Scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) are sophisticated analytical tools capable of capturing nanometer-resolution images of a sample’s surface and simultaneously revealing its physical and chemical properties.
SEM systems can be counted on to provide an in-depth set of information for a standard quality control process, including morphology, structural, and topographical data. They are frequently employed in conjunction with energy-dispersive x-ray spectrometry (EDS) for mapping and contamination investigation and analysis.
The field of electron microscopy has made great strides that now allow quality control analysts to quickly solve complex failure analysis problems, pinpoint product defects (especially for quality control in manufacturing), and identify an entire range of novel materials.
Further, SEMs can do the following when combined with automated processes in quality control:
● Reduces the time it takes to get results The availability of compact, tabletop SEMs allows end-users to perform analyses as fast as 15 minutes in their own laboratories, saving valuable time and money.
● Sample setup optimization Optimization is essential for minimizing inherent process disturbances under various scenarios while also assuring a safe operation throughout.
● Ensure measurement repeatability (test-retest reliability) The repeatability of measurements demonstrates that constructs and scientific findings aren’t expected to change over time. Since varying results would entail inaccuracy, test-retest reliability is essential for the research findings to have a degree of authority.
Key SEM Benefits
The key benefits that an SEM provides for quality control processes include:
When paired with EDS, SEMs deliver extensive chemical analysis, including elemental composition and sample concentration. You can rely on these instruments to measure the coverage and thickness of a sample coating, inspect grain boundaries, and identify grain and particle sizes in a standard quality control process.
Some EDS also use automated quality control tools to reduce the time it takes to get results and make a more intuitive user experience possible. Specific systems allow instant chemical content for observed defects and faults without having to switch between systems. Some increase user productivity by providing access to essential information two to four times faster than standard technologies.
Depending on the capabilities of their SEM, quality control specialists can also test a variety of materials and analyze samples at high resolution while preserving the larger context of the sample being examined.
SEMs feature a level of magnification, resolution, and depth of field that’s comparable to what optical microscopes offer. Through these instruments, achieving sub-nanometer (nm) resolutions of up to 300 times higher than an optical microscope is made possible and applicable even to an electron’s wavelength, which is 10,000 times smaller than that of visible light.
This nanometer resolution capacity necessary to identify faults and resolve fine details has become a requirement for researchers, especially those whose job involves identifying microscopic defects on increasingly diminutive components. Manufacturers developed SEM systems capable of nanometer and sub-nanometer resolutions at very low beam voltages to meet this demand. These instruments provide such levels of resolution performance on materials ranging from powders, catalysts, nanodevices, and nanomaterials to bulk magnetic samples.
Researchers can count on SEMs to provide industry-leading, automated solutions, such as quick and accurate EDS-based micron particle classification utilized in additive manufacturing applications and industrial technical cleanliness.
Reliable Data With Repeatable Measurements
SEMs can be calibrated to traceable standards, making it simple to replicate tests and examine materials within a specified set of parameters, especially when performing compliance testing.
When monitoring cleanliness standards for fluid systems in the automotive industry, for instance, quality control officers should identify the source of contaminants as quickly as possible.
SEMs provide an ample amount of data to aid compliance, with the help of automated quality control tools to ensure the test-retest reliability of measurements.
Examples of this technology include self-aligning optics systems and automatic image focus, which help ensure consistent data between experiments for end-users.
Large Scale Quality Control That Is Quick And Precise
Quick, precise, and multi-scale quality control has become a necessity in today’s laboratories due to the ever-growing market demands and complexity of samples. The use of SEMs is prevalent in many different fields, including science and engineering, due to their ability to optimize quality control processes, thanks in no small part to the versatile characteristics of these instruments.
Technological advances in scanning electron microscopy, particularly in the area of benchtop SEM systems, have greatly enhanced quality control procedures of laboratories and research institutes across numerous industries.
From pharmaceutical to manufacturing, SEMs play a critical role in product analysis with their ability to perform sample analysis in a matter of minutes in labs, which saves companies time, money, and other valuable resources.
These lab tools reveal a vast array of information concerning changes in microscopic properties of particles, which may include:
● Crystalline structure
● Contaminant Identification
● Chemical composition
The compact size and relative ease-of-use of modern SEMs, coupled with the bevy of samples that researchers can analyze in a detailed yet speedy manner, makes them an efficient and cost-effective addition to a company’s quality control laboratory.