Equipment Help

This page contains information about how to access and how to use equipment available for booking.  Many different systems and methodologies exist however we hope the information below will help users.

All users should view the 
pdf equipment booking guidance presentation.

Group leaders should read 
pdf equipment usage reporting.

Basic concepts about using shared equipment

The Department of Materials has lots of different types of equipment. Some equipment is owned/operated by the Department as a service to local and external users (e.g. David Cockayne Center for Electron Microscopy) , some equipment is owned/operated by Oxford Materials Characterisation Service which primarily undertakes commercial analytical work but also allows departmental members to access facilities, and some equipment is owned and operated by research groups who may or may not share access with other researchers. 

Most multi-user equipment benefits from a booking system whereby users can reserve equipment for usage. There are several different equipment booking systems. (commercial systems like iLabSoutions, customwritten system, weblearn calendar, paper bookings!)

The ability to book some equipment online does NOT automatically give a user permission to use the equipment. The owner/operator of the equipment typically provides training and maintains a list of authorised users. If you want to use some equipment then contact the owner/operator to arrange training.

Some equipment can be accessed free at point of use ( maybe due to goodwill or due to facility funding mechanisms) but most equipment costs money. The equipment booked via iLabSolutions booking system is likely to be billable where grant funding is available.

If users encounter problems or are uncertain about how to use equipment - please ask for help! It is better to ask for help than to risk breaking equipment for the next user.  Always keep notes and report problems promptly.

Getting Started with iLabSolutions booking system

In September 2014 the Department of Materials started using a comercial equipment booking system from iLabSolutions.  The iLabSolutions booking system works off the university Single-Sign-On authentication for internal users, but can also accept external users.

Logging-in / Registration

Internal University of Oxford Users:  Register with iLab

1. Login using your Oxford SSO username and password.

2. Once logged in, you will need to select your PI (principal investigator or group leader) and set your time zone “(GMT+00:00)  London”.

3. You should be redirected to your Home page.  Click on the “list all cores” link on the left panel to view the two core facilities at University of Oxford.

External to University of Oxford Users:  Sign up for iLab Account

  1. Click the Register link to land on the registration page.
  2. All fields are required on the account sign-up age.
  3. You will receive an email with account information and basic instructions to get started using the system once your account has been approved.


Example iLab booking

Example iLab booking

Getting Trained

To request a service from OMCS (e.g. training on equipment, commercial users wanting OMCS staff to perform an analysis, internal users wanting OMCS staff to perform XRD or XPS or EPMA analyses) select the Service tab.  

To request training for Electron Microscopes please use the EM access form on the EM website.

Making Bookings

Users first need to have logged-in as above and to have been trained/authorized to use the equipment.  

To make a booking select the desired core facility (Electron Microscopy or OMCS), expand the groups of equipments listed for that core facility, then click on the name of the equipment you want.

To reserve the equipment select the Schedule tab, choose the correct day, then click a start-time and drag down to an end-time.  Note that most equipment has been configured with standard time slots to optimise efficient usage of limited resources. The black dotted lines indicate the start/end of these predefined (coloured) slots. 

Further information

The manuals and tutorials below provide more specific information.

Please view the  pdf equipment booking guidance presentation.


bookings example

Example Bookings Webpage

The online booking system used prior to September 2014 is a local system written by Paul Warren. 

Logging-in : the system can be viewed by anyone however making bookings requires your university username and password. If you do not have university credentials then the owner/operator of the equipment should make the booking on your behalf.

Getting trained : The booking page for each equipment lists at the bottom a brief description of the equipment, how to arrange training, a link to the list of authorized users, and details of specific booking restrictions (e.g. how many slots can be booked in advance).

Making a booking: choose the equipment, choose the day, click on the tickbox to book an empty time slot (login if requested to do so).

- the system will automatically book the slot with your Firstname Lastname from university card data.

- equipment owners/operators can have "superuser" privileges allowing free text bookings (e.g. booking on behalf of someone else or reserving equipment for maintenance etc.)  Contact Paul Warren if you want superuser privileges.

- the system does prevent changing other people's bookings, changing past bookings, etc.

- the system does not enforce  equipment specific booking restrictions (e.g. users are only allowed to book X daytime slots and Y nighttime slots in advance) 

- when making a booking it is possible to view the log of all bookings for all equipments either made on that day or bookings made for that day. A list of your own future bookings and your booking history is available on the intranet webpages.

Typically data is collected on the equipment control computer but should be analysed on your own computer systems. Therefore data needs to be transferred between computers. This can be complicated because not all equipment control computers are connected to the department network because of security considerations. (e.g. some computers are running old unsupported operating systems such as WindowsXP and some equipment control software is not compatible with patching or antivirus programs). Several options exist.

Equipment connected to department network

If the equipment is connected to the department network without restrictions (e.g. you can open a webpage) then files can be transferred between computers without restriction via Windows filesharing or using Secure File Transfer or using FTP or USB drive or email attachments! The departmental instructions for using the Materials Fileserver contain some examples of how to connect to your personal file storage space via Windows Fileshare, Secure File Transfer and Web.

Equipment not connected to any network

If the equipment control computer is not networked then files must be transferred using removable media such as USB drives or even floppy disks!

Since the reason for the computer not being networked is likely to be security, it is ESSENTIAL that any USB device being used for transferring files should have been scanned with up-to-date antivirus software (on a networked computer) and confirmed as being virus-free BEFORE being connected to the equipment control computer. User are recommended to have a dedicated USB drive only for use in transferring data off equipment control computers (which can be reformatted regularly to prevent cross contamination between different equipment).

Equipment connected to private networks

Electron microscopes based in the Holder Building at Parks Road site are almost all on a separate secure private network with a public storage server for file access (

Electron microscopes and OMCS equipment based at Begbroke are mostly on a separate secure private network with a public storage server for file access (

If the equipment is connected to a secure private network (e.g. you cannot open a webpage) then the equipment control computer should have a mapped network drive for storing your data (sometimes referred to as the Z drive or the STAN drive!). The equipment control computer can read and write into it's own folder on the storage array. When collecting data please create a folder with your name and store your files on the mapped network drive.

The stored files can be accessed (read-only) from the public network either via Windows Filesharing or via Secure File Transfer using the shared emgroup username and password.

Please view the pdf equipment booking guidance presentation.