Time taken for sample prep and analsys, using fully automated track counting system

We have been asked to estimate the time required to carry out the various steps in preparing and analysing a typical FTD sample, using a fully automated track counting system. Here is an estimate supplied by some workers in this discipline.

The processing stages involved are :

1. Preparing the mount. This can take up to a few days. In particular, the sample preparation process for automated counting is quite critical and involves a number of steps which are outlined in a document authored by Prof. A.J.W. Gleadow of the University of Melbourne. Please contact us for a copy.
2. Aligning and labelling suitable grains. This generally involves choosing about 20 to 30 locations, and can take of the order of one to two hours. The length of time required for this step will depend critically on the quality of the sample.
3. Capturing images. This will take about 2 minutes per grain, and thus a total of about 1-2 hours.
4. Counting the tracks on the grains, using the image analysis feature in FastTracks. This is again critically dependent on the quality and size of each grain, but would require of the order of 10 to 20 seconds per grain, and so a total of about 15 minutes.
5. Labelling regions of interest on grains. This is quite a quick process.
6. Correcting the automatic count. This  can take up to a few minutes per grain if the grain is of a bad quality.

So it can be seen from the above that the actual automatic capture and automatic counting processes are quite fast.
It is the manual components of this process which still take most of the time.

By contrast, just to count a sample manually will take around 3 hours, but it is much more labour intensive, prone to errors, and not possible at the higher track densities which can be counted automatically.