Dr. Ecke, can you explain to us in a couple of sentences what the Analyzer Workflow solutions are?
Up until now, the customer had to assemble their system from numerous different individual components. The Analyzer Workflow solutions now provide a complete system that exactly meets the customer's requirements and offer optimum overall performance. The user can start analysis immediately, generating fast and reliable analysis results to control the quality of their products and optimize processes.
What was the driving force behind the creation of the Analyzer Workflow solutions?
The driving force at Leica Microsystems is always our customers. We identified recurring problems facing our customers, and on this basis we first created eight different Analyzer Workflow solutions. It was important to us for the components to be ideally matched to one other and immediately ready for use. Depending on the application and workflow, the field of application can be very narrow, for example in the case of analyzers for technical cleanliness, or else somewhat broader, e.g. in the case of analyzers for metallography.
What features can the customer expect to find in the Analyzer Workflow solutions?
First of all, users can look forward to a very high level of performance that provides accurate, reliable and fast results. With the Analyzer Workflow solutions, everything is digitalized and the high degree of automation guarantees an efficient and fast operation. All analyzers are tailored to a special workflow so they focus on specific tasks. The analyzers all come with a microscope, a digital camera, a PC and training and they’re ready to use right away.
Dr. Ecke, as an expert in the field of technical cleanliness, can you explain to us the challenges currently facing quality control and how Leica Microsystems is responding to them?
Above all, constant miniaturization, higher power densities and safety-related electronic components and systems pose new challenges for quality control, especially when it comes to cleanliness analysis. It is no longer sufficient simply to determine the size of a particle: it is now becoming increasingly important to be able to analyse the type of material the particles are made of, as this has a decisive influence on the damage potential. In addition, quality control is becoming more and more time-critical, and cleanliness analysis should preferably be integrated into daily routine. Our tailor-made technical cleanliness analyzers address these challenges by allowing the user to select measurement rules and then quickly and accurately analyze them. In addition to optical analysis, the customer often needs a chemical analysis: this is usually very complex and can often only be carried out by experts. The LIBS system (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) provides the customer with the right technology to be able to carry out a quick, reliable analysis of metallic alloys and inorganic compounds so as to be able to respond appropriately.
What is the LIBS system and how does it differ from other analytical methods?
LIBS stands for Laser Introduced Breakdown Spectroscopy and is a relatively new technology. The LIBS module contains a laser and a spectrometer unit and can be integrated as an extension into a DM6 microscope. It gives the customer the flexibility to switch between optical and chemical analysis. In contrast to the element analysis, for example the REM EDX, only one system is needed for the optical and chemical analysis. The system solution is therefore very space-saving; it doesn’t have to be accommodated in a clean room and it doesn’t require sample transfer, which is costly and can result in uncertainties in terms of the results. In addition, analysis with LIBS is location-independent and offers verification of the results at any time. The optical mode is just a mouse click away. No special training is required to operate LIBS, so it can be carried out by semi-skilled employees.
What are the differences between the various Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness: Micro Analyzer for technical cleanliness, Macro Analyzer for technical cleanliness and Chemical Micro Analyzer for technical cleanliness?
The Analyzer Workflow solutions are tailored entirely to the needs of our customers. This means that the customer gets what they really need. If a customer only needs to detect larger particles and does not require chemical analysis, the Macro Analyzer for Technical Cleanliness is just the thing for them. However, if it is necessary to detect smaller particles according to standards, we recommend the Micro Analyzer for technical cleanliness. If this is not sufficient and a combination of optical and chemical analysis functions is required, the Chemical Micro Analyzer for technical cleanliness is the right choice.
Leica Microsystems prepares the customer for the future – how do the Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness prepare customers for the future?
We prepare our customers for the future in many ways, for example because LIBS has retrofit capability: with this extension, the Micro Analyzer can easily be retrofitted on site to create an optical-chemical analysis system. In addition to the outstanding appearance, the software is an important accessory and a key future in terms of future viability. We constantly update it and offer our customers individual customization options. In addition, customers save a lot of time and money due to the high degree of automation of our products – only a short training course is required before the analysis is ready to start.
Why is automation becoming increasingly crucial in microscopy? What level of automation is available in the Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness?
Here I like to cite the example of the window lift in a car. In the past, you had to crank up a car window by hand. An electric window lift was an optional extra back then, but now it’s part of the standard trim in every car. Automation is a given. In microscopy, things are developing in the same direction: automation is becoming more and more state of the art. This reduces user influence and limits the error rate, which in turn means secure results. The analysis becomes more efficient and reliable.
Why should Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness be included in the training of engineers?
Product cleanliness has only been part of engineering studies for a few years. Due to the complexity and miniaturization of products and product parts, product cleanliness has now also made it into the engineering science curriculum. This is something I very much welcome, because engineers have to be prepared to plan products that can be produced – and product cleanliness is crucial here. The Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness are ideally suited to show budding engineers what cleanliness means in terms of product safety and the effort that goes into ensuring product cleanliness.
To what extent does quality control in the automotive industry benefit from the use of Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness?
The great advantage of the Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness is that they can easily be embedded in the day-to-day production process. With the Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness, automotive manufacturers are excellently equipped to analyze product cleanliness in development as well as in day-to-day operations and to intervene immediately on site. People often fail to take account of the fact that a clean product is a quality characteristic – cleanliness reflects good quality.
Technical cleanliness in electronics is becoming more and more demanding. How do the Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness meet customer needs here?
Electronic components are increasingly being installed in safety-related systems where the very highest standards apply in terms of cleanliness. In addition, many of the materials used are conductive and produce metallic particles, for example. Aluminium has a different conductivity from that of copper: this affects damage potential and can lead to short circuits, for example. The manufacturer must be able to identify not only particle size but also the material of the particle without wasting a lot of time in the production process. Our LIBS system offers exactly this: a fast and easy switch between optical and chemical analysis, embedded in the routine. In addition, there is a high degree of automation, minimizing user influence and greatly limiting the error rate.
Isn't it difficult to create an Analyzer Workflow solution to meet the varying needs of different industries? How did Leica manage to find a common denominator?
First of all, it was important to us to create simple and secure systems that offered customers what they really need. The common denominator in compiling the Analyzer Packages was the customer's method of application and the software. Which optical system is then used depends on the product cleanliness requirements. The software and the specific settings provide the basis, the optical instrument then depends on the size of the particles to be analyzed and whether a chemical analysis is required. This means we’re always able to offer the customer the optimum solution.
What can the customer expect from the Analyzer Workflow solutions for technical cleanliness in terms of software?
We offer a modern software platform that is compatible with Windows 10 and is constantly updated by us. The pre-configured software for technical cleanliness in the various Analyzer Workflow solutions ensures a fast start to the analysis, compliant with all the current standards. The supervisor has the flexibility to adjust and proactively change parameters. Additional modules can be purchased at any time if external and internal requirements change and the analysis needs to be adapted.
Training users to operate a new device is usually very time consuming. How long does it take to train a user to operate an Analyzer Workflow solution?
Training on the Analyzer Workflow solutions takes a maximum of 1 to 2 days. The customer receives a short introduction during installation and an additional application day for a detailed induction at a later date. During installation, the product is calibrated and the system is explained. On the following application day, any questions that arise are discussed and training is provided for standards application. The customer is then ready to get started. Of course we’re always available to answer any questions you may have by telephone, but online support is also a good way to resolve issues quickly and simply, enabling the customer to carry out their cleanliness analysis efficiently and accurately.