Research | UHCO Technical Services

The Technical Services branch of the College of Optometry serves under the aegis of the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research. This service is divided into four subsections. Design & Engineering, Histology and Microscopy, Instrument Shop, and Electronics. The Technical Services support the college in all areas of its commitment: Education, Research, and Service. The research interests of the college are the primary focus the technical services, though certainly not exclusively.

When the UH Optometry building was dedicated in 1976, the college was at the beginning of a remarkable growth curve in breadth of curriculum, faculty and student levels, and research activity. The substantial construction and equipment endowments from various agencies ensured that the physical plant and equipment allocated were sufficient to support the various missions of the college. Over the past 30 years the college has renovated and upgraded frequently, keeping at the state-of-the art in all areas. The college now has begun to outgrow its building, and active fund-raising for a new building is underway.

Engineering and design is the smallest service in terms of space and budget, but is nonetheless essential. This service is reponsible for transforming the general requests of the research, teaching and clinical faculty into specific parts, assemblies and processes that can be implemented by the other services to satisfy the needs of the requestor.

This service occupies about 280 square feet adjacent to the instrument shop on the third floor. Most mechanical design work is done using Rhino3D. On occasion, optical analysis and design may be done using Zemax. A reference library containing standard optical design texts as well as basic vision science material and ergonomic data is conveniently at hand. A continually expanding commercial file is maintained covering devices, components and services that may potentially be of use.

A recent addition to the design capabilities is a small 3D digitizer. This peripheral to the computer system will measure a convex surface within a certain volume to an accuracy of about 0.005". Combined with the 3D software, this is a most useful tool.

To quantify unknown or unspecified optics, an excellent Angenieux collimator is used in combination with a custom made nodal slide. The back lab contains a flexible VideoMTF measurement system (Optikos). Various optical spherometers, lensometers and gauges are also available. The service attempts to maintain a reasonable stock of common optics, such as mirrors, beamsplitters, lenses and sources, and can implement many projects from stock items. A small stock of associated precision mechanical components is also on hand.

The primary histology and microscopy suite comprises about 750 square feet on the third floor. The tissue preparation lab is equipped with several dissecting microscopes, pH and osmolality meters, a respectably complete array of necessary chemicals, and embedding materials for paraffin and polymer techniques. An additional lab of 100 square feet is dedicated to confocal microscopy and image analysis.

This service, while primarily supporting a dozen basic and clinical researchers, may produce multiple sets of slides for the ocular anatomy courses. In addition to standard light microscopy, this lab houses a full-featured transmission electron microscope (TEM) which is regularly used for ultrastructural studies.

Tissue sectioning may be done with a sliding microtome (Leica Jung Histoslide 2000), a Bright model OTF Cryostat [freezing microtome,] or one of three ultramicrotomes. The newest, RMC model MT-7000 UltraMicrotome is mounted on an isolation table (Micro-G) for particularly critical EM work. Capabilities also exist for immunocytochemistry and autoradiography techniques. Light microscopy may be accomplished with several binocular microscopes equipped for dark field and phase contrast work. These scopes accommodate two observers. Confocal microscopy is done on a Leica TCS SP2 Confocal microscope with Image Pro software.

A MacIntosh Power Mac 7300/180 is connected to an image capture camera mounted on an Olympus BH2 binocular microscope. Image handling and analysis is accomplished using NIH-Image software.

The laboratory dark area has a new Tecnai G2 Spirit TEM configured for fully digital instrument control, digital imaging, automated image montaging of specimens, low -dose observation, and cryo-EM to accommodate the diverse requirements of our user group's current needs. Also within the dark area is a small plate processing darkroom for processing EM negatives, as well as a typical printing darkroom used to generate the final product. The enlarger is a Durst, capable of 4x5 negatives, and processing is done with a Kodak Rapid Print processor. Recent installation of a Kodak RP Ximat processor has enabled X ray and autoradiography processing.

Ancillary support equipment includes a fume hood, water still (Barnstead), several incubation and desiccation ovens, and a refrigerator dedicated to tissue and chemistry. The lab also provides an analytical balance (Mettler), appropriate glassware, and various mixers, shakers and centrifuges.

The college is fortunate to have a well equipped Instrument Shop. This unit is primarily engaged in support of faculty and graduate student research, but devotes appreciable effort to devising special teaching lab and clincal accessories as well as maintenance of mechanical equipment of all descriptions from classrooms and clinics.

The shop occupies about 850 square feet on the third floor, and contains most of the usual machine equipment; additionally it is equipped with special tools to handle various optics.

The largest portion of the machine work is done on one of two Bridgeport milling machines. A DoAll 10x36 engine lathe is equipped with a TurnVision programmable readout system. There is also a DoAll 15" drill press, floor model. The shop uses a Powermatic 22" bandsaw for most work, a 12" bandsaw usually setup for steel cutting, and a Lincoln cutoff bandsaw for long sections. Tool grinding is done on a Baldor pedestal offhand grinder or a Baldor protractor set pedestal machine. A Hoover wet diamond wheel is used for fine edges, and even optical glass.

The special optical equipment includes a specially modified pattern edger (WECO) capable now of windows as small as 12 mm or as large as 80 mm. Additionally there is a diamond wire saw (LaserTech) which is used for cutting arbitrary patterns from optics; the kerf is only 0.010". A small general purpose vacuum system (Varian VE-10) is available, and used partly for deposition of reflective surfaces on special mirrors. The shop also contains an "inherited" contact lens lathe and polishing machine. These are used for making optical mold inserts for the molded optics which are regularly produced.

A recent addition to the shop facility has been the upgrading of the older Bridgeport mill to full three-axis CNC control. This allows us to make parts that were extremely difficult by the old means. The first project from the 'new' machine was a set of four-position Geneva escapements.

Small scale sheet metal work is handled by a DiAcro 24" shear and finger brake. A Tennsmith 6" notcher and a small arbor press are also on hand. To increase the flexibility of the machine tools, the shop has a respectable array of accessory tools. A 6" indexing head and a 12" rotary table are available for use on the mills, and the lathe may be set up with a 3 jaw universal, 4 jaw independent, or rubberflex collet chuck, or with a 5C collet nose with lever drawbar. Also available for the lathe is a Holdridge radii cutter of 4" diameter capacity; this has been used for building integrating spheres. The machine shop also has a reasonable assortment of gauging, layout, and setup equipment. A granite surface plate (30x36") and an 18" digital height gauge are supplemented by an 8x8" sine plate and gauge blocks, assorted angle plates and blocks. A Gaertner X-Y comparator/microscope sees occasional duty. The usual assortment of micrometers, calipers and gauges is also available. A small gas welding rig is also occasionally used.

Recently, several of the projects to come through the Instrument Shop have been requests for multiple "copies" of the same item. In order to deliver these items in a timely manner, we have turned to small-scale molding of components. Molding is typically done from urethane resin in molds made usually of silicone rubber. Most of the process has been worked out by trial and error. We have succeeded to make highly precise multiple replicas which can be assembled interchangeably.

Another acquisition is a solid object printer: a computer peripheral which creates physical objects by material accretion. This is extremely useful for fabricating arbitrary complex shapes. These are then used to make the molds for producing the plastic parts.

The shop maintains a reasonable stock of material, components and fasteners, and many projects are accomplished without special ordering.

The electronics lab occupies about 250 square feet on the third floor adjacent to the computer facillty, and contains most of the standard equipment used for construction and troubleshooting of electronic equipment: two dual beam oscilloscopes (Tektronix), several signal and pulse generators, bench power supplies, resistance and capacitance substitution and decade boxes, digital multimeters, and soldering/desoldering equipment as well as wire-wrap tools. The lab endeavors to maintain a reasonable stock supply of commonly needed parts and components both for repair and new construction work: assorted chassis boxes, circuit board material, generic power supplies, cables and connectors, as well as thousands of different circuit components, resistors, capacitors, controls, and ICs, both linear and digital.

The electronics laboratory is an important service within the college. As modern research relies increasingly upon electronically generated and controlled stimuli as well as upon automated data logging and analysis, there are continual needs for special interface, sensing and control circuits. As a result, the electronics service is undergoing major change. On one hand it is required to maintain equipment that may be twenty or thirty years old. On the other it is required to implement some of the latest in high speed processing techniques.

Always on hand is a continually updated library of reference materials, catalogs and specification sheets on all manner of devices which are needed for special designs or repair situations. Also on hand for computer support are special diagnostic devices: an RS-232 breakout/readout as well as an IEEE-488 analyzer. From time to time this service will produce printed circuit devices of original design. This might occur in the case of multiple device requirements of a teaching laboratory, or large research effort for example. In these cases, the layout art is done at the computer, and the fabrication of the more complex boards is contracted outside. The services of a professional electronic engineer are available for special needs and are only seldom required.

Charles Neff

Electronics 25 yrs

Margaret Gondo

Microscopy 11 yrs

John Bauer

Lab Machinist 17yrs