A microscope slides is normally a flat, thin glass piece that is used to hold various objects for examination purposes while they are under a microscope. In terms of its working, the object is secured (mounted) on the slides and the slide is then placed under the microscope for inspecting.
However, when you are in the market to buy slides, you come across numerous choices. It could get confusing to choose the one that would be ideal for your purposes. 18 years ago, when I first got into the microscope slide industry, many customers demanded sail brand slides and it got me curious.
I wasn’t sure why there was such a high demand for a particular brand while you can find plenty in the market. What is the history of the sail brand? As time passed by and I increased my expertise, understanding of the field, it all made a lot more sense as to why people wanted sail brand slides specifically.
The reason why numerous customers asked directly for the sail brand slides both nationally and internationally was because it was one of the earliest slides’ factories in China. It had built a trust relationship with its customers over the years.
Comparison of slides
What are the slides that the Sail Brand mainly manufactures? What are the descriptions of the slides as per the Chinese factory criteria?
|7101||Plain, ground edges, 45o or 90o|
|7102||Plain, cut edges, 45o or 90o|
|7103||Single cavity, 45o or 90o|
|7104||Double cavities, 45o or 90o|
|7105||Single frosted, ground edges, 45o or 90o|
|7105-1||Single frosted, cut edges, 45o or 90o|
|7107||Double frosted, ground edges, 45o or 90o|
|7107-1||Double frosted, cut edges, 45o or 90o|
|7109||Color frosted, ground edges, 45o or 90o|
|7109-1||Color frosted, cut edges, 45o or 90o|
A brief history of how these slides are developed
Treatment of the frosted surfaces
The primary or the initial process for the production of the slides was sandblasting. The main benefit of sandblasting is that the side has a rougher frosted surface which means that any writing on it would be a lot clearer with little to no chances of falling off.
However, it does have a disadvantage. It’s that sandblasting is responsible for causing environmental pollution and a poor working environment. The workers aren’t comfortable working with such conditions because it could get dangerous for their health. Additionally, the production capacity is also quite low, so we have another method called chemical etching which replaces sandblasting.
The Chemical etching involves using frosting paste onto the glass surface corrosion. The production of the process is to deal with the frosting surface. But the surface that it produces is a lot less rough at the start because of the immaturity of this process. Since the frosting surface isn’t rough enough; the writing that we made on it was not clear and durable after treating it with xylene, alcohol, or other laboratory reagents commonly used in the labs. But when strictly control the temperature, etch time, and humidity of the frosting plate, the problem has been solved, the writing is clear and chemical resistant now.
This is once again not the most environmentally friendly choice as it’s responsible for pollution. Considering China’s increasingly high environmental demands, the production method is slowly being re-considered and replaced. However, the new and advanced production isn’t yet popular.
Like the frosted surfaces, the edges of the slide were sandblasting at the start and later the chemical etching method replaced it, but that didn’t turn out as expected. The water-grinding of the edges through a grinding wheel is the more popular and effective method that is known.
The process involves grinding the edge of the slide inside the water. It produces a highly transparent and smooth edge which is the desired choice of numerous customers across America and Europe. To ensure that the glass is held in a proper position and securely while the edges are grinded neatly and evenly, the workers don’t wear gull-hand gloves.
They instead use finger gloves, so they have to soak their hands inside water for a long duration, which is a tough task. Hence the problem with this method is that there were only a handful of people who wanted to perform the job.
In the past few years, the capacity of every factory was really low. It was the main operational reason behind it. To eliminate this problem and provide a lot easier, convenient method, many companies began implementing the laser cutting machine, laser cutting edge and water grinding edge seem no different.
There is excellent size control. The capacity of it has also increased massively. Additionally, the efficiency is high since a machine is capable of working 24 hours each day. Nevertheless, there is a concern with the laser cutting machine. It’s that currently, it is unable to cut the angle; this reduces the delivery time of 45-degree angle order. But, as technology advances every day, we might soon have a solution for this too.
Color Frosted slides
Color frosted slides are proceeded by silk-screen printing. Many years ago, the main condition for the color frosted surface is that it only needs to be durable and perpetual. The paint surface should not fall off after soaking it into the reagents during the routine usage processes. However, since the introduction of slide printers and their increasing popularity, there is a higher requirement for the paint surface.
The Leica inkjet printer is the first popular model that lays down a particularly high criterion for the paint surface. The primary reason is that the paint surface should be able to absorb the color of ink but don’t change color after staining.
The ink for the inkjet printers that are used for writing on the slides is extremely expensive. Another main concern with it is that the needles of the inkjet printers get blocked a lot easier. So, the maintenance cost of the printer is pretty high overall.
Slowly a new type of machine hit the market in the form of thermal transfer printers. Thermal transfer printing is a lot more convenient and budget-friendly option compared to inkjet printers.
There are a few benefits of thermal printers that give them an edge over inkjet ones. These include:
- It is an easy and a lot more convenient option. You can easily print on the slides within minutes without a lot of complexity.
- The prices of the thermal transfer printers both in terms of maintenance and printing costs are affordable.
- The requirements of the slides for the thermal printers are moderate. They aren’t very high and can be easily managed.
At the moment, Thermal printers for slide printing are the most popular ones that you can find due to the reasons mentioned above. Numerous companies are trying to develop laser printers which could revolutionize the industry. The laser printers don’t comprise of consumable. So, it means that the costs involved would be pretty low. Thus, we can be hopeful that these laser printers would replace the old types and labs would soon have the latest technology for slides printing.
Which one is better?
Various factors govern this and it is impossible to decide a winner without being aware of all the requirements. Over the years, different methods have been proposed and applied. However, the various limitations are hampering its ability which in some cases are high and while others are low you might see a drastic change in printing quality.
Therefore, although the industry is continuously developing. Particularly due to the increased need for slides in the laboratory. The importance of differentiating between the specimen and the complications that can arise due to small errors, developments continue in it. We will very soon witness laser printers that are low-cost and provide high functionality within minutes.
Like any other field, the microscope slides industry is continuously making changes to improve and introduce modern technology. It is a survival of the fittest. Every company has to make consistent changes as per the market trends and variations. Also, consistently need to improve the quality of products.
However, unfortunately, that isn’t the case with sail brand slides. The company that introduced them failed to uphold their standards and quality, which led them to close down almost twenty years ago. Ever since the sail brand refers to as the main brand of the Chinese slides industry instead of being a specific company.