A 3D Printed Tool for Producing Thin Slices of Soft Materials
Cutting thin slices of soft materials such as gels, tissues, botanical samples as well as plastics/rubbers with uniform thickness is crucial for imaging techniques (optical and electron microscopy) as well as spectroscopy (FTIR). The general requirements for the sections with regards to these characterisation techniques are (i) uniformity and (ii) thickness as accurate as possible and (iii) reproducibility of sectioning. All three of these are extremely difficult to achieve by cutting through human hands, particularly at smaller thicknesses. In order to ensure that the above requirements for the sample quality are satisfied, several cutting tools (varying according to the type of samples and nature of characterisation technique) are employed which are collectively known as microtomes. While very useful, microtomes are often prohibitively expensive for many organisations with budget constraints, for example schools, small workshops and laboratories in developing countries. A standard rotary microtome could cost between £200-1000 ($270-1350). While so-called ‘hand and table’ microtome devices are relatively cheaper at around £40-80 ($54-108), the blade movement in the cutting operation for such devices is not guided by the assembly and needs to rely completely on the operator. Thus, there is a requirement of a low-cost cutting tool which is easier to fabricate, reliable and customisable as well as has its blade movement guided by the assembly itself, in order to ensure a better reproducibility compared to the manual cutting. The dataset contains 3d-printable design files for the components of the tool. These components need to be assembled according to the instructions provided in the article published in Data-in-Brief journal with the same title as this dataset.