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XYZ Microscope Stages
Motorized XYZ Scanning
MZS500-E Z-Axis Stage and MLS203-1 XY
MZS500-E Z-Axis Stage Mounted
A typical XYZ stage setup is comprised of an MLS203 stage and controller with the MZS500-E Z-Axis Piezo Stage and Controller, MZF001 Z-Axis Joystick, and inverted Olympus microscope.
The MLS203/MZS500-E motorized XYZ microscope stage system presents a 3D positioning solution for applications such as Z-axis slicing or 3D image collection, including laser scanning microscopy. It provides active feedback to compensate for thermal changes and other factors that might lead to stage drift. The closed-loop, active feedback ensures correct positioning with submicron repeatability and Z-axis resolution of 25 nm, making the XYZ stage system ideal for applications that require highly accurate focus control. To build a complete XYZ motorized microscopy stage package, purchase both the MLS203 XY Scanning Stage and the MZS500-E Z-Axis Stage along with their respective controllers and the mounting brackets for the MLS203 stage. Optional Z-axis stage accessories can also be purchased below. The table below outlines the items that should be purchased to form a complete XYZ stage package for various microscopes.
XY Scanning Stage
Z-Axis Piezo Stage
Specimen Holders and Accessories
Complete XYZ Microscope Stage Assemblies
MZS500-E Z-Axis Stage
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Mechanical Drawing Showing the MZS500-E Z-Axis Stage Mounted to the MLS203 XY Scanning Stage
MLS203 XY Scanning Stage
MZS500-E Stage Pin Out Descriptions
MZS500-E Controller Pin Out Descriptions
MLS203 XY Scanning Stage Pin Out Descriptions
MLS203 Controller (BBD202) Pin Out Descriptions
Mini DIN Female
Thorlabs offers two platforms to drive our wide range of motion controllers: our Kinesis® software package or the legacy APT™ (Advanced Positioning Technology) software package. Either package can be used to control devices in the Kinesis family, which covers a wide range of motion controllers ranging from small, low-powered, single-channel drivers (such as the K-Cubes™ and T-Cubes™) to high-power, multi-channel, modular 19" rack nanopositioning systems (the APT Rack System).
The Kinesis Software features .NET controls which can be used by 3rd party developers working in the latest C#, Visual Basic, LabVIEW™, or any .NET compatible languages to create custom applications. Low-level DLL libraries are included for applications not expected to use the .NET framework. A Central Sequence Manager supports integration and synchronization of all Thorlabs motion control hardware.
Kinesis GUI Screen
APT GUI Screen
Our legacy APT System Software platform offers ActiveX-based controls which can be used by 3rd party developers working on C#, Visual Basic, LabVIEW™, or any Active-X compatible languages to create custom applications and includes a simulator mode to assist in developing custom applications without requiring hardware.
By providing these common software platforms, Thorlabs has ensured that users can easily mix and match any of the Kinesis and APT controllers in a single application, while only having to learn a single set of software tools. In this way, it is perfectly feasible to combine any of the controllers from single-axis to multi-axis systems and control all from a single, PC-based unified software interface.
The software packages allow two methods of usage: graphical user interface (GUI) utilities for direct interaction with and control of the controllers 'out of the box', and a set of programming interfaces that allow custom-integrated positioning and alignment solutions to be easily programmed in the development language of choice.
A range of video tutorials is available to help explain our APT system software. These tutorials provide an overview of the software and the APT Config utility. Additionally, a tutorial video is available to explain how to select simulator mode within the software, which allows the user to experiment with the software without a controller connected. Please select the APT Tutorials tab above to view these videos.
These videos illustrate some of the basics of using the APT System Software from both a non-programming and a programming point of view. There are videos that illustrate usage of the supplied APT utilities that allow immediate control of the APT controllers out of the box. There are also a number of videos that explain the basics of programming custom software applications using Visual Basic, LabView and Visual C++. Watch the videos now to see what we mean.
To further assist programmers, a guide to programming the APT software in LabView is also available.
These Motorized XY Scanning Stages are required when using the MZS500-E Z-Axis Piezo Stage (sold below). When combined with the Z-axis piezo stage, it forms a versatile 3D translation stage for scanning across a sample with high precision in the X, Y, and Z axes. The MLS203-1 Stage is compatible with inverted and upright microscopes from Nikon and Olympus, as well as with upright Thorlabs Cerna microscopes; mounting brackets are required (sold below). The MLS203-2 Stage is directly compatible with Zeiss Axio Observer and Axiovert 40 microscopes; mounting brackets are not required.
The recommended controller for the XY scanning stages is the BBD202 Two-Channel Controller, which features Thorlabs' standard APT™ control and programming interface, enabling easy integration into automated microscopy applications. This controller is ideal for applications demanding operation at high speeds (hundreds of mm/s) and high encoder resolution (<100 nm). For greater flexibility, communication with the PC is supported using either a USB or RS232 interface.
The controller is supplied with a software development kit (SDK) in order to also support automated PC control of the MLS203 stages. This is useful to system integrators and other automation specialists who need to combine operation of the stage with other microscopy automation accessories. The fully documented SDK supports all major development languages running on Windows, such as LabView, C++, and Matlab, and comes in the form of ActiveX libraries or a conventional dynamic link library (DLL). Multiple units can be connected to a single PC using a USB hub; for example, the BBD202 Controller for the MLS203 XY stages and the controller supplied with our MZS500-E Z-Axis Stage Kit can be controlled simultaneously with a single PC. Please click here to view the full presentation for these Brushless DC Motor Controllers.
We offer a choice of brackets to facilitate mounting the MLS203-1 stage to a range of upright and inverted microscopes from Thorlabs, Nikon, and Olympus. Please see the table below for specific compatibility. We also offer brackets that allow the MLS203-1 stage to be attached to imperial or metric breadboards for home-built microscopes or general photonics applications.
Each bracket comes with instructions describing how to attach the stage to the microscope. Please note that the MLS203-2 is directly compatible with Zeiss Axio Observer and Axiovert 40 microscopes. Mounting brackets are not required.
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MLS203-1 Stage Attached to a Breadboard with our MLSA01 Bracket Set
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MZS500-E Z-Axis Piezo Stage Being Attached to the Motorized XY Scanning Stage
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MZS500-E Z-Axis Piezo Stage with Multiwell Plate Fitted
The MZS500-E Z-axis stage and controller bundle includes a Z-axis stage and a closed-loop piezo controller. The piezo-driven stage provides 500 µm of vertical (Z-axis) travel, 25 nm of resolution, and a 0.5 lb (0.25 kg) max load capacity. The bundle includes everything needed for computer-controlled, Z-axis positioning and active location feedback. Please see the Specs tab for more information on the Z-axis piezo stage.
To incorporate the Z-Axis Stage into a system, it must first be mounted to an MLS203 series XY stage (shown to the upper far right). These two products combined present a versatile 3D solution for translating samples over a long range or across a sample with high precision. The stage can also be directly fitted with a multiwell plate (shown to the upper right); additional accessories can be found below.
The controller included with the stage is a single-channel, high-power (150 V, 500 mA), benchtop piezo controller for open- and closed-loop nanometer position control. Flexible software settings make this controller suitable for driving a wide range of third-party piezo products. In addition, USB connectivity provides easy plug-and-play PC operation; multiple units can be connected to a single PC via a standard USB hub for multi-axis motion control applications. Coupling this with the user-friendly APT™ software allows the user to quickly get up and running. Advanced custom motion control applications and sequences are also possible using the extensive ActiveX® programming environment. These ActiveX Controls can be incorporated into a wide range of software development environments including Labview, C++, and Matlab. Please see the Specs tab for more information on the Z-axis stage controller.
MZS500P5 and MZS500P4 Breadboards
C4SH01 Multi Slide Holder
MZS500P2 Slide/Petri Dish Holder
MZS500P3 Blank Adapter Plate
Breadboard Plate Application
Multi Slide Holder Application
Blank Adapter Plate Application
The MZF001 joystick console has been designed for microscope users to provide intuitive, tactile, manual positioning of the MZS500 stage. It is used in conjunction with the MZS500-E controller above. Furthermore, if the parameter settings are saved (persisted) to the controller using a PC, the controller can be disconnected from the computer allowing for remote operation.
The MJC001 Joystick Console has been designed for microscope users and provides intuitive, tactile, manual positioning of the MLS203 Stages and other XY translation stages. The console features a two-axis joystick for XY control. In most applications, the default parameter settings saved within the controller allow the joystick to be used out-of-the-box, with no need for further setup, thereby negating the requirement to be connected to a host PC and allowing true remote operation.
The MJC001 is compatible with our Benchtop Brushless Controllers, Rack-Mounted Brushless Controller, and Stepper Motor Controllers. The joystick is shipped complete with cables for use with these controllers. If you intend to use the joystick with a legacy BBD10x series unit, please contact Tech Support for a compatible cable.