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Marc Silverstein


Why Customizable Imaging Software Is Better Than a ‘Jack of All Trades’

Solution-based software reduces variability and completion time

Published: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 16:55

Because many types of image analyses are performed to meet the different needs of industries and applications, imaging software and microscope companies have created software that serves as a “jack of all trades,” offering a variety of tools that apparently allow you to accomplish just about anything. The problem with these broad software tools is that there’s more than one way to perform many imaging processes, and there can be lots of variability between different operators.

Solution-based software, on the other hand, takes a look at specific customer applications and processes, and maps them step by step into the software. This creates software that’s much easier to use, reduces variation between operators, and allows for more repeatable results in your analysis.

Let’s use the “grain sizing by intercept” method as an example.

Using a grains-intercept solution, an operator is guided through every step of performing a grains analysis. The process starts by selecting the images you want to analyze. Next, you can enter data about the specific image or sample you’re analyzing. Variables such as boundary type (e.g., dark, bright, or transitional) and intercept pattern are then selected. Next, by interactively adjusting grain-boundary width, grains are identified in real time on your display. Noise in your images caused by scratches or other factors can be filtered out with a noise-reduction filter. The resulting grains size is then displayed and can be put into workbook data or directly into a report. All variables selected during the process can be saved and recalled for similar analysis so the next operator can use those same variables. In addition, the software is programmed for standards from ASTM and ISO to help you meet their requirements.

If a grains-intercept solution were not available in your software, you would need to first create reference lines on your image. Next, the operator would have to make a judgment as to which edges in the sample were grain boundaries (borders). The operator then needs to count the number of times the reference lines cross a border. Finally, you could calculate the grain size based on the number of intercepts per the length of the reference lines. All these steps are manual and would create an opportunity for operator variability in addition to taking more time to complete.

Beyond grains intercept, a number of materials solutions have been developed to make specific analysis easier:

Particle distribution: Creates particle-size distribution histograms and tables from multiple images or image series. Any type of measurement parameter can be selected, and it’s easy to produce a graphical representation of the distribution.

Coating thickness: Designed for measuring coating thickness from top-view images according to the calotest method. The calotest method is used to apply a grinding sphere to a plating, and then measure the plating thickness from the sphere geometry and sample geometry.

Phase analysis: Used to perform phase analysis on a selection of various regions of interest (ROI), including triangles, circles, rectangles, and polygons. Guides you through all steps and helps cumulate results on multiple images.

Porosity: Designed for measuring pores with the use of ROIs and thresholds. Automatically calculates pore density on the image. It’s also possible to select only a certain range of pore sizes in order to achieve the necessary reproducibility.

Grains planimetric: Designed for steel manufacturers measuring and controlling grain size after cross-sectioning, polishing, or etching steel samples. Can calculate the grain size number G by the planimetric method.

Chart comparison: Can be used for ASTM grain-size number evaluation, nonmetallic inclusion rating, and cast-iron shape class evaluation. Can also be used to examine carbide structure in steels.

Inclusions worst field: Designed for steel manufacturers measuring and controlling the shape and size of nonmetallic inclusions (e.g., oxide, alumina, sulphide, or silicate) in steel. Can evaluate nonmetallic inclusion and create results automatically according to international standards.

Cast iron: Used by casting manufacturers that need to measure and control graphite nodularity to check the mechanical characteristics of cast products. Nodularity can be calculated by graphite size, shape, and distribution.

Layer thickness: Measures one or multiple layers of a cross-sectioned sample. Used for a variety of applications, including paint-coating thickness evaluation and multilayer thickness evaluation.

Throwing power: Measures the distribution of copper-plating thickness in through-holes or micro-vias. Guides the printed circuit board (PCB) quality examiner through all the necessary measurements needed for determining dimple depth.

Automatic measurement: Used to create measurements based on edge detection on a live image with pattern recognition. Can perform multiple measurements on a single image. Also supports the repositioning of an already processed sample.

Solution-based software also provides the opportunity for macro scripting and layout configuration. A macro provides an operator with the ability to take several steps in the software and record them together into a single step or a reduced set of steps. By scripting in a macro, you can reduce operator inputs, thus reducing the chance for error. By configuring the layout of the software to meet only your needs or specific steps, you take away options the operator doesn’t need, again reducing the chance of mistakes or selection the wrong function. If there’s no predefined solution that meets your exact needs, these two options can be used to eliminate unnecessary options and steps, creating a focused application that does meet your needs.

Grains-intercept measurements using ASTM E 112. Image and measurements made using OLYMPUS Stream imaging analysis software grains-intercept materials solution. Click here for larger image.

Bonding material and surface-coating measurements made using OLYMPUS Stream layer-thickness materials solution. Click here for larger image.


About The Author

Marc Silverstein’s picture

Marc Silverstein

Marc Silverstein is the product manager of optical metrology hardware and software at Olympus Scientific Solutions America. Silverstein manages core industrial microscopes and stream metrology software activities from feature development to launch.