Although they're simple devices, it's not uncommon for mechanical issues to crop up in microtomes. Oftentimes these issues aren't anything a little WD-40 can't fix, but when it goes beyond that, troubleshooting the unit can become time-consuming, leading to downtime and possibly delayed diagnostic results.
While you will be able to carry out simple fixes in-house, advanced issues will warrant calling a field service technician to repair your unit. Before you drop the cash on a service call, however, you should try remedying the issue yourself by following the steps outlined below.
Problem: The blade or sample head isn't properly advancing or retracting
Having functional advancement or retraction is essential for your pathology work. Without it, your samples will be damaged as the side of the blade rubs against it on the downward stroke. If the advance motor isn't working properly, the first thing you should do is pull the microtome out of the cryostat and clean both it and the cryostat's chamber. Without regular cleanings, debris can build up on a microtome and cause issues. (Pro tip: When you reinstall the microtome, make sure that the advance motor's cables are seated properly.)
If the problem persists after cleaning, you should then lubricate the microtome shaft with WD-40 and exercise it by spinning the handwheel. Lubrication and exercise are the most effective steps you can take to remedy microtome issues.
Should the advance/retract still not work, your best bet is to call a field service technician. The issue is likely too severe for an end user to fix, like burns on the advance motor's circuit board.
Problem: Advance motor gets caught at the same place
Sometimes the advance motor may work fine up to a certain point, then get caught and suddenly jerk the sample forward, resulting in a section that is far too thick and wastes tissue. Unfortunately, lubrication and exercise can't fix this issue. While you can have it repaired by a field service technician, replacing the microtome is often the cheapest solution. Replacement microtomes can be acquired for as little as $500.
Problem: Loose blade clamp pressure plate
Please see this video tutorial demonstrating how to fix this issue without buying a new pressure plate.
Still stumped by your cryostat?
Give us a call at (567)-221-0615 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and our cryostat specialists will assist you in troubleshooting.
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