MICROM HM 355 vs LEICA Manual

From:"Timothy R. Wheelock"

Hi again everyone:

Some one recently asked for opinions comparing the Microm HM 355 fully 
automated microtome vs the Leica  manual machine.
I recently  tested  3 fully automated machines (the Microm, Leica, and 
Shandon) and  their manual  models as well.

My choice was the Microm HM 355 fully automated machine.

First, there is the issue of manual vs  electric. I found that, for me, 
the flywheel on the manual machines was actually harder to turn than my 
old manual American Optical 820! I also found that the AO was, in some 
ways. more ergonometrically designed! It is a much more compact 
microtome, so I do not have to reach so far to grip the wheel. At the=20
end of the day, my arm was stiff and hurt with these other manuals. My 
AO is also not so heavy as the newer manuals. So an upgrade to a new=20
manual was out. Also there is the long range issue of  repetitive stress 
injuries, and eventual arthritis kicking in, on any manual, including=20
the AO.

So if  I only had a choice between a fully automated Microm and a manual 
Leica, I would chose the Microm.

Choosing between the electric machines was harder. All 3 machines worked 
well and got excellent reviews from the references I called.
I did not choose the Leica because I seemed to be more comfortable with 
the touch pad controls of the Microm and Shandon than the knobs control 
of the Leica.
But this may be just a subjective learning curve thing. The Leica=20
electric machine got consistently high marks from the references I=20
called, people saying that the machine is very easy to learn on and=20
extremely well built and durable, almost never giving any problem.

Also both the Microm and the Shandon have a  memory function that allows 
you to bring the specimen up to the same distance from the blade each time.
Since I trim all my blocks first, this really comes in handy.

Then, I chose the Microm over the Shandon because of the Microm's more 
substantial blade holder.
The Leica had an even more massive blade holder, which I loved.

So in summary, the Microm combined the touch pad of the Shandon with the 
large blade holder of the Leica.

Three more points.

Esthetics-I hate to say it, but I sometimes think that "first 
impressions" are important. That the look of a machine, and its overall 
features cause you to decide right away, before any testing is done. =20
Obviously, this is an exaggeration and I certainty did call for 
reference checks, asked for advice from people here, and spent much time 
testing out the machines. But still...when I saw knobs instead of a=20
touch pad on the Leica, I could feel a turning away inside even though I 
worked with the machine.  And when I saw a small blade holder on the=20
Shandon, I had the same initial feeling, although, again, I still worked 
with the Shandon a lot, and almost chose it over the Microm at one point.

And...just because I chose the Microm, does not mean that I think it is 
perfect. I feel that its blade holder, while more massive than the=20
Shandon,  does not allow you to manipulate the blade as well, either=20
when inserting the blade or when moving the blade to a fresh portion of 
the blade. The Leica and Shandon do this better. However I have heard=20
that Richard Allen has a different blade holder now that might help that 
problem. And a few..not many..people complained of blade holder 
problems. Which is why I asked for..and got..a 2 year warrantee...I did 
not feel entirely comfortable when I first bought it.

Experience- I think that one has to use the microtome for a while--after 
one has purchased it-demoing is not enough-- to feel comfortable with=20
it....to know that I made the right choice for me..and to be happy with 
the machine. Even inserting and moving the blade in the holder, has=20
become much easier and pretty natural with time.

Hope this helps,

Ti m Wheelock
Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (Brain Bank)
McLean Hospital
Belmont, MA

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