Insights from industry

Image Analysis Based Microhardness Testing

Image analysis through microhardness testing is a key area for many industries such as  automotive, space and aeronautics, manufacturing, in this interview John LeCoche talks about the importance of this and how Clemex provides solutions for this.

Can you give a brief overview of your company, the work you do and the industries you serve?

Our company was founded 28 years ago as image analysis software developers and integrators of automated microscopy solutions. We are globally considered as specialists in image quantification and microstructural analysis.

The main industries that Clemex are involved in are heavy industry, automotive, space and aeronautics, manufacturing, primary sector, universities and research centers. Within these industries Clemex works to provide image-based measuring tools for labs needing to quantify, characterize or differentiate materials.

Some examples of how Clemex products can be used are plasma coating characterization on aircraft engine turbine blades; micro-hardness tests on powertrain gears; inclusion rating in steel; grain size evaluation in aluminum alloys.

Clemex products are often chosen for these tasks due to the specificity of our customers’ demands; companies seek solutions to fit their specifications and wish to do their work more systematically and automatically. One of the main benefits of such as solution is to eliminate operator variability associated with manual processing of samples.

Image Credits: Tratong/

Can you please explain to our readers what retrofitting a micro-hardness tester means?

Retrofitting a micro-hardness tester is the process by which an existing micro-hardness tester is fitted with new parts and software to provide an automated or semi-automated solution to the users’ needs.

The automated and semi-automated solutions both contain Clemex CMT software and a camera, but vary slightly in so much as the automated solution contains a motorized stage, and the semi-automated solution has a manual stage. However, one needs to be careful when retrofitting as there is a large variance between different brands.

What benefits do clients get from retrofitting their hardness tester?

The benefits of retrofitting equipment for current clients can be described as a win/win situation, they get to keep their existing instrument thus getting more life out of their initial investment as well as having all of their measurements digitalized. This digitalization means that there is an electronic record of the results so analysis and sharing of the results is easier.

Clemex CMT system

Clemex CMT system

Can you explain to our readers what “Case Depth” means?

Case Depth can be best described as the thickness of the hardened outer layer on a sample to find out more about this please click here

How can Clemex help with Case Depth measurements?

Clemex can help with Case Depth (Total depth or Effective depth) measurements by using the Microindentation Hardness Testing method – it is the most suitable method for measuring decarburization depth in heat-treated samples.

Vickers indents for a Case depth measurement on a heat-treated gear sample

Vickers indents for a Case depth measurement on a heat-treated gear sample

Clemex systems allow users to quickly select the areas of interest on a sample, using a digital video camera, a motorized stage and software-controlled indentation markers. These depth results are then plotted on a graph to visually demonstrate the hardness at each interval (Knoop or Vickers indent). Any results can then be saved in a tabular format and retrieved at any time.

Another benefit of Clemex is that automated reports can be generated according to industry standards or guidelines established between purchaser and manufacturer.

Case depth results from a heat treated sample

Case depth results from a heat treated sample

How does this differ from what other companies offer?

Clemex differs from other companies in this area because in addition to hardness-testing software which allows users to control the indentation and produce case depth results, the micro-hardness tester comes equipped with Clemex Vision Lite software.

Clemex Vision Lite software allows labs to verify the depth of decarburization using a specialized imaging routine that precisely measures the zone of decarburization and produces a depth distribution graph.

Coating layer and decarburization zone detected on a Decarburized Tool Steel sample

Coating layer and decarburization zone detected on a Decarburized Tool Steel sample

The software also enables customers to do image analysis on their samples, such as Austenitic Grains or Delta-Ferrite phase percentage in Martensitic Stainless Steel.

Using the optics of a hardness tester (100x and 200x objectives) Clemex image analysis software makes the whole Clemex micro-hardness tester a powerful all-in-one solution for labs seeking to go a step further in their measurements.

Martensitic stainless steel with delta ferrite phase detected

Martensitic stainless steel with delta ferrite phase detected

Another advantage over competitors is the expertise that we offer as part of our sales services; this is at a technical level unsurpassed by our competitors. Our sales experts can be called and consulted any time, whether to answer questions regarding sample preparation or to make sure we understand what Information customers would like to extract from their samples. Moreover, we offer a flexible and non-biased hardware selection service, whether the customer chooses to retrofit their existing hardness tester, or purchase a new machine through Clemex.

Which industries benefit from the micro-hardness testing service that Clemex provides?

Industries that specifically benefit from Clemex’s micro-hardness testing specifically are the manufacturing industry (aerospace, automotive, powder metals, electronics, medical devices, plastics) and the heat-treating services industry.

What’s next for Clemex?

The next step for Clemex is to generate systems that will be more user friendly, and eliminate errors due to operator intervention. We are also investing in artificial intelligence, research, big data collection and collaboration with universities there are a multitude of benefits of a system based on deep-learning (AI): greater variability of samples analysed without user intervention so there is less time spent on sample preparation, difficult applications, automate certain repetitive tasks so that technicians and engineers can concentrate on tasks with higher added value.

John Le Coche

John Le Coche has been employed by Clemex Technologies Inc. since 1997. Prior to this, he was employed with Leco Instruments Ltd, the Canadian subsidiary of LECO Corporationof St. Joseph MI, from 1980.

John held various sales, marketing and product management positions at LECO, primarily concentrating on Industrial, Analytical and Metallographic Laboratories for CHNOS Analysis, Sample Preparation Equipment & Optical Microscopy.

John Le CocheJohn graduated from Humber College Institute of Technology of Toronto, Ontario in Electronics Engineering Technology. He studied Business Administration at York University in Toronto, Ontario. He started his involvement with Automatic Optical Image Analysis and Microhardness Testing in 1986. He has presented and sold into many diverse industries throughout North America & Europe.

John has also served on many ASM Ontario Chapter committees and has been a member of ASM International since 1980.




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