Happy New Decade

So are you all brimming with optimism for the new year? The new decade? I certainly hope so.

2009 saw some pretty depressing times. Companies laying off staff, investments collapsing and all round financial woe.

Even the weather seemed to have it in for us, throwing down a few inches, and in some places feet, of snow, as if to say, 'What do you mean you've not had enough.'
Well if the experts are to be believed and let's face it, they don't have a great track record, 2010 is the start of the recovery. We may even see some return on investments.

We are especially optimistic here at Linkam as our T95 controllers are finally shipping and flying out the door like hot cakes (must be a pun in there somewhere). We are also near to completing our humidity generator to enable between 5 and 95% controlled humidity in any of our stages using the standard gas ports featured on most of our stages.
Our website is finally visible in China again, so to our many future and existing customers, Welcome back and apologies for the darkness.
Talking of darkness, we've passed the shortest day (21st December in this hemisphere) so it's downhill all the way to summer, yipee.
Now if only it wasn't so damn cold outside, I'll have to see what R&D can do.

Happy New Year from all at Linkam.

Thin Film Tensile Testing App Note

We have received a couple more great application notes involving our Tensile Testing Stage the TST350.

These two come from the folks at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
Here's the 'Introduction' from the App Note,
'Fragmentation Test Method for Adhesion Analysis of Coatings In Situ in a Microscope'.
You can read the full application note on our website.
'Mechanical integrity is a key attribute of coatings, which should not crack and delaminate during processing and during service life. Numerous methods are available to determine the adhesion of coatings, including tape and pull-out tests, and indentation and scratch techniques. The accuracy of these methods is however compromised by the presence of 'third body interactions', such as indenter-coating friction in case of scratch and indentation tests, or adherent-coating traction in case of peel and pull-out tests. The fragmentation test method detailed in the present note is free of third-body interactions. It enables quantifying the cohesive properties (which control cracking) and the adhesive properties (which control delamination) of coatings on high-elongation substrates. The method has been used to analyze a broad range of coating/substrate combinations, including inorganic coatings on polymers [1-3] and steel (e.g, [4]) and organic coatings on polymers (e.g., [e.g, [5]). The following section introduces the theory of coating fragmentation and calculation of the adhesive strength. The experimental conditions are detailed in a further section. Finally two application examples are given to illustrate the method, with focus on adhesive strength of an organic coating on a PET substrate, and a transparent electrode on a PEN substrate.'
With Thanks to Dr. Manfred Feustel of Resultec Analytical Equipment for his collaboration.


The Pressure Is On

Building a high pressure cell for a microscope is very difficult, but building a pressure cell that you can also control the temperature of, is a extremely difficult. Just google it and see how many people have actually done it. We're talking 175bar up to 250C or 40bar up to 400C.

In order to build a high pressure cell you need to use materials with very high tensile strength, so you are pretty much limited to metals. As we all know, metals expand with heating. As soon as the material your cell is made out of starts to expand, you get leaks. So what do you do? You need to use more tension on your cell and hence you need more material to make it stronger. More material means more mass, so now you have a temperature control problem. Added to that, when you pressurize a material you change the temperature, so now you have to have to compensate for that. Don't get me started about the health and safety aspects of a failure at high pressure when pressurizing samples with gas. It's like a gunshot going off. And so the nightmare goes on.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of the challenges faced in developing such a product.
Why would we want to tackle this? Well part of it is because nobody else has, at least not commercially and to the resolution that we have, but mostly it is because our R&D guys love a challenge, often to the point of despair in the sales department!

We have two new pressure cells available for beta testing.
The HPC250 - Up to 175bar and 250C
The HPC400 - Up to 40bar and 400C
Temperature control is +/- 0.5C at rates up to 30C/min
Samples are loaded into a small chamber of 2.4mm diameter x 4mm deep and sandwiched by sapphire windows to enable both transmitted and reflected light observation.
Please contact us if you want to beta test before this item goes on commercial release.
The stages are already being used by high profile laboratories in Canada and Switzerland.

Building Business In India

How often do you return from a business trip wondering whether it was worthwhile and whether you are going to see any return on investment?

Not many trips leave me with the feeling that they were exactly the slam dunk success that I hoped they would be.
However, I have to say that this last trip to visit Towa Optics in New Delhi was exactly that. If I could be guaranteed that kind of trip each time, I'm pretty sure I'd have hell of a lot more airmiles than I do now.

The Batra family run the hugely successful trading company, Towa Optics, headed up by Mr. Rakesh Batra as Managing Director and his wife, Mrs, Kavita Batra, who manages the nine branches of Towa around India.
The latest family member added to the Towa team, is Manav Batra, who spent a year in Dubai setting up the Towa Optics office covering the U.A.E.

Towa Optics represents highly reputable companies in India such as Nikon, Thermo, Q-Imaging and of course Linkam, but it is not the impressive sales track record that Towa has in representing these companies- the numerous awards from Nikon and Thermo on the walls of their conference room stands testament to that- it is the enth
usiasm and generosity in sharing information that radiates from the Charasmatic Batra Senior that instils the confidence in any relationship with Towa Optics.

It is easy to see why Towa Optics is so successful, Rakesh Batra builds long term relationships, there is no 'making a quick buck' philosophy here. It is also clear that all the staff really respect Mr. Batra, many have been with him for more than 20 years. He can depend on them to maintain the relationships he has built with many customers over the years.

It's 10:30pm, we are discussing the following day of Linkam sales training for the sales guys he has flown in from all over India for my visit.

'Do you think it would be useful to have a geologist come in tomorrow and give some background info on fluid inclusions to the guys', Rakesh asks.
'Sure,' I say, 'of course, great idea, but it's 10:30.'
'No problem.' He says, and is back on his blackberry in an instant.
A brief conversation and the deal is done. An emminent geologist now a top manager in large cement producing corporation will attend the meeting at
'How?' I ask astounded. Knowing that anyone I call at this time, family included, is not going to be sympathetic to any request, least of all a rollercoaster ride through mid morning Delhi traffic.
'Oh, he's a very good, old customer of mine. I've known him for years.'

And this turns out to be the key to how Mr. Batra makes so many things happen. He sees every business transaction as an opportunity to build a relationship. Once you buy from Towa, you're in it for the long run. You can depend on them for service and support, they will not rest until you are completely satisfied.

And that is why I flew back to Heathrow feeling really confident that this business trip was not only a great success but that Linkam has a great future in the Indian market.

I wonder when I'll get that 10:30pm call for a favour. I'm prett
y sure that I'll end up doing whatever Mr. Batra asks....so long as it doesn't involve high speed commuting through Delhi traffic. I still wake up screaming from that experience.
Many thanks to Rakesh, Kavita and Manav, for your hospitality and generosity, I look forward to working with you for many years to come.

Vince Kamp

HUBBA November

I know there could be tens of people beyond linkam that actually read the HUBBA blog posts, tens probably being an optimistic estimate, but to those treasured few, here is yet another awesome idea submitted in the hope of receiving not only the much coveted HUBBA trophy, but perhaps more so, the 50 quid in hard currency that goes with it.

Our T95 LinkPad system controller comes with a touch screen LCD panel used to input instructions to the Linkam stage attached. These seems to work beautifully on the iphone but with our LinkPad, the bevel of the LCD screen and the angle at which it sits means that users with particularly .....er....chubby digits have a little trouble hitting the keys around the edge.

Hence we need a stylus. The problem was the LinkPad had not been designed to accomodate a stylus so we needed to find a way to attach it without some horrible springy telephone cord type attachment.

Our Production Manager, Richard Lloyd, came up with an idea of mounting two tiny magnets inside the LinkPad bevel which would then hold a small pda style stylus on the side of the unit.

Yep, pretty simple, but nobody thought about how it could be done or put into action.
Nice one Rich.

Linkam's Awesome New Hardinge SV150 Lathe

I just wanted to show off our new awesome Lathe, which has just been installed at our R&D blue sky lab in Holland.

This lathe was bought for its high accuracy 0.005mm repeatability in X and Z axis and capability to machine complex contours.
It has an incredibly stable iron base (3,5 tons) which contributes to the very high finishes (ideal for some new highly reflective surfaces we are working with....can't give anymore away for the moment)

A fully programmable tailstock makes it possible to turn long precision lead screws such as those in our TST350 tensile testing stage.
By using some new 3D software we can design and machine extremely complex contours and then simulate the machining of the component in 3D before having to make a single cut.

Look out for some really amazing new stage shapes and components.

More Awesome Heating Stage Sample Pics

Our online Thermal Microscopy Gallery just got a bit more awesome thanks to some great pics submitted by Prof. Duncan Bruce.

When we get enough images, we will build a dedicated thermal microscopy gallery and award some significant prizes at the end of each year. (Yes, even more exciting than free spares for your linkam stage).

I know the gallery is getting a bit liquid crystal heavy, but they just look so cool.

Those of you in the LC biz will no doubt have heard of Prof. Bruce and his group at the University of York. Even so, you can read about their work here.

Duncan Bruce has been using Linkam stages for liquid crystal research since back in the day and the fact that he is still using them today leads me to believe that they're still cutting the mustard.

Images are copyright to Prof. Duncan W. Bruce, Chemistry Dept., University of York, UK

Please send in your thermal microscopy pics to vince at linkam . co . uk

HUBBA October

Ok, so this month's HUBBA was awarded a bit late, but I'm on crutches after some hip surgery, which I'm using as an excuse for all sorts of things, including being a bit whiny and bad tempered.

This month, Rob Duncan gets the award for a great bit of recycling that actually generates a bit of income as well.

Our peltier cooled stages and ultra high temperature stages require water circulation for cooling and we modify a special aquarium pump to achieve this. These pumps come with a whole mess of water filters and tubing which Rob has being selling on Ebay.
Rather than pocket the income, Rob blew the lot on semi-fine dining for all at Jimmy Spices, all you can eat buffet in Epsom.

Nice one Rob, how many more pumps have we got to sell to get the next free meal?

Pretty Cool Liquid Crystal Phase Transition Movies

Linkam Hotstages are used for some pretty fascinating applications, but none is more visually stunning than the research into liquid crystal phase transitions.

I've borrowed this description of a liquid crystal from wikipedia:

'Liquid crystals (LCs) are substances that exhibit a phase of matter that has properties between those of a conventional liquid and those of a solid crystal. For instance, an LC may flow like a liquid, but its molecules may be oriented in a crystal-like way.'

The crystal like property is what rotates polarized light and gives off those whacky colours. By changing the electric field, like in a display, or changing the temperature, like in an LC temperature label, it is possible to control the colour change of the liquid crystal.
By using our liquid crystal pro stage scientists all over the world, have been able to accurately charecterize and engineer liquid crystals to create the displays you are probably using to read this blog entry right now.

check out the videos that Michael Davidson and his team at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State sent to us. You can see them by clicking on the youtube clip above or by visiting our Liquid Crystal Pro page on our websiste.
A THMS600 stage with an Olympus BX2 polarizing microscope with HMC was used to capture these videos.

Temperature Control With Zeiss Axiovision

While we offer our own temperature control and image capture software in the form of Linksys 32 -DV we recognize that there are far more sophisticated and feature laden image capture packages available, particularly in terms of image analysis.

It is important to us to work with partners who have experience of using our heating and freezing microscope stages, so that they can really understand how the system works.

We are proud to say that the software gurus at Imaging Associates (IMAS) have developed a really neat module for Zeiss Axiovision, so that you can now use your fully motorized Zeiss Axioimager with the Axiovision image analysis software suite and accurately control the temperature of your sample in one pretty awesome package.

The Linkam Sales Team Welcomes Some New Talent

What? Linkam have recruited even more staff? But aren't we in a recession? What about the great recruitment freeze everyone keeps moaning about?

Well we aren't subscribing to all this pessimism and are striving to grow and improve. There can be no greater company investment than recruiting talented people to work with. Building teams that can collectively solve problems and grow business is the key to our success.

This year we are taking extra measures to ensure our customers get the best possible product and service we can provide.

So yesterday we welcomed Rosie Hider to our sales team. Rosie has a first class degree with honours from the University of Manchester in Biology and will help us develop more user info on our site, respond quicker to customer inquiries and assist in building a more detailed database of customer feedback to ensure we are designing and manufacturing the products that everyone needs.

HUBBA time again

This is the second month of presenting the HUBBA award and lots of great ideas are starting to roll in. Last month, Jim and Jack launched their online photo gallery for the budding amateur snappers in the company and there are some pretty good shots up there already.

This month one of our junior engineers, Patrick Martin, came up with a great idea to improve assembly of our condenser lenses and condenser body for the Imaging Station. As a result of this idea we are confident that our condenser lenses will be assembled quickly and efficiently while maintaining the strain free integrity and no compromise on overal quality.
This was one of those ideas that had everyone slapping themselves and muttering 'Now why the heck didn't I think of that.' Nice one Paddy, enjoy your well earned 50quid. I'm sure the beers will be on you tonight.

Awesome New Ultra High Temperature Stage With XY Manipulation

Our amazing team of R&D creatives in Holland have cooked up a truly special new hotstage.
I think you will agree that this instrument looks fantastic but does it work? In fact it's better than we hoped. This instrument was very difficult to build but the results are all good. We'll soon have an update from Bob Bodnar's group at Virginia Tech who have been testing it extensively in their fluid inclusion lab.
This year we are spending even more time considering the usability and user interface of our instruments. We are focusing on details such as the feel of the manipulators, distance the sample moves with each turn, ease of sample loading, range of objectives that can be used, the reactivity of materials, the quality of the seals and finally the finish, to give our customers the reassurance that they have purchased an exceptional instrument.
These details are all considered during the primary design focus of stage performance.....does this stage actually do what I need it to?

The beauty of new TS1400XY is the excellent temperature control possible by using a temperature controlled horizontal ceramic tube, which creates a micro oven environment around the sample. A precise manipulator moves a sapphire sample holder in X and Y directions within the heating tube.
This is all accomplished with just 6mm of required working distance so you can still use decent mag lenses with relatively high NA.
The temperature range is from room temp up to 1400C with heating rates from 1 to 150C/min.
Accuracy has been tested with fine wire thermocouples and is +/-1C.
Contact us for more info on this stage.
In the meantime we have lots of new exciting products we will be talking about soon and some really amazing stuff coming out of our blue sky factory in Holland, that's if Apple doesn't poach our guys first.

Linkam Hotstage Web Albums

You have got to just love Google. They keep on giving away awesome free web tools. I know that in terms of online photo albums, Flickr.com is the most popular and perhaps justifiably so but we have decided to use picasa web albums from google. The free image editing software you can download is fantastic, simple to use and makes organising your pics a breeze.

We have put together several albums of images showing our stages in greater detail, so that you can get a closer look at the products. It's that thing about images being worth so many thousands of words again.
We will keep adding to these albums, including images of samples.
You can do what you want with these pics, download them, distribute them or place them on your own site and in promotional material if you are one of our distributors.
We want you to have as much info as possible before making your choice and hopefully becoming another one of our highly valued customers. Let us know if there are some useful pics you would like to see in these albums.

Help Us Be Better Award - HUBBA August 09

We have awarded our first Help Us Be Better Award or 'HUBBA' as they will affectionately be known as.

This award goes to the member or members, as is the case this month, who come up with the best idea for improvement within the company. Whether it is an idea to improve our products, the way we build them, the environmental impact of our manufacturing or building community spirit in the company, we will award a special 'golden' trophy and 50quid in hard currency to the deserving winner.

So this month, Jim Hayward and Jack Verhoeff came up with an online photo gallery where staff can post their pics to be judged by the rest of the staff. There are a few amateur photographers in the company so I'm sure the standard of some pics will be pretty high. The best 5 pictures will be blown up, framed and displayed in the company.
Take a look and see what has been put up there so far.

Liquid Crystal Phase Transitions

In our last post we announced that we were attempting the ambitious project of creating an online thermal microscopy gallery. I'm happy to say the images and videos are slowly starting to trickle in and I will wait until there are enough of them before launching the gallery online.

In meantime, I will post the occasional image and or video clip right here on our blog.
I'm really excited to hear back from Michael Davidson, author of one of the most useful and fascinating microscopy websites on the net, Molecular Expressions, he is also director of the Optical Microscopy Division of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, a joint venture of The Florida State University, the University of Florida, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
He has kindly sent a couple of short videos showing liquid crystal phase transitions using our THMS600 stage. I hope to get a few more and look forward to posting them on the blog as soon as I can.

Every microscopist from amateur to pro will enjoy a visit to the Molecular Expressions website, there is so much interesting content, from interactive tutorials to the largest collection of photo-micrographs on the net.
I regularly refer Linkam hotstage users to check out the Microscopy primer so that they can really understand the fundamentals of microscopy and achieve far better results than they would otherwise.
Please take the time to have a look, I'm sure you will find something of interest there.

Thermal-Microscopy Gallery

current image

Have you seen the amazing Small World Gallery?
If you have even a passing interest in microscopy, or just like looking at amazing colourful pictures, then I urge you to take a look.
This online gallery is the result of an annual competition set up by Nikon to showcase amazing photo-micrography (pics taken with a microscope).

The top 20 pics from each year are really quite incredible, but I noticed that if there are any thermal microscopy images among them, I failed to find them.
So here's the idea; we are looking for thermal microscopists or really just anyone who has a thermal stage and microscope to send us their pictures. We'll build a Thermal Microscopy Gallery and we can all vote on the images. At the end of the year we will give away a high spec SLR camera for the best picture and we'll think of some other prizes for the runners up.

If you can help us make this online gallery anywhere near as incredible as the Small World gallery, then I think we will have built a really useful and perhaps inspiring online resource for all thermal microscopists.

Please send us your pictures. Contact details are on our website.
Don't forget to add temperature picture was taken, short sample description and of course all your details. We will add links to your site if you want.

Spec War: Ramping Up Spec And Sacrificing Quality

Have you noticed that more and more manufactures of anything from TV sets to scientific instruments are becoming spec obsessed?

They are in a desperate war to out-spec the competition. Bigger, faster, more feature cluttered than ever before, manufactures seem to believe that in order to sell, all they need to do is out spec their competition.
And I would guess that in the most part this must be working. After all, super car manufacturers keep trying to squeeze more and more horsepower out of their vehicles, that in the most part, will rarely be exercised beyond a Sunday morning cruise topping out at maybe 50mph, if there's a gap in the traffic big enough to allow it.
The problem with trying to win sales by simply out-specking the competition, is that either the cost or the quality may have to be compromised.
We have noticed with scientific instruments that some manufactures continually tweak up their spec in an attempt to win a tender, then ultimately disappoint the end user with a compromise in quality necessary to achieve the tender winning spec.
In our game this is temperature control. We take extraordinary measures to ensure we can achieve excellent temperature control throughout our temperature range and deliver the very best value and expectation. We will not compromise by tweaking up our specifications and misleading our end users. We know that ultimate customer satisfaction is more valuable than any quick sale based on misleading info. This is why we continue to be at the top of the temperature control microscopy market.
Delivering quality within realistic specifications and meeting expectation means the product does what it says on the tin.

Tell Us What You Think And Win A Nikon Camera

There's nothing quite like the potential damage caused by an unsatisfied customer. Actually there is. There's the potentially viral rant of a really unhappy/angry/dissatisfied customer. The really respected person in their field that everyone listens to. The one person you don't want to tell everyone he or she knows about their total dissatisfaction with the product they just purchased that was supposed to solve their problems.

In fact I'll go one further. There's a way to limit the damage caused by such a customer by listening to what they have to say and taking the necessary steps to reinstall their faith in capability of your product. No, the worst kind of damage is caused when the company selling the product does not listen or is just plain ignorant to the customers dissatisfaction.

Just take computer giant, Dell, as an example. Dell had a reputation for the worst customer service on the planet, the company was tanking, but then one day they started to listen. Jeff Jarvis was probably instrumental in this, thanks to his rant about the lousy service he had received from Dell on his hugely popular blog buzzmachine.com, but if they hadn't started to listen and to act on what their customers were talking about among themselves on blogs and forums, Dell may well have fallen off the edge. Dell has now created a complete online support community in ideamachine, a portal for Dell users to voice their ideas for improvement, it has been an unprecedented success.

Linkam is built on the satisfaction of our customer base. We have always relied on listening to our users to improve our products. In association with the launch of our new site, we would like to provide our users with an incentive for good quality feedback.

We are going to give away a Nikon Coolpix L16 7mega pixel camera every month to the Linkam User who gives us the best feedback.
Read a review on the Nikon L16.

It does not matter how old your Linkam equipment or how trivial your suggestions are, we want to hear from you. Your ideas may seem insignificant, but there are literally thousands of Linkam users out there and your ideas may benefit many of them.
All good ideas will eventually see the light of day and if your idea is good enough, you may win more than just the camera, we will also see if we can modify your hot stage with your idea and of course you can read about them on our blog.
Please visit our Feedback page and let us know what you think. First camera to be awarded on 28th August.

A Day Out At Renishaw UK

In our continued drive to develop even better relationships and understanding of the systems that we integrate with, we were excited to spend a day at Renishaw's spectroscopy department at the Old Town site.

We were shown the latest InVia Raman system with the High Speed Encoded Stage (HSES) with 100nm repeatibility in XY. As you may know Renishaw are the experts in probe and digital encoding technology, so I can imagine this stage is really something special. You'll have to contact them for the full info on that though.
We were pleased to hear that our stages continue to be fully compatible with the both MS20 HSES stage and the InVia system and that they are interested in further integrating our temperature control serial commands into their intuitive Raman software.
Our TST350 tensile stage drew particular interest and we hope to develop some great applications with tensile sample analysis and Raman spectroscopy.