The global consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, has dubbed additive manufacturing (AM) “a long-term game changer for manufacturers,” predicting the technology will contribute up to $250 billion to the global economy by 2025. Key to quality control in manufactured samples is the ability to quickly and reliably identify compositional variations. AM has placed a new demand for high throughput scanning electron microscope (SEM) imaging and analysis tools, and particularly techniques such as energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS). For this application, JEOL Tabletop Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM) are powerful tools for failure analysis, quality control and materials characterization.
The Benefits of Additive Manufacturing
In additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, objects are manufactured by depositing layers of a base material (polymer, metal, ceramic or other) on top of each other to achieve a desired shape. This is in contrast to subtractive manufacturing, where objects are shaped by removing material from a block through cutting, grinding, drilling or other means. The additive manufacturing process is controlled by computer-aided design/manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software that is programmed with a 3D model of the object to be produced.
Additive manufacturing is suited for building parts too complex or unique to be manufactured through traditional methods. In certain circumstances, it may not be cost-effective to make a mold using conventional casting processes. In aerospace, for example, additive manufacturing is helping produce components that are lighter, improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, in medicine, additive manufacturing is helping to produce implants that are individually tailored to patients' needs.
As additive manufacturing continues to prove its value, tabletop electron microscopes enable manufacturers to uncover defects and impurities that cause components to erode or fail.
Materials Characterization Using Tabletop Electron Microscopes
Scanning Electron Microscopes are used in a wide range of industrial applications, including electronics, chemicals, machinery and pharmaceuticals. They are used for research, quality control and product inspection.
SEMs provide a high degree of analytical capability. They are powerful tools that reveal surface details at nanoscale resolution. In quality control, these microscopes are useful for profiling structural, morphological and topographical characteristics.
EDS provides compositional information from the X-rays produced when electron beams generated by tabletop electron microscopes interact with a specimen. This information is essential for failure analysis, quality control, research and materials characterization.
JEOL’s comprehensive lineup of SEMs offer a wide range of magnification and analytical capabilities. An entry level Tabletop Scanning Electron Microscopes equipped with EDS system helps manufacturers identify new materials, pinpoint defects and address complex failure analysis scenarios. Within an automated workflow, they shorten the time to results and improve data quality. These microscopes provide reliable data, a high degree of resolution and detailed chemical analysis.
With the growing complexity of industrial applications, manufacturers need fast, reliable and scalable quality control processes. Tabletop electron microscopes are easily calibrated to recognized standards making it straightforward to repeat tests within a set of parameters.
Materials defects often occur at the nanometer scale; thus, a high degree of resolution is essential. Scanning electron microscopes use electrons instead of light to “see” into materials. Since electron wavelengths are up to 100,000 times smaller than the wavelengths of visible light, electron microscopes resolve details hundreds of thousands of times smaller than optical microscopes.
Tabletop electron microscopes also provide comprehensive chemical composition information when combined with EDS instruments. In quality control, for example, such a combination helps determine the thickness of coatings, the sizes of particles and grain boundaries.
Tabletop Electron Microscopes from JEOL
The JCM-7000 NeoScope™ tabletop electron microscope makes it straightforward for users at any skill level to obtain outstanding images and elemental analysis results. It is equipped with real-time 3D imaging, advanced auto functions and the option to add a fully embedded EDS with real-time, 'Live' analysis.
The combination of high-resolution imaging and chemical analysis capabilities enables more detailed failure analysis than is achievable with optical microscopes alone. Additive manufacturers can characterize size distribution, particle homogeneity and foreign contaminants to determine the purity of materials at nanometer scales.
Mckinsey.com. (2017). Additive manufacturing: A long-term game changer for manufacturers.