Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes at Linkam: Beautiful engineering

As many of you know, we have a special blue sky research department in The Netherlands.  This is where a small team of R&D engineers cook up all kinds of amazing bespoke solutions for customers.  It is also where we can try things out, new ideas that we simply believe to have amazing potential.

Some of these ideas make it to production and some of them are just cool toys that scientists haven't found a good application for....yet.

I just wanted to share a couple of neat tools that these guys just built to enable us to make a tiny high temperature furnaces for quenching fluid inclusions and potenitally other samples under high resolution optics.

This heater is extremely difficult to build and yet these guys have made some really fantastic jigs to help our production engineers build it in quantity.

Posted by Vince Kamp

New Video Brochures with Linkam's Very Own Original Soundtrack

We have recently added new video brochures for the TS1500 and BCS196 Linkam stages to the website. These have a stylish new look, and Linkam’s own unique soundtrack, written specifically for the Linkam video brochures by Olli Cunningham of Amo Music Ltd who writes soundtracks for movies, TV shows and adverts.

It’s pretty hard to get the soundtrack just right to compliment the quality of our stages. We tried and tested a few different soundtracks, and although a bit of rock might get you jumping around the room air guitairing, it’s probably not suitable for showing off our products.

Thanks to Olli we now have a dedicated Linkam soundtrack, perfectly suited to the sleek designs of the Linkam stages.

Posted by Rosie Hider

Linkam StageArt - An alternative view of temperature controlled stages

Droplet shatters on silver heating element'But is it art?'  Have you ever said that while staring at some modern sculpture, perhaps the latest Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin offering?

So how do you define art?

Here's my shot at the definition.  I believe that an artist creates something that results in an emotional response in another human being, or that can change the way somebody thinks about something, even if it is just for a moment.

If this definition works for you, it means you don't have to limit art to paintings, sculptures, photographs, songs, prose or in fact anything specific at all.

I believe our design guys at Linkam are artists.  Whenever they design anything, it is always with the thought of how it can be made to look amazing.  It's not just a temperature controlled stage, a scientific tool, it's something more than that.

So when Jack Verhoeff and Jim Hayward, two of our finest production engineers, started to take some alternative pictures of our stages just for fun, we thought why not share them on the web.  

The Flaming THMS600

But is it art?  Absolutely.

If you have a few moments, please take a look at some amazing alternative views of Linkam stages in the StageArt gallery.

 

Posted by Vince Kamp

New Linkam TV Channel not available on any cable network

Linkam TV Goes Live

It is hard to believe that not one of the major cable networks took up our offer to add this TV channel as part of their premium subscription package.

The good news is that we can pretty much broadcast what we want.

The new Linkam TV channel has an exciting array of 'on demand content' from the world of Linkam temperature control stages.  We have video product brochures, samples in applications such as freeze drying, tensile testing and liquid crystals and even the almost popular pancake videos.

If you have videos of your samples on Linkam temperature controlled stages, please do let us know, we would be happy to add them to the collection.

 

posted by Vince Kamp 

 

New Edgecam software means even more awesome 3D designs possible

HS1500 prototype made with Edgecam

Our R&D guys have just got back from the latest Edgecam training workshop to accompany the latest update to the software and they are all totally buzzing with the possibilities opened up to them.

But what is Edgecam?

Well it's amazing CAM software (computer aided manufacturing) that integrates seemlessly with the Solid Edge 3D design software we use to design our instruments.  The exciting part of Edgecam is that it enables you to machine incredibly complex shapes that you would previously have to cast.

In a nutshell, our design guys can make cool organic shapes and curves that are virtually impossible to program in any other way.

We will try and get some video footage of some of this amazing machining in action, but for now you can be sure that the new range of Linkam heating and freezing stages are not only going to be the best performing stages, but also among the best looking scientific instruments available.

posted by Vince Kamp

The Black Art of Casting Silver Heating Elements

 

Those of you familiar with our heating and freezing stages know that we use a silver heating element. You may also know that the element is cast using the lost wax principle which has been used to make jewellery and bronze statues for thousands of years and the process remains in principle relatively similar today.
However, when casting a bronze statue or a bit of jewellery, it is only the surface finish that we are interested in.  When it comes to casting a silver heating element used in our Linkam stages, you not only need a perfect finish on the top surface where the sample sits but there cannot be any voids in the structure (except the channel for liquid nitrogen.) as this will effect the high resolution temperature control.
This important fact is what has kept us awake at nights trying to formulate the perfect conditions to create the perfect consistent cast.  There are so many parameters that need to be perfectly controlled that it is nothing short of a miracle that we turn out as many perfect blocks as we do.  Even then, there are many more steps to complete the heating element where things can go wrong, I can't believe that our assembly engineers haven't gone totally crazy with frustration.  (See image above: The reject box)
We are always trying new ways to improve the process.  Over the last 30 years our engineers have pretty much read everything there is to know about casting and talked to dozens of experts in the field.  Nobody has managed to cast our heating elements as well or as consistently as we can do it here at the factory.  In fact two of our engineers are currently in Germany talking with one of the leading casting machine manufacturers to discuss our casting protocol and see if they can help. 
So next time you take a look at that little gleaming heating element in your hotstage, have a think about the amount of work that went into it and perhaps spare a moment to consider that in the thousands of years that people have been casting, we may just be the best at it. 

 

No need to renew the Pirelli, Linkam is working on a 2011 calendar

Linkam calendar photography by Jim Hayward and Jack Verhoeff

The Pirelli calendar is a corporate trade gift, not available for purchase.  It has been in publication since 1964, although it was cut in 1974 due to the world recession, but was then resurrected 10 years later and is still in publication today.

Just like Pirelli, the Linkam calendar will be not be sold in stores.  It too will become famous for it's outstanding photography and limited availability.  However, the months in the 2011 Linkam calendar will feature artistically photographed world famous Linkam hot-stages rather than scantily clad glamour models.
Depending on the success of this calendar, 2012 may well feature scantily clad glamour models posing with hotstages.

T95 Manual Now in Spectacular Technicolour

 


Life is better in colour.  I'm not sure who coined that expression, but it's certainly true enough.  Black N' White is just so moody and depressing.

 

We decided that manuals are also better in colour, so we have invested in a sweet colour laser printer and have started to print our T95 system controller manual in colour.
Yes it's quite a bit more expensive to do this, but the manual looks great and the images are so much easier to interpret.  Hopefully this will make our systems even easier to operate.  The other manuals will eventually also be printed in colour, we just need to take some much better pictures first.  Please don't forget that many of our systems have also got video manuals to help you set up.  You will need to register on our site to get access to these.

We are always looking for new ways to improve our products, so if you have anything you would like us to change, please do let us know.  We are totally committed to improving everything we do here, yeah I know that's a cliché but it happens to be true.  How many other companies do you know, that print their manuals in colour?

Even The Design Gods at Apple Get It Wrong Sometimes

 


A few weeks ago, we enthusiastically announced we had solved the problems with the new LTS420 heating element.  The facts are, that although we managed to turn out a few excellent elements, we just could not get a consistent quality that we were satisfied with.

 

Not that I'm trying to justify our mistake, but I would like to point out that even the legendary Steve Jobs and his army of design gods at Apple also occasionally get it wrong.
You may have heard that Apple launched the new iphone 4.0 with a major design flaw that results in total loss of reception when you hold the phone in specific way.  Their response:  Buy a special rubber case to stop shorting out the antenna, or 'You're holding it wrong'

Well Steve, that's just not cool.  We don't play that way at Linkam.  Our LTS420 works perfectly, we're just not sending them out because we could not get a consistent surface finish.   Well, now we can.  So we'll be shipping the real thing and replacing all the LTS350 elements we sent out in the meantime.
Are Apple going to replace all the thousands of iphones with the badly designed antenna when they finally correct the design?  I doubt it.

Announcing we had this awesome new stage before we were entirely sure it was ready was an oversight that has caused both our customers and us all kinds of problems and for that we are truly sorry.

Ok, so we got all excited that we had designed this amazing instrument featuring a pure silver heater capable of heating a microscope slide up to 420C at 50C/min with 0.1C control and wanted to switch it out for our LTS350 stage which could only go to 350C at 30C/min as soon as possible, that was wrong, but we have put it right.....and have learned a very valuable lesson in the process.

Linkam at the Royal Academy's Summer of Science Exhibition

 


We have some really amazing engineers and designers here at Linkam.  Our temperature control stages are the best in the world.  Really.  Ask anyone.

 

Anyway, our guys are not all scientists and so they are not entirely familiar with how our equipment is used beyond our factory.  So when we heard that our Liquid Crystal Pro System was going to be featured as part of the Liquid Crystal exhibit organized by the University of Manchester at the Royal Academy of Science's Summer Exhibition, we went to the Royal Festival Hall on London's Southbank to check it out.

Dr. Stephen Cowling, from The Liquid Crystal group at York University, gave a first class demonstration of how our hot stage has been used in developing liquid crystal displays.  We even got to see a prototype 3D display which will be used in gaming and doesn't require the use of 3D glasses.  Now that's an application that our staff could really relate to.

Many Thanks to Dr. Ingo Dierking and Dr. Stephen Cowling

New Video Brochure for new Fluid Inclusion Stage - TS1400XY

Here's a nice close look at our TS1400XY stage.  This stage received quite a bit of interest at PACROFI - the recent Fluid Inclusion Conference -  hosted at University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Fluid inclusion samples sit on a small sapphire sample holder which slides into a ceramic heating element accurately controlled up to 1400C.
By using the XY sample manipulators you can then move your sample around inside the heater to view all the inclusions.

Due to the extremely compact design of the stage you can use high NA lenses with high magnification to view inclusions down to the micron level of resolution.

A special quench manipulator option enables you to quickly remove samples from the heater at high temperature to a pre-cooled platform.  This results in cooling rates of up to 240C per second.
Yep, pretty fast.

Contact us to find out more

The VTO is Back... Analogue Video Lives On

 

Every year we wonder whether we should finally put analogue video to rest and stop building a version of our video capture software (Linksys 32-AV) and Video Text Overlay unit (VTO232).  The problem is that customers still keep asking for it.  We love to keep the customer happy so we keep developing the analogue option.

 

The VTO 95 is a plug in card for the T95 system controller and enables you to overlay the temperature controller information on a live 25 frames per second video image.

You can record this live image with a DVR or DVD recorder from any monitor with a composite input.  The beauty of this system is you don't need a PC or any software and what you see is what you get; the full 25fps to record and play back at your desire.

This kind of system is ideal for quality control procedures or if you just want to record  a movie of your experiment without requiring a PC setup.

Another Video Brochure is in the Can

We have been working hard to get more and more video content onto our website.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a quick video clip at 25 frames per second is worth quite a few hefty books of info.

These videos are designed to give you a brief overview and quickly appreciate how the heating stage is used.

In the video above you can see how easy it is to load a sample into a THMS600 hotstage when using the Imaging Station.

So far we have video brochures for the Examina and Analysa stages and the Imaging Station.  More to come!

Ramping up R&D

 

They say when the economy is suffering, R&D is usually the first spending cut a company makes.  Well at Linkam, we seem to be getting more and more requests for customised and completely unique instrument designs every day.

 

In our opinion, the only response to this increase in demand, is for us to invest yet again in our R&D department.  We have just added a new electronics/software design engineer and a new mechanical design engineer will join us next month.(introductions to follow in another post)

In addition to this we have invested in some nice new 3D software that enables us to send a customer a virtual 3D prototype of their instrument during the design process.  This will enable them to manipulate the design on screen.
By simply dragging the mouse over the 3D model you can spin it around, flip it over, and walk straight through, all within freely available Adobe Acrobat Reader.  How awesome is that?  Take a look at the video above and you'll see what I mean.

If you have an idea for a custom stage or want some modifications of one of our standard instruments.  Give us a call or ping us an email.

The HUBBA is Back!

 

It's been ages since a HUBBA (Help Us Be Better Award) has been awarded.  It's not that lots of good ideas were not submitted, but more so that HUBBA competitors were just too snowed under to make their great ideas happen (one of the requirements for receiving the award is to demonstrate your idea is feasible).

 

So, today I had great pleasure in awarding, Jane Vinton - our accounts, office, admin, shipping and several other thnigs manager - the HUBBA award for her great idea of using the shredded paper in thin heat sealed plastic as packing material for dispatching spares.  The paper can easily be ripped out of the extremely thin plastic bag at the customer's site and recycled. The amount of plastic to be thrown away is minimal and this way we do not need to use unbiodegradable bubblewrap, thereby further burdening horrendous landfill sites.
Ok it's a small difference, but a lot of small differences add up to significant change.
What are you doing to contribute to the change?