The Exploratorium, San Francisco, uses two TMC 63-500 Series Tables in its exhibit

Friday, December 20, 2002

Donation By TMC Solves Unusual Vibration Problem

PEABODY, Massachusetts,More than half a million annual visitors will soon be able to view the amazing development of live embryos at San Francisco’s Exploratorium thanks of two Vibration Isolation Laboratory Tables donated by Technical Manufacturing Corporation (TMC) of Peabody, Mass.

Part of the museum's Microscope Imaging Station, the exhibit will feature a time-lapse video, taken under a microscope, of a transparent zebrafish maturing from a single cell to a fully developed hatching egg. It is essential that the image remain completely motionless for the entire 61 hours of the embryo's development. Most imaging applications require only a few seconds of quiescent performance.

Our 63-500 Series Table is perfect for this application," said Steve Ryan, TMC's Vice President, Marketing. "The table provides extremely efficient vibration isolation of floor noise both vertically and horizontally. In addition to the isotropic nature of the isolation, the Gimbal Piston™ vibration isolation system works well with light mass loads and maintains the efficient isolator performance down to the low amplitude input levels typical of building floor vibrations. The table was specifically designed for use with optical microscopes such as the Zeiss Axiocam 200M inverted microscope used in this exhibit.

The time-lapse sequencing is accomplished by outfitting the microscope with a digital CCD camera attachment. The camera is controlled to take a photograph every six minutes. A sequence of 610 photos over the 61-hour period is compiled to create the time-lapse sequence that shows the development of the zebrafish embryo from a single cell through hatching

The Imaging Station was a particularly challenging vibration isolation problem due to a combination of factors. Complicating the requirement that the image remain vibration free for 61 hours was the Exploratium's location. The museum is situated in San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts Building, built in 1915. The exhibit is located on the more recently constructed mezzanine level, an area appropriate for light office space but not at all suited to sensitive time-lapse photography. The corrugated steel floor is supported by lightweight steel beams and steel stanchions.

The problem of the lightweight, resonant, high-ambient-vibration floor is compounded by the excessive surrounding foot traffic. Approximately 600,000 people visit the Exploratorium every year. Most visitors are children who run and jump within feet of the exhibit. This “onboard” source of noise excites the light, resonant floor into a severe vibration environment, hardly suitable for precision microscopy.

The Microscope Imaging Station is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2003. In the meantime, as the exhibit evolves, visitors will be able to view time-lapse videos, observe the equipment in action, and participate in the exhibit's development.

Our ultimate goal is to provide visitors with access to the standard user controls (x, y on the stage, focus, magnification, and lighting)," said Charles Carlson, Director of Life Sciences at the Exploratorium. "And we will display a host of other organisms, such as worms and fruit flies, which, like the zebrafish, provide spectacular images. In addition, we plan to extend our resources to scientists, so that visitors – classrooms, teachers, and the public – can observe actual experiments relevant to biomedical issues and general biology."

Major support for this project comes from the National Institutes of Health and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, with additional support from Carl Zeiss Microscopes, Technical Instruments, and Universal Imaging, as well as Technical Manufacturing Corporation. The Exploratorium was established in 1969 as an interactive science museum and, as such, has inspired hundreds of similar science centers around the world. It is a dynamic force and a leader in informal science, training mathematics and science students and teachers for more than 25 years.

Technical Manufacturing Corporation designs and manufactures precision vibration isolation systems and optical tables for manufacturing processes and research applications worldwide, including semiconductor manufacturing, microbiology, optics, metrology, and numerous academic, industrial, and military research projects.

Steve Ryan
Technical Manufacturing Corp.