Product management

A Cog’s Case for Corporate Utopia

David Durham, Regional Sales Manager, EDAX

Not too long ago I went to my optometrist to get an eye exam for some replacement glasses. My last pair had been stolen after my car was broken into in broad daylight during lunch at a restaurant in the Bay Area. (What the thief planned on doing with my prescription glasses is still a mystery to me.)

Figure 1: The old phoropter* (top) and the new phoropter** (bottom).

It had been at least a couple years since my last examination, but I was prepared to be guided through all the typical tests, culminating with that “giant-machine-with-multiple-lenses” pressed into my face to help the optometrist determine the prescription that would best correct the errors in my vision. I’d later learn that this machine is called a phoro-optometer, or more commonly a “phoropter.” And, contrary to my previous experiences with this instrument, it was now a super-sleek, slimmed down, digital version of the machine, using a computer controlled digital refraction system to cycle through the refraction options instead of using stacks of physical lenses that had to be manually cycled by the optometrist.

It was much smaller, quieter, faster, and easier than the version with which I was familiar. I was thoroughly impressed. But I was even more impressed when the instrument was pulled away and I saw the Ametek logo emblazoned on the side of it.

I couldn’t help but reflexively blurt out “Hey I work there!” to which the optometrist looked up from my file and began curiously interrogating me about my history in the eye care industry. Sadly, he quickly lost interest after I explained that I worked in a different division of Ametek that manufactures EDS, EBSD, and WDS systems.

After my exam, for some reason I felt a bit intimidated about not knowing more about Ametek’s business units outside of the EDAX niche to which I belong. I knew Ametek was a huge corporation, steadily growing larger over the decades — mainly by acquisition of smaller companies – but I’d never really grasped the sheer size and breadth of everything Ametek does. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in this type of situation. Prior to joining EDAX/Ametek I worked for another scientific instrumentation corporation, slightly smaller than Ametek but still a similar type of behemoth with a wide range of companies making products that service comparable industries and applications. Even at that corporation my knowledge of the business outside of my business unit’s portfolio was very limited. These places are just so big!

Working at large corporations like these can, at times, be a little bit discouraging if you think of yourself as just a single cog in a machine with thousands of moving parts. Giant corporations certainly seem to have a bad reputation these days and I’ll admit I’ve experienced my fair share of corporation-induced angst over the years. Working within a large bureaucracy can make completing the smallest internal tasks overwhelming. Being in a smaller company that is acquired – I’ve been through two acquisitions — can be disruptive to business and cause a lot of anxiety.

But is there a good side to these mega-corporations? I think so.

I can find some important benefits that could be argued to outweigh the negative aspects, not just to the cogs like myself but also to the markets that they serve. Whether or not these apply to other more prominent mega-corporations is debatable, but I think they seem to be reasonable positive characteristics, at least from my experience in the scientific instrumentation field.

Having the brand name recognition has always been an advantage. Customers (and their procurement departments) are typically more willing to do business with companies that have a long history of manufacturing products. Being in business for multiple decades with a proven track record of having the resources to reliably deliver products to the market and consistently service its user-base generates heaps of reassurance for customers that a younger or smaller company just can’t provide. It works similarly for vendors as well – it turns out that people are always more willing to sell you stuff if they’re confident that your company will pay for it.

Being in a large corporation also offers a huge advantage in the ability to research and develop new technology and product improvements. This can come by brute force – having deeper pockets to invest more money into R&D – or even by utilizing the synergy between individual companies under the corporation’s umbrella. EDAX is a great example of this in a couple ways. Ametek’s purchase of a new business unit in 2014 facilitated the development of EDAX’s groundbreaking Octane Elite and Octane Elect EDS systems, allowing for speed and sensitivity that had never been achieved before in any other EDS system. Collaboration between EDAX and another sister company within the Materials Analysis Division of Ametek, ushered in the release of EDAX’s new Velocity™ highspeed CMOS EBSD camera, by far the fastest EBSD system available. Realization of these two milestones of innovation would have been significantly delayed without the help of Ametek’s resources.

Figure 2: The Octane Elite (left) and the Velocity™ Super (right), two of EDAX’s products that were developed, in part, with the help of other business units inside Ametek.

But what I think tends to be the best part is that, as long as a company is meeting its targets and things are humming along nicely, corporations – at least the good ones, in my opinion — are usually happy to just let the business unit do its own thing. Having an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality is the ideal way to keep the key talent happy and keep the business growing and making money. It also makes it possible to retain some semblance of the original company culture that contributed to its success in the first place. This is the holy grail for us cogs – being able to keep that small business feel while also being able to take advantage of all the big business benefits at the same time. Again, EDAX is a good example of this, with many of EDAX’s employees being legacy staff hired on long before the EDAX acquisition. This tells me Ametek must be doing something right.

So, I guess it’s debatable. While we may be willingly marching our grandchildren into a dystopia where three or four companies own all the businesses in the world, there are some undeniable advantages that working for a big company brings as well. And I take some comfort in the fact there are some very intelligent and innovative people behind the curtains, trying to do good things to make their customers happy and generally improve the lives of everyone in the world. We may or may not see all the things like the better phoropters out there, but our lives are almost certainly benefited by them whether we realize it or not.

* Photo from
** Photo from

What’s in a Name?

Matt Nowell, EBSD Product Manager, EDAX

The Globe Theatre

I recently had the opportunity to attend the RMS EBSD meeting, which was held at the National Physics Lab outside of London. It was a very enjoyable meeting, with lotsof nice EBSD developments. While I was there, I was able to take in a bit of London as well. One of the places I visited was the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. While I didn’t get a chance to see a show here (I saw School of Rock instead), it did get me thinking about one of the Bard’s more famous lines, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet” from Romeo and Juliet.

I bring this up because as EBSD Product Manager for EDAX, one of my responsibilities is to help name new products. Now my academic background is in Materials Science and Engineering, so understanding how to best name a product has been an interesting adventure.


The earliest product we had was the OIM™ system, which stood for Orientation Imaging Microscopy. The name came from a paper introducing EBSD mapping as a technique. At the time, we were TSL, which stood for TexSem Laboratories, which was short for Texture in an SEM. Obviously, we were into acronyms. We used a SIT (Silicon Intensified Target) camera to capture the EBSD patterns. We did the background processing with a DSP-2000 (Digital Signal Processor). We controlled the SEM beam with an MSC box (Microscope System Control).

Our first ‘mapped’ car.

For our next generator of products, we branched out a bit. Our first digital Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) camera was called the DigiView, as it was our first digital camera for capturing EBSD patterns instead of analog signals. Our first high-speed CCD camera was called Hikari. This one may not be as obvious, but it was named after the high-speed train in Japan, as Suzuki-san (our Japanese colleague) played a significant role in the development of this camera. Occasionally, we could find the best of both worlds. Our phase ID product was called Delphi. In Greek mythology, Delphi was the oracle who was consulted for important decisions (could you describe phase ID any better than that?). It also stood for Diffracted Electrons for Phase Identification.

Among our more recent products, PRIAS™ stands for Pattern Region of Interest Analysis System. Additionally, though, it is meant to invoke the hybrid use of the detector as both an EBSD detector and an imaging system. TEAM™ stands for Texture and Elemental Analysis System, which allowed us to bridge together EDS and EBSD analysis in the same product. NPAR™ stands for Neighbor Pattern Averaging and Reindexing, but I like this one as it sounds like I named it because of my golf game.
I believe these names have followed in the tradition of things like lasers (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), and CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). It generates a feeling of being part of the club, knowing what these names mean.

Velocity™ EBSD Camera

The feedback I get though, is that our product names should tell us what the product does. I don’t buy into this 100%, as my Honda Pilot isn’t a self-driving car, but it is the first recommendation on how to name a product ( Following this logic, our latest and world’s fastest EBSD camera is the Velocity™. It sounds fast, and it is.

Of course, even when using this strategy, there can be some confusion. Is it tEBSD (Transmission EBSD) or TKD (Transmission Kikuchi Diffraction)? Does HR-EBSD give us better spatial resolution? Hopefully as we continue to name new products, we can make our answer clear.

A Lot of Excitement in the Air!

Sia Afshari, Global Marketing Manager, EDAX

After all these years I still get excited about new technologies and their resulting products, especially when I have had the good fortune to play a part in their development. As I look forward to 2019, there are new and exciting products on the horizon from EDAX, where the engineering teams have been hard at work innovating and enhancing capabilities across all product lines. We are on the verge of having one of our most productive years for product introduction with new technologies expanding our portfolio in electron microscopy and micro-XRF applications.

Our APEX™ software platform will have a new release early this year with substantial feature enhancements for EDS, to be followed by EBSD capabilities later in 2019. APEX™ will also expand its wings to uXRF providing a new GUI and advanced quant functions for bulk and multi-layer analysis.

Our OIM Analysis™ EBSD software will also see a major update with the addition of a new Dictionary Indexing option.

A new addition to our TEM line will be a 160 mm² detector in a 17.5 mm diameter module that provides an exceptional solid angle for the most demanding applications in this field.

Elite T EDS System

Velocity™, EDAX’s low noise CMOS EBSD camera, provides astonishing EBSD performance at greater than 3000 fps with high indexing on a range of materials including deformed samples.

Velocity™ EBSD Camera

Last but not least, being an old x-ray guy, I can’t help being so impressed with the amazing EBSD patterns we are collecting from a ground-breaking direct electron detection (DED) camera with such “Clarity™” and detail, promising a new frontier for EBSD applications!
It will be an exciting year at EDAX and with that, I would like to wish you all a great, prosperous year!

Visas, Border Crossings and Beers; Oh My!

Dr. Bruce Scruggs, Product Manager XRF, EDAX

It’s been a successful and busy year for EDAX’s XRF product lines and business. And with that, there’s a lot of traveling. I’m in the midst of filing a work visa application for a colleague and have determined that my absolute favorite work visa application as a US citizen is to Malaysia. It’s even more painful than having a snippy conversation with a Canadian border agent at the Montreal airport after flying back from Taiwan. (By the way, beer in Taiwan is light and forgettable.)

I’m going to go on about the Malaysian visa, but let’s just take a short diversion to this Canadian border agent. I was supposed to transit through Montreal airport but I missed my connecting flight. The airline was going to put me up for the night at a hotel near the airport. I had already filled out the purpose of my trip as “Business” on my Canadian landing card. I was returning from a business trip after all and there was no option for “Transit” as any sensible landing card would have. It wouldn’t have mattered a lick to the Canadian border agent monitoring the Transit Desk because I wasn’t going to Canada. I would have been transiting through Canada. But, instead, I was standing in front of the border agent controlling the mighty turnstile to Canada and my landing card said the purpose of my trip to Canada was “business”. I tried to explain that I wasn’t going to Canada. I was just transiting through Canada and had to stay at a local hotel overnight because of a missed flight, but the agent wasn’t having any of that. The landing card said that this was a “BUSINESS” trip and I was trying to enter “CANADA” and we needed to have a very grand discussion about the “BUSINESS” I was going to be doing in Canada. The agent was gesturing beyond the turnstile in the general direction of outside of the airport as he said “CANADA”. My voice began to rise as we went back and forth over the circumstances of our meeting at 10PM following my return flight from Taiwan. Finally, a voice in my head said “STOP! THIS IS NOT WORKING!”. Something my Mother said about kitchen condiments and flies crossed my mind. I lowered my voice. I took a deep breath. I told the agent that I had made a mistake on the card. I had missed my connecting flight home and I would have to stay at a local hotel overnight. I wouldn’t be doing any business in Canada and would be leaving in less than 14 hours. I was truly very sorry for the mistake on my landing card. “WELCOME TO CANADA!”, the agent said with another grand gesture in the direction of the airport exit. A quiet little voice in my head said “Whatever! You petty little dictator …” as I bit my lip. By the way, Canada has a lot of good beers. My favorite small breweries in Quebec include Brasserie Belgh Brasse, Microbrasserie Alchimiste, Microbrasserie Pit Caribou and Microbrasserie Charlevoix.

Anyway, back to the work visa for Malaysia. Malaysia is torture by a thousand paper cuts! All told, you need to submit a copy of your passport from front cover to back cover; a resume; a copy of your diploma; a job description; a work schedule; an employment verification letter confirming that no expenses for this person will be borne by the Malaysian Government; and an invitation letter. And don’t forget a recent passport photo. In JPG format. And make sure the diploma is provided in color. And the passport scan has to be in color, too! Oh, and the passport scan file is too large for our e-mail system. Can you upload that to Dropbox? Oh, you need to scan ALL the pages of the passport including the front and back covers. And which Malaysian consulate will you go to get the visa stamped in your passport? I hope you live around LA, DC or NYC. The staff at the DC consulate were very helpful. Otherwise you need to find a visa expeditor that will go to the Malaysian consulate for you.

Once this was all completed, I got the visa stamp – nothing says “Welcome to Malaysia” like:

But, once you get to Malaysia, one of my favorite Malaysian brewed beers is Anchor. Bon voyage!

Welcome to Weiterstadt!

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.

Down Memory Lane

Sia Afshari, Global Marketing Manager, EDAX

For years I have been attending the Denver X-ray conference (DXC) and it is hard when it coincides with the Microscopy and Microanalysis Conference (M&M) as it has a few times in the past several years. It is just difficult for me to accept that the overlap is not avoidable!

My interests are twofold, marketing activities where my main responsibility lie, and technical sessions which still pique my curiosity and which are beneficial for future product development. In the past couple of years at M&M, it has been great to attend sessions devoted to the 50 year anniversaries of electron microscopy, technical evolution, and algorithms, where my colleagues have either been the subject of presentations or have given papers. I have had the fortune to meet and, in some cases, to reacquaint with some of the main contributors to the scientific advancement of electron microscopy.

Being at M&M, I have missed the final years of attendance at DXC of the “old-timers” who have retired. These are gentlemen, in the true meaning of the word, whom I have had the honor of knowing for over 30 years and who have been more than generous with their time with me. I recognize most of all their devotion and contribution in advancing x-ray analysis to where it is today. Their absence will be felt especially in the development of methodology and algorithm. As a friend, who was frustrated with the lack of availability of scientists with a deep knowledge in the field, recently put it, “these guys don’t grow on trees.”

Back at M&M this year, I listened to Frank Eggert talking about the “The P/B Method. About 50 Years a Hidden Champion”, and he brought back many memories. I recognized most of his referenced names, and the fact that they are no longer active in the industry! Looked around the room, I saw more people of the same hair color as mine (what is left). I thought about the XRF/XRD guys I used to know and who are also no longer around the industry. The old Pete Seeger song popped up in my mind with a new verse as; “where have all the algorithmic guys gone?”

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.


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).


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!