Metallographic microscopes (also known as metallurgical microscopes) are highly relevant across the value chain of various industries where metals are used, i.e., from mining via smelting to alloy development, recycling, and additive manufacturing. Metallographic microscopes can be used for research and development (R&D), quality assurance (QA), failure analysis (FA), or inspection.
Metallography is the study of the microstructure of all types of metals and metallic alloys. More concretely, observing and determining the structure, composition, and spatial distribution of grains, inclusions, and phases in these metals and metallic alloys.
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What kind of samples do you observe?
If you observe sections, an upright metallographic microscope serves you well. If your samples are bulky and might not fit between the objective and the stage, you could use an inverted metallographic microscope.
Which standards do you need to follow for documentation?
Whichever standards you may need to follow, the dedicated Leica software modules allow you to perform analysis according to common international, regional, and organizational standards.
How complex are your tasks and samples?
If you only observe samples, without the need to document or measure, a manual microscope, such as the DM2700 M or the inverted DMi8 M, can serve you well. If you have more complex tasks at hand, a partially automated version, such as the DM4 M or the inverted DMi8 C, meets your workflow needs better. If you need to analyze many samples, the DM6 M or the inverted DMi8 A, is the better choice as the automated solution will help save you time.
Leica metallographic microscopes help you gain insights into metals or alloys of interest. Such insights help you determine key parameters, like hardness or ductility, which influence how metals and alloys can be processed and their performance during machining.
Quantification as a means of understanding the material’s microstructure is key for these tasks, whether it be measuring grain size or determining the number of inclusions or phases in the metal or alloy sample.
Thus, cameras and software play an essential role for image acquisition, measurement, annotation, storing of data for documentation, and sharing of results.
Before a metallographic sample can be accurately and reliably analyzed, proper preparation is crucial. Usually, a section is cut, polished, and the microstructure of the sample made visible by etching.
To analyze the microstructure accurately, at times the minutest of details need to be observed, but this can be challenging with metallic samples that have highly reflective surfaces.
A variety of illumination and contrast methods can make all the difference when visualizing important details.
Example of a copper alloy sample imaged with brightfield (left) and darkfield (right) illumination.
One important characteristic that influences the metal or alloy quality is grain size. Analyzing the grain size enables users to gather information about the tensile and yield strength, elongation at fracture, and the ductile-brittle transition temperature of metals and alloys. These characteristics heavily influence the performance.
Especially for complex alloys or materials, microscopes with the capability of automatically switching between several contrast methods can greatly help increase the efficiency of grain-size and -density analysis.