The Side Effects of Visual Disturbance
Sitting still can feel like a rocking ocean when staring through an unstable microscope — persistent viewing of blurry, shaky objects at high magnification causes nausea, headaches and fatigue. But the symptoms of motion sickness go beyond an upset stomach.
Headaches can cause visual disturbance. If it isn’t hard enough trying to view an unsteady slide, add minor loss of vision, ocular pain and photosensitivity to the equation and find out just how efficiently the observation goes—studying contents under a microscope requires the ability to see, after all.
Nausea from motion sickness can cause sweating and vomiting, which halts production. Facing such incidents in a cleanroom environment would require an incredibly thorough cleaning — hello, contamination — no workforce, no cleanroom, big problem.
The accompanying fatigue from headaches or nausea will slow production even if catastrophic containment breaches are averted. Where critical observations and procedures require delicate attention and thorough documentation, exhaustion increases the likelihood of human error.
And all this, caused by a shaky work surface under a microscope.
Micro Vibration and Its Sources
The shakiness comes from micro vibrations. Even if the room appears perfectly still to the naked eye, micro vibrations are in motion, and they come from nearly anywhere. Foot traffic in the room, a truck passing by on the road outside, the humming fan filter unit, air conditioning, and writing on the same table as the microscope cause vibrations. The microscope picks up these infinitesimal movements and magnifies them to a nauseating degree. With the slightest press of a button or scribble on a page, the risk to operator health amplifies.
The only way to stop motion sickness is to remove the cause and let the symptoms gradually subside as the brain recalibrates. If riding in a car causes carsickness, leave the vehicle. If sailing on a ship causes seasickness, get to land. If looking through a microscope causes motion sickness, look away. But what happens when microscopic observations are a job requirement? Taking a break can only go so far. Medications can help, but how much should personnel spend on daily patches or pills to mitigate their symptoms, or how much time should they take off to recover before it’s time to invest in a permanent solution?
How to Buffer Micro Vibrations
Isolate vibrations by either (impractically) stopping them at their source via redirecting traffic or reinforcing a creaky old floor, or (more rationally) by isolating the object that needs to be still. If the microscope encounters no vibrations, the chance of getting motion sickness from looking through it decreases.
Vibration control prevents motion sickness more effectively than a break and some soda crackers, which leads to the reasonable course of action: use a vibration isolation method to avoid the ill effects of shaky work. A control device such as a platform or workstation causes a significant reduction in the magnitude of the vibration to lessen the physical impact on the operator.
Isolation Methods in Terra Work Stations
Though they vary in specific isolation method, generally speaking, these controls use passive vibration isolation, which functions under the principle that as long as the natural frequency of the work surface is lower than that of the disturbing force, the vibration will be isolated. Read more about passive vibration isolation here.
Some platforms use the simple strategy of being so heavy that micro vibrations won’t affect them: i.e. a granite slab with pieces of rubber or foam on the bottom to keep the rock from scraping against the table.
All of Terra’s vibration-free work tables and some platforms use pneumatic isolators, which consist of a piston resting on a compressed air chamber. The piston cushions the payload on top of the air, which isolates movement from both the payload and the surface underneath it. Any vibrations hit the compressed air and dissipate before they reach the microscope. The system minimizes vibrations in both horizontal and vertical directions, so no matter where the disturbance comes from, the surface stays still.
Terra’s vibration-free work stations isolate miniscule movements so workers don’t have to face the consequences of a shaky microscope. A simple, stable surface can help personnel perform critical observations and procedures without the need to medicate. Try it — high-performance isolation, the key to minimizing pesky micro vibrations — and ease the discomfort of motion sickness.