Learning More About Manufacturing

3 Factors Affecting AFM Probe Wear Rates

The cantilever probe is the primary consumable when working with an atomic force microscope (AFM). Whether using these devices for topological studies in research settings or precise work in industries such as semiconductor manufacturing, it's important to consider ongoing consumable costs. While all AFM probes will eventually wear out, several factors can influence how long they last.

The specific work you conduct in your lab or facility will often have the greatest impact on the lifespan of your probes. Still, these three factors are important to consider when planning for probe replacements and on-hand supplies.

1. AFM Type

Atomic force microscopes come in numerous styles and types, although the most common are contact mode, tapping mode, and non-contact mode AFMs. While there's a fair amount of complexity and detail in how probes operate with each type of AFM, these three options effectively represent a spectrum of how much contact the probe has while scanning a surface.

Contact mode AFMs drag their probes across the surface directly. As a result, these machines will tend to wear out their probes more quickly than other styles. On the other hand, non-contact AFMs always remain slightly above the sample, allowing them to last the longest. Tapping mode AFMs occasionally contact the sample, so they're usually a midpoint for probe longevity.

2. Surface Qualities

The surface qualities of your samples will have a potentially large impact on the longevity of your probes. Remember that atomic force microscopes resolve details at nanoscales, so relatively smooth surfaces may "appear" extremely rough to the probe. Sintered metal, for example, can often have harsh surface qualities for a nanoscale AFM probe.

While non-contact AFMs will suffer less from working with rough materials, tapping-mode and contact AFMs will potentially wear out their probes much more quickly. If you're typically scanning materials with highly uneven or rough topographic features, expect a higher overall probe usage rate.

3. Scanning Conditions

Numerous external factors or scanning parameters can also impact probe lifespan. For example, solid isolation is important not only to achieve the best possible scanning results but also to protect the probe. Excessive vibrations can cause the probe to contact the surface more often or with more force than intended, resulting in more substantial probe wear.

Additionally, scanning parameters can cause the probe tip to wear out more quickly. Collecting higher-resolution scans with more time at each point will force the probe to contact the sample more often. While these techniques may be necessary for certain applications, they'll ultimately cause your probes to wear out more quickly.

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About Me

Learning More About Manufacturing

Hi there. My name is Miriam. I am excited to share my knowledge about manufacturing processes on my site. I developed a connection with manufacturing by watching television programs about how products are created. The programs explained the way each type of machinery operated to perform a specific task in the manufacturing process. I furthered my education on this topic by touring as many factories as I could around the world. I want to inspire other people to gain a better understanding of the way products are made today. Please come by my website daily to learn about the fascinating world of manufacturing. Thank you.

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