Industrial microscopes are essential tools in the development and production of electronic components, metal parts and other products. The DSX Series of opto-digital microscopes (DSX500, DSX500i, and DSX100) launched by Olympus in early 2012 offer not only a high level of observation performance, they are also designed with close attention to ease-of-use, featuring intuitive operation and touch panels like those on digital cameras or smartphones. The microscopes also incorporate extensive functions for sharing observation data and expertise within an organization. Here, Yasuo Nishiyama and Yuki Kobayashi, both with extensive experience in industrial microscopes, describe the technology behind the DSX Series.
Information of this article is based on the facts as of March 31, 2012.
Assistant General Manager
Products Development Dept. 5
He worked in product development for many years as a developer of electrical systems and as a Product Leader for industrial microscopes before joining the Marketing Department where he had extensive involvement in product planning. His current role is Development Product Manager, overseeing all industrial microscopes, including the DSX Series. Having been involved from the outset in its planning, he has a strong commitment to the DSX Series.
Micro-Metrology Strategy & Marketing Dept.
As well as having gained a depth of technical knowledge about industrial microscopes through sales in Japan, he also appreciates the difficulty of passing this on. Having transferred to the Marketing Department, his comment about the newly developed DSX Series was, "The microscope field is one in which you can go a long way toward satisfying users' demands. I hope I can convey the underlying fascination of microscopes to even more people."
Users Demand Practical Ease-of-Use
A microscope is an instrument that uses technological means to observe specimens. A specimen is placed in the view field and the user utilizes a variety of observational techniques to view its fine structure, such as adjusting the magnification to obtain the desired view or using polarized light (light waves that oscillate in one orientation only, the uses of which include the observation of minerals and crystals) to view features not observable using ordinary light. How clearly this fine structure can be viewed depends on the quality of these observational techniques.
Using a microscope to observe a specimen typically requires someone familiar with the instrument and already knowledgeable about the specimen. On the other hand, given a microscope with automatic operation and a user interface (UI) simple enough to be used by anyone, use of microscopes could be opened up to a wider range of users without them having to rely on specialist operators. Similarly, the workload placed on the operators would also be significantly reduced.
Utilization of Image Processing Techniques from Digital Cameras
The DSX Series was developed to be simple enough for anyone to use, while retaining the high level of optical performance that is the defining feature of a microscope. Technology commonly used in digital cameras helped make this possible.
For example, the DSX Series displays the image visible through the lens of the microscope on a high-resolution screen. Automating operations without compromising resolution requires image processing techniques to convert image information that comes in through the lens into a precise digital image. Also essential are techniques for automatically focusing on the specimen and automatically adjusting the image to achieve a suitable light level for observation.
Tutorial Mode Lowers Barriers to Entry for Microscope Use
The DSX Series is equipped with selectable operation modes to suit users with different levels of expertise. Users new to microscopes or the DSX Series can select Tutorial Mode to achieve the optimum output simply by following instructions that appear on the screen. In development and manufacturing, it is anticipated the microscopes will increasingly be used by specialists in fields such as materials or processing technology who want to view their own samples without having to go through a microscope operator.
The best choice for users with a basic understanding of microscopes is Advanced Mode. This allows for zooming, with a button layout based on the sequence of operation. Also available is Operator Mode, a customized version of Advanced Mode suitable for making repetitive observations.
Function for Ensuring Calibration also Automated
Auto-Calibration uses settings to eliminate variation
Calibration is an essential requirement for plants that manufacture products with stringent size specifications, such as electronic components. This is done by measuring a reference sample guaranteed to be the right size and then adjusting the microscope to produce the correct result. In the past, however, calibration procedures have tended to be cumbersome, sometimes resulting in variations between operators.
Insert the reference sample and use the Auto-Calibration function to calibrate the microscope automatically and without variation. This makes it easy to produce reliable analysis and measurement results.
Intuitive Enlargement Control Works Like a Smartphone
Intuitive operation is one of the essential requirements for achieving ease-of-use. In past microscopes, operators had to rely on their accumulated knowledge to know what to do to achieve a desired result, such as changing to a different lens if they wanted to view the specimen at a higher magnification.
Intuitive control of enlargement, just like on a smartphone
In contrast, with the DSX Series, enlarging the image can be done intuitively by opening the fingertips at the desired location, just like on a smartphone.
Seamless switching between different magnifications
To change the magnification of a microscope, it is necessary to select the appropriate lens. Normal practice is to use a low-magnification lens to identify the site of interest and then replace it with a different lens that provides a high magnification. Each time the user wants to view a different part of the specimen, they have to swap back to the low-magnification lens to restore the wider viewing field and then repeat this procedure and so on.
The DSX500 model of the DSX Series has a x13 optical zoom lens that allows the magnification to be changed seamlessly (continuously variable). This means the same lens can be used both to identify the site of interest and to perform detailed observations. When combined with digital zoom, it provides a x30 range of magnification adjustment. Using a wide viewing field to identify a site of interest and then enlarging this location for detailed observation is both a fundamental part of microscope operation and a procedure repeated frequently. Providing a wide range of magnification adjustment allows this to be done intuitively.
Macro Map Function Helps Prevent Missed Observations
Macro Map provides a continuous indication of current viewing location
When using a microscope to view miniaturized components made up of repeating structures, the nature of the task means that frequent changes in magnification make it difficult to keep track of where you are on the sample. If the observations are being made as part of an inspection, this makes it more likely defects will be missed.
The DSX Series displays the wide viewing field captured using a low magnification in a separate image from which the user can zoom in on specific locations. This is called the Macro Map function and it gives an indication of where on the wide viewing field the current enlargement is located. This provides an efficient and stress-free way to make observations of the entire sample.