Demand for new microscope products continues to grow, with market analysts now projecting that the worldwide market for microscopes will reach $1.6 billion by 2027.
This increased demand for microscope work poses several challenges for laboratory designers, who need to provide laboratory technicians and research scientists with an economically sound work environment that promotes efficiency and reduces fatigue during long hours at the bench.
This is where Formaspace can assist. As the largest independent American manufacturer of custom laboratory furniture, we can help you specify the right microscope table setup that integrates perfectly within your laboratory environment, then build your new lab furniture here at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Let’s take a look at the significant factors you should consider when selecting your next microscope table, starting with proper fit and ergonomics.
Why the Proper Fit of Your Microscope Table is Important
Because microscope operators often work long hours at a bench, it’s critical to provide a comfortable, ergonomically suitable set up to help prevent operators from developing pain in their back, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.
As we’ve written about before, sitting for too many hours in the day can lead to muscular-skeletal issues, particularly lower back pain. Microscope operators, who may spend more than 50% of their working hours using their microscope equipment, are also particularly susceptible to other issues as well, including eyestrain and muscle strain in the arms, such as rotator cuff issues, shoulder impingement injuries, and “tennis elbow.” Operators using optical microscopes can also suffer from joint pain in the hand, such as De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which can cause pain due to holding the thumb upward to adjust focus knobs for an extended period of time.
Steps to Ensure a Proper Fit between the Operator and the Microscope Equipment
The key to proper ergonomics is to ensure that the operator’s back is straight, and the knees are bent at an angle of 90°, and the operator’s feet can touch the floor. The operator should also be able to reach the microscopic features easily: ensuring that the neck does not have to lean forward greater than 20° and that the arms are comfortably bent between 90 and 120°.
To achieve this ergonomic operator position, focus on these three design elements when specifying microscope tables:
1. Select the Right Seating
Formaspace recommends our line of five-way adjustable lab seats, which provide easy adjustment to meet the economic needs of lab operators of different size and stature. If your microscopic application is in a clean room, we also offer seating that is designed for cleanroom applications. And it’s also good to know that Formaspace seating products are built with easy-to-clean surfaces for added peace of mind during this time of COVID-19.
2. Consider Height Adjustable Microscope Tables
Formaspace also manufactures a full line of height adjustable microscopic tables, which allow operators to dial-in the most comfortable working height for their needs. This is very useful when different operators access the same microscope equipment during the day or for different shifts. These height adjustable workbenches can also allow operators to switch from a seated position to a standing position, which can help reduce fatigue during long shifts.
3. Specify Microscopic Table Cutouts to Avoid Leaning Forward
Not all microscope equipment is designed with ergonomics in mind. For example, we often find that in existing installations, the microscope equipment is positioned too far away from the operator. This is where custom cutouts in the microscope table can help; these allow operators to use the equipment more comfortably – without having to bend their upper back and their shoulders forward or bend their neck down at an extreme angle – while still providing comfortable support areas for the operator’s elbows and arms.
Because the Formaspace manufactures its own microscope tables, we can create these custom cutouts during the manufacturing process to deliver a professional fit and finish that matches the rest of your laboratory installation.
Why the Choice of a Work Surface is Important for your Microscope Table
By far one of the most important questions your friendly Formaspace design consultant will ask when discussing the available material selection options for your next microscope table is how will the microscopic set up be used.
For example, is this a clean room application where preventing the buildup of particle contaminants is important?
Will the microscope set up be used for examining microelectronic components (in which case, providing built-in ESD protection will be a paramount consideration…)
Or will it be used in a dry lab or perhaps in a wet lab environment where resistance to chemical exposure is a primary consideration when specifying the right material choice for the microscope table work surface.
Select the Right Material Option for Your Microscope Table Work Surface
As a custom manufacturer, Formaspace offers the broadest range of work surface materials available to ensure that we can provide the right choice for your application.
Here are some of the most popular work surface material selections for the most common microscope table applications:
|Typical Work Surface Material Selection
|Material with built-in ESD suppression
|Chemically resistant Phenolic Resin or Epoxy
Why Stability and Vibration Reduction is Important for Microscope Tables
It’s not only important to protect your large investment in microscope equipment (by providing an extra strong, solid foundation in the form of an industrial-strength microscope table), it’s also critical in many applications to minimize sources of external vibration that can interfere with microscope use, particularly at the atomic and subatomic levels.
Fortunately, Formaspace knows how to build tough furniture solutions, based on years of custom manufacturing furniture for laboratories and industrial facilities throughout the US. Our industrial-strength furniture products are built with American steel and designed to withstand years and years of constant use (we guarantee all our furniture for 12 years, even if you use around-the-clock 24 seven).
Choose the Right Type of Microscope Table to Reduce Vibration and Ensure Stability
Whether you prefer a modular microscope table solution or a built-in casework design, eliminating vibration starts by building a strong foundation. Our modular workbenches are crafted from heavy-duty steel and are designed to carry a maximum weight of 1,000 pounds evenly distributed – or you can choose our heavy-duty configurations that can support 1,500 pounds distributed evenly (if you have equipment that needs greater support than that, we can work with you to design a fully custom set up that can support even higher loads).
Specifying a thicker work surface, such as a 2 ½ inch thick phenolic resin or epoxy countertop material, can also help reduce vibration transmitted to sensitive microscope equipment.
Our Formaspace design consultants can also work with your facility engineer and laboratory designers to identify cases where incorporating anti-vibration feet into the custom microscope legs will help to mitigate vibration sources that might be transmitted from the building structure itself.
How Flexibility and Mobility Features Can Make Your Microscope Equipment Use More Efficient
As lab managers have discovered during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s good to have flexibility built into your laboratory design to accommodate unanticipated change.
One of the newest challenges facing laboratory managers is the need to introduce social distancing between laboratory employees, or, when that’s not possible, to provide protection, such as transparent dividers that can allow lab technicians and scientific researchers to operate comfortably in close proximity while reducing the possibility of exposing each other to the virus.
Fortunately, Formaspace has new solutions to address these issues. Talk to your Formaspace Design Consultant about our line of transparent divider solution; we offer factory-built accessories that mount to our line of modular workbenches, as well as new divider products that can be used with any brand of workbench.
Microscope equipment in the laboratory poses a unique challenge with respect to Covid-19.
While some laboratory operations can justify providing dedicated microscope equipment for each operator, most cannot justify the additional costs, which means that microscopes are a shared resource within the lab – and thus can create high traffic areas in the lab (which need to be avoided right now).
Choose the Right Kind of Mobile Storage Cart or Other Custom Mobility Solutions for Your Microscope Equipment
What’s the solution to this dilemma of multiple users using a single piece of microscopic equipment?
There are several strategies available.
One is to create an isolated island installation within the laboratory that allows operators to work at the microscope equipment while maintaining social distance
Another possibility is to introduce the use of heavy-duty mobile carts that can safely transport microscope equipment from one laboratory department to another to prevent crowding too many individuals into one area of the lab.
Mobile microscope tables also have the advantage of providing safe transport of valuable equipment to remote areas of the lab (such as a service bay) where the equipment can be serviced by technicians without interfering with existing lab operations.
Don’t Overlook Security Considerations When Specifying Microscope Tables
Security has always been a consideration in laboratory facilities, but recent news stories of industrial espionage directed at lab facilities researching Covid-19 vaccines have heightened everyone’s level of concern regarding the need to protect valuable equipment and proprietary information.
Laboratory operators also experience a heightened level of concern regarding the use of personal equipment within the lab. Given the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, lab technicians and research scientists are understandably concerned about having access to their own personal safety equipment as well as exclusive access to their own sets of instruments (or even glassware), preferring not to share these items with other coworkers in an open laboratory environment at this time.
Educational institutions have also long been aware of security issues in secondary schools and at university level. Microscope equipment and the associated support materials (such as specimen slides, etc.) are expensive and need to be secured when not in use to avoid damage from misuse or even outright theft.
Specify Built-In, Secure Storage Options for Your Microscope Table
When introducing a new microscope table into your laboratory environment, be sure to consider adding secure storage at the same time.
Formaspace can customize steel cabinetry underneath a microscope table or above. We can also manufacture custom lockers for personal equipment for each of your team members, as well as custom storage systems and drawers that will allow you to put everything in its place
Proper storage will not only help keep your expensive investment in equipment and lab materials secure, it will help reduce accidental damage (or theft), allowing you to streamline your operations for increased efficiency and workflow throughput.
How to Integrate Other Lab Services into Your Microscope Table Design
One could claim that microscope operators don’t work in a vacuum, but that would be patently untrue (!) as it overlooks how often lab technicians and scientists use vacuum pumps in evaporators, dryers, ovens, desiccators, and so on.
But that underscores our next point.
Our final consideration for specifying the ideal microscope workbench is to identify ways to integrate microscope equipment with your lab workflow and infrastructure needs.
Choose Microscope Table Installations That Provide Integrated Lab Services
Customization can really make a difference.
At a basic level, customization could include built-in electrical outlets and covered access holes to keep your power cables neat, tidy, and out of sight.
The same principle goes for data cables allowing you to connect your microscope equipment with network ports mounted directly on the microscope table.
Depending on your workflow, there may or be other opportunities for integrating other services, such as balance tables, wet sinks, gas lines, vacuum pumps, or fume hoods, which can provide enhanced efficiency and increased safety for your lab operators.
The possibilities are endless. Take the opportunity to speak with your Formaspace Design Consultant, who can share years of experience with leading-edge laboratories around the country. Together, we can partner with you to build a custom solution that meets your needs.
TIP: Take advantage of our free 3D Configure tool to evaluate different design options for your next microscope table or other laboratory workbenches. No software download is required, simply follow the link in your browser.
Formaspace Is Your Laboratory Partner
If you can imagine it, we can build it here at our factory headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Talk with your Formaspace Design Consultant today and see how we can work together.
Find out how leading laboratories around the country, from pioneers in DNA sequencing to the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub laboratory in the San Francisco Bay area, rely on Formaspace for their laboratory furniture needs.