Science ASSIST recognises the difficulties of schools located in regional and remote areas. Therefore, we have contacted the microscope service providers listed on our list of School science suppliers to see if they are able to repair microscopes in NT. Responses received indicate that these companies generally service their own states and perhaps an adjoining state and that they would be prepared to travel to service and repair microscopes in NT, if the cost of a trip was feasible.
Therefore, as you have a number of microscopes which need repairing, we suggest that you do the following.
- List makes, models and quantity of microscopes that need repairs.
- Contact the supplier or manufacturer of your microscopes, if possible, to see if they have a repair and service department, or an agreement with an Australian provider. If this is not possible:
- see our list of School science suppliers for companies that provide microscope servicing adjacent to your state; and
- consider approaching other schools to see if there is a larger need for this service, which may help create a sufficient demand for a microscope repair company to travel to NT. (We suggest that you approach other schools via your teacher's or technician's network).
Microscopes are precision instruments. The vital parts are fragile lenses, lamps and fine optics. Microscopes used in schools are exposed to different rigours than industry or medical laboratories. It is vital microscopes are treated gently and kept maintained. Routine maintenance is best carried out annually. Further details for simple maintenance is available from SOP: Use and care of the compound light microscope. However, from time to time, repairs are required. Microscopes that are not working or are difficult to focus result in students quickly losing interest in microscopy or biology.
Schools should consider if repairs of microscopes are worth the cost, or if replacing them is a better option.
- Microscopes that are worthy of repair are generally of good quality, not too old, and importantly, have spare and replacement parts readily available. Alternatively, good quality microscopes that are no longer usable can be used for parts for future repairs.
- If schools have old traditional models of microscopes, it is sometimes possible to salvage the parts of some of them to repair others. For example, you may start with 6 non-working units and end up with 3 that work. Repairs may not be the best option for cheaper models. If schools have microscopes that use nylon (plastic) gears in the rack and pinion assemblies instead of brass, they may find that these soon strip out and the microscope cannot be focused, or cannot stay in focus without drifting. If this is a repair problem, then the manufacturing of brass replacements is probably not economic and therefore should not be considered.
- If it is not possible to have a repairer come to NT, then the cost of repair may need to take into account the possibly considerable freight costs involved in shipping to and from the repairer. If considering this, then suitable packaging such as the original delivery boxes, if you still have them, would be required to protect the microscopes in transit.
Some considerations for purchasing new microscopes are:
- consider purchasing quality microscopes that are robust enough to suit school conditions and can be supported by companies that service and repair;
- consider recent technologies such as microscopes with digital imaging and capture that can download images using a USB port or similar;
- choose a modern microscope with LED lighting, superior optics and light control;
- in humid environments like Darwin in the wet season, where the microscope optics may be prone to microbial (fungal) growth, seek out optics which have antifungal-treated components.