When the Right Microscope for Your Application Doesn’t Exist

While there are a huge number of commercial options now for many microscopy techniques, it is not always possible to find a microscope with the perfect specifications for your application. Maybe you also need a greater degree of flexibility or customizability in the set-up or a more affordable option than commercially available.

In all of these scenarios, the solution is to build your own instrument. This can either be done entirely in-house or by outsourcing the building process. The former may seem cost-effective but relies heavily on having the right expertise, while the latter may prove prohibitively expensive.

What if there was an option to simplify in-house building and design? Prior Scientific has developed the OpenStand as a cost-effective solution to reduce design and build times significantly.1 Intended as a fully motorized ‘base’ for microscope design, the OpenStand simplifies and streamlines the development pipeline by providing a flexible framework as a starting point for adaptation.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Gorodenkoff

OpenStand Fast-Track Solutions

The OpenStand streamlines new product creation by providing a full ‘out of the box’ development platform. Having all of the essential motorized components integrated together as part of a complete system eliminates the time-consuming process of interfacing different software and hardware, which are often not readily compatible within a single platform if they come from different manufacturers.

As well as simplifying and accelerating the build process, using OpenStand for your custom instruments also means that they are immediately production-ready. Clients can move straight from prototype through to manufacture without the intermediate step of identifying more cost-effective or widely available alternatives to components of their initial system.

Prior Scientific’s portfolio of OEM parts includes motorized stages and focus modules, autofocus systems, nanopositioning devices, and much more.2  There are a number of options for sample translation and placement; motorized stages for applications as diverse as digital pathology and hardness testing, Z-deck platforms for electrophysiology work, and large format stages for semiconductor wafer scanning.  The OpenStand can be integrated with a robotic loader to achieve automated scanning of fixed slides. Images can be acquired with a range of magnifications and imaging techniques within an automated routine using Prior’s motorized nosepieces, filter turrets and OEM LED illuminators.

The large range of components means you can get exactly the right optics and illumination for your sample types. Optical configurations can be designed around specialist objectives, path lengths, and imaging techniques to ensure optimal image quality. Prior Scientific has extensive experience working with applications across several industries, including life sciences, semiconductors, and materials. For example, for biological samples where exciting with short wavelengths may cause a large amount of unwanted fluorescence background, the OpenStand can be configured with high-speed filter wheels to remove excess signal and ensure good contrast for the desired images.

The OpenStand architecture has been used to create both confocal and fluorescence microscopes and can be designed to accept cell culture dishes, slides, or even whole animals for biological applications. For materials applications, the OpenStand can be used to create instruments for characterization or even quality control and metrology of photovoltaics, semiconducting wafers and micro-electro-mechanical (MEMS) devices.

The high level of automation possibilities with the OpenStand for sample positioning, focusing, and feedback make it ideal for high-throughput measurements as well as automated inspection and vision-based applications. By integrating the microscope output with automated analysis and machine learning capabilities, images can be processed and analyzed on the fly.

Looking Ahead

Another significant advantage of the modular approach of the OpenStand is future design iteration. Components can be easily swapped out for others and new functionalities can be added to the frame to upgrade the overall capabilities of the microscope, whilst continuing to work from the same control electronics and software development kit. A H101A motorized stage, for example, can be swapped for A H138A with an increased travel range to allow scanning of more samples.

The OpenStand has been at the core of the development of a new commercial automated system for semiconductor analysis. Working in collaboration with Semimetrics Ltd and Durham University, Prior Scientific’s OpenStand has been fitted with a pair of modulated infra-red lasers combined with Prior’s PF850 laser reflected light autofocusing system. The team has significantly benefitted from the accelerated development time while knowing that any designs and devices can be modified and upgraded in the future.

Prior Scientific also boasts short waiting times for the start of production after a design is finalized. All their manufacturing and testing is carried out at their ISO 9001:2015 certified manufacturing facility in Cambridge. Integrating design and manufacture in this way allows for a seamless product development cycle.

Prior Scientific Support

All of the OpenStand range comes with the support of Prior Scientific and their extensive expertise in precision manufacturing and automation of optical and electromechanical equipment. As well as supplying a comprehensive range of existing products, Prior Scientific can draw upon their 30 years of expertise to develop custom solutions for your application.

To support the development process, Prior Scientific can provide guidance and advice on the best way and components to create a system for your application and help you find ways to bring your innovative ideas to market faster than ever before.

References and Further Reading


  1. Prior Scientific (2021) OpenStand Systems, https://www.prior.com/product-category/openstand-custom-microscopes-and-optical-systems, accessed 5th May 2021
  2. Prior Scientific (2021) OpenStand Catalogue, https://www.prior.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/OpenStand_Brochure.pdf, accessed 5th May 2021
  3. Prior Scientific (2021) PF850 Laser Autofocus System, https://www.prior.com/product/purefocus850, accessed 5th May 2021



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