From the bridges and vehicles that form our transportation system to the windmills and batteries that provide our energy, steel is a backbone of our modern economy. And as companies compete to develop lighter-weight, more durable products, the demand for higher-quality steel is growing.
Take an automotive manufacturer, for example. In today’s market, every steel ball bearing that spins between the wheel and the axle needs to last at least 100,000 miles on every car the company produces. And an inclusion of just 50 microns can cause the bearing to begin to fail, reducing the manufacturer’s competitiveness.
To produce high-quality ball bearings, manufacturers need a quick and accurate way of identifying inclusions that can slip into the steel production process. They also need the ability to detect the root of failures after the ball bearings have been manufactured.
Both of these capabilities require the right tools. Yet while many researchers turn to optical microscopy to evaluate the size and number of inclusions, this doesn’t allow them to obtain the chemistry information needed to pinpoint what the inclusion is. As a result, they don’t have the complete information needed to adjust their production process or precisely identify the reason for failures after the fact.
Our new Phenom ParticleX Steel Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) solves this problem by directly integrating advanced energy dispersive X-ray (EDS) analysis into the microscope—along with reliable, high-quality SEM imaging. Using the Phenom ParticleX Steel SEM, researchers can quickly analyze the size and location of each inclusion down to the sub-micron level, while also obtaining the elemental composition of each particle.
A key benefit of the Phenom ParticleX Steel SEM is that it can be used for the dual purposes of automated inclusion analysis during the steelmaking process and manual failure analysis after the steel product has been manufactured. During the day, for example, researchers can manually use the instrument to pinpoint the root cause of failures identified by the customer after the final product was manufactured. Overnight and on weekends, the SEM can be set up for automated routine inclusion analyses as part of the steel manufacturing process. Together, these capabilities give manufacturers the complete information they need to accelerate the development of higher-quality steels.
The Phenom ParticleX Steel SEM fully automates inclusion analysis during the steelmaking process, allowing users of all experience levels to see the chemistry, size, and shape of inclusions within seconds. Built-in templates and automated recipes enable researchers to quickly get started and then tailor these recipes to their specific needs as they become more familiar with the microscope.
The highly versatile microscope fits on a desktop, making it small enough to add to a crowded, centralized lab or to smaller steel mills that previously outsourced their quality control efforts.
Unlike other SEMs on the market, which typically use tungsten as their electron source, the Phenom ParticleX Steel SEM comes with a Cerium hexaboride (CeB6) electron source. Not only does a CeB6 source generate higher-brightness images, but it providesat least double the service life of the best Tungsten source. And unlike a Tungsten source, which can fail suddenly and contaminate the column, a CeB6 source slowly degrades over time, allowing users to predict its failure and replace it between operating sessions.
With the Phenom ParticleX Steel SEM, steel manufacturers get the complete information they need to manufacture high-quality steel. Not only can they better control the steelmaking process, but they can easily and accurately identify the root cause of product failures. Together, these capabilities will accelerate the development of premium steel products needed to power our global economy.
To learn more about the Phenom ParticleX Steel SEM, please watch our webinar.
Kai Van Beek is the director market development for the Phenom Desktop SEM at Thermo Fisher Scientific.
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