Custom Sheet Metal Slide Baskets for Medical Samples

April 23, 2019 | Sheet Metal Fabrication, Medical/Pharmaceutical

This custom slide basket holds microscope slides using a series of narrow slots in the side of the sheet metal.In the medical science community, effective sanitation is crucial—especially when dealing with biological samples (a.k.a. “biosamples”). Contamination can ruin the results of an experiment dealing with biological tissues and products—or cause cell therapy-type produces to lose their purity, potency, and safety.

A customer recently reached out to Marlin Steel requesting a set of custom wire baskets for holding microscope slides with biosamples through both a staining process (meant to make the microscopic samples easier to see) and a subsequent cleaning/sterilization process (so the slides could be used in other experiments).

Here’s how Marlin Steel made the best custom slide basket for the client’s needs:

Using Sheet Metal with Slots for Slides

While the initial request was for a wire basket, wire mesh was not judged to be the optimal material for this custom slide basket. Instead, a simple sheet metal plate was used for the basket.

The sheet metal frame was cut using lasers to create a series of thin slots for each cell culture slide. Then, the sheet metal plate was bent into a wide, U-like shape. This would allow the slides to be held by the slots, while the solid, intact metal at the top would prevent the microscope slides from falling out of the sides.

The center of the sheet metal was largely cut out to ensure easy air flow and drainage—it wouldn’t do to have the coloring agent or the runoff from the cleaning/sterilization process pooling in the basket just beneath the slides.

Adding a Handle for Easy Carrying

Because these slide baskets would be carried by hand between most processes, a large, flat handle was added to the side. This handle was intentionally made to be oversized so there would be plenty of room to manually insert microscope slides for the staining process—and for whoever used the basket to hold the handle without having to touch the slides.

The handle was welded to a couple of extra pieces of sheet metal that would help form the exterior of the frame of the basket. These pieces of sheet metal were welded to the ends of the U-shaped cavity of the basket to provide extra solidity to the design.

Why Sheet Metal Instead of Steel Wire?

Sheet metal was determined to be the best material for the basket because it provided the easiest means of ensuring that the thin microscope slides the basket would hold could stay in place. To do the same with steel wires would require many individual pieces of wire to be custom formed and welded in place to be viable. This would require more secondary operations, driving up costs for the customer.

Additionally, the extra rigidity of using sheet metal plates would add years to the useful life of the basket compared to wire mesh—further minimizing costs over time since replacement baskets wouldn’t be needed.

Using Electropolished Stainless Steel for the Slide Basket

One of the issues in staining processes for biosamples is that the staining fluid may discolor the baskets holding the microscope slides. To prevent this, Marlin’s engineering team decided to use electropolished stainless steel for the frame of the basket.

The electropolishing process eliminates tiny flaws in the surface of the sheet metal—leaving a microscopically-smooth surface that prevents fluids (and bacteria from settling on the metal’s surface). This has the added benefit of making the basket easier to sterilize by eliminating any surface flaws that bacteriological agents might otherwise take refuge in.

To ensure that the surface of the basket would remain smooth, the basket was made from grade 304 stainless steel, which would resist oxidation from chemical exposure.

Putting it All Together for the Perfect Custom Slide Basket

Between laser cutting machines that could cut perfectly smooth holes into the sheet metal, CNC press brakes to bend it into the perfect shape, and medium-frequency direct current automated welding machines to join sheet metal pieces with minimal flash and distortion, Marlin’s manufacturing team was able to meet the client’s requirements with ease.

In fact, with automated manufacturing equipment, the manufacturing team was able to complete the customer’s entire custom order in mere days—helping prevent delays in the client’s own manufacturing timeline.

Need a custom-engineered solution for holding your parts and products through demanding applications? Reach out to the Marlin Steel team to set up a custom basket quote!