Zaber Technologies designs and manufactures affordable, integrated, and easy to use precision positioning and motion control devices for applications in photonics and optics, life sciences, microscopy, and industrial automation. Their MVR motorized inverted microscope lowers the barriers of entry to automated microscopy by offering an affordable microscope built for continuous use, saving researchers both time and money.
One of the ways Zaber was able to develop an affordable yet high-performance microscope is by simplifying the optical path significantly. By eliminating the binocular eyepieces and relying solely on FLIR Blackfly USB3 cameras for image viewing and capture, vision system designers were able to eliminate several precision prisms, lenses, and iris diaphragms typically found inside a microscope. This approach resulted in cost savings, high-end performance, and a reduction in the footprint of the microscopes.
The extremely high sensitivity, low noise CMOS cameras developed by Teledyne FLIR were one of the key technologies that allowed engineers at Zaber to rethink how a microscope could be designed. Microscopes with comparable performance characteristics can cost over a hundred thousand dollars, effectively putting digital fluorescence microscopy out of reach for smaller labs, educational institutions, and private companies with limited resources. By combining high-value cameras and motion control components from Teledyne FLIR and Zaber, the same performance is now available at a fraction of the cost, making this technology more widely accessible.
Motorized microscopes allow researchers to automate repetitive imaging tasks but are often too expensive for smaller labs or companies to purchase. As a result, many researchers must book time on a microscope in a shared imaging facility or perform imaging tasks manually. This slows down the rate of discovery and introduces the risk of unintentional set-up changes to the equipment.
The MVR is designed to be affordable for most individual labs, allowing them to have a dedicated microscope for their research. The MVR is also ideally suited to high throughput, “industrial scale” biological microscopy. Zaber Technologies’ proven motorized modules have lifetimes measured in the tens of millions of cycles, which translates to years of continuous operation before any servicing is needed.
For a microscope designed to lower the barriers of entry into digital automated microscopy, integrating a highly reliable, high-performance and low-cost machine vision camera from Teledyne FLIR was an easy decision.
“FLIR Blackfly CMOS cameras are one of the key components that made it possible for us to develop a low-cost, high performance microscope like the MVR,” says David Goosen, Product Manager of Microscopy at Zaber Technologies. “The sensitivity of these cameras in low-light fluorescence imaging allows them to replace scientific cameras costing ten times more in many applications.”
MVR microscopes are equipped with a FLIR Blackfly USB3 camera. Zaber selected the Blackfly family of cameras because of the value packed combination of high quantum efficiency, low read noise, large pixel size, and the option to easily exchange the camera with any Blackfly S USB3 camera. The broad range of the latest Sony sensors available with the Blackfly S family ensures MVR users can easily optimize their camera to meet the specific needs of their application.
In addition, the Blackfly S USB3 camera line is fully compatible with the Micro-Manager open-source microscopy software that Zaber uses, and the USB3 connection makes setup easy while still providing a high data transfer rate. Other required specs were C-mount compatibility and the option to use larger format sensors when required by customer applications. The performance, value, and wide selection available make Teledyne FLIR machine vision cameras extremely versatile and suitable for specialized applications like motorized microscopy.