Stanford Auto-Mounter (SAM)

These pages describe the development of the Stanford Auto-Mounter (SAM), SAM sample cassette, SAM sample pin and the Cassette Tool Kit. For information on how to load SAM cassettes or use the SAM system for screening or washing samples, etc., consult the SAM Manual.


An automated system for mounting and dismounting pre-frozen crystals has been developed by the Macromolecular Crystallography (MC) group at SSRL. It is based on a small industrial robot and compact cylindrical cassettes, each holding up to 96 crystals mounted on SSRL or Hampton Research sample pins.   A in-hutch dispensing dewar adjacent to the beamline goniometer holds up to three cassettes in liquid nitrogen. The robot uses a permanent magnet tool to extract samples from, and insert samples into a cassette, and a cryo-tong tool to transfer the samples to and from the beamline goniometer.  A cassette tool kit containing the tools necessary to safely and conveniently load samples into SSRL cassettes has been developed and distributed to SAM users.  For easy shipping and storage, the cassette was designed to fit inside several popular dry-shipping dewars and long-term storage dewars.

Video of SAM Operation

Videos are available that show the original SAM operation and the upgraded system with "Pre-Fetching" which expedites sample mounting by ~7-fold:

See the SAM Robot in Operation.
See SAM Operating with Pre-Fetching.


Robosync News Group

The goal of the Robosync Website is to inform developers about current technologies and to promote compatibility between robotic sample mounting systems.

Cassette Tool Kit

A tool kit was developed for loading sample pins into cassettes under liquid nitrogen and for loading cassettes into shipping dewars.


Vendor Part Number Phone
Crystal Positioning Systems CP-111-020 716-483-3276
Quality Machined Products Provide Schematics 412-823-6016

Individual components can also be purchased from these vendors.

SAM Sample Cassette and SAM Sample Pins (A)

Each kit comes with one SAM Sample Cassette and 96 Sample Pins (tubes and loops not included).

SAM Sample Cassette (A)

The design of the SAM sample cassette maximizes the number of SAM or Hampton-style pins that can be contained inside a standard dry nitrogen cryo-shipping dewar. Two cassettes, each holding 96 pins, can be inserted into a single shipping dewar.


Vendor Part Number Phone
Crystal Positioning Systems CP-111-011 716-483-3276
Quality Machined Products Provide Schematics 412-823-6016

SAM Sample Pin (A)

The SAM robotic system supports standard SSRL SAM sample pins used for mounting crystals in loops, meshes, etc. The 18 mm pin size is optimal, however 12, 14, and 16 mm can also be used. The system also supports Hampton Research CrystalCap Magnetic and CrystalCap Copper Magnetic pins.


Vendor Part Number Phone
Crystal Positioning Systems CP-111-015-100 716-483-3276
Quality Machined Products Provide Schematic 412-823-6016
MiTeGen SKU: GB-B1-R-100 607-592-8812
Hampton Research HR4-902 949-425-1321

    Dewar Canister (B)

    The dewar canister replaces the standard canister supplied with the shipping dewar.

    Teflon Ring (C)

    The Teflon ring is used to support the bottom of the canister should the handle bend allowing the canister to move lower in the dewar.

    Cassette Transfer Handle (D)

    The Cassette Transfer Handle is used to manipulate cassettes under liquid nitrogen and to transfer cold cassettes to and from cryo-shipping dewars.

    Magnetic Tool (E)

    The magnet tool is used to mount pins inside cassettes and to test that the pins are the correct size. It contains a weak magnet on one side for inserting pins and a stronger magnet on the other side for removing pins from cassettes.

    Guide Tool (F)

    The guide tool aids in the insertion of pins into cassettes using the magnetic tool.

    Schematics and Assembly

    Styrofoam Spacer (G)

    The Styrofoam spacer is used to keep the cassette in place when shipping a single cassette inside a dry-shipping dewar.

    Packing Inserts

    Styrofoam packing inserts safely contain the cassette tools during shipping.

    Shipping Box

    A cardboard box and an internal Styrofoam box is used for shipping the cassette tools.

      Upgraded Guide Tools

      These taller versions replace the standard (E) Magnetic Tool and standard (F) Guide Tool.

      Custom Cassette Loading Dewar

      This custom dewar is used to load cassettes with crystals and facilitates the transfer of pre-frozen samples from vials or pucks into cassettes. The container only requires 4 liters of liquid nitrogen for proper transfer.


      Vendor Part Number Phone
      Crystal Positioning Systems CP-111-002 716-483-3276