Hardware and software team for microscopy

In the design of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics are integrated on a common silicon substrate. Although interest in this technology is growing, access to MEMS microfabrication resources is limited.

In the design of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics are integrated on a common silicon substrate. Although interest in this technology is growing, access to MEMS microfabrication resources is limited. To help developers of MEMS products, the MEMS Exchange (Reston, VA; www.mems-exchange.org) has organized a network of fabrication and design centers so that the user's process can be distributed across individual facilities.

As part of this initiative, the MEMS Exchange has deployed fully automated and remotely controllable microscopes, enabling MEMS designers to view their wafers from any location having an Internet connection. At present, five remote microscopes have been deployed, one at each of three fabrication sites and two in the MEMS cleanroom in Reston, VA.

To allow images to be viewed across the Internet, INM200 or INS1000 optical microscopes from Leica (Cambridge, England) are fitted with digital microscope cameras from Polaroid (Cambridge, MA). To digitize images from the camera, a PCI-based PXC-200 color frame grabber from Imagenation (Portland, OR) is used to digitize captured images into host memory.

To view images remotely, the microscope client requires a Java environment compliant with version 1.1 of the Java virtual machine. Client code is run under Windows and Unix with Netscape Communicator 4.06 and on Windows with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 4. Python, a freely available interpreted, interactive, object-oriented programming language (CNRI; Reston, VA; www.python.org) runs on the microscope server along with the Python Imaging Library (PIL). This library supports many image file formats and provides image processing and graphics capabilities.

At the MEMS Exchange, the server has been tested with the PIL and the Scanner Access Now Easy (SANE) scanner application-programming interface (API) for controlling the digital camera. The SANE interface (www.mostang.com/ sane) provides access to any raster image scanner hardware, such as video and still-cameras and frame grabbers. The API's current source code is written for UNIX (including GNU/Linux). As a universal scanner interface, SANE allows developers to write just one driver per image acquisition device rather than one driver for each device and application.

To help developers implement remote microscopy more quickly, the MEMS exchange is offering the complete Remote Microscopy package to interested parties. Code is available in binary and source form and, although CNRI owns the software, it will grant licensees a nonexclusive, nontransferable, royalty free, worldwide license to reproduce and modify the software.

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