Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Answer: The VF-200 model is a semi-automatic vibratome, while the VF-300 is a fully automatic vibratome. They are both automatic in that the machine’s vibrating head cuts slices automatically for you when you press “Start.”

What makes the VF-200 semi-automatic is the manual thickness adjustment component on the machine. This means that after every single slice is cut, the user will need to manually advance the thickness of the tissue to be cut, before the unit can cut another slice. The VF-200 produces single slices at a time because of the manual thickness adjustment. There is no “continuous” cutting mode on the VF-200. The minimum slice thickness with the VF-200 is 10 microns precision.

What makes the VF-300 fully automatic is its ability to advance tissue thicknesses automatically after each slice. This means that you can cut “continuous” slices in a row, without having to hit “Start” each time you want to cut a slice. The VF-300 allows the user to cut down to 4 microns precision (minimum slice thickness). The user also has the option of cutting single slices at a time, or continuous slices on the VF-300.

Answer: Both the VF-300 and VF-300-0Z are fully automatic models. What sets them apart is the patented “Auto Zero-Z®” technology.

The VF-300 does not have Auto Zero-Z® technology. It does, however, section live and fixed tissue for electrophysiology, organotypic culture and precision-cut lung slices. The VF-300 can cut down to 4 microns precision.

The VF-300-0Z is used for the same purposes as the VF-300. What sets this model apart is that the VF-300-0Z includes the patented Auto Zero-Z® technology. This means that the oscillating/vibrating head is more stable than the VF-300, and the produced slices will have smoother surfaces that are even and filled with healthy cells. This technology also eliminates vibration artifacts (or chatter marks), making sections optimal for immunohistochemistry. You do not need to optically align or calibrate the Compresstome(R) vibratome for Auto Zero-Z® operation–this saves you time when doing your experiments!

Answer: The VF-300-0Z and VF-700-0Z are both fully automatic models including Auto Zero-Z® technology. The VF-300-0Z cut slices down to 4 µm minimum, and the VF-700-0Z cut slices down to 10 µm minimum. The difference between these units is the animal model size and type (fresh vs. fixed) the user is working with.

The VF-300-0Z can cut fresh and fixed tissue. This unit has three tube sizes for your animal model/tissue type. A small (6.5mm diameter), medium (12.5mm diameter) and large (15.5mm diameter) tube for your tissue slicing needs. The unit is custom made to whatever size tube you will be working with, giving you the best precision-cut slices of your fresh or fixed tissue.

The VF-700-0Z is made to only cut fixed, larger sized tissues. This unit only has one tube size, 22mm diameter. The VF-700-0Z can accommodate slicing wider diameter tissues, such as those from rats, mice, and guinea pigs.

Answer: The Compresstome slicer can cut fixed tissue slices better than a cryostat for many reasons. These include:

  • The Compresstome slicer produces even thickness of slices throughout the entire slice. This means it can cut continuous slices of even thickness, where a cryostat is less consistent and produces thicker slices at slice edges.
  • The weight of the Compresstome is low, meaning it carries a lighter footprint and is easy to carry and move in the lab, even by one person! The cryostat is heavy (300 lbs) and needs more than one person to move and carry.  
  • The cost of the Compresstome is lower than the cryostat (35K-55K), it is very affordable compared to the cryostat, saving you money!
  • A cryostat freezes your tissues before it slices them, increasing the possibility of thawed tissue outcome which can crack during slicing. Because of this, it is difficult for a cryostat to slice tissues into larger thicknesses. The Compresstome tissue slicer can cut fresh and fixed tissues without needing to freeze them. The Compresstome has a larger range of cutting slice thickness (4 – 2000 µm), and your tissues will be crack free, well preserved, and most optimal for your experimental needs.

Using a Compresstome slicer over the cryostat saves you time, money, and produces the best cut slices for your experimental needs. Contact us today to see how the Compresstome slicer will benefit you and your lab!

Answer: We are happy to get you started at trying a slicer!

You can reach us directly by number (617) 682-0586 or email [email protected]. These are also found at the top of our website.

Additionally, you can get a free quote on the top and bottom of our homepage (make this a hyperlink?). We will ask you for some basic information on yourself and your experiments to get started. We want to get to know you! This will help us generate the quote of the best model that suits your research needs.

We also have over 200 References and Protocols on specific experiments, animal models, and tissue types that have used the Compresstome®. We will send you the information you need to help get you started. We are here to help. Contact us today!

Answer: The VF-800-0Z and VF-900-0Z models are designed for sectioning larger sized tissue specimens. The models are larger themselves compared to the VF-200-0Z and VF-300-0Z. They both are fully automated models, able to section fixed tissue only. Both of these models can cut full brain slices of larger animals down to 40 microns precision.

The VF-800-0Z can section full brains of pig, monkey, cat and dog with a diameter of up to 95mm. The VF-900-0Z can section full brains of humans and larger animals, with a diameter of up to 165mm.  They are both optimal for neuroanatomy and neuropathology experiments that need to section full animal brains. Contact us today to see if these models are right for you!

Answer: There are a couple of methods for chilling the buffer tank during tissue sectioning. The first includes taking ice cubes and physically adding them to the buffer tray, in the buffer solution, to keep the tank cold throughout tissue sectioning. In this case, using a pipette would be best to remove your slices from the buffer tank (to avoid the ice cubes).

Additionally, we offer a double wall buffer tray that can be used a couple of ways to keep the buffer tank chilled. The double wall buffer tray is removable from the slicer and can be put in the freezer with water in the second wall to keep the tray cold during sectioning. You can also add ice blocks in this wall, as it surrounds the tray the tissue sections will be falling into. It is the perfect part you need to keep your tissue sections cold during experiments! You can order one from our E-Store here (https://precisionary.com/product/compresstome-double-wall-buffer-tray/).

Answer: We recommend Krazy Glue for attaching the tissue specimen to the tube. It is quick drying glue with a drop applicator best suited for using small amounts of glue at a time. If you run out of this glue (it is included in the Starter Kit when you purchase a Compresstome), any type of quick-drying glue will be best in small amounts for attaching tissue specimen to the tube. You can also purchase Krazy Glue from our E-Store!
Answer:  If you get too much glue on the blade holder, do not worry! This is an easy fix. Simply detach the blade holder from the machine, add some acetone in an acetone bath (you can also purchase this from our E-Store), and let the blade holder soak in the bath for ~1 minute. After the blade holder has soaked, wipe off the acetone/glue residue with a moist wipe. The glue residue should wipe right off! If there is still glue on the blade holder after this method has been completed, and the acetone bath does not work completely, we offer new blade holders under the “Parts” section of our E-Store. Buying is easy, contact us if you need any assistance!

Answer: If the white plunger gets stuck inside the stainless steel specimen tube, do not worry! This is an easy fix, all you need is a few drops of acetone. Simply drop a few drops of acetone into the specimen tube, or take a paper towel dipped in acetone and scrub the specimen tube. This will clean the glue off the plunger, releasing it from the specimen tube!

The white plunger gets stuck when an excess of glue builds up on the plunger. To avoid this getting stuck in the future, make sure you are only using a drop or two of glue when gluing your tissues onto the white plunger. We recommend 5 µL of glue to keep the tissue on the white plunger, without it building up over time.

Answer: There are two types blades we offer for cutting tissue. We recommend ceramic blades and stainless steel blades. Both types of blades are ideal for cutting tissue. You can purchase both of these blades from our E-Store.

Ceramic blades are high quality, durable and long-lasting. They usually only need to be replaced once a month, more or less depending on how often they are being used. They are sold as a single blade unit.

https://precisionary.com/product/compresstome-cutting-ceramic-blades/

The stainless steel blades we recommend are double-edged blades for cutting tissue. The double-edge allows for double use. They are high quality, durable blades. These blades should be replaced after every use for best cutting results. They are sold in a 10 pack of blades.

https://precisionary.com/product/compresstome-cutting-stainless-steel-blades/

Answer: The agarose concentration needed for embedding tissue depends on the volume of buffer or water solution you want to use. If you want a stronger gel strength, you will add a higher concentration of agarose.

We provide 10 agarose tablets with our Starter Kits (also can be found in our E-Store). Each tablet contains 0.5 mg of agarose. We recommend 1 tablet of agarose for 25 mL of buffer/water solution, which gives you 2.0% concentration of agarose in your solution for embedding.

Using less or more buffer/water solution? Not a problem! We are happy to assist you in finding the concentration of agarose that suits your embedding needs. Contact us today!

Answer: The advantages of the Compresstome outweigh other market slicers for many reasons. These reasons include:

  1. The speed of cutting while using a Compresstome is 5x faster than other market slicers! You will get superior slices, without chattermarks, using a speed that is faster than the competitors slicers. Other market slicers require slower speeds to reduce the amount of chattermarks on slices. With the Compresstome, you will get twice as much work done in half the amount of time as using other market slicers.
  2. The surface of slices using the Compresstome are much more clear, flat, and chattermark free! The Compresstome stabilizes tissue samples throughout the entire sectioning process using patented compression technology. In short, the Compresstome tissue slicer prevents damage to the tissue microstructure.
  3. The Compresstome has flexible temperature conditions compared to other market slicers that need to freeze the slices before they are sectioned. The Compresstome can section tissues from a range of temperatures (0 to 37 degrees celsius), without the need to freeze tissues before-hand.
  4. The protocol for the Compresstome is more simpler and repeatable compared to other market slicers. The Compresstome tissue slicer only requires agarose tissue embedding before cutting. No liquid nitrogen freezing is necessary, like the other market slicers, saving you time and money on completing your experiments.
  5. We have models that are fully automated! Which means no more tedious wheel cranking for slices that other market slicers require.
  6. The Compresstome tissue slicer offers a wide range of tissue thicknesses, from 4µm to 2000 µm precision. Other market slicers have smaller ranges (5µm to 40µm), or can only cut larger thicknesses of tissue. Super thin slices are optimal for electron microscopy, which can expand your experimental possibilities!
  7. The Compresstome tissue slicer is portable and convenient. Weighing just under 20lbs, it can easily be moved throughout a lab by one person. Other market slicers are large (~300lbs) and need multiple people to move.
  8. The Compresstome tissue slicer offers superior quality slices at much lower prices than the other market slicers. Save money and get better results using the Compresstome!

The Compresstome tissue slicer has many advantages over other tissue slicers. With a wide range of slicing capabilities, it is ideal for many tissue types, animal types, and experiments. Contact us today to see how the Compresstome tissue slicer can benefit you!

Answer: Embedding tissue in agarose is simple and proven to keep the tissue from harm. The agarose helps stabilize the tissue during cutting with the Compresstome. This yields slices with smooth surfaces, and does not harm or disrupt the tissue throughout the process! The agarose tablets we provide eliminate weighing agarose for individual experiments. These tablets are fast dissolving, in just 2 minutes! They are environmentally friendly with no organic solvents that could harm tissues. These agarose tablets have proven to produce consistent, reproducible gels that are clear for embedding.
Answer: The temperature of the agarose will not damage your tissue. After heating up your agarose solution in 10 second bouts (heat, then shake, heat again & shake if necessary until the agarose is dissolved), it will need to be cooled for 5 minutes in a 32 degree C bath. Using agarose with a low transition temperature will keep the agarose in a “liquid-like” state, without it congealing at low temperatures. This is ideal for preparing your tissue samples, because the agarose will be ready when it’s time to section the possible several different specimens for sectioning. The agarose tablets we provide are ideal for embedding tissue samples, as they help produce consistent slices throughout sectioning and eliminate weighing agarose for individual experiments.
Answer: It takes less than 30 seconds to chill the agarose for cutting tissue using our custom-made chilling block. The chilling block is included in the purchase of any Compresstome tissue slicer.
Answer: It is safe to use agarose for live and fixed tissue types. We have diligently performed experiments cutting both live and fixed tissue. We have found that agarose does not harm the specimen. In fact, the agarose helps stabilize the tissue so that cutting with the Compresstome yields slices with smooth surfaces.

Answer:The best cutting parameters to use for cutting speed and oscillation frequency are:

  • Cutting speed: 1 to 1.5 (the “Advance” knob)
  • Oscillation frequency: 5 – 7

These parameters work best for cutting fixed tissue, and will not yield any chattermarks! If these parameters do not suit your needs, contact us today! We will be happy to discuss with you what works best based on your experiments and what you are cutting.

Answer: The Compresstome is a unique tissue slicer with patented compression technology. It was made to produce slices faster than other market slicers without chattermarks. If you are getting chattermarks on your tissue slices, there are a few diagnostic keys you can try:

  1. Set the speed lower (try “Advance” setting of 1-1.5) and set the oscillation frequency higher (try a setting of 4-6).
  2. Make sure that you are using 2-3% agarose, and that there are no air bubbles in the agarose surrounding the tissue.
  3. Ensure that the blade is lined up correctly with the specimen tube (within a few microns from it). If the blade is too far from the specimen tube, this will disrupt your slices.
  4. Try changing the cutting blade in case it has nicks on the edge that interfere with cutting.
    1. Stainless steel blades should be swapped out after each use.
    2. Ceramic cutting blades last a month or two, depending on how frequently you cut tissue.
  5. If you are working with tissue that have open cavities inside, make sure to inject/infuse the cavities with agarose or gelatin to ensure that all air spaces have been filled up.

If you cannot diagnose the problem based on these tips, give us a call or email and we will be happy to help!

Answer: If you are getting uneven tissue slices of inconsistent thickness, it may be that the ratio of agarose density to tissue density do not match. For example, agarose that is too soft (<2%) will not provide enough stability for firmer tissue (i.e. cardiac or lymph node tissue which is more fibrous) when being cut. This in result could produce chatter marks in slices. If this is happening, use a higher percent of agarose to accommodate the tissue (3%). Another fix for inconsistent slice thickness will be to lower the cutting speed (“Advance” to 1-1.5) and to increase the oscillation frequency (try 5-7).

Answer: There are a couple of tricks that you can try to get your tissue slices to fall out of the agarose after they are cut. The first is to use a higher concentration of agarose, such as 3% or 3.5%. If the agarose concentration is more firm, than it is more likely to automatically fall off the tissue after each slice is cut. The second option is to brush your tissue with a sucrose solution before embedding it in the agarose. Coating the tissue with sucrose gives the tissue an extra layer that allows the agarose to fall off easier after it is cut.

Answer: Yes, you can do that! Opposite from the procedure of detaching the agarose from the tissue, keeping the agarose rim around the tissue is quite simple. To preserve the agarose rim around each tissue slice, use a slightly lower concentration of agarose, 1.5% to 1.8%. Keeping the agarose rim around the tissue helps keep the slices protected after cutting. This also allows for easy maneuvering of tissue slices to mounting on slides without damaging the tissue itself.

Answer: Stainless steel blades and ceramic blades work just the same for your slicing needs. The difference is how often these blades need to be replaced. Stainless steel blades need to be swapped out after every experiment to yield best results. They can last up to 3-5 days at most depending on the frequency of use of your Compresstome. On the other hand, ceramic blades can last up to 3 weeks depending on Compresstome use. We highly recommend these blades, as they last much, much longer than stainless steel blades. The disadvantage of ceramic blades is that if any slight nicking appears on the blade surface, this can dramatically impact your slices.

Answer: Contacting us is easy! You can reach us directly by phone: (617) 682-0586 or by email: [email protected]. Our customer service is superb, and you will always directly speak with us, no automated machines here!

Answer: We offer superior, direct customer service via phone or email. We are available when you need us, and you will never talk to a machine when you call. If you email us, we will get back to you within 24 hours, if not sooner! You can reach us by email: [email protected] or by phone: (617) 682-0596. We are here to answer all inquiries about the Compresstome models, parts and consumables, purchasing orders, repair needs, and general questions to better your experiments. Contact us today!

Answer: All of our Compresstome tissue slicers include a FREE one-year warranty when you purchase any model. If you would like to add additional warranties to your Compresstome slicer, we offer two additional warranties.

You can purchase an additional one-year warranty for your Compresstome tissue slicer for $700.00.

You can purchase an additional two-year warranty for your Compresstome tissue slicer for $1,200.00.

You can order additional warranties when you originally purchase the slicer OR after you have purchased if you wish to add more to your included one-year warranty.

Answer: We at Precisionary Instruments support our customer’s research and care about the work they are performing. If you are looking for specific scientific support, we have the answers for you! Our Chief Scientific Officer has a background of lab experience cutting slices for electrophysiology and immunohistochemistry. Call or email us today to get your specific scientific support!

We are also equipped with over 200 published references in peer-reviewed journals that have used the Compresstome for their experiments. These references are categorized by animal model, tissue type, and experiment, including the Top References for each category. We will be happy to share the relevant References based on your experimental needs!

Answer: Cleaning the Compresstome is essential not only for your experiments but for the proper functioning of the Compresstome. To clean your Compresstome model, follow these steps:

  1. Empty the buffer solution from the buffer tray.
  2. Loosen the thumbscrew and push the step motor drive away from the plastic base that holds the specimen tube.
  3. Remove the specimen tube from the plastic base.
  4. Remove the white plunger from the metal syringe tube and scrape residual glue from the front end of the white plunger.
  5. Clean off any remaining debris on the white plunger and inside the metal syringe tube with acetone swabs or a soft brush.
  6. Remove the blade holder from the Compresstome, and remove razor blade from the blade holder (be careful removing the blade!).
  7. Dip the blade holder into the acetone bath for 5 minutes. Clean off any residual glue on the blade holder with acetone swabs.
  8. Clean the buffer tank (this is answered in a following question!).

And you’re done! If you need any assistance or have questions about cleaning your Compresstome model, contact us today and we will be happy to walk you through the process.

Answer: Maintenance on the Compresstome is crucial for ideal performance slicing tissues, and is actually quite simple to keep up. When you purchase your Compresstome model, you will also receive a Starter Kit. One component of this Starter Kit is the maintenance oil, an environmentally friendly, non-hazardous oil for the Compresstome vibratomes. The maintenance protocol for the Compresstome is as follows:

You will want to apply maintenance oil every week or so, less or more frequently depending on how often you use your model. To begin, you will press the start button on the machine to have the vibrating head slide all the way down the machine (towards the buffer tray). Stop the machine when the vibrating head is at the buffer try. Apply some oil to the top of the slide where the vibration head was sitting. After you apply the oil, press the start button again so that the vibration head moves back up towards the top of the machine. Apply a few more drops of oil to the bottom side of the slide, near the buffer tank, and run the machine on continuous mode for about 10 minutes. This will spread the oil along the moving part that powers the vibration head. You only need a few drops of oil for each end of the slide. Make sure to apply this oil at least once a week for optimal slices.

Ran out of Compresstome machine oil? Not a problem! You can purchase more from our E-Store here: (https://precisionary.com/product/compresstome-machine-maintenance-oil/)

Answer: Cleaning the buffer tank is simple and takes little time to do! To start:

  1. Empty the buffer solution from the buffer tray.
    1. This can easily be done by removing the plug on the buffer tray.
    2. Make sure a beaker or some piece of equipment is under the plug to catch the buffer solution (you don’t want to empty it on the counter or floor!).
  2. Detach the buffer tray from the Compresstome model; there are 2 screws attaching it to the plastic piece that holds the specimen tube. Remove the screws and place them aside to reattach the buffer tray after it is clean.
  3. Now that the buffer tray is detached, use a dilute solution of either isopropanol or ethanol (~70%) to clean the buffer tray.
    1. **Make sure to not use acetone when cleaning the buffer tray. The buffer tray is a polycarbonate material, and acetone will degrade it over time.
  4. Rinse the buffer tray under warm/hot water after it has been cleaned with alcohol for about a minute.
  5. Reattach the buffer tray to your Compresstome model using the 2 screws you set aside.
  6. Make sure to reattach the buffer tray plug to the buffer tray after the tray is attached!

Your buffer tray is now clean and ready to use for your next experiments! If you need any assistance cleaning your buffer tray, contact us today!

Answer: There are a couple of options if you lose the buffer tank plug. First, you can order a new buffer tank plug from our E-Store. Contact us today to place an order! While you are waiting for your new buffer tank plug, you can use saran wrap or paraffin wax in the meantime to keep the buffer tank concealed. This option is good for temporary use but can make cleaning the buffer tank more difficult in the future.

Answer: Properly packing up the Compresstome is crucial for maintaining its cutting alignment and preserving the oscillating arm. If you need to pack up your Compresstome, follow these steps to ensure stable travel:

  1. Replace the “transportation fixture” and screws that lock the vibration head and arm.
  2. Tighten the metal screw so that the vibration head no longer moves.
  3. Tape the Compresstome to a flat wooden base.
  4. Place the Compresstome & wooden base inside the shipping box.
  5. Pack it completely with bubble wrap, packing peanuts, etc.
  6. Make sure the Compresstome does not freely move inside the box.

You are now ready to move or ship your Compresstome!

Answer: If this happens, do not worry, we have a solution! It can be fairly common that this happens once in a while. In our E-Store, we offer petroleum jelly (https://precisionary.com/product/petroleum-jelly-for-specimen-tubes/) that is used to prevent these leaks. If the buffer tank leaks through the specimen tube holder, apply some of the petroleum jelly to the outside of the specimen tube. Make sure to do this before you start your experiment; i.e. before you add any buffer solution to the buffer tray. The jelly acts as a coating around the tube, preventing any leaks from occurring throughout the cutting process!

Answer: If the blade is hitting the specimen tube when you cut, then the blade holder is not properly aligned with the tube edge. Proper blade alignment is critical for getting high-quality slices. To align the blade holder, you need to get it as close as you can to the tube as possible, without it touching the metal tube. Follow these steps for proper blade alignment:

  1. Start by gluing on a fresh, new blade as the old one is likely chipped or damaged (this is usually the case for blades that hit the specimen tube).
  2. Reattach the blade holder- but do not tighten the screw completely to the oscillating head (enough so that it is stable, but not so much so it can still be aligned).
  3. Press “start” so the machine runs the blade head. When the blade is halfway down the side of the tube, press “stop”.
  4. Put a piece of flat, white paper under the tube and blade and view the setup from above (look at it from a bird’s eye view).
  5. Push the blade as close to the tube as possible, without touching the metal tube. You should still be able to see a sliver of the white paper between the blade and the tube edge.
  6. When your alignment is complete, tighten the blade holder entirely with the Allen wrench.
  7. Remove the white paper, run the rest of the cutting cycle, and have the vibrating head return to its starting position.

Your blade holder is now properly aligned without hitting the metal tube.

Answer: If the lower part of your slice is not cutting completely, do not worry, this is a rare occurrence. However, if it happens, it may be due to the vibrating arm getting bumped heavily during shipment or moving. Additionally, accidental knocking of the Compresstome vibration head can cause it to move upwards, causing the blade to not cut too far. If this occurs, perform the following adjustment:

  1. Ensure there is a blade attached to the blade holder.
  2. Gently loosen the screws on top of the vibrating head and move the entire vibrating arm downwards.
  3. Tighten the screws and proceed to cut as usual.

When doing this adjustment, make sure to test the final position to ensure the blade does not hit the buffer tray. If you adjust the cutting arm too low, it can sometimes lead to the blade hitting the buffer tray. If you have any questions about this adjustment, contact us today!

Answer: The components you need to interchange for preventing live/fixed contamination include the buffer tray, specimen tube(s) and blade holder.

All other components of the Compresstome can remain the same without contamination in switching between fixed and live tissues. Contact us today for a quote!