SEM, TEM or Dual Beam Maintenance – Top Ten Tips

It is a known fact that microscope repairs incur heavy cost. Sometimes, just like with cars or appliances, larger issues can be prevented and the scope can be made to last longer if attention is paid to small things. TSS Microscopy has many years of experience working with microscopes in all different states of disrepair, and has seen some pretty nasty stuff. This article discusses some of the most important things that one can do, as a user or owner, to help protect their investment.

Top Ten Tips

  1. Listen and Look! When individuals can do this automatically with their car, then why not also with their microscope? When something is used frequently, it is easy to recognize the normal flickers hiccups, and noises that it makes. A problem can be diagnosed in the early stage itself before it gets out of hand and this can be done by paying close attention and taking note when things are different. Time should be taken when using Dual Beam, TEM or SEM, so if something is not the same as last time, this can be noted.
  2. Change the oil. Again, just like some very mechanical things that are dealt with on a daily basis, it is important to take care of the basic maintenance items, like having tip seals on dry pumps changed or changing the roughing pump oil. Bad oil in a compressor or pump can affect performance and lead to further problems.
  3. Make sure it’s cool. Many microscopes require chilled water, either for the pumps or for the lenses. It must be ensured that the closed-loop chiller or house water is clean and water is produced at the correct temperature and flow. Also, the water should be checked for the presence of algae, the growth of unusual things or for an unusual smell. A water flush can be used before it creates additional problems like clogged lens lines and more. There are also other things TSS can do to help on similar topics.
  4. Wear gloves. Wearing gloves is a simple preventive maintenance thing that some users fail to follow. TSS advises glove usage when doing anything that could either be near or going into the vacuum chamber on a Dual Beam, TEM or SEM. Even a small amount of oil or grease introduced during each sample change can add up and ultimately degrade the vacuum.
  5. Consumables. As the name rightly indicates, consumables are not meant to be used forever. Detectors, beam chemistry and apertures– they all come under that consumable umbrella. TSS advises that consumables can be replaced at the OEM recommended intervals. If the replacement is done well in advance of failure, then tool performance can certainly be improved and a tool crisis can be avoided at the wrong time. Sometimes, the detector may malfunction or users may run out of platinum right when they are working on a critical sample, but such problems can be avoided.
  6. Patience. Patience is vital. This means if a sample holder is inserted hastily on a TEM, or even a Dual Beam or SEM, it can unintentionally lead to a problem. The TEM stage in particular is extremely sensitive because delicate vacuum system components and vacuum fittings share the same space where the sample holder goes. Thus, it is important to have a little extra patience and take some extra time to do things with utmost care.
  7. Maintain a clean environment. TSS has seen it all – ranging from desktops covered with chewing gum on the underside to dirty computer fans and a few things that are better left unsaid. These scopes are debris and dust collectors. They have fans and powers supplies in places that one might not expect, and by nature of the electronics they receive dust. If the environment is kept healthy and clean, it is certainly likely to have a healthier scope!
  8. Track. This is not about taking a run at lunch, although it does not sound like a bad idea. However, the main focus is tracking and tool logging. Records of what type of samples are run; vital scope parameters (vacuum levels, etc.); and issues that may have happened during a specific session on the scope have to be maintained effectively. This approach can make it much easier to troubleshoot and diagnose issues as they occur. Also, this information can be used to predict when failures might occur and thus a great deal of stress, money and time can be saved.
  9. Back up your system computers. Irrespective of how old or new the computers and hard drives are, the equipment can still fail. Thus, having an exact backup or clone of the hard drive for plug and play usage is an excellent idea in case something goes wrong. Of course TSS Microscopy provides certain solutions that can help make this an easier job for customers, especially if they have an older microscope computer that lacks today’s hardware interface conveniences.
  10. Resources! Use them! TSS Microscopy is available to assist customers without any reprimands or judgement. In addition to providing service, the company stocks or gets the consumables and parts required by customers even if they have an older microscope that is not supported by their OEM anymore. TSS is available over the phone, in person or through its remote diagnostic platform. In case something goes wrong, customers can contact the company because TSS dares to go places where the OEM does not.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by TSS Microscopy.

For more information on this source, please visit TSS Microscopy.

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