With careful planning, system integrators can select the optimal optics, filters, light sources, and cameras for their medical diagnostic instrumentation.

For those manufacturers integrating individual optical components, another consideration when selecting optics is the focal length of the optical system — the ratio of the focal length of the tube lens to the focal length of the objective lens. To change the total magnification of an optical system, it is often easiest to change the objective lens since there is typically more selection from manufacturers; in cases where there is a specific objective lens performance characteristic that must be preserved, the tube lens may be changed.

Depending on the system, the illumination source may be a laser, LED, or standard halogen or mercury bulb. But even the selection of an illumination source sometimes can affect the components specified. Both the mechanical interface of the entire optical system and its total demands are important factors, even when they do not appear to directly affect performance. Every optical component and detector is rated to withstand a certain amount of energy; integrators working with high-power energy sources such as lasers should check with the manufacturer of all components for compatibility. In addition, many samples are temperature-sensitive. As a result, the experimental apparatus often is designed to remove heat generated by the power or light source. In many cases, using an external cold-light source with a fiber-optic connection is an optimal solution.

Imaging Considerations

Fig. 3 – The Olympus FSX100® Bio Imaging Navigator is an example of a component-based optical, self-contained imaging system.

Cameras and other imaging detectors are another key component of today’s medical device diagnostic systems whenever viewing, capturing, or archiving images is required. In addition, integrators of the future may have to ensure that images they collect will be suitable for uploading to laboratory information management systems. Some questions to consider when selecting a suitable digital imaging device include:

  • How cool does it need to be?

    Depending on the application, some cameras require cooling. Cooled cameras are more sensitive at low light levels and therefore are particularly well suited to fluorescence imaging, but are usually also more expensive. Liquid nitrogen, water, air, or Peltier thermo-electric systems can be used to cool camera components. Some of these choices require additional space or external equipment.

  • Will it deliver the images I need?

    Some people mistakenly believe that more megapixels mean better-quality images. The truth is that designers must match the optical resolution of the microscope system or spot size projected on the charge-coupled device (CCD) detector with the digital resolution of the camera to avoid over- or under-sampling. The spot size of the projected image depends on the objective lens magnification, numerical aperture, tube lens, and camera mount magnification. The resolution of the CCD varies based on the size and number of pixels. The desired optical resolution should be considered first, and then digital spatial resolution should be determined, as it is the limiting factor in achieving the system’s overall resolution. This phenomenon is explained by Nyquist’s criterion, which says that twoto- three pixels on a CCD chip are required to resolve the smallest feature the optical system is capable of reproducing. Using a smaller number of pixels results in image degradation. A larger number of pixels does not assist in resolution and may make it more complex and costly to share, transmit, and store images.

  • What image analysis or other software capabilities do I need?

    Digital cameras can be used either with off-the-shelf or integrator- designed software. Integrators typically look at ease of use, efficiency, the ability to document system parameters, and the delivery of reliable results in considering whether and how to design software. With the growth of automation, hardware components are increasingly becoming motorized. In - tegrators need to take into account the compatibility of all components in tandem, in order to develop code that can optimize the combined capabilities of all system elements; in addition, the software must be customized to suit the needs of life scientists and medical professionals.


With knowledge and careful planning, system integrators can select optics, filters, light sources, and cameras for their medical diagnostic instrumentation. With the requirements of the FDA becoming more stringent, integrators need the support of a trusted optical supplier that adheres to a comprehensive quality program for the manufacture of its high-performance optical components. But while suppliers have a plethora of data about performance, not all of that data is in the public domain. Select a supplier that deeply understands the business requirements, work together closely over time, and be prepared to provide detailed requirement parameters, which will allow the supplier to specify whether a given optical component will meet your needs. The supplier also needs to understand logistical needs and should be able to handle delivery requirements once the product is on the market. This will ensure the delivery of products that meet both the manufacturer’s requirements and those of its customers.

This technology was done by Jennifer Wrigley, Olympus America Inc, Center Valley, PA. For more information, Click Here.

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