Posted by Fred Koenig on Mar 10th 2022

Manufacturing and Microscopes

One of the most practical tools in the history of science, the microscope and its uses have spanned centuries. The first precursor to the modern microscope was mentioned by Roman philosophers, described as 'burning glasses,' in their writings. The first and most primitive microscope was not created until the late 1300s, when two lenses were placed at the opposite ends of a tube. This simplistic device was the starting point for one of the most crucial tools in science today.

While microscopes are an essential research tool in biology and medicine, they are indispensable within the industry, where fine manufacturing tolerances require a microscopic vision for many tasks. Industrial microscopes come in an astounding array of configurations that are as varied as the tasks they can accomplish.

What industries use microscopes? How are microscopes used in manufacturing? Let's explore how microscopes are innovating and changing manufacturing for the better.

Automotive Manufacturing

Within the automotive industry, the use of microscopes to perform quality control and safety checks has become mandatory. Digital microscopy provides repeatable, accurate, and fast inspection for failure analysis and quality control, achieving above excellent results that the naked human eye could not accomplish. Microscopes in the automotive industry allow a seamless quality control integration across the manufacturing process while highly improving the quality of the finished product while minimizing the time and expense of rework or halt production.

Microscopy will be used in almost every state in the automotive manufacturing process. Some of the most common applications include grains analysis of metallurgical components to ensure performance, checking the quality of the surface finish on mechanical and aesthetic components, and verifying that critical safety features, like airbags, are correctly manufactured to the highest standards.

Many microscopes produce a variety of highly versatile equipment such as lighting techniques, advanced optics, and image analysis tools excellent for spotting cracks or faults. Additionally, microscopes in the automotive industry are used to inspect burrs in piston cooling channels.

Extremely high levels of detail are vital for automotive applications as the complexity of internal combustion engines increases, so too much the tolerances of components. In addition to combustion engines, the growth of hybrid and electric technologies requires digital microscopes for inspections related to the complex electronics and sensors in newer vehicles.

Microscopy in Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a rapid prototyping technique capable of fabricating complicated components directly from ceramic, alloy, or metal powders. This process is built up layer by layer and provides a range of new production possibilities for fabrication of complex near-set shape components with integrated and functional properties, such as curved cooling channels within drills.

The characteristics of powder use and the processing conditions must be precise to influence the microstructure of components created. Therefore, microscopes are applied to address various needs within additive manufacturing.

  • Requirements for high levels of dimensional accuracy
  • Surface quality
  • Fabrication of tools with complicated geometries and inner structures, like cooling channels.

Light microscopes can perform particle analysis. Scanning electron microscopy can also be used to analyze powder morphology, making it possible to detect agglomerations and the roundness of particles, which is crucial for the powder to flow well during the process. Microscopes are also part of making the critical challenge of 3D printing, such as achieving the precise required dimensional accuracy needed for the size and geometry of components.

Electron Microscopy and Imaging Method for Food Science

Food science and the food industry combined the physical, chemical, and biochemical sciences to study the nature of foods, what makes them deteriorate, principles underlying how we grow our crops, create dishes, and the means of improving the quality of food for the public consumption. Food science is separate from food technology, where food technology focuses on the production process that makes foods and covers canning and pasteurization procedures.

SEM and food science have worked together for many years, studying herbs, fruits, engineered and natural foods. Electron microscopy offers an excellent resolution with highly detailed images, incredible depth of field, and distance between nearest and farthest objects are in exceptionally sharp focus. SEM creates images by scanning the surface of a sample with a focused beam of electrons. These electrons interact with atoms in the sample and produce signals containing information about the surface topography and make-up of the sample.

Microscopes in Gemology

On occasion, one of the only means to confirm whether a gem is natural or synthetic is microscopic visualization. Gemologists and jewelers employ microscopes within their industry to evaluate precious stones and metals and help determine their value and set the overall grade of the gem and the cost.

For example, the Meiji Techno EMZ is considered one of the top gemologist or jewelry microscopes on the market today. The Meiji EMZ body features a trinocular 0.7x to 4.5X zoom range with a rotatable 360 degrees with 7X to 45X. With various model choices for ergonomics and the option to purchase with an articulated arm stand, the Meiji microscope has been an invaluable tool for gemologists and jewelers around the world. It is a perfect instrument for product inspection, gemology, and even forensics, thanks to its sharp 3-dimensional imaging and a wide array of eyepieces. Additional eyepieces such as the SWF10x and SWF20x, and additional full-sized inclinable gem stand for zoom stereo bodies, are available for a gemologist's or jewelers needs.

With such a wide variety and kinds of gems, it makes it challenging for the naked human eye to distinguish certain variables. While a professional gemologist or jeweler can identify a stone by sight alone, highly detailed information such as type, genuine, synthetic, optical, physical, and chemical properties, and detect minute flaws.

These are simply a few of the major industries of today that have found how indispensable microscopy has become. Microscopes aid in ensuring the most refined precision necessary for many branches of today's high-tech, modern industry and have become a key factor to driving market growth and providing high-quality, safe processes for all.