Product management

Looking At A Grain!

Sia Afshari, Global Marketing Manager, EDAX

November seems to be the month when the industry tries to squeeze in as many events as possible before the winter arrives. I have had the opportunity to attend a few events and missed others, however, I want to share with you how much I enjoyed ICOTOM18*!

ICOTOM (International Conference on Texture of Materials) is an international conference held every three years and this year it took place in St. George, Utah, the gateway to Zion National Park.

This was the first time I have ever attended ICOTOM which is, for the most part, a highly technical conference, which deals with the material properties that can be detected and analyzed by Electron Backscatter Diffraction (EBSD) and other diffraction techniques. What stood out to me this year were the depth and degree of technical presentations made at this conference, especially from industry contributors. The presentations were up to date, data driven, and as scientifically sound as any I have ever seen in the past 25 years of attending more than my share of technical conferences.


The industrial adaptation of technology is not new since X-ray diffraction has been utilized for over half a century to evaluate texture properties of crystalline materials. At ICOTOM I was most impressed by the current ‘out of the laboratory’ role of microanalysis, and especially EBSD, for the evaluation of anisotropic materials for quality enhancement.

The embracing of the microanalysis as a tool for product enhancement means that we equipment producers need to develop new and improved systems and software for EBSD applications that will address these industrial requirements. It is essential that all technology providers recognize the evolving market requirements as they develop, so that they can stay relevant and supply current needs. If they can’t do this, then manufacturing entities will find their own solutions!

*In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that EDAX was a sponsor of ICOTOM18 and that my colleagues were part of the organizing committee.

Thoughts from a Summer Intern

Kylie Simpson, Summer Intern 2017, EDAX

This summer at EDAX, I have had the opportunity not only to build upon the skills that I acquired here last summer and throughout my academic year, but also to acquire new skills enabling me to better understand energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS), materials science, and applied physics. Having access to state-of-the-art microscopes, detectors, and literature has certainly played a large role in my take-away from this summer, but the most valuable aspect of my time at EDAX is the expertise of those around me. Working with the applications team provided me with the opportunity to work alongside the different groups, including the engineering, sales and marketing, and technical support groups, as well as with customers via demos, training courses, and webinars. Not to mention the plethora of knowledge within the applications team itself. The willingness of other EDAX employees not only to help me, but also to explain and teach me how to solve the problems I encountered was extremely helpful.

The major projects I worked on this summer were compiling a user manual for the EDAX APEX™ software, collecting data for a steel library, and tuning a PID system for the thermoelectric cooler used in EDAX detectors. Creating a user manual for APEX™ enabled me to fully understand the software and describe it in a clear and useful way for our customers. I used LaTeX™ software to compile the manual, which exposed me to a very powerful typesetting tool while optimizing the layout and accessibility of the manual. Because I was not involved in the design of APEX™, I was able to write the user manual from the perspective of a new user. As a student and a newer user of EDAX software, I have recognized how useful APEX™ is for beginners and hope that the user manual will help to complement its value.

The EDAX APEX™ User Manual.

Figure 1: The EDAX APEX™ User Manual.

The steel library project that I worked on was very interesting because I compiled data that will simplify and aid customers working with steel samples. I collected spectra for nearly 100 steel standards and compared the quant results to the known values to confirm the accuracy of the data. This data will soon be available for purchase by customers who would like to compare the spectra from unknown samples to those of known standards using the spectrum match feature.

Me using one of our scopes to collect data.

Figure 2: Me using one of our scopes to collect data.

Additionally, I was able to work with the engineering team to tune a PID system for the thermoelectric cooler inside all EDAX detectors. The module of each detector must reach a set point temperature in a set period of time and remain stable. By making small changes to the parameters and determining their impact, I ran tests over several weeks to optimize the cooling of the detector. These parameters will be used in future development of EDAX detectors, enabling them to work even more accurately.

Figure 3: The PID system I worked with and me.

Overall, my experience at EDAX has been very positive, providing me with the skills and knowledge to succeed and excel in both academics and my career.

To Attend, or Not to Attend Trade Shows? That is the Question!

Roger Kerstin – US Sales Manager, EDAX

From the point of view of a regional Sales Manager, for a long time, trade shows were the ultimate way to bring in new customers and reach many of your existing customers all at the same time. However, previously gigantic shows like Pittcon now continue to get smaller and smaller every year. When I attended my first Pittcon in 2000, it was so big that only a few venues in the country could host it. Now it seems that it could be placed anywhere and there is no longer a size issue. With more focus on the internet the trade shows almost seem like they are not needed any longer.

EDAX at AAFS EDAX at TMS

As you see I said almost. I do feel that participation in tradeshows is and will continue to be important for a long time both for vendors/exhibitors and customers/participants. As exhibitors, they allow us to meet with current customers, see new and exciting trends and/or products, and talk to potential new customers. All of this in one place. Yes, it can be expensive to attend these shows all the time, especially the larger ones but let’s just think about the cost in more detail. Let’s think about it from the perspective of the exhibitor. If we get 50 leads from a larger show that maybe costs $25,000. Wow, that’s $500 per lead. If I were to go out and try to visit 50 potential customers it would take weeks and there would be a lot of travel and a lot more expense. I would say that overall we would probably spend more to visit these 50 potential customers across the region and it would take 4-5 times as long. So not only are we spending more money, we are taking valuable time in doing so.

Sometimes I hear that the exhibitors are saying the show is too long, or that it was a waste of money. I can even say that I have said that in the past as well, but if we look at the bigger picture, it really isn’t that bad. At a trade show we not only have attendees that are there to look, learn, and possibly purchase products or services. They are also coming to see us or other companies like ours and we can be passive and not get a lot out of it or we can be nice, friendly, and accessible. If we are the latter, then we potentially can start up a new relationship with a new customer. At some shows we also have a team there that usually wouldn’t be with us on the door-to-door visits. At a show, we may have product support, sales, service and if needed can address all avenues with one meeting. Potential customers have a chance to see new technology advancements at close hand and can even request an individual demo at a given event. To do this elsewhere would be costlier and more time consuming for both us and for our customers.

EDAX with TESCAN at Pittcon 2017 EDAX at M&M 2016

Some of these large shows probably do need to be shortened as it seems at some of them, the last day is a time where the vendors meet vendors and not a lot of customers are coming around, but even on that note it could be beneficial as this is where we make connections with others doing similar things and there could potentially be partnerships or mutually beneficial outcomes. In short, I will continue to support the value of our events and tradeshow attendance – we look forward to seeing you at ‘M&M 2017’!

My New Lab Partner

Matt Nowell, EBSD Product Manager, EDAX

It has been an exciting month here in our Draper Utah lab, as we have received and installed our new FEI Teneo FEG SEM. We are a small lab, focusing on EBSD development and applications, and without a loading dock, so timing is critical when scheduling the delivery. So, 3 months ago, we looked at the calendar to pick a day with sunshine and without snow. Luckily, we picked well.

Figure 1: Our new SEM coming off the truck.

Figure 1: Our new SEM coming off the truck.

Once we got the new instrument up and running, of course the next step was to start playing with it. This new SEM has a lot more imaging detectors than our older SEM, so I wanted to see what I could see with it. I chose a nickel superalloy turbine blade with a thermal barrier coating, as it had many phases for imaging and microanalysis. The first image I collected was with the Everhart-Thornley Detector (ETD). For each image shown, I relied on the auto contrast and brightness adjustment to optimize the image.

Figure 2: ETD image

Figure 2: ETD image

With imaging, contrast is information. The contrast in this image shows phase contrast. On the left, gamma/gamma prime contrast is visible in the Nickel superalloy while different distinct regions of the barrier coating are seen towards the right. The next image I collected was with the Area Backscatter Detector (ABS). This is a detector that is positioned under the pole piece for imaging. With this detector, I can use the entire detector, the inner annular portion of the detector, or any of three regions towards the outer perimeter of the detector.

Figure 3: ABS Detector image.

Figure 3: ABS Detector image.

I tried each of the different options, and I selected the inner annular ring portion of the detector. Each option provided similar contrast as seen in Figure 3, but I went with this based on personal preference. The contrast is like the ETD contrast is Figure 2. I also compared with the imaging options using the detector in Concentric Backscatter (CBS) mode, where 4 different concentric annular detectors are available.

Figure 4: T1 Detector (a-b mode).

Figure 4: T1 Detector (a-b mode).

My next image used the T1 detector, which to my understanding is an in-lens detector. In this mode, I selected the a – b mode, so the final image is obtained by subtracting the image from the b portion of the detector from the a portion of the detector. I selected this image because the resultant contrast is reversed from the first couple of images. Here phases that were bright are now dark, and detail within the phases is suppressed.

Figure 5: T2 Detector.

Figure 5: T2 Detector.

My final SEM image was collected with the T2 detector, another in-lens detector option. Here we see the same general phase contrast, but the contrast range is more limited and the detail within regions is again suppressed.

I have chosen to show this set of images to illustrate how different detectors, and their positioning, can generate different images from the area, and that the contrast/information obtained with each image can change. Now I have done a cursory interpretation of the image contrast, but a better understanding may come from reading the manual and knowing the effects of the imaging parameters used.

Figure 6: Always Read the Manual!

Figure 6: Always Read the Manual!

Of course, I’m an EBSD guy, so I also want to compare this to what I can get using our TEAM™ software with Hikari EBSD detectors. One unique feature we have in our software is PRIAS™, which uses the EBSD detector as an imaging system. With the default imaging mode, it subsets the phosphor screen image into 25 different ROI imaging detectors, and generates an image from each when the beam is scanned across the area of interest. Once these images are collected, they can be reviewed, mixed, added, subtracted, and colored to show the contrast of interest, similar to the SEM imaging approach described above.

The 3 most common contrasts we see with PRIAS™ are phase, orientation, and topographic. To capture these, we also have a mode where 3 pre-defined regional detectors are collected during EBSD mapping, and the resulting images available with the EBSD (and simultaneous EDS) data.

Figure 7: PRIAS™ Top Detector Image.

Figure 7: PRIAS™ Top Detector Image.

The first ROI is positioned at the top of the phosphor screen, and the resulting phase contrast is very similar to the contrast obtained with the ETD and ABS imaging modes on the SEM.

Figure 8: PRIAS™ Center Detector Image.

Figure 8: PRIAS™ Center Detector Image.

The second ROI is positioned at the center of the phosphor screen. This image shows more orientation contrast.

Figure 9: PRIAS™ Bottom Detector Image.

Figure 9: PRIAS™ Bottom Detector Image.

The third ROI is positioned at the bottom of the phosphor screen. This image shows more topographical contrast. All three of these images are complementary, both to each other but also to the different SEM images. They all give part of the total picture of the sample.

Figure 10: Defining Custom ROIs in PRIAS™.

Figure 10: Defining Custom ROIs in PRIAS™.

With PRIAS™ it is also possible to define custom ROIs. In Figure 10, 3 different ROIs have been drawn within the phosphor screen area. The 3 corresponding images are then generated, and these can be reviewed, mixed, and then selected. In this case, I selected an ROI that reversed the phase contrast, like the contrast seen with the T1 detector in Figure 4.

Figure 11: PRIAS™ Center Image with EDS Bland Map (Red-Ni, Blue – Al, Green-Zr)

Figure 12: PRIAS™ Center Image with Orientation Map (IPF Map Surface Normal Direction).

figure-12a

Of course, the PRIAS™ information can also be directly correlated with the EDS and EBSD information collected during the mapping. Figure 11 shows an RGB EDS map while Figure 12 shows an IPF orientation map (surface normal direction with the corresponding orientation key) blended with the PRIAS™ center image. Having this available adds more information (via contrast) to the total microstructural characterization package.

I look forward to using our new SEM, to develop new ideas into tools and features for our users. I imagine a few new blogs posts should come from it as well!

Considerations for your New Year’s Resolutions from Dr. Pat

Dr. Patrick Camus, Director of Research and Innovation, EDAX

The beginning of the new calendar year is a time to reflect and evaluate important items in your life. At work, it might also be a time to evaluate the age and capabilities of the technical equipment in your lab. If you are a lucky employee, you may work in a newly refurbished lab where most of your equipment is less than 3 years old. If you are such a fortunate worker, the other colleagues in the field will be envious. They usually have equipment that is much more than 5 years old, some of it possibly dating from the last century!

Old Jalopy circa 1970 EDAX windowless Si(Li) detector circa early 70’s

In my case, at home my phone is 3 years old and my 3 vehicles are 18, 16, and 3 years old. We are definitely evaluating the household budget this year to upgrade the oldest automobile. We need to decide what are the highest priority items and which are not so important for our usage. It’s often important to sort through the different features offered and decide what’s most relevant … whether that’s at home or in the lab.

Octane Elite Silicon Drift Detector 2017 Dr. Pat’s Possible New Vehicle 2017

If your lab equipment is older than your vehicles, you need to determine whether the latest generation of equipment will improve either your throughput or the quality of your work. The latest generations of EDAX equipment can enormously speed up throughput and the improve quality of your analysis over that of previous generations – it’s just a matter of convincing your boss that this has value for the company. There is no time like the present for you to gather your arguments into a proposal to get the budget for the new generation of equipment that will benefit both you and the company.
Best of luck in the new year!

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” (Mark Twain)

Dr. Oleg Lourie, Senior Product Manager, EDAX

San Javier, Spain, October 18, 2015: Airbus A400M airlifter escorted by Sains Patulla Aguila squad on their 30th anniversary celebration event.

Many of us like to travel and some people are fascinated by the view of gigantic A380’ planes slowly navigating on tarmac with projected gracious and powerful determination. I too could not overcome a feel of fascination every time I observed these magnificent planes, they are really – literally big..  The airline industry however seems to have a more practical perspective on this matter – the volume of the A380s purchase is on decline and according to the recent reports Airbus is considering reducing their production based on growing preference towards smaller and faster airplanes. Although the connection may seem slightly tenuous,  in my mind I see a fairly close analogy to this situation in EDS market, when the discussion comes to the size of EDS sensors.

In modern microanalysis where the studies of a compositional structure rapidly become dependent on a time scale, the use of the large sensors can no longer be a single solution to optimize the signal. The energy resolution of an EDS spectrometer can be related to its signal detection capability, which determines the signal to noise ratio and as a result the energy resolution of the detector. Fundamentally, to increase signal to noise ratio one may choose to increase signal, or number of counts, or as alternative to reduce the noise of the detector electronics and improve its sensitivity. The first methodology, based on larger number of counts, is directly related to the amount of input X-rays determined by a solid angle of the detector, and/or the acquisition time. A good example for this approach would be a large SDD sensor operating at long shaping times. A conceptually alternative methodology, would be to employ a sensor with a) reduced electronics noise; and b) having higher efficiency in X-ray transmission, which implies less X-ray losses in transit from sample to the recorded signal in the spectra.

Using this methodology signal to noise ratio can be increased with a smaller sensor having higher transmissivity and operating at higher count rates vs larger sensor operating at lower count rates.

To understand the advantage of using a small sensor at higher count rates we can review a simple operation model for SDD.  A time for a drift of the charge generated by X-ray in Si body of the sensor can be modeled either based on a simple linear trajectory or a random walk model. In both cases, we would arrive to approximate l~√t dependence, where l is the distance traveled by charge from cathode to anode and t is the drift time. In regard to the sensor size this means that a time to collect charge from a single X-ray event is proportional to the sensor area. As an example, a simple calculation with assumed electron mobility of 1500 cm2/V-1s and bias 200 V results in 1 µs drift time estimate for 100 mm2 and 100 ns drift time for 10 mm2 sensors. This implies that in order to collect a full charge in a large sensor the rise time for preamplifier needs to be in the range of 1 µs vs 100 ns rise time that can be used with 10 mm2 sensor.  With 10 times higher readout frequency for 10 mm2 sensor it will collect equivalent signal to a 100 mm2 sensor.

What will happen if we run a large sensor at the high count rates? Let’s assume that a 100mm2 sensor in this example can utilize the 100 ns rise time. In this case, since the rise time is much shorter than the charge drift time (~1 µs), not all electrons, produced by an X-ray event, will be collected. This shortage will result in an incomplete charge collection effect (ICC), which will be introducing artifacts and deteriorating the energy resolution. A single characteristic X-ray for Cu (L) and Cu Kα will generate around 245 and 2115 electrons respectively in Si, which will drift to anode, forced by applied bias, in quite large electron packets.  Such large electron packets are rapidly expanding during the drift with ultimately linear expansion rate vs drift time. If the rise time used to collect the electron packet is too short, some of the electrons in the packet will be ‘left out’ which will result in less accurate charge counting and consequently less accurate readout of the X-ray energy. This artifact, called a ‘ballistic deficit’ (BD), will be negatively affecting the energy resolution at high count rates. It is important to note that both ICC and BD effects for the large sensors are getting more enhanced with increasing energy of the characteristic X-rays, which means the resolution stability will deteriorate even more rapidly for higher Z elements compare to the low energy/light elements range.

Figure 1: Comparative Resolution at MnKa (eV).

Figure 1: Comparative Resolution at MnKα (eV) *

As the factual illustration to this topic, the actual SDD performance for sensors with different areas is shown in the Fig. 1. It displays the effect of the acquisition rates on the energy resolution for the EDS detectors having different sensors size and electronics design. Two clear trends can be observed – a rapid energy resolution deterioration with increase of the sensor size for the traditional electronics design; and much more stable resolution performance at high count rates for the sensor with new CMOS based electronics. In particular, the data for Elite Plus with 30 mm2 sensor shows stable resolution below 0.96 µs shaping time, which corresponds to >200 kcps OCR.

In conclusion, conceptually, employing a smaller sensor with optimized signal collection efficiency at higher count rates does offer an attractive alternative to acquiring the X-ray signal matching the one from large area sensors, yet combined with high throughput and improved energy resolution. Ultimately, the ideal solution for low flux applications will be a combination of several smaller sensors arranged in an array, which will combine all the benefits of smaller geometry, higher count rates, higher transmissivity and maximized solid angle.

* SDD performance data courtesy of the EDAX Applications Team.

System Error…..or User Error?

Shawn Wallace, Applications Engineer, EDAX

Error Message 2

Over the past week, I have been helping our engineering department test some new hardware setups.  As the new(ish) guy, this was a pretty different aspect of the job for me. I expected to run in to some issues and I did. A conversation I had while troubleshooting one of these issues made me think of troubleshooting, not just for our systems but the process as a whole. It made me realize that even the most seemingly difficult issues often are not. They are just more difficult because of assumptions or lack of complete information.

I shall start this with the backstory that started me thinking about this blog post. I turned on a newly installed system and prepared to run through the new system calibration procedure, but something was not right. I was getting some counts, but not enough. I checked firmware. I checked cable connections. I checked microscope settings. I turned on the IR camera. All of these should have given me a signal. Something to help me troubleshoot, but I was getting nowhere.

At this point, I could have spent another hour fiddling, but there are people here who know more about things than I do and I could save myself time and grief by asking them for help. The first person I asked was Jens, our EDS expert. He knows the ins and outs of these systems. Maybe, there was something obvious I was missing.

He looked at the cables, checked the microscope settings, turned on the IR camera. Basically, he did everything I did. He was following the same troubleshooting steps I was. He was trying to isolate the problem and understand the root cause of why we were not getting a signal and just like me he was not getting anywhere.  At this point, we could have spent another hour fiddling with things, but just like before, we know there are people here who know more than we do and we could save ourselves time and grief by asking for help.

We brought over one of the engineers, a gentleman with over 23 years of experience at EDAX. One of the many people here, who have decades of experience on all aspects of our operations. He looked at the cables, checked the microscope settings, turned on the IR camera. He did basically everything we did. It was pretty validating to see someone with his experience going step by step through the same processes to understand the problem. At this point, he was semi-stumped too. Our conclusion seemed to be that a part was malfunctioning, but he had just tested it before it was mounted on our microscope.

It was the end of the road. He did not really have anyone else to turn to. So he checked his assumptions.

He started with the cables. He knew both the detector and the box had cables to them. One end in the detector, the other in the box. Right? He followed the cable from the detector backwards and much to my chagrin, the end of that cable was not connected to anything. I took the cable from the box and followed it to its obvious conclusion… it was not plugged in. We had two cables going nowhere when there should have been one cable. At this point, I may have muttered something under my breath. How did I miss that? I had just wasted two people’s valuable time on something simple. What slipped through the cracks?

That night I evaluated myself. I had started with the assumption that the system was installed correctly. It wasn’t. I had checked thoroughly enough I thought, but not closely enough. I had assumed that since both ends of a cable were in the right spots, it was connected correctly. I was wrong.

Then I started to think about what I could learn from this and how it relates to how I deal with both issues and customers. It made me realize that I often start with knowing that my customers are starting with their own assumptions. We often ask the most obvious questions at the start. Is it plugged in and turned on? I challenge those assumptions with the customer and I know often they are ignore or glossed over with a terse “yes”. Of course it is on and plugged in!

Of course, it was plugged in. I checked it myself. Words I had said to myself earlier that day. And yet, here it was not plugged in. It took the wisdom of experience for our engineer to challenge his own assumptions and double check. One day I hope to be that wise.