Insights from industry

Understanding Customer Requirements to Build Application-Specific Products for Scientific Instrumentation

insights from industryTom FredaCEOPrior Scientific

Please can you introduce yourself and Prior Scientific? 

Tom Freda is currently the CEO of Prior Scientific.  The company is based in Cambridge UK with facilities in Rockland MA USA, Jena Germany, Tokyo Japan, and Suzhou China.  Tom has a Master’s degree in Engineering and has been with Prior Scientific for 28 years. ​​​​​​

What makes Prior Scientific an expert in microscope automation? 

Prior has been a leader in the design and manufacture of microscope automation equipment for over 30 years.  The company was founded over 100 years ago manufacturing routine microscopes and has evolved to produce precision automation and optical products in more recent times.  Prior understands what is required for various microscope techniques and has the expertise to provide the images that our customers need.  

When might applications benefit from custom microscopes and instruments? 

Applications that benefit the most from our custom capabilities are applications where a standard “off the shelf” microscope does not have all of the automation features that Prior can provide or does so at a very high price point.  Prior can tailor a system to supply only what is needed without requiring our customers to purchase a system with features that they do not need.

Why is it beneficial for customers to buy OEM solutions? 

Prior is at its heart a manufacturing company and we collaborate with our OEM customers to design and manufacture precision quality products.  We have close relationships with all of our OEM customers and function as an extension of their engineering and manufacturing facilities.  We have a culture of open communications and look at our customers as partners to assist them to be successful.

Why should customers choose to partner up with Prior Scientific? 

Our customers come first at Prior and we are committed to delivering quality and value.  Prior has a long history of manufacturing precision products and we have experience in many of the microscopy applications so Prior can provide proven solutions much faster.  We have a huge variety of optical and automation products and can tailor them to meet our customers’ exact needs.

How does partnering up with Prior minimize costs and maximize ROI? 

Prior has a unique value proposition in our industry.  We look to partner with companies that are successful or have a high probability of success.  We design and manufacture custom systems at a very low initial cost as our business model is to develop long-term manufacturing partnerships.  We are able to do the engineering and design at a fraction of the cost the design firms typically charge as are goal is to manufacture the production systems over many years. 

How does Prior provide application-specific solutions which are customizable and suitable for all customers? 

First off, we listen to our customers and ask the proper questions to understand their application.  Our customers are involved in the design process in as little or as much as they are comfortable.  We have a very experienced design team in all aspects including mechanical, electrical, and electro-mechanical engineering as well as optics, software, and firmware.

What range of OEM products and components can Prior tailor to their customers? 

Prior does not try to limit itself to particular products or components.  We are happy to work with anyone that needs a precision device.  Much of our experience is in motorized XY stages, precision Piezo devices, Z and focus systems, laser focus, and automated nosepieces, filter turrets, and filter wheels for microscopes. 

 Prior has an in-house R&D team that works alongside manufacturing. How does having everything under one roof benefit your work and how is it shown in your products and customer satisfaction?

Prior takes the whole project on, from design, to prototyping, to manufacturing.  This enables our customers to get the products that they want without having to outsource the different elements of the project.  Our engineers work closely with our assembly technicians and we are able to easily and quickly solve all of the typical problems that come up when transitioning a product from prototype to production.

How does Prior Scientific show flexibility in the projects it undertakes? 

As mentioned earlier, we are a manufacturing company, so we are free to take on any project that makes sense for the company.  We do some contract manufacturing for some companies where Prior did not do the design, but manufactures and tests the products to our customers specifications.  We have been very successful with this business model and it works well along side of the OEM and standard products that we manufacture.

Can you give some examples of projects Prior Scientific has worked on?   

We have made systems for a variety of applications and microscope techniques.  Applications include fertility analysis, digital pathology, high speed slide scanning, tissue culture, cancer diagnostics, and fast precision metrology.  Microscope techniques include super resolution, light sheet imaging, multi spectral fluorescence, and bio-luminescence.   Our Queensgate products are used in semiconductor manufacture, high speed metrology, and are used to test the majority of the world’s hard disks and read heads.

Tell us about Queensgate and its cutting-edge nanopositioning technology.

Queensgate Instruments was an original pioneer in using Piezo technology to move small distances very quickly and precisely.  Queensgate was founded in 1979 and was a spin out from a ground-breaking research program at Imperial College in London.  Current products include high precision sensors, stages, control electronics and software.  Queensgate is most successful in providing products at the highest levels of speed and precision.

What do you think the future of OEM projects is, and what part will Prior Scientific have in this?

In general, customers want to move more quickly and precisely. We see many new startups developing new imaging techniques using AI and machine learning in diagnostics, and it has been interesting to be part of the product development journey. Our OpenStand offers an excellent platform for these early-stage companies. With OpenStand, the hardware can be developed alongside the software, and that together provides a faster route to market.

About Tom Freda

Tom Freda is currently the CEO of Prior Scientific.  The company is based in Cambridge UK with facilities in Rockland MA USA, Jena Germany, Tokyo Japan, and Suzhou China.  Tom has a Master’s degree in Engineering and has been with Prior Scientific for 28 years. ​​​​​​​

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Kate Marvelyan

Written by

Kate Marvelyan

After growing up in Essex, Kate graduated with a First Class from Manchester Metropolitan University in Education, followed by a Master’s in Publishing from the University of Plymouth, for which she received a distinction. Having a passion for writing and communicating, Kate worked as a freelancer before joining AZo in 2021. In her spare time, Kate loves running and reading as well as spending time with her twin daughters. Kate loves to travel, both abroad and to visit her family in Cornwall and is attempting to learn Spanish.

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