Dr. Michaela Schleifer, European Regional Manager, EDAX
The European team had a very exhausting but successful week last week. Some months ago, we discussed the possibility of holding a user meeting at our headquarters in Weiterstadt, Germany. During our stay in Wiesbaden it became a tradition to do at least one user meeting or workshop a year. Because of our move to Weiterstadt and the development of some new structure in the European organization, it took quite some time to plan another user meeting. In spring time, we discussed how to satisfy the different areas in Europe regarding language and also how to transfer information about new technology to our distributors. We finally decided that we should organize 3 different meetings during the week of October 15th. The first two days were for our German speaking customers in Europe, mid-week we invited our distributors and on the last two days we offered a user meeting for our English-speaking customers. There was a lot of organization to be done, like making hotel reservations, preparing presentations, organizing hosting and also booking nice restaurants for the evening events. All of us were a bit nervous about whether everything would work, whether we had forgotten anything important and whether our SEM and system would work properly. The week before the meetings we installed the Velocity camera, our new high speed EBSD system in our demo lab and our application people were very happy with the performance and had fun playing around with it.
On Monday October 15th we started our first user meeting in the Weiterstadt office at around 1 pm with customers from the German speaking area. Around 45 participants joined the meeting. At the beginning we gave an overview of our current products and explained that our complete SDD series is using the Amptek modules with Si3N4 windows. Based on some spectra we showed the improved light element performance. After that Felix, one of our application specialists, showed our new user interface APEX live and the discussion which arose showed the interest from our users. Although only some users are doing EDS on a TEM we explained a little bit about the differences between EDS on a TEM and on a SEM. We finished the first day with a question and answer session and invited all the participants to a nice location in Darmstadt to have a typical German dinner together.
The next day was completely dominated by EBSD. Our EBSD product manager Matt Nowell, who came from Draper, USA to support us during our meetings, demonstrated the performance of our new Velocity EBSD camera. Matt also explained the differences in the camera technology using CCD or CMOS chips and described direct electron detection. It was easy to get more than 3000 indexed points per second while measuring a duplex steel with the Velocity camera. Our EBSD application specialist René de Kloe presented a lot of tips and tricks regarding EBSD measurements and analysis of measurement too and did not get tired of answering all the questions. At the end of our program all participants left with a good feeling having learnt a lot and got some good ideas about how to improve their measurements or what they might try to measure on their own samples.
The next day we shortened our program for our distributors and explained our product range and gave live demonstrations of APEX software platform and the Velocity CMOS EBSD camera. This day was dominated by a lot of discussions with the group and also by questions about our roadmap for 2019.
On Thursday and Friday of this week we did the same program for our English-speaking customers in Europe as we did for the German speaking customers. We had around 15 participants.
During this week we had around 75 customers in our office in Weiterstadt. Each customer was different in his applications and how he uses our systems but what we could observe during the evening was that most of them are very similar in what they like for dinner:
Late on Friday evening the whole European team was very happy that we managed the week with all the meetings and that based on the feedback we got it was a successful week. You may be sure that all of us went home and had a relaxing weekend!
I would like to thank Matt, Rene, Felix, Ana, Arie, Rudolf, Andreas and Paul and especially our customers who gave some interesting presentations about their institutes and the work they are doing there.
While I haven’t been around in the microscopy and microanalysis world in a professional sense for too long, it’s hard not to notice how often the faces stay the same but the title on the name tag or the company logo changes. Just to name a few from the EDAX side, Patrick Camus (Director of Engineering) used to work in applications for Noran, John Haritos (Southwest Region Sales Manager) came from Oxford, Sophie Yan (Applications) came from Zeiss, and Dave Durham (Western Region Sales Manager) came from Bruker.
Though microanalysis is a big field, it’s a small world once you get into the commercial side of it. I guess it shows that there are not too many of us that really have the deep level of interest and dedication to stay in field and the ones that do are often in short supply. While some of the changes could be a case of the grass being greener on the other side, it often seems to be driven by the desire for a career step or for personal reasons. The interesting part is that I have very rarely seen anyone hold a grudge or perceive a move to another company in the field as something negative.
Applications Engineer, Shangshang Mu
Every year it seems like a couple of the old faces retire (though they often still show up at M&M, often wearing their last company shirt), but you start to recognize the rest of them despite any changes in affiliation. This makes it a little easier to identify the new faces and with that, I would like to introduce the newest one at EDAX: Shangshang Mu (pronounced Shong-shong) recently joined us as an applications engineer and will be based in our Draper, Utah office. He holds a PhD in Earth Sciences from Boston University and was most recently lab manager at Southeastern North Carolina Regional Microanalytical and Imaging Consortium. At EDAX, we are excited to have him on board and look forward to the rest of you getting to know him.
Figure 1. Participants of my first EBSD training course in Grenoble in 2001.
Everybody is learning all the time. You start as a child at home and later in school and that never ends. In your professional career you will learn on the job and sometimes you will get the opportunity to get a dedicated training on some aspect of your work. I am fortunate that my job at EDAX involves a bit of this type of training for our customers interested in EBSD. Somehow, I have already found myself teaching for a long time without really aiming for it. Already as a teenager when I worked at a small local television station in The Netherlands I used to teach the technical things related to making television programs like handling cameras, lighting, editing – basically everything just as long as it was out of the spotlight. Then during my geology study, I assisted in teaching students a variety of subjects ranging from palaeontology to physics and geological fieldwork in the Spanish Pyrenees. So, unsurprisingly, shortly after joining EDAX in 2001 when I was supposed to simply participate in an introductory EBSD course (fig 1) taught by Dr. Stuart Wright in Grenoble, France, I quickly found myself explaining things to the other participants instead of just listening.
Teaching about EBSD often begins when I do a presentation or demonstration for someone new to the technique. And the capabilities of EBSD are such that just listing the technical specifications of an EBSD system to a new customer does not do it justice. Later when a system has been installed I meet the customers again for the dedicated training courses and workshops that we organise and participate in all over the world.
Figure 2. EBSD IPF map of Al kitchen foil collected without any additional specimen preparation. The colour-coding illustrates the extreme deformation by rolling.
In such presentations, of course we talk about the basics of the method and the characteristics of the EDAX systems, but then it always moves on to how it can help understand the materials and processes that the customer is working with. There, teaching starts working the other way as well. With every customer visit I learn something more about the physical world around us. Sometimes this is about a fundamental understanding of a physical process that I have never even heard of.
At other times it is about ordinary items that we see or use in our daily lives such as aluminium kitchen foil, glass panes with special coatings, or the structure of biological materials like eggs, bone, or shells. Aluminium foil is a beautiful material that is readily available in most labs and I use it occasionally to show EBSD grain and texture analysis when I do not have a suitable polished sample with me (fig 2) and at some point, a customer explained to me in detail how it was produced in a double layer back to back to get one shiny and one matte side. And that explained why it produces EBSD patterns without any additional preparation. Something new learned again.
Figure 3. IPF map of austenitic steel microstructure prepared by additive manufacturing.
A relatively new development is additive manufacturing or 3D printing where a precursor powdered material is melted into place by a laser to create complex components/shapes as a single piece. This method produces fantastically intricate structures (fig 3) that need to be studied to optimise the processing.
With every new application my mind starts turning to identify specific functions in the software that would be especially relevant to its understanding. In some cases, this then turns into a collaborative effort to produce scientific publications on a wide variety of subjects e.g. on zeolite pore structures (1, fig (4)), poly-GeSi films (2, fig (5)), or directional solidification by biomineralization of mollusc shells (3).
Figure 4. Figure taken from ref.1 showing EBSD analysis of zeolite crystals.
Figure 5. Figure taken from ref.2 showing laser crystallised GeSi layer on substrate.
Such collaborations continuously spark my curiosity and it is because of these kinds of discussions that after 17 years I am still fascinated with the EBSD technique and its applications.
This fascination also shows during the EBSD operator schools that I teach. The teaching materials that I use slowly evolve with time as the systems change, but still the courses are not simply repetitions. Each time customers bring their own materials and experiences that we use to show the applications and discuss best practices. I feel that it is true that you only really learn how to do something when you teach it.
This variation in applications often enables me to fully show the extent of the analytical capabilities in the OIM Analysis software and that is something that often gets lost in the years after a system has been installed. I have seen many times that when a new system is installed, the users invest a lot of time and effort in getting familiar with the system in order to get the most out of it. However, with time the staff that has been originally trained on the equipment moves on and new people are introduced to electron microscopy and all that comes with it. The original users then train their successor in the use of the system and inevitably something is lost at this point.
When you are highly familiar with performing your own analysis, you tend to focus on the bits of the software and settings that you need to perform your analysis. The bits that you do not use fade away and are not taught to the new user. This is something that I see regularly during the training course that I teach. Of course, there are the new functions that have been implemented in the software that users have not seen before, but people who have been using the system for years and are very familiar with the general operation always find new ways of doing things and discover new functions that could have helped them with past projects during the training courses. During the latest EBSD course in Germany in September a participant from a site where they have had EBSD for many years remarked that he was going to recommend coming to a course to his colleagues who have been using the system for a long time as he had found that the system could do much more than he had imagined.
You learn something new every day.
1) J Am Chem Soc. 2008 Oct 15;130(41):13516-7. doi: 10.1021/ja8048767. Epub 2008 Sep 19.
2) ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology, 1 (6) P263-P268 (2012)
3) Adv Mater. 2018 Sep 21:e1803855. doi: 10.1002/adma.201803855. [Epub ahead of print]