US 3691988 A
In this apparatus for automatically staining material on microscope slides, a straight longitudinally extending overhead track movably supports a guide block for a holder for the microscope slides. This track is vertically raised and lowered while remaining level. When the track is raised a controlled chain drive moves a carriage assembly along an electric guide rail to move the guide block along the overhead track stopping it in positions above selected solution containers mounted on a container support. The track is lowered to immerse the slides into the solution in the selected container. A timing belt and timing switch control the duration of time that the slides are immersed in the solution of the selected container. At the end of the treatment the guide block is stopped in an unloading position or may be left in the last container containing an Xylene solution. The solution in the containers is gently agitated by rocking the container support on a longitudinally extending axis.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Pat ent 6 v Clarke [s41 APPARATUS FOR AUTOMATICALLY STAINING MICROSCOPE SLIDES  I Inventor: Benjamin Earl Clarke, Milwaukee,
Wis.  Assignee: Thermolyne Corporation, Dubuque,
. Iowa  Filed: April 5, 1971 211 Appl.No.: 131,1 9
 U.S. Cl. ..118/6, 118/421, 118/425,
134/76, 214/1 BB  Int. Cl ..B05c 3/04  Field of Search ..214/1 BB; 134/76, 85, 86; 118/423, 425, 416, 54, 50, 50.1
 References Cited v T I I I 1 ll 1 IL 92 11.1 I
1151 4 3,691,988 1 51' Sept. 19, 1972 Primary Examiner-Morris Kaplan v Attorney-John W. Michael, Gerrit D. Foster, Bayard l-l. Michael, Paul R. Puerner, Joseph A. Gemignani, Robert E; Clemency, Andrew 0. Riteris, Glenn A. Buse and Spencer B. Michael [57 ABSTRACT In this apparatus for automatically staining material on microscope slides, a straight longitudinally extending overhead track movably supports a guide block for a holder for the microscope slides. This track is vertically raised and lowered while remaining level. When the track is raised a controlled chain drive moves a carriage assembly along an electric guide rail to move the guide block along the overhead track stopping it in positions above selected solution containers mounted on a container support. The track is lowered to immerse the slides into the solution in the selected container. A timing belt and timing switch control the duration of time that the slides are immersed in the solution of the selectedcontainen'At the end of the treatment the guide block is stopped in an unloading position or may be left in the last container containing an Xylene solution. The solution in the containers is gently agitated by rocking the container support on a longitudinally extending axis.
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APPARATUS FOR AUTOMATIC ALLY STAINING MICROSCOPE SLIDES BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention This invention relates generally to apparatus for automatically transferring cytology preparations, tissue sections and other preparations from one to another of staining solutions and immersing them in each solution for an optimal length of time. The invention relates more particularly to mechanical and structural improvements in such apparatus which makes it: less expensive to manufacture; more flexible to use with varying preparations; require less space; and more rapid in the operation of a complete cycle.
2. Description of the Prior Art Automatic apparatus for the immersion of tissue specimens or other material on microscopic slides has various mechanical and structural arrangements shown and described in the following US. Pat. Nos.:
None of these patents however show or suggest-an overhead straight track which is raised and lowered while remaining level to control the immersion time and the lineal advance of the guide block for the holder for the preparations to be stained. In many of these patents the preparation holders move in a circular path. Such apparatus can accommodate only a limited number of containers. g
None of these patents show the specific belt type of automatic time control means which constitutes a part of this invention.
None of these patents show notches in the top of the overhead track which cooperate with switching mechanisms to index the carrier with respect to the solution containers which are arranged in a straight line comprising a feature'of this invention.
None of these patents show a reciprocal limited pivotal movement of the support for the solution containers which provide continuous gentle agitation of the solution and constitutes an essential part of this invention.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS In the drawings:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an automatic apparatus for staining material on microscope slides, tissue sections and other preparations and embodying the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the apparatus of FIG. 1 with the covers removed;
FIG. 3 is a view in rear elevation of the apparatus of FIG. 1, with rear wall of the casing removed and parts of panels broken away for clarity in illustration;
FIG. 4 is a fragmentary enlarged sectional view taken on the line 4-4 of FIG. 2 showing the disc or cams for raising and lowering the track with thetrack shown in lowered position with the slide holder immersed in the solution in a container;
FIG. 5 is an enlarged fragmentary view in perspective showing the cams and switches which control the drip time and kick advance;
FIG. 6 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view taken on the line 6--6 of FIG. 3 and showing the mounting and mechanism providing agitation for the solution in the containers;
FIG. 7 is an enlarged fragmentary sectional view taken on the line 7-7 of FIG. 3 showing the guide rail and carriage assembly; and
FIG. 8 is a schematic showing of an electrical circuit diagram for the control of the apparatus of FIG. 1 with the components shown in the positions assumed when the track and guide block are in the raised starting position.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring now to the drawings in detail and by reference numerals, the apparatus for automatically staining material on microscope slides comprises a base 10 on which is pivotally mounted on a longitudinally extending axis a support 12 for a plurality of containers 14 for various liquid reagents for specifically treating cytology preparations, tissue' sections and other preparations. These preparations are usually carried on glass slides, 76 of which may be suspended in a slide holder 16.
Up and Down Motion This slide holder is suspended from a guide block 18 which is longitudinally movable along an overhead track 20. The ends of the track 20 extend through slots 27 into towers 22 and 24, left and right respectively as viewed in FIGS. 1, 2 and 4. Discs or earns 26 and 28 are revolvably mounted in these towers. Each of the discs or cams 26 and 28 carry a sheave 30 near the perimeter of the discs or cams. The extended end portions of the track 20 rest on these sheaves and are guided laterally by them. As the discs or cams rotate in unison the track will be raised and lowered while remaining substantially level or horizontal. The disc or cam 26 is mounted on a shaft 31 which is driven through a gear train 32 by an electric motor 34, termed the up and down motor. The rotation of shaft 31 is transmitted by sets of mitre gears 36 and a longitudinally extending shaft 38 extending lengthwise in the rear of the apparatus housing to a shaft 40 on which is mounted the metal disc or cam 28 (see, FIG. 2). Thus both the discs or cams 26 and 28 are rotated in unison at identical speeds. There are slots 27 in towers 22, 24 which permit vertical movement of the track 20. The track is located longitudinally by rollers 29 (see, FIG. 4) attached to it just inside the slots. The start of the up and down motor 34 is controlled by a timing device to be later described in detail. The stopping of the up and down motor at the lowermost position of the track is controlled by a microswitch and electric circuitry hereinafter described in detail.
Longitudinal Motion The longitudinal advance and retraction of the slide holder 16 by the guide block 18 is accomplished by a carriage assembly 42 (see FIG. 7) slidable along an electric guide rail 44 fixedly mounted in the separated towers 22 and 24. A switch assembly 45 including l a normally closed microswitch 46 (see FIG. 8) spring loaded toward open position, and (2) a teflon actuator its upward travel. As will be explained later in more I detail, thiscompletes the circuit to a horizontal drive motor which controls the advance of the carriage assembly 42. When the actuator 47 drops into one of the notches 48 in the top of the track 20 the microswitch 46 will open. This stops the forward advance of the carriage assembly 42. The longitudinal. movement of the carriage assembly 42 is transmitted to the guide block 18 by rods 49 which are fixed to the carriage assembly 42 and are vertically slidable in openings in the guide block 18. The notches 48 are spaced relative to the containers 14 so that at each stop the slide holder 16 is centered over a solution container 14. A chain and sprocket arrangement indicated generally at 50 is attached to the carriage assembly 42. The chain and sprocket arrangement is driven by a reversible electric motor 51, termed horizontal drive motor. The electrical connection between such motor and the microswitch 46 is accomplished by conductor rails 53 enclosed in the electric guide rail 44 along which terminal rollers 55 on the carriage assembly 42 travel as the carriage assembly 42 is moved along the electric guide rail 44. This eliminates all exposed moving or bending wires, cables, and coils and makes the apparatus safe.
Each time the track is raised from its lowermost to its uppermost position, the actuator 47 will again enter one of the notches 48 and thus it will not be moved from its spring loaded open position. However to offset this condition and start-the horizontal drive motor, there is provided a normally closed microswitch 52, termed a kick-switch, which is held open by a cam 54 for the duration of the down and up travel of the track except for a short period just before the track reaches its uppermost position when the cam permits the kickswitch to be closed to energize the advance motor 51 until the actuator 47 passes over the notch to again close microswitch 46 when the track 20 is in the uppermost position and thus energize and start the horizontal drive motor 51. The cam 54 is mounted on and revolves with the shaft 38 (see FIGS. 2, 3, and It is so angularly positioned and related to the cams and discs 26 and 28 that the kick-advance and stop takes place only when the track 20 is in a raised position with the end of actuator 47 just slightly above the top of the track.
Timing Previous mention has been made of a timing device which controls the length of the immersion or the length of time the track is in its lowermost position. The timing device consists of an endless belt 56 which has formed on its outer side a series of spaced projecting ribs. The belt is trained over pulleys one of which is driven at a constant speed by a small electric motor 58 (see FIGS. 2, 3 and 8). The ribs on the belt as they move past close a normally open timer microswitch 60 to energize the up and down motor 34 and start raising the track 20 from its lowermost position. The length of time a preparation remains in each solution is determined by the spacing of the ribs on the belt.
It is preferable to restrain the advance of the guide block 18 after being raised from a container for about 10 seconds to allow for the drainage of the solution from the slides back into the container. This is accomplished by a normally open microswitch 64, termed drip switch, which is maintained closed for all but a small portion of circumference of a cam 66 (see FIG. 5) carried by the shaft 38. The opening of the switch 64 disconnects the up and down motor34 for a short duration. By stopping the upward motion of the track before it reaches its uppermost position, there can be no energization of the horizontal drive motor 51 by the action of the track 20 contacting the actuator 47 of, the switch assembly 45. I
lessen the pressure on the motor and cam arrangement.
Control The mechanism and electrical motors for providing Up and Down Motion, Longitudinal Motion, Timing and Agitation have heretofore been described. in such previous description many of the electrical control switches, motors, cams and the like have been referenced and described. It is the function of this section of the specification to reference the switches and controls not previously referenced and correlate all controls both manual and automatic and explain the method of operation of the staining apparatus of this invention.
Assume that: the guide block 18 and slide holder 16 are in position over the first container 14 with the track 20 moving down; switch 46 is opened by its spring; normally closed switch 76 is opened and normally open switch 78 is closed by the action of the rod 80 acting upon the lever of this double pole switch; and that power toggle switch 82 is closed and the relay 63 energized: (a) closing relay switch 84 to short out normally open switch 78 so that upon the opening of it the relay will remain energized; (b) opening relay switch 86 to cut out the circuit to the return section of motor 51; (c) closing relay switch 88 to place the horizontal drive motor 51 the slosh motor 70, and timing belt motor 58 under control of the advance toggle switch 92; and (d) closing relay switch 90 to place the up and down motor 34 under control of the toggle advance switch 92.
Now when the advance toggle switch 92 is manually moved from its dead center off position to advance position the circuit will be closed and the timer belt motor 58 will start moving the timing belt 56 which then closes timer switch 60 to energize the up and down motor 34 to start the descent of track 20. Im-
on the timing belt will slide out from under the control lever of timer switch 60 and it will open to place the up and down motor under the control of down switch 74 and drip switch 64 which is now held closed by the cam 66. When the track 20 hits the control of microswitch 74 (see, FIG. 4) it will open the circuit to the up and down motor 34. The slides in the slide holder 16 will remain in lowered position in the first container until the next ridge on the timing belt hits the control lever of timing switch 60 to close it to again energize the up and down motor 34. As soon as the track 20 starts its ascent the down switch 74 will close to place the up and down motor 34 under the control of the drip switch 64 which is held closed by the cam 66. As the ridge on the belt 56 advances the timing switch 60 will open but the motor will remain energized through the down switch 74 and drip switch 64. As the track nears the top of its upward travel the notch in cam 66. will momentarily allow drip switch 64 to open and stop the motor 34 for a controlled time, if timing-switch 60 is open, to allow the liquid on the slides to drip back into the container below the slide holder. The next ridge on the timing belt 56 closes timing switch 60 at which time the upward travel of the track 20 will again start. As this ridge passes, the timing switch 60 will open but at that time the switch 64 will be closed by the cam 66 to keep the up and down motor 34 energized. At approximately the same time the cam 54 will permit microswitch 52 to momentarily close and energize the horizontal drive motor 51 to slightly advance carriage assembly 42 so that the teflon actuator 47 will be moved out of alignment with the respective notch 48 in the track 20. Hence the top of the track will contact the teflon actuator 47 and cause it to close microswitch 46 and automatically start the horizontal drive motor 51. This advances the carriage assembly 42 and the guide block 18 until the teflon actuator 47 drops into the next notch 48 on the track 20. This will open switch 46 and stop the horizontal drive motor 51 with the slide holder positioned over the second container. Since the up and down motor 34 is still energized it will continue the descent of the track 20.
The sequence just described for the immersion into and withdrawal from the first container will be automatically repeated for each successive container until the carriage assembly 42 and guide block 18 is over the next to last container which contains a solution (X- ylene) in which the slides may be left for long periods, say overnight or over a weekend. As the track 20 descends into the Xylene container an arm on the slide holder 16 will open the stop-in-Xylene switch 94 breaking the circuit to the up and down motor 34 and the timing motor 58 and establishing a circuit to the buzzer toggle switch 96 and buzzer 98. If the operator and previously closed the buzzer toggle switch 96 the buzzer 98 will sound off to advise the operator that the slides are in the Xylene container. If the operator intends to leave the slides in the Xylene solution he can manually open the buzzer toggle switch 98 to stop the buzzer.
When the operator desires to remove the slides from the Xylene solution and place them over the last container for draining and removal, the unload from Xylene toggle switch 100 is moved to the closed position to establish the circuit to the upand down motor 34 as well as the circuits to the timer motor 58, slosh motor 70, and advance motor 51. The advance switch 92 is then closed to energize the up and down motor 34 and raise the slides out of the Xylene container. At the top of its upward travel the track 20 opens switch 74 to stop up and down travel as previously described and again start forward horizontal travel. However the rod 61 will contact the control lever on the switch 62 and open the circuit to the relay. This closes relay switch 86 and opens relay switches 84, 88, and 90 which stops all motors. In this positionthe slide holder will be above the last container and the slides can be drained and uriloaded. However with power switch 82 closed the operator may swing the toggle switch 92 to the carriage return position and the advance and return motor 51 is driven in reverse by the circuit containing the capacitor 102 to move the carriage assembly to the start position where the rod will shift the switch 76 to open position and switch 78 to closed position and the slide holder will stop in position over the first container. As the carriage assembly leaves the finish position the switch 62 will automatically close to energize the relay as the carriage assembly reaches the start position. The parts are now in the same starting position as previously assumed. Slides may be loaded in the unload or in the start position.
1. Apparatus for automatically staining material on I microscope slides comprising:
a. a container support;
b. a series of solution containers mounted in a straight line on said support;
c. a straight longitudinally extending overhead track vertically movable and mounted above said containers;
d. a guide block movable along said track;
e. a slide holder carried by said guide block;
f. first means for raising and lowering said track while maintaining it level;
g. second means for moving said guide block along said track;
h. control means for said first and second means (1) to cause said track to be lowered and said slide holder to enter into a first container and remain at a low level therein a predetermined time, and (2) to advance said guide block to a position above the second container after said track is raised and said slide holder withdrawn from said first container;
i. said first means including (1) a disc adjacent each end of said overhead track, said discs each having a sheave mounted eccentric thereto and engagingly supporting said track, (2) gear and shaft means for interconnecting said discs to rotate them in unison to maintain said track level during the raising and lowering thereof, and (3) an up and down electrical motor for driving said discs; and
j. said second means including (1) an electric guide rail fixedly positioned above said overhead track, (2) a carriage assembly movable along said electric guide rail, and (3) the motion of said carriage assembly is transmitted to said guide block by means permitting relative vertical movement therebetween.
2. Apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein said first means also includes:
trol means for said first means includes:
.a. an endless timing belt having spaced ridges thereon;
b. a timer motor for driving said belt at a constant rate of speed; and
c. a timing switch operated by the ridges on said belt and connected in the circuit for said control means first means to control the length of time said slide holder remains in its low position within each container.
' 5. Apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein second means and said control means for said second means includes:
a. said carriage assembly having terminal rollers in contact with said conductor rails;
b. a switch carried by said carriage assembly and connected with said terminal rollers, said switch having an actuator;
c. said overhead track has on its top a plurality of spaced notches positioned in alignment with said solution containers and adapted to receive the end of said actuator to operate said switch;
. chain and sprocket means for moving said carriage assembly along said guide rail; e. means interconnecting said carriage assembly to said guide block; and f. a horizontal drive motor for operating said chain and sprocket means, the energization of which is under control of said switch.