Challenges in the design of a Smart Microscope


A smart microscope, as in our product Shonit, is a digitization solution which converts the physical slide images into digital images for processing through our cloud based AI platform. While designing these robots, several technical challenges exist which are closely dependent on cost. To get a feel of the journey up ahead, here is an extended list of challenges!

First comes the challenges in optics. Lowest spherical/chromatic aberration and high field of view of the lens arrangement are the desirable features of the optics. The most common spherical defect is in the circular edges of the lens, only the lost image area would change depending on the cost of lens. Chromatic aberration can be corrected using achromatic/apochromatic arrangements which again vary by cost. Air bubbles inside lenses is another concern. The distance between the slide and objective lens is in the sub millimeter range and oil smudge or scratching is always a concern for the lenses. Lastly, the air cavity between eyepiece and objective lenses should be made dust free.

Second major challenge is in the mechanical moving components. Gear backlash is the major concern, since high precision motion is necessary with the consideration of direction changes. Dual pinion or spring loaded designs are often used in industry, again the quality is cost dependent. The objective lens changing mechanism should result in precise optical alignment. Lastly, the whole structure should not undergo vibrations due to the motions.

Next comes the electromechanical actuators and sensors for automatic movement and sensing of the mechanical moving parts. A number of features need to be optimized for both actuators and sensors depending on cost, such as – type, size, speed, electrical power, efficiency, weight, precision, operational life and environmental specifications (humidity, temperature, etc.). The electromechanical actuators and sensors also need to be seamlessly integrated into the mechanical parts to avoid mechanical vibrations.

Some challenges to be addressed from a user perspective include aesthetics, ease of installation, intuitive usability, ease of packaging and transport, environmental protection, power backup, variation of internet connectivity by region, data security and data backup. Challenges with the image has been discussed in [1].

Finally, affordability of the smart microscope for Indian user, without compromising the intended performance.