Coming Up To Speed

Eric Rufe, U.S. Northeast Sales Manager, EDAX

“Dad, do you want to see someone cut an arrow in half with a sword?”

That is the sort of question I’ve come to expect from my 13-year old son. Lately, he and his friends watch a YouTube show where two intrepid scientists conduct all sorts of crazy experiments, record with a high-speed camera, and play the results back in slow motion. In this case, one guy shot an arrow at the other, who managed to cut it in half in mid-flight on his first attempt. In other videos, they burst water balloons and spin flaming steel wool to create cascades of sparks. All these experiments are recorded with a high-speed camera and played back in slow motion. It is really a lot of fun to watch. And, I noticed the camera they use is made by AMETEK!

I have been paying attention to AMETEK high-speed cameras lately, in a tangential way. Let me explain. I joined EDAX just over one year ago as Northeast Sales Manager. At EDAX, I handle the EDS, WDS, EBSD and µ-XRF products. Although I used some of these products as a student, that was a long time ago. During most of my career I worked with other types of microscopy techniques, and the EDAX technology has advanced dramatically during that time. For example, silicon drift detectors with thermoelectric cooling had replaced the SiLi detectors form my student days, which mean no more filling up a LN2 dewar (Figure 1). Joining EDAX meant that I had a lot to learn and I had to learn it quickly.

Figure 1. Very old stock photo of a scientist filling a LN2 dewar for the old SiLi detectors.

Fortunately, EDAX has a lot of resources to bring me up to speed. EDAX does a good job of presenting webinars on new techniques and recent developments. These are all archived on the EDAX website, along with videos of presentations recorded at different meetings and workshops. I counted 94 different presentations dating back to 2014 and quickly set to work watching and learning. EDAX also has a lot of literature available through the website: product brochures, data sheets, articles, presentations, and essential knowledge briefings. Somewhere over 120 pieces of literature.

One of the benefits of the Northeast territory is that the EDAX headquarters is in my territory, located in Mahwah, NJ. This proximity makes it easy for me to bring customers to Mahwah for demonstrations. As you enter the demonstration area in Mahwah, you are greeted by a group of signs showing all of the different companies within AMETEK’ s Materials Analysis Division (MAD) (Figure 2). EDAX is one of several companies in MAD, along with CAMECA, Amptek, SPECTRO, Forza Silicon and Vision Research. There is some cross-pollination among these different companies, and I like to tell the story that EDAX is part of a larger group of related technologies. So, I made it a point to also learn something about each of these different companies and set about examining their websites.

Figure 2. Canvas signs on the wall outside the demo labs in Mahwah, NJ showing some of the companies in the AMETEK Materials Analysis Division.

Now we come back to the high-speed cameras. One of the sister companies makes high-speed cameras for a variety of applications. They have many great slow motions videos on their web page, including ballistics tests, water droplets, flying insects, and an exploding strawberry (yes, an exploding strawberry).

Collaboration with this sister company resulted in the Velocity EBSD camera, with collection speeds up to 4,500 indexed points per second. This is the fastest EBSD camera available, and it has been fun to demonstrate the speed to customers. Large maps that may require an overnight run can now be completed in minutes. The first generation of the Velocity EBSD Systems was launched in June 2018 with speeds up to 3,000 fps. This release date was shortly before I joined EDAX. The faster Velocity֭, the Velocity Super EBSD Systems, were launched in March 2019. Only 9 months later, the new Velocity has a 50% increase in speed (Figure 3).

Figure 3. EDAX Velocity Super EBSD Camera (left) and an EBSD orientation map from an additively manufactured Inconel 718 collected at 4,500 indexed points per second at 25 nA beam current (right).

There has been a rapid release of new and improved products since I joined, in addition to the developments in the Velocity camera. EDAX released a 160 mm2 EDS detector for TEM, the Elite T Ultra. APEX software development has continued, and now APEX is available on the Element, Octane Elect, and Octane Elite EDS Systems. We are on the verge of releasing APEX for EBSD as well. New EBSD software (OIM Matrix) has been released, which includes dynamic pattern simulation and dictionary indexing. In November, we will host a webinar on EBSD using a Direct Electron Detector.

The challenge I have been facing over the past 12 months is that no matter how fast I read, and watch, and learn, it seems there is always something new. I am reminded of the Red Queen, in Through the Looking-Glass, explaining to Alice:

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”.

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