Applied Imaging and Leica Biosystems: SL50 Automated Microscope Slide Loader

We worked with a global team to provide turnkey design, development and transfer to manufacture for the world’s first automated microscope slide loader.

Client: Applied Imaging and Leica Biosystems

Product: SL50 Automated slide loader


Australian Design Award of the Year 2002, Engineering Excellence Award 2001

Regulatory Requirements

UL 3101-1, EN 61010

Expertise Used

Motion, Industrial Design, Usability/HFE, Design for Manufacture, Connectivity & Systems Integration

Creating the world’s first automated microscope slider loader

Our client approached us to assist in the development of an automated system to load and unload glass slides onto a microscope stage. The product is an ideal companion for high-throughput imaging applications, and suitable for the clinical diagnostic and life sciences markets.

Working with their team across the United Kingdom and United States, and with a specialist microscope stage manufacturer in Germany, we were responsible for the turnkey design, development and transfer to manufacture of the world’s first automated microscope slide loader.

The SL50 was designed to be controlled by existing software applications. Once connected, it automated the process of loading and unloading slides onto a compatible automated microscope stage.

Automating this process enables imaging functions to be carried out overnight, unattended and at remote locations. The instrument is also capable of enhancing many software applications such as digital imaging and archiving, telepathology, digital imaging for diagnosis, and rare event detection.

During development, we overcame various challenges including:

  • Developing the mechanical automation to reliably operate in 24/7 laboratories
  • Reliably handling slides of various sizes and quality
  • Slide positioning accuracy to 3 µm
  • Incorporating detailed end-user input in the design of Beta units to optimize the instrument design

From idea to production in just 14 months

We delivered our client’s instrument from idea to market in just 14 months. The development was completed in just 12 months from brief to delivery of Beta prototypes, and a further two months to deliver pilot production units.

Following development, the instrument was transferred to our in-house manufacturing facility. For more than seven years, our ongoing manufacturing and sustaining engineering support has included:

  • Design upgrades, including new feature addition
  • Ongoing product technical knowledge and support
  • Product lifecycle support including proactive obsolescence planning
  • Having the instrument meet the latest regulatory requirements for safety and EMC

Our continued manufacturing assistance has delivered several hundreds of units worldwide and ensured reliable 24-hour operation.


Designing and manufacturing the world's first automated microscope slide loader

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