PTB – German National Metrology Institute

CASE: PTB - German National Metrology Institute

At the German national metrology institute PTB, SPIP™ is widely used as the main routine tool for the analysis of surface topography measurements on the micro- and nanoscale. While in the beginning, the software package was solely applied for AFM and STM images, it is increasingly appreciated also for the quantitative analysis of images recorded with various other surface measuring techniques and thus increasingly used more broadly in a number of working groups with different focus.

Ludger Koenders, head of department ‘Surface Metrology’: ”At PTB I have been using SPIP™ from the very early days of the software more than 20 years ago, for measuring precisely critical dimensions from AFM images, such as step height and lattice constant of gratings. As SPIP™ users we have significantly influenced the evolution of SPIP™ over the years.” For more than two decades now, the direct contact to the software developers has greatly helped to take the emerging demands of PTB as one of the world’s largest metrology institutes into account, so that new functions and options could be implemented promptly. The software package has thus matured into a generally versatile and particularly reliable tool for image analysis.

PTB_Thorsten_at_AFM_in_cleanroomThorsten Dziomba, scientist in the department ‘Dimensional Nanometrology’: “Right from the beginning of my work in the field of AFM calibration services, I’ve been using the core metrology functions such as step height and grating analysis, and appreciate that Image Metrology has always been taking our concerns seriously, e. g. when it comes to the treatment of data derived from non-perfect, irregular or contaminated samples. Analysis routines have been adjusted in a way that bad data can be identified more easily and consequently excluded, which is important for efficient routine services. SPIP™ is always the main tool to analyze the broad range of nanoscale research measurements we do, whether it is measurements at quantum devices, novel materials, nanoparticles or novel roughness standards, not only with AFM, but also other techniques. There is hardly any software package that has so many import filters to read the measurement data files of many microscope manufacturers. It is a great advantage that we can read the data of different instruments and analyze the images in the very same way. This ensure good comparability.” The latter has become particularly important with the optical surface measuring techniques emerging, e. g. confocal laser scanning microscopy and interference microscopy. As a metrology institute, it is vitally important to carefully investigate the different imaging and measurement properties of the instruments, for example in view of surface roughness.

With the publication of the first ISO standards on areal roughness analysis, Image Metrology has implemented the appropriate routines and also enlarged its tools for profile analysis, thus upgrading SPIP™ also for roughness analysis according to standards.

Thorsten Dziomba continues: “A great advantage of this software package is that it allows a straight-forward use, with a clear focus on what is important for a metrologist, on what is relevant in dimensional surface metrology, without getting lost in a confusing jungle of unnecessary extra functions hardly anybody needs. The direct access to the developers ensures that mathematical problems can be discussed – and solved – in a scientifically profound manner. This is decisive for the use of SPIP™ in critical applications such as official calibrations and international comparisons. Of course, we also keep on maintaining and developing our own software further, partly for comparison, partly because even the best software package could never fulfill all wishes of a metrologist, for that there are too many unique challenges in metrology. Nevertheless, we still have many ideas on how we can develop SPIP™ further together with Image Metrology, and we sincerely hope that we can continue on this successful path!”.

Dupont Research Center

CASE: Dupont Research Center

The DuPont Experimental Station research and development facility in Wilmington, Delaware was established more than 100 years ago, and today, the Experimental Station serves as a key research site for DuPont. Scientists and researchers pursue science-based solutions for global markets including agriculture, nutrition, energy, transportation, electronics, safety and protection, construction, and performance materials.

Greg Blackman is a Research Fellow in Materials Science in DuPont’s Central Research and Development division, and founded the Corporate Analytical Scanning Probe Microscopy and Nanomechanics Lab shortly after he joined DuPont in 1990. Over the years, Blackman has actively influenced the fields of Scanning Probe Microscopy and Nano and Micro tribology of polymers both within and outside of DuPont. In his research, Blackman uses the SPIP imaging analysis software to obtain the best possible results:

“I have been using SPIP since around 2009. We have multi-user licenses and I have trained many of my DuPont colleagues to use the various parts of the SPIP package.

 We use it for its intended use, to analyze data and images from several different scanning probe microscopes, but we also use it to analyze images from optical and electron microscopes and data from optical and stylus profilometry instruments as well.

The package is extremely powerful and I have not found a type of data file that cannot be imported or read by the software. The particle and pore analysis is particularly powerful and we have used it to statistically analyze nano-and microparticle size and shape from atomic force microscope and electron microscope images. We also use the particle and pore analysis to calculate wear volumes and quantify scratch damage and healing on the surface of polymers.

The new profile analysis package is very intuitive and powerful, it allows us to compare profiles from many different tools to understand the size and shape of features at a variety of different length scales. It even enables correlation between surface morphology and optical images to understand the appearance of surfaces and defects.

I no longer use the image or data analysis packages associated with the various instruments, I analyze all my data with SPIP.”

Dow Chemical Company

CASE: Dow Chemical Company

Dow Chemical Company is driving innovations that extract value from the intersection of chemical, physical and biological sciences to help address many of the world's most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, clean energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity.

MeyersGregory F. Meyers, Ph.D. is the Group Lead for Corporate R&D at Dow and oversees their global AFM efforts. Dr. Meyers explains why SPIP was the company’s choice in imaging analysis software:

"In 2005 we started a search for third party SPM analysis software.  We wanted something that would be flexible enough to natively handle data from other instruments such as stylus profilers.  The ability to compare data from several different profiling instruments using the same software analysis package eliminates concerns about the vendor's software.   Our clear choice then was SPIP and we signed up 6 users.

Since then we have grown our user base to 14 licenses with full modules on each.  Our user base includes members of our global SPM team and others from allied functions.  We make extensive use of the tip characterization, 3D visualization, force curve analysis, particle and pore, and roughness analysis modules.  We also take advantage of batch processing for higher throughput analysis.  The batch processing is very straightforward allowing one to call up almost all of the functions available in the modules and easily arrange them in sequence for automatic analysis and reporting.  We also find the movie and time series module useful for making movies of dynamic events.  

SPIP has become our go-to 3rd party software analysis choice for SPM (and other) data and image analysis.  Product support is quite good with typically less than 24 hour response for help when needed.  Also Image Metrology listens to suggestions for improvements or new offerings. SPIP is written by SPMers for SPMers - but does much more than that."

FORCE Technology

CASE: FORCE Technology

FORCE TechnologyFORCE Technology is a leading independent technological consultancy company based in Denmark. FORCE Technology offers
consultancy and services to a broad range of industries including energy, oil and gas, maritime, manufacturing, medical and infrastructure.

Furthermore, the company offers a wide range of services and solutions for the plastics, composites and rubber industry based on many successful co-operations with key players from the industry.  Examples are co-operations on aspects such as advanced surface characterization and material properties, e.g. in relation to durability and degradation in use, or the application of new plastic, composite and rubber materials and advanced surface coatings and surface structures.

Specialist Thomas Fich Pedersen from the department for Plastics, Composites and Surface Characterization uses SPIP as an integral part of his job:

“I am a very satisfied user of SPIP. I apply it for analysis of 3D images and SEM images, and other optical microscope images. In our department, we use SPIP in a variety of applications, such as measuring porosities in thermally sprayed coatings and characterization of nanometer sized holes in molecular sieve filters. In 3D microscopy, SPIP is our standard software for evaluation of roughness of curved surfaces, and in evaluation of wear and corrosion attacks both on real samples and on replicas of surfaces of for example off-shore pipelines. We have also used the software to evaluate both confocal and AFM images of micro- and nano-structured patterns produced in plastic and metal surfaces".