Revealed: The Top Time-Saving Scanning Electron Microscope Advantages

From nanometer-level resolutions to complex chemical analyses, scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) can bring many imaging and analysis benefits to research and industrial users. Recently, and thanks to innovations in the automated quality control space, SEMs are now helping users streamline their imaging and analysis capabilities – providing massive time savings.

In this post, we’ll explain how SEMs are achieving the fast time to results that today’s users demand.

Why was micro analysis so slow?

In a recent blog post, we investigated why the world of microanalysis was once so slow, where researchers were often forced to work with both scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) systems, switching between separate PCs, software, and user interfaces to get the elemental and structural data they needed. Thermo Fisher’s ChemiSEM technology was a game changer in this space, helping users obtain elemental data directly from an SEM imaging, and eliminating many of the steps needed to switch between two different systems.

This is just one of the many time-saving scanning electron microscope advantages that today’s systems provide. In fact, our SEMs can expedite your imaging and analysis capabilities further and thanks to the following capabilities.

Fast pumping systems

Every SEM operates in a vaccum and, at Thermo Fisher, our SEMs are capable of very fast pump down times, often within a few minutes.

Always-ready systems

Our systems are ready to work at any time, featuring automatic alignments and workflows. This can help users realize massive time savings where, for example, you don’t need to turn on a beam and waste time realigning it. Instead, you can just click “lens alignment” and your lenses will automatically align.

All our SEM systems now include features like system presets, user guidance, photo navigation, un-do and re-do functionality and auto functions to make the day-to-day operation of your SEM faster and more efficient.

Superior user experiences

The easier an SEM is to operate, the more time your users will save. We integrate a wide range of functions onto the SEM user interface, providing significant time savings. As a result, users do not need to switch between different technologies and tools – everything is available in the same space, allowing them to fully and seamlessly investigate each sample.

Navigation is an area where these new SEMs technology has improved. Navigation cameras mounted in the roof of the sample chamber are able to automatically take color images, which are calibrated to the stage location. You just double click to dive into an area of interest. Calibration also ensures the location matches what the user expects.

Nav-cam technology

Advanced automation

At Thermo Fisher, our SEMs come with a range of automated options to help you not only use our machines with ease but also preventing you from making simple – but highly impactive – mistakes.

For example, a novice user may not understand that effects of electron burn – where a sample is damaged if it is exposed to an electron beam for too long. They may also not know that, by integrating more images, the signal to noise ratio is higher and a better quality image is attainable. Our systems run these “decisions” in the background, without any user intervention – saving time and providing you with superior results. Let’s examine this area in more detail now.

Why automated quality control is key for fast time to results

AI-powered automated imaging data analysis can expedite your time to results and also allows non-expert users to conduct quality control and failure analysis tests with ease.

Let’s investigate automation in a little more detail and across a typical quality control example. The image below shows the process flow of an automated quality control tool, which is designed for checking the quality of a coating coverage.

Thanks to this tool, the user can scan a large sample area by collecting a set of back-scattered electron (BSE) images at low magnification and saving them to a selected folder.

Automated quality control workflow

These images are then automatically analyzed by applying a threshold on the gray level. This effectively separates the uncovered steel and coating, where the uncovered areas appear brighter on the resulting image. The measurement statistics and the average coverage percentage are then automatically saved in a report, which is available to the user, when required.

Many of the manual steps associated with this analysis are now conducted by the SEM. The end user effectively just needs to load the set of images and set the thresholds for the analysis. Everything else is handled by the machine.

Scanning electron microscope advantages everywhere

At Thermo Fisher, our scanning electron microscopes are designed to provide high throughput and accessibility, giving your users everything they need to get the right results, quickly. To achieve this, we use a range of cutting-edge techniques, including automated quality control, our ChemiSEM technology, intuitive user interface, and always-aligned system ethos. If you’d like to find out more about our scanning electron microscope advantages – including our time savings benefits – contact one of the team today.


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