FAQS about Compresstome vibrating microtomes

  1. What is a rotary microtome and what is it typically used for?
  2. What is the difference between the rotary microtome models from Precisionary Instruments?
  3. What is the warranty for rotary microtomes from Precisionary Instruments?
  4. Do you offer annual service plans or maintenance services for your rotary microtomes?
  5. I am getting thick-and-thin sections on my rotary microtome. What can I do to fix it?
  6. My sections are compressed or wrinkled. I’m also not getting ribbons. What do I do?
  7. What happens if I need a repair for my rotary microtome?
  8. What if my Compresstome® is not functioning optimally?
  9. What buffer solution can I use in the Compresstome® buffer trays?
  10. What is the volume of buffer solution needed in the buffer tray?
  11. What is the maximum length of tissue that can fit in a specimen tube?
  12. Are any of the Compresstome® parts autoclavable?
  13. How do I keep the solution cold during slicing?
  14. How do I clean the Compresstome®? Is the Compresstome® UV safe?
  15. Is agarose embedding safe? Can I use the Compresstome® without agarose embedding?
  16. What is a Compresstome®?
  17. What size specimen tubes do you offer for your Compresstome® models?
  18. I want a fully automated model, should I choose the VF-310-0Z or the VF-500-0Z model?
  19. What is the difference between the VF-310-0Z, VF-500-0Z, and VF-210-0Z models?
  20. What are your best-selling Compresstome® models?
  21. What are the advantages of the Compresstome over other market tissue slicers or vibratomes?
  22. What is the Compresstome VF-800-0Z model?
  23. I am interested in demoing a Compresstome tissue slicer. How do I get started?
  24. Why are advantages of cutting fixed tissue with the Compresstome instead of a cryostat?

What is a rotary microtome and what is it typically used for?

A rotary microtome is a type of microtome that cuts thin sections by moving the sample up and down across a cutting knife. The samples are usually held in a specimen head. The up-and-down movement of the specimen head is controlled by a handwheel—hence that “rotary” name! Rotary microtomes are typically used for cutting tissue samples embedded in paraffin wax. These are usually tissues obtained from surgical biopsies for histopathological analysis. Thus, rotary microtomes are commonly used in histology and pathology studies.


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What is the difference between the rotary microtome models from Precisionary Instruments?

We carry three (3) types of rotary microtomes. These are the RF-600, RF-800, and RF-1000 models. 

  • The RF-600 is a manual model. This means that moving the specimen head forward and backward is done manually. Faster movement can be achieved using a coarse handwheel located on the left hand side of the RF-600 rotary microtome. Cutting movements using the handwheel are also done manually.
  • The RF-800 is a semi-automated rotary microtome. This means that the forward and backward movement of the specimen head can be controlled electronically. You can advance your sample using controls on the LCD screen, and there are fast, slow, and single “click” movements. Cutting movements using the handwheel is done manually.
  • The RF-1000 is a fully automated rotary microtome. This means that movement of the specimen head, as well as cutting, can both be completed electronically and automatically! 

There are additional differences in the technical specifications of these 3 rotary microtome models, which you can explore in detail here


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What is the warranty for rotary microtomes from Precisionary Instruments?

We offer a full one (1) year warranty that covers all rotary microtome models. The warranty covers parts, shipping, repairs, and labor fees should there be any defect in the rotary microtome unit that is due to manufacturing. However, the warranty does not cover any defects resulting from improper use.


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Do you offer annual service plans or maintenance services for your rotary microtomes?

Yes! We offer an annual service plan that covers your rotary microtome’s maintenance and care after your warranty period ends. The Annual Service Plan comes in two different tiers: 1) Basic Plan, and 2) Premium Plan. Each annual service plan covers all repair labor fees and maintenance costs, including parts, accessories, and shipping fees. Think of the annual plan as providing an extended year of warranty coverage. This helps give you peace of mind! You can read more about the Annual Service Plan Agreements here.


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I am getting thick-and-thin sections on my rotary microtome. What can I do to fix it?

If you are getting thick-and-thin sections while cutting, or you are getting skipped sections, it could be due to several reasons:

  • Cutting blade is dull. Try changing to a new cutting blade.
  • Clearance angle is too small. Try adjusting the cutting angle by rotating the middle portion of the knife block. Aim for a cutting angle of 1-10 degrees.
  • Specimen is not tightly clamped. Try re-adjusting your specimen cassette; make sure it is tightly clamped into the specimen head holder.

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My sections are compressed or wrinkled. I’m also not getting ribbons. What do I do?

When your tissue sections are compressed, wrinkled, or look “scrunched up,” it can be due to:

  • Cutting blade is dull. Try changing to a new cutting blade.
  • Cutting blade is dirty. There can be paraffin wax build-up on your blade’s edge that prevents adequate cutting. Thoroughly clean the cutting blade or change to a new blade. 
  • Clearance angle is too large. Try adjusting the cutting angle by rotating the middle portion of the knife block. Aim for a cutting angle of 1-10 degrees. Remember that a sharper angle does not result in better cutting.
  • Specimen is too warm. Check your room temperature, and cool the room. Try also cooling your specimen on a cold plate before cutting.

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What happens if I need a repair for my rotary microtome?

In the unlikely event that your rotary microtome needs assistance, reach out to us at Precisionary Instruments first. You can do so through our contact form, or through email, telephone, and WhatsApp. We will respond with a real person and directly to you.


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What if my Compresstome® is not functioning optimally?

The simple answer is, contact us! We are happy to help troubleshoot your cutting parameters, as many low-quality sectioning issues are due to:

  • The agarose concentration: too firm or too soft agarose concentration will interfere with how the samples are held in the agarose and how they exit the specimen tube to be cut (you want the firmness of your agarose to match the firmness of your tissue samples).
  • The cutting speed: a cutting speed that is too high will likely shred the sections as they are cut, will drag the tissue out of the specimen tube, or produce inconsistent slice thicknesses where the slices are thicker at the edges of the section. A cutting speed that is too low will not cut through the sample all of the way depending on the firmness of the sample, or pull the sample out of the agarose when it is cut.
  • The oscillation frequency: A vibration frequency that is too high will result in chatter marks on the produced sections and can also interfere with the consistency of the produced slice thickness. A vibration frequency that is too low will not cut through the entire sample all of the way, especially if the sample is too firm.
  • The cutting blades: The stainless steel blades need to be replaced every 1-3 experiments. For firm samples, or for higher section quality, we recommend the ceramic or tungsten carbide blades.

If you find that the issues persist after adjusting the cutting parameters, please call or email us with a description of the problem and the serial number of the model ready. We have a Compresstome Analysis Document we can send you which is a short, 3-page document to execute to try and remedy the problem. If the problem persists, we will initiate a repair case and request your model to be sent back to Precisionary Instruments for the needed repairs. Repairs typically take 1-2 weeks to complete and send back to the customer upon receipt of the model in our facilities. 


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What buffer solution can I use in the Compresstome® buffer trays?

The solution you choose to use is based on your experiments. While PBS is the most commonly used buffer solution, many who are cutting fresh brain tissue will use aCSF, or those slicing liver or kidney will use KHB solution.


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What is the volume of buffer solution needed in the buffer tray?

You want the solution in the buffer tray to fully cover the specimen tube in order to produce the best results, which means that the buffer tray will be filled to the brim with solution. You will need 210 mL of solution to fill the buffer tray when working with the 20 mm specimen tubes, and 215 mL of solution to fill the buffer tray when working with the 15.5 mm specimen tubes.


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What is the maximum length of tissue that can fit in a specimen tube?

For the Compresstome® VF-310-0Z, VF-500-0Z, and VF-210-0Z models, the maximum length of tissue you can fit within the specimen tube is 2.5 cm.


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Are any of the Compresstome® parts autoclavable?

Yes! Our stainless steel buffer tray is available on our E-Store for purchase and is autoclavable. You may also autoclave the blade holders.


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How do I keep the solution cold during slicing?

When cutting with the Compresstome®, the sections fall into a buffer tray as they are free floating. There are several ways to keep the solution cold during cutting, including:

  • Place ice cubes directly in the buffer tray, as the vibrations of the blade holder will repel them from the sections being cut.
  • Place an ice pack underneath the buffer tray, as there is some space between the bottom of the buffer tray and the top of the base unit.
  • Replace your standard, polycarbonate buffer tray by purchasing one of our double wall buffer trays, which include a second wall for placing crushed/ice to keep your solution cold throughout the cutting process.

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How do I clean the Compresstome®? Is the Compresstome® UV safe?

There are several ways to clean the Compresstome® and the parts of the machine. Including:

  • The base of the machine can be cleaned with 70% isopropanol or 70% ethanol solution, as well as 10% bleach.
  • The buffer tray and specimen tube adapter base can also be cleaned with 70% isopropanol, 70% ethanol, or 10% bleach solution. Do not use any higher concentrated/corrosive solutions when cleaning the buffer tray!
  • The blade holder and specimen tubes can be cleaned by soaking in acetone. Specifically, our Compresstome® models include a blade holder bath/acetone bath for easily cleaning the blade holders.
  • Yes, the Compresstome® is UV safe.

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Is agarose embedding safe? Can I use the Compresstome® without agarose embedding?

Yes, agarose embedding is safe when using the Compresstome®! This has been our protocol for over 15 years and has been tried and true in over hundreds of labs all around the globe. We provide low-melting agarose tablets with all Compresstome® orders (in our Starter Kit of consumables) as well as for purchase in quantities of 10, 20, 50 and 100 tablets. The agarose embedding is safe for all tissue types because of our protocol to use the chilling block immediately after embedding your sample within the metal tube. The chilling block gels the agarose and takes ~30 seconds or less to do; while keeping your sample at biologically safe temperatures throughout the entire process. 

We do not recommend using the Compresstome® without agarose embedding as the agarose provides 360˚ stability within the specimen tube, aids in the compression technology, and ultimately assists in producing the high-quality sections the Compresstome® cuts.


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What is a Compresstome®?

Precisionary Instruments Compresstome® tissue slicers are a type of vibrating microtome, otherwise known as a vibratome. We call ours the Compresstome® because our models utilize a patented compression technology that no other tissue slicer on the market possesses. This technology is found in the way our slicers are designed (cutting vertically as opposed to horizontally) and more importantly, in our specimen tubes.The specimen tube is the stage for your sample to be cut when using the Compresstome®. It is a two-part system consisting of an inner plastic plunger and an outer metal tube. The metal tube has a slightly indented, compression lip at the one end of the tube and this is what is gently compressing your agarose-embedded sample as it exits the tube to be cut. Your sample sits on the plastic plunger and gets pulled down within the metal tube to then be embedded with a low-melting agarose. The agarose is then chilled with a <a href="https://precisionary.com/product-category/compresstome-parts/chilling-blocks/" title="Compresstome<sup>®chilling block and the agarose assists with the compression technology. As the agarose-embedded sample exits the tube, the blade comes down and makes a cut right at that site of compression. This is how the Compresstome® creates even, consistent slices every time you cut.


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What size specimen tubes do you offer for your Compresstome® models?

The VF-310-0Z, VF-500-0Z, and VF-210-0Z models all accommodate either a 15.5 mm or 20 mm diameter specimen tube. Each Compresstome® order includes 1 set of specimen tubes from one of the two sizes. We also sell additional specimen tubes and specimen tube kits for purchase, which include two specimen tubes, one buffer tray, and one chilling block of the same-size diameter.

For larger tissue samples, such as macaque brain, our VF-800-0Z model is made with either a 75 mm or 100 mm diameter specimen tube and this size is fixed on the machine.


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I want a fully automated model, should I choose the VF-310-0Z or the VF-500-0Z model?

Both of these models are fully automated, produce sections with the same patented compression technology, and offer the same size specimen tubes for each model. The biggest difference between these two models is their functionality – more specifically, how you load the specimen tube for sectioning.

On the VF-310-0Z model, the micrometer sits within the control box and the control box is attached to the base unit. This restricts the space for inserting the specimen tube into the buffer tray when the tray is on the base unit. Thus, the user must remove the blade holder and buffer tray first, then prepare and insert the prepared specimen tube into the buffer tray, and then put the entire tray/tube onto the base model. Although it is incredibly simple to remove & attach the buffer tray (via a magnet and thumbscrew), once the tray is on the base unit the blade holder then has to be applied. For these reasons, preparation time takes ~1-7 minutes longer (depending on the user) from preparing your sample in the specimen tube and loading it onto the machine for cutting. However, exchanging the specimen tube kit on the VF-310-0Z model is effortless, and takes minimal time to remove for easy cleaning and exchanging with another specimen tube size.

On the other hand, the VF-500-0Z model’s micrometer sits in a sliding step motor box on the base unit, while the control box is a separate system attached to the main unit via a wire. Because of the sliding box, the user can easily slide this box out of the way while keeping the buffer tray and blade holder attached to the machine. This means that preparing and inserting your specimen tube takes slightly less time than with the VF-310-0Z model, and this is why this is our recommended model for slicing fresh brain tissue for electrophysiology. After the specimen tube is inserted into the buffer tray, the sliding step motor box can easily slide forward to quickly begin sectioning with the Compresstome. While this model is more convenient for loading your tissue samples and cutting, the buffer tray is a little more involved to remove from the machine for cleaning; and we do not recommend swapping between specimen tube sizes when using this model, unless you purchase both sizes with your initial purchase.


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What is the difference between the VF-310-0Z, VF-500-0Z, and VF-210-0Z models?

The biggest difference between these models is the automation. The Compresstome® VF-310-0Z and VF-500-0Z models are fully automated models, which means that there is both ‘Single’ and ‘Continuous’ cutting modes when operating them. The micrometer sits in the control box and automatically advances your sample forward to be cut, depending on the slice thickness display that the user sets on the control box. These units can cut either one slice at a time or continuous slices and the mode is easily set via a switch on the control box. For these reasons, the VF-310-0Z and VF-500-0Z models are excellent options for producing super thin sections, down to ~10 µm.

On the other hand, the VF-210-0Z is a semi-automated model meaning it can only cut one slice at a time. There is no continuous cutting mode as this model’s micrometer is a manual dial that the user needs to turn to their desired slice thickness in between each slice that is produced. Because of this manual micrometer, this model is recommended for fresh tissue slicing or producing sections >20 µm.


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What are your best-selling Compresstome® models?

Our VF-310-0Z, VF-500-0Z, and VF-210-0Z models are our most popular Compresstome® models. These are our most versatile Compresstome® vibrating microtomes as they are able to cut fresh and fixed tissue from a variety of animal models; including mouse, rat, human, zebrafish, guinea pig, frog, chick (gallus gallus), and even plant samples.


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What are the advantages of the Compresstome over other market tissue slicers or vibratomes?

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!


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What is the Compresstome VF-800-0Z model?

The VF-800-0Z model is designed for sectioning larger sized tissue specimens. The model is larger compared to the VF-210-0Z, VF-310-0Z, and VF-500-0Z models. The Compresstome VF-800-0Z is fully automated model and able to section fixed tissue. It can cut full brain slices of larger animals down to 40 µm thin. The VF-800-0Z can section full brains of pig, monkey, cat and dog with a diameter of up to 95mm. It is 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!


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I am interested in demoing a Compresstome tissue slicer. How do I get started?

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

You can reach us directly by number (617) 682-0586 or email info@precisionary.com. These are also found at the top of our website.

Additionally, you can get a free quote by submitting a free Quote Form. 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!


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Why are advantages of cutting fixed tissue with the Compresstome instead of a cryostat?

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!


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