4 Tips to Buying a Microtome
What should you look for when purchasing a Microtome? Here, we offer 4 tips that will help you through the process. These tips are meant to be a helpful reminder of important considerations when buying a microtome. Once you know what the considerations are, the next step is determining which microtome is best for your needs.
TIP 1: Safety and Ergonomics
Keeping the lab environment and the staff safe are always of prime importance. Consider a microtome that provides the following safety measures:
- Multiple safety locks on handwheel - locking it in the upper position for safe specimen or blade exchanges, or any position for safe specimen orientation.
- A blade guard that covers the blade during breaks to eliminate user contact with the blade.
- Emergency stop button on the instrument housing or foot switch for immediate stop of the motor in case of an emergency.
- To prevent uncontrolled starting of motorized sectioning, requiring two separate buttons to be pressed.
- The hand wheel handle of the motorized rotary microtomes can be centered to avoid injury while working in motorized mode.
- The object head balance can be adjusted dependent on the object clamp size and weight to prevent it accidentally dropping into the knife while sectioning quickly.
- The blade can be safely inserted or removed from the blade holder without the risk of injury.
- If preferring a manual rotary microtome, make sure that the coarse feed wheel is as close to the user as possible to allow prolonged ergonomic comfort.
TIP 2: Good Section Quality is Crucial for Patient Care
Because laboratory personnel are entrusted with human tissue, quality always comes first. When cutting sections from patient tissue, every section counts.
- High quality sections are a result of multiple factors: precision, stability and quality of the individual components, including the following:
- The precision of the feeding mechanism.
- The stability of the microtome to ensure vibration-free sectioning.
- Quality of the components e.g. knife holders, specimen clamps and associated consumables (blades).
TIP 3: Reliability / Brand Reputation of the Product
Ask yourself the following questions to narrow down your choices:
- Should I consider Used versus New?
Buying new provides peace of mind knowing the equipment has no prior history. Buying from a used equipment supplier bears the risk that the product has not been updated according to the guidelines of the manufacturer and thus does not work properly. Buying factory-refurbished equipment ensures that the instruments have been updated with original spare parts by trained personnel with factory warranty.
- What are your peers saying?
Seek out others that use microtomes and find out what works/doesn’t work. This includes site visits, customer product reviews, blogs, etc. This will help you gain the perspective needed for a decision in your lab.
- What companies/products are recognized as reliable in the industry?
Consider how long a company has been in the industry. More importantly, does the have a high level of customer service to ensure you are supported throughout the entire process - from Sales, to delivery/installation, to after sales support.
TIP 4: Maintenance and Service
A microtome is built to last, but when a service call is required, ensure that it is serviced appropriately by the manufacturer.
- Confirm there are manufacturer-compliant and qualified engineers available to repair the microtome to extend its useful life.
- Ensure the appropriate parts are available to service instrument to factory settings. Many third-party service providers may not have access to parts, and/or may not have immediate availability to parts, which can lead to downtime, ultimately affecting turnaround time and patient care.