?
The functions of a Digital Microscope or an inverted microscope are discussed here. In addition to basic functions such as controlling the digital camera, illumination and filter selection, microscopes require two critical positioning functions. One is to precisely position the sample on the microscope slide in the XY plane. This can either be done with fast moves between adjacent fields (field sequential imaging), or precise constant velocity motion (scanning imaging).
What is the purpose of a Microscope Stage?
XY motion is performed by an XY microscope stage, which is typically a thin, low-profile XY stage with a central opening for the optical axis.
Older manual microscope designs use a mechanical microscope stage to move the sample. New automated XY microscope stages are typically actuated with stepper motors and lead screws, cutting-edge designs employ a linear motor and a linear encoder on each axis, and close a servo feedback loop. The second key positioning task in an automated microscope is a focus axis. This moves the objective relative to the sample so as to maintain critical focus at all times.
What is the benefit of a Direct Drive Linear Motor in a Microscope Stage?
Traditional manual microscopes use micrometers to focus on the sample. Automated microscope focus axes typically use piezo or direct drive technology. In a microscope stage, direct drive linear motors offer extended range, allowing the objective to be retracted during sample load and unload, together with very high resolution and repeatability. The focus axis position is typically commanded by an autofocus sensor, which derives a focus error signal via a laser diode passing through the objective or by a software autofocus algorithm.
Why is Field of View important when Optimizing the Microscope XY Stage and Z Focusing Axis?
Once the optical imaging elements are selected, the mechanical microscope stage architecture can be finalized. A typical field of view is much smaller than the sample being imaged. Thus, in order to image an entire sample, either the sample or the camera / objective will need to move along two perpendicular axes (XY). In addition, in order to properly resolve the image, the distance between the magnification objective and the camera (or image sensor) needs to be precisely adjusted. This is referred to as the Z axis. The Z axis is typically vertical and motion along it, to move the sample into the imaging field of view, occurs perpendicular to the XY plane.
What are the three common configurations of the microscopy stage’s motion hardware?
There are three common configurations of the mechanical microscope stage motion hardware. Selecting the best one depends upon the particular application’s complexities.
- The XY microscope stage moves the sample below a Z stage that is moving the objective or camera. This is the most common configuration. The benefit of this approach is that the image becomes stable after motion more quickly because the microscope slide is only moving on one motorized axis. This means it can be mounted to a sturdy structure instead of a stack of three moving axes whose resonances need to damp. During sample loading, the objective can be moved vertically away from the sample mounting area, which makes changing samples easier. Also, Abbe errors are reduced because the overall stack is shorter. To understand the impacts of Abbe errors on stage positioning, see our Abbe error white paper. This method works for regular or inverted microscope configurations.
- Three motion axes move the object being imaged in X, Y and Z directions while the camera and objective remain stationary. In this situation, the camera is very stable because it is mounted to a rigid surface. The drawback is that the travel required for the Z axis may be longer because the objective-to-imaging sensor distance is fixed. Typically, it requires less travel to move the objective with respect to the imaging sensor or camera.
- The objective or camera is moved in X, Y and Z directions, while the sample remains fixed. This approach works best when imaging small parts such as a microscope slide. As part size increases, the complexity of this approach also increases. Larger travels tend to require two axes to support a beam that has the vertical focus axis with both the imaging sensor and objective mounted to it.