Perfect Focus: The Importance of Linear Stages in Imaging Applications

With the rapid advancements in technology today, imaging products and processes have increasingly become demanding in terms of being able to handle even the most minute and precise of applications. These are usually found in industries such as manufacturing, health and sciences, forensics, and many more. More precise, accurate, and reliable components such as miniature linear stages are therefore also being developed in order to meet these stringent requirements.

XY Imaging

Especially in the field of automated imaging, precise control is needed in order to achieve proper visualization of objects and items. For instance, in microscopy, linear stages such as XY stages are vital so that the object can be incrementally moved along two axes in order to achieve the desired magnification. In this case, the imaging mechanism is on a stationary axis, usually mounted on a steady bridge or a cantilevered support structure. However, this set-up becomes challenging in cases where the sample size is large.

Alternatively, the sample can be the one placed on the stationary axis while the imaging system can be mounted on the XY table. In large set-ups, the XY movement is achieved by moving the imaging axis along an overhead bridge, while the bridge itself also moves in another direction or axis. These techniques are applicable from the most delicate and minute set-ups such as those involved in microscopy, to large and expansive systems such as those in 3D printing.

Split-axis imaging is the midway or compromise between a planar XY stage and a moving imaging axis. In this set-up, the sample moves along one axis while the imaging system moves above it along a stationary bridge. Since the sample is mobile, additional considerations regarding focusing is important to keep in mind in such a system.

Imaging System Parameters

Precise, reliable, and high-performance linear stages are critical in order to achieve automated imaging systems that are equally accurate and optimum. There are certain imaging parameters that need to be controlled in order to achieve perfect output, and that linear stages should be able to address in the design of the positioning system.

For example, field of view (FOV) is the space or area that needs to be captured by the imaging system at any given point in time. The sample is usually larger than the FOV, and it is the job of the XY stage to be able to image some or all parts of the sample by moving it as well as the imaging system in conjunction with each other along the two axes. During this process, the camera acquires numerous images of various fields of view. These then will be used as the data input for further and systematic analysis of the sample. Other parameters include magnification and numerical aperture, as well as imaging resolution and depth of field.

Imaging Applications in the Modern World

As mentioned, automated imaging applications are a vital part of everyday life these days. Some specific examples where linear stages play an important role in the success of imaging applications include laboratory testing and analysis in the fields of medicine, biochemical applications, and more. These tasks are considered routine in their respective industries, and take place in laboratories and hospitals all around the world every day. Without the technology of linear stages in imaging applications, these would not be possible.

The assembly of electronic components and computers also utilizes automated microscopic imaging, and linear stages increase the efficiency by which modern-day gadgets and appliances are manufactured.

The Future of Automated Imaging

Much like any other technology nowadays, imaging continues to improve alongside others, incorporating various components that greatly enhance it capabilities. Engineers are constantly working in order to further develop technologies for linear motion solutions so that the industry can keep up with the burgeoning evolution of its many applications.

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