That’s the fanciest Keurig machine I ever did see

Except it doesn’t make coffee. It does everything else important, though.

We got a demo this morning of this fancy new structured illumination microscope from Keyence. It actually looks like this:

Oooeee, I’ve always wanted a cyborg in my lab. I was impressed. It’s modular and compact and robust, and fully computer controlled. I could see using this in our teaching as well as our research, because you just open it up…

…place your slides or well plates in the chamber, and then close it up and control everything from the keyboard. That removes the anxiety of undergraduates having to tinker with fragile optics and electronics, and makes it feasible to just put this thing on a cart and wheel it to different labs when we need it. And it takes beautiful images, does quantitative microscopy, all the kinds of things we would drool over.

And it’s relatively cheap at $50,000 for the base model. Keyence has adopted the DLC model of revenue, so you buy the core gadget and then additional features at extra cost. That actually makes a lot of sense for a small university like ours, where we could just pick up the minimum we need for our faculty’s focus.

“Just” $50,000. Maybe a little more if we decide that some of those extra features would be nice. Sure. I’m guessing I’m going to be writing an NSF grant proposal soon.

Or…if we just had a sugar daddy/sugar momma who wanted to make a tax-deductible donation to the University of Minnesota Morris, earmarked for biology discipline equipment, it would spare me a fair bit of work. We’ll even get a nice plaque made and bolt it to the side with your name on it. After all, if MIT and Harvard and the University of Toronto can get hundred million dollar donations, surely someone can invest 0.1% of that in an appreciative liberal arts college, right?

We’re not going to let you buy admission for your kid, though.

OK, I’ll write the damned grant proposal.


  1. says

    Keyence devices are great, they really do provide good microscopes on a budget, and the company has very good tech support.

    But their sales department is a bit too pushy for my taste and based on how they behave on trade shows, they still have a bit of sexism problem – it is mostly young attractive women pushing the various prospects into potential customer’s hands while the dudes are at the actual demonstration stalls.

  2. brucej says

    I am currently trying to get ImageJ and a 1996-era Fotodyne gel imager working on an 8-year-old HP to replace the 21-year-old Apple G4 it used to be connected to because the Apple died.

    Allegedly the frame grabber card (from a company that’s been out of business for 11 years) is supposed to work with Windows 7, but ImageJ says it doesn’t exist on the computer, even though Device Manager happily shows it as installed and working.

    So now I’m trying to decipher some Java from 2002 or so to see if I can find what I have to tweak to make it all work….

    Gee new equipment would be nice!

  3. lumipuna says

    Except it doesn’t make coffee. It does everything else important, though.

    I figured it’d produce a liquid that’s almost, but not entirely, unlike coffee.

  4. Ragutis says

    Send them your idea for a coffee maker option/attachment. If they use it, they might give you a free one.

    Or a mouse pad.

    Probably the mouse pad.

  5. Larry says

    …and control everything from the keyboard

    No web app? How are you going to get any self-respecting millennial to operate anything without using their smartphones? I don’t thing any of them can even type with more than their two thumbs.

  6. brucej says


    It also bears a passing resemblance to a Cylon; oddly enough passingly well to be an intermediate species between the classic and modern.

  7. anthrosciguy says

    …and control everything from the keyboard

    No web app? How are you going to get any self-respecting millennial to operate anything without using their smartphones? I don’t thing any of them can even type with more than their two thumbs.

    Or maybe “A keyboard. How quaint.”

    It does get me about the donation craziness. I can understand a really big donation at times. A really big, good, telescope in a good location, for instance. But otherwise, it’s like lottery wins; the recent $850 million could’ve been life changing for 850 people. Imagine a donation earmarked for things like this microscope, at $250,000 per school. For four hundred schools. Way more bang for your buck than chucking at an endowed chair at a bigtime college. Unless, of course, bang for the buck isn’t the desired outcome and ego gratification is.

  8. says

    I asked about the coffee maker attachment — a joke the salespeople have probably heard ten thousand times before. She said one wasn’t planned.

    They do have an incubation chamber option, though, in case you want a swarm of spider hatchlings instead of coffee.

  9. says

    #2: Oooh. Back in the 90s I used to write drivers for video imaging boards on the Mac — is that a Scion board, by any chance?

  10. ridana says

    #2 @ brucej: Surely you can find a working refurbished G4 out there with ease? A quick google search returns dozens of companies offering such.

    Your problem reminds me of trying to keep an ancient MicroMedic 10-banger gamma counter running. Iirc, we had it attached to an old 386 machine running DOS 3.1 which was hanging on by a thread. If you had to reboot the computer, it forgot it had a hard drive, so you had to start from the BIOS and tell it all its operating parameters. None of the external disk drives still worked. Amazingly, the computer outlasted the counter, which blew a board we couldn’t find a replacement for. Made me very sad, it was such a good workhorse of a machine.

  11. Hatchetfish says

    What Charly said re pushy sales, and add clueless: They demo’d one of their optical comparitors for us a year ago. They’ve been calling my coworker almost weekly since, to be told repeatedly he has no input to the buying decision whatsoever, and even given contact info for people who do.

    Neat stuff though.

  12. wzrd1 says

    @1, I used to work in tech instrument sales. If I had a worthy product, I’d let the potential buyer play with the sample units we had and let the thing sell itself.
    The owner of the company was horrified, as now he had used equipment to eventually have to unload, right until he saw pallets of product going out the loading dock doors, then he let me let the end user play to their heart’s content.

    @2, I happen to know our local Microsoft tech rep. A bit of introduction as to the precise nature of problem, via logs and he might be able to get you in contact with the developers of the drivers. Java and Microsoft OS’s have a history of acting weird together, that’s a decades old issue. What doesn’t work under Windows X, works well under Solaris or even *BSD. Usually, it turns out to be an undocumented call was relied upon and that was changed, with zero notice or documentation.

    @13, have you tried running the OS and software on a virtual machine, with full passthrough on what interfaces one can pass through via assorted trickery?

    @PZ, what temperature ranges does the incubator operate at? As in, does it cool, as well as heat? Humidity control, or does one have to gin up something for control of humidity for a culture?
    Might be able to swing a few donors enough to get one, with bells and whistles, hopefully with an option that I get an off student hours and your hours usage for pet projects once a year. ;)
    I once did have free run of a lab, after school and it was fairly advanced, we had very real microscopes, unlike most primary schools today and even some secondary schools, but worse, we had real incubators, some ginning for humidity for some organisms was needed, managed to gin up a BSL3 condition and isolated and cultured pneumococcus and prepare a grid for the TEM we had (five were seriously obsolete models, one was state of the art, recently donated, back in 1976). Turned into ashes when one team member breached containment, causing infection, which turned into a modest outbreak, detected by first, one physician, who actually sent samples out for culturing and interest was aroused.
    Yes, that actually happened and thankfully, due to a lack of paranoia at the time, it never made the news.
    We actually cultured bacteria from our own mouths and grew them, then prepared slides and cultures, back in such august days.
    Alas, today, we have students playing with M&M’s as chemical reagents (have to admit, it is safer, but not very educational), precisely zero microscopes in a biology classroom, zero telescopes (our school actually removed it not long after I graduated in 1980). I wonder why flat earth idiocy is so common now, can’t conceive how it could’ve happened.
    Do send me a bill to replace your sarcasmometer, one and all.

    Still, after discussing the culture and experiment with you and having the university clear it. Safety third! Right after safety second. Can you guess what is first?
    Safety is number one.
    That foul-up, resulting in a team member contracting an infection of a rather common h. influenzae infection taught me a trainload of things.
    We all contracted a cold after his breaching of protocol. Don’t blame him, at our age, risk assessment is, erm, questionable at best. I expected perfect performance, he expected, heaven knows what and since there isn’t a heaven, serious randomness.
    Cost my parents a lot of money, to get a lawyer to prevent expulsion,
    I was a very expensive child to raise.
    Other problems involved the spread of Tribbles… ;)

    So, you previewed the options, does the incubator inclusion offer a range of temperature and humidity?
    I’ll eventually also want to study high pressure biology.
    I’m damned sure that that “coffee pot” is utterly incapable of such extremes, likely converting to oil, under specific extremes. ;)
    So, please do just post the URL’s for the device and options, as well as the entire option list.
    And I promise not to “play” with VSL-4 organisms. BSL-3, that requires organizational approval.
    BSL-2 requires essentially, a chemical range hood to be converted into a biological containment hood, with the same opening, just a different filter and fan, as well as procedures.