Quality Control & Laboratory Testing Equipment

How to Precisely Measure Thickness of Thin Coatings with a Motorised Measurement Stand

By Dr Kenan Handzic


Countries and economic regions have developed standards in order to maintain high product quality and secure the best return on product investment.

Wasteful processes can be significantly improved by removing measurement errors introduced by the instrument operator.

A dry film thickness (DFT) gauge such as the DUALSCOPE® FMP100/150 from Helmut Fischer GmbH is a highly developed instrument capable of accuracy and precision to fractions of a micron, but a number of external factors can still impair the measurements performed by such capable instruments (Figure 1).

Figure 1: FMP100/150. Portable instruments with exchangeable probes for precise coating thickness measurements.

The contacting probe must be perpendicular to the coating surface, or a significant measurement error is generated; this also occurs if the force applied by the probe varies from operator to operator, causing compression of the coating. Both errors lead to inconsistencies in adhering to standards such as QUALICOAT, QUALINOD, ASTM, BS, NADCAP, DIN, and ISO.

The tilting effect can suggest that a coating is too thick, and compression of a coating can suggest it is too thin. When the coating is just a few microns thick such as Tartaric Sulphuric Acid anodising (TSA), handheld probe measurement uncertainty can be >50%, which is clearly unacceptable.

The penalty for allowing uncontrolled measurement errors to continue is the added cost of rework and/or customer rejects. This can be the difference between profit and loss, retention of a contract, or continuing employment of an individual.

One aspect to consider is automating the measurement procedure. A mention of automation may evoke images of a robotised factory floor where workers are an afterthought, but it’s also possible to make minor changes that could have the largest impact on component quality and employee job satisfaction.

The use of motorised stands in measuring procedures can provide the tools needed to minimise measurement errors and ensure that work carried out is of the highest quality.

Actions to substantially reduce measurement errors:

  • Ensure that the measuring probe always contacts the measured surface of the component perpendicularly, eliminating tilt errors
  • Maintain a minimum consistent force applied by the probe to the measured surface, to eliminate coating and substrate compression errors.
  • Measure on optimal surfaces, avoiding edges and complex curves to eliminate geometric induced errors

All of these requirements are met by the V12 motorised measurement stand manufactured in Germany by Helmut Fischer GmbH, and it’s an ideal partner to their handheld and bench instrument range (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Helmut Fischer GmbH V12 motorised stand (A) and MMS PC2 benchtop coating thickness measuring system (B). V12 motorised stand can be paired with both portable and benchtop systems to offer unrivalled control, accuracy and precision when measuring components. The MMS PC2 has the added benefit of having up to 8 probes attached for added versatility and speed.


Used with an appropriate measurement probe the V12 motorised stand can: –

  • Maintain a consistent 90° angle between the probe and the sample
  • Learn the position of the component surface through a teaching function, which allows a virtually force free contact between the probe and the measured coating surface
  • The approach speed of the probe towards the coated surface is constant, but reduces as the known position of the sample surface approaches, thus avoiding compression of the coating
  • Multiple measurement mode (1, 5 or continuous measurements modes), allows for multiple measurements on a component.
  • When used with the MMS PC2 instrument, there is individual control over the period of probe retraction from the coated surface and engagement with it.

An automated measuring device is the key to achieving the most accurate and repeatable results that prove specifications are being met. It can also decrease the time it takes to measure, give operators greater confidence in their measuring equipment, and greater freedom to perform other tasks while measurements are being acquired.

For more information about the V12 motorised measurement stand please contact us using the link below:


Or call us on +44 (0) 1386 577370 // email: mail@fischergb.co.uk

What is Ellipsometry?

Ellipsometry measures a change in polarisation as light reflects or transmits from a material structure. The polarisation change is represented as an amplitude ratio, Ψ, and the phase difference, Δ. The measured response depends on optical properties and thickness of individual materials. Thus, ellipsometry is primarily used to determine film thickness and optical constants. However, it is also applied to characterise composition, crystallinity, roughness, doping concentration, and other material properties associated with a change in optical response.

Since the 1960s, as ellipsometry developed to provide the sensitivity necessary to measure nanometer-scale layers used in microelectronics, interest in ellipsometry has grown steadily. Today, the range of its applications has spread to the basic research in optical coating, physical sciences, semiconductor and data storage solutions, flat panel display, communication, biosensor industries. This widespread use is explained by increased dependence on thin films in many areas and the flexibility of ellipsometry to measure most material types: biological coatings, composites of materials, dielectrics, semiconductors, metals, superconductors and organics.  Find out more about J A Woollam at https://youtu.be/szkqdcoclkQ.  The UK Distributor, Quantum Design UK hold annual workshops which include an introduction, fundamentals of ellipsometric data analysis, and an overview of ellipsometric applications in both research and production.  Contact Angela Carslake for more information on the next workshop and register your interest.

alpha SE Spectroscopic Ellipsometer

J A Woollam alpha SE Spectroscopic Ellipsometer –
for spectral range of 380-900 nm

For routine measurements of thin film thickness and refractive index, this ellipsometer allows you to mount a sample, choose the model that matches your film, and press “measure”. You have results within seconds.

With fast measurement speed and push-button operation, the alpha-SE® is ideal for qualifying thin films. Single-layer dielectrics on silicon or glass substrates can be measured in seconds.

Coatings on Glass:  Patented technology allows accurate measurements on any substrate: metal, semiconductor, or glass. On transparent substrates, the alpha-SE® measures depolarisation to correct for light returning from the backside of the substrate. This unwanted light can confuse other ellipsometers, but the alpha-SE® ensures accurate optical constants.

Key Features:

  • Easy to use:  Push-button operation is complemented by advanced software that takes care of the work for you
  • Proven spectroscopic ellipsometer technology gives you both thickness and index with much higher certainty than other techniques
  • Works with your materials – dielectrics, semiconductors, organics, and more
  • Spectroscopic ellipsometry for simple sample systems
  • Hundreds of wavelengths simultaneously collected in seconds for immediate results

Quantum Design represent J A Woollam in the UK and Ireland.  Please contact Shayz Ikram for more information on the alpha-SE ellipsometer.

Introduction to the alpha-SE Spectroscopic Ellipsometer

Blagden Invests in CRM Platform

Blagden invests in CRM platform to reach new levels in customer service excellence

Blagden Specialty Chemicals Ltd has chosen Creatio as its new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform to streamline its service and further develop excellent customer relationships.


The new CRM system will underpin interactions with customers and potential customers to accelerate sales and service processes. The move is the next stage in Blagden’s implementation of digital systems enabling the company to respond quickly to the ever-increasing usage of e-commerce and on-line services.


Blagden Chief Executive and Managing Director, Graham Turton, said: “Strong relationships with our customers are the cornerstone of Blagden’s success. The ability to align sales, marketing and service while sharing information across all areas of the business enables us to stay at the very forefront of excellent customer service. Furthermore, by delivering greater insights into market trends and customer needs, we can ensure our business responds quickly and flexibly to changing demands. The CRM system provides the ideal vehicle to support this.”


Blagden is one of the best-known names in specialty chemicals distribution for the UK and Irish markets, providing a comprehensive product range across key market sectors, supported by technical expertise and in-depth knowledge of applications and benefits. Just as it offers personal dedicated service to its customers, it appreciates working with local suppliers who offer similar bespoke service. After extensive research, Blagden chose the Creatio package which will be integrated into its Sage X3 and SEI Intelligence system by CRM Specialists, Collier Pickard, based close to Blagden’s offices in Westerham, Kent.


“We are pleased to work with specialists Creatio and Collier Pickard in this area of business technology,” Graham added. “The size and flexibility offered by the Creatio package are ideal for our needs and create the opportunity for a more bespoke solution. Collier Pickard proved to be very in tune with our requirements and we look forward to working closely with them.”


Collier Pickard Account Director, Alan Joenn, commented “We are delighted to be working with the team at Blagden. Adopting new working practices and making the most of advanced technology for business requires a shift in emphasis and we will use our expertise and experience to help Blagden achieve rapid change, without disruption to the smooth operation of the business. Our goal is to help Blagden make it easier for people to do business with them.”

Measure Thin Gold & Palladium Coatings

As the electronics industry makes use of ever thinner coatings, manufacturers increase their demands on measuring technologies to provide reliable parameters for product monitoring. One example is the Au/Pd/Ni/Cu/printed circuit board system with coating thicknesses for Au and Pd of just a few nm. For monitoring the quality of these coating systems, X-ray fluorescence instruments have established themselves as the measurement method of choice.

The thinner the coatings, the more important it becomes to select a suitable detector. Table 1 shows a comparison of results from FISCHERSCOPE® X-RAY instruments fitted with a proportional counter tube, PIN diode and silicon drift detector (SDD), respectively.

50 nm Au 24 nm Pd
Coefficient of variance Standard
Coefficient of variance
PROPORTIONAl COUNTER TUBE (0,2 MM APERTURE) 2.2 nm 4.3 % 3 nm 13 %
PIN DETECTOR (1 MM APERTURE) 0.9 nm 1.8 % 1.2 nm 4.8 %
SDD DETECTOR (1 MM APERTURE) 0.2 nm 0.4 % 0.5 nm 2.1 %


Table 1. Various types of detectors and their corresponding achievable standard deviations and variation coefficients

As illustrated in Table 1 above, the SDD’s significantly superior repeatability precision allows for the reliable measurement of even very thin Au and Pd coatings.

The trueness is also better for instruments with SDD because the high energy resolution of the usable signal is less susceptible to influence from the background or adjacent fluorescence lines.

The FISCHERSCOPE® X-RAY XDV®-SDD measurement system is equipped with SDD, allowing for the quick and repeatable determination of extremely thin Coatings.

Proper handling of the fluorescence signal generated by the substrate material is also more important with thinner coatings. While a general subtraction of the background signal does improve the repeatability precision, it can also introduce errors into the results. The evaluation software WinFTM® therefore explicitly allows the composition of the substrate material to be taken into account with every measurement.

Your local contact person for FISCHER products will be happy to assist you in selecting a suitable X-ray fluorescence instrument for measuring Au/Pd coatings on printed circuit boards – FISCHERSCOPE® X-RAY XDL® with proportional counter tube, XDAL® with PIN detector, or XDV®- SDD with SDD detector.
Learn more by following the link:


Live Demonstration of IKA’s Rotavisc Viscometer

Live demonstration of IKA’s Rotavisc Viscometer

Kevin Mann
Senior Sales Manager
IKA England

IKA’s new Rotavisc Viscometers are capable of measuring the viscosity of a variety of samples such as resins, coatings and gels. With modern features, a 10 year warranty and UK based service the Rotavisc is a reliable lab partner. Join us for this webinar where we will be showcasing the Rotavisc and talking through the main advantages it can bring to your lab.

Press Releases

IKA World Market Leader – Again!

IKA world market leader – again!

/// Survey confirms leading role in laboratory, analytical and process technology

Staufen, 01/21/20 – IKA is once again listed in the world market leader index. A recent survey by the University of St.Gallen confirmed the performance and global presence of IKA as the global frontrunner in the laboratory, analytical and process technology. 

IKA, with its headquarters in Staufen, operates branches in nine countries on three continents and sells its products in more than 160 countries. As such, for several years, they have fulfilled the challenging criteria required in order to be officially nominated as a world market leader. In order to be listed in the famous index, a company must hold the highest or second-highest market share, achieve an annual revenue of more than 50 million Euros, of which more than half must be generated abroad and must be active on at least three continents. This well-respected world market leader index is drawn up by the University of St.Gallen, together with the Akademie Deutscher Weltmarktführer [Academy of German World Market Leaders] (ADWM) by means of an objective and transparent process, and is published every year in the “Wirtschaftswoche” (Business Week) magazine.

The world market leader title is the crowning glory of a commitment that starts at the product level. IKA places great emphasis on the fact that working with its products should be intuitive, effective and convenient for its end-users. For this reason, the development focus is on design; which has been a source for other awards, with the most recent being the German Design Award for the IKA PETTE product range. In addition, the world market leader from Baden is proud to be a reliable partner for their customers throughout the manufacturing chain: starting with the products for research in the laboratory, to the machines for marketable mass production.

Learn how to meet your SCIP Database requirements with Yordas’ new e-learning course

Are you a producer, importer or supplier of articles based in the EU? Did you know that from 5th January 2021, products containing SVHC on the REACH Candidate List will have to be registered in the new SCIP database?

Yordas Group have recently launched an e-learning course titled: A Practical Guide to the SCIP Database. The course will show you how to create a SCIP-compatible dataset and comply with your obligations.

The idea behind SCIP is that to successfully develop a circular economy and enable recycling, hazardous chemicals must be removed from materials. Therefore, if you are a producer, importer or supplier of articles based in the EU, you will probably have obligations to notify information to SCIP.

The course is hosted by Yordas’ SCIP expert Dr Sandra Meijer and includes practical exercises and demonstrations of the IT systems for the SCIP database. By completing this course, you will gain the knowledge, skills and insight required to meet your obligations under SCIP.

Enrol in the course now to be ready for the January 2021 deadline: https://www.yordasinsight.eu/courses/A-Practical-Guide-to-the-SCIP-database

More information about SCIP Database: https://www.yordasgroup.com/scip-database

Measuring Duplex Coatings in the Automotive Industry

For automotive manufacturers, it is of increasing importance to control the quality of the paint processes in order to ensure effective corrosion protection while reducing costs. Especially in EDP (electrophoretic deposition) processes, this requires adherence to tight tolerance limits, which in turn, requires careful monitoring. But the measurement task itself should also be fast and cost-effective; the instrument must be able to measure lacquer atop various base materials (mainly galvanized steel or aluminum) without refitting or recalibration.

To measure lacquer coatings on both steel and aluminum with the same instrument and without having to change probes, it is necessary to utilize different methods. Furthermore, when the steel is galvanized, the Zn coating must be measured separately in order to determine the thickness of the lacquer coating above it. Especially for this purpose, FISCHER has developed the PHASCOPE® PMP10 DUPLEX and the ESG20 probe, uniting three measurement methods in one system for testing the thickness of each layer precisely and accurately.


For a typical lacquer/Zn/Fe combination, the Zn layer is measured through the lacquer using the phase sensitive eddy current method (employing lift-off-compensation). At the same time, the overall coating thickness (Zn+ lacquer) is measured using the magnetic induction method; the thickness of each individual layer is derived from this and displayed on the instrument.

For coating systems on aluminium, the amplitude sensitive eddy current method is used. A special conductivity compensation feature ensures that the various conductivities of different Al alloys exert no influence on the measurement of the lacquer layer. Without any additional calibration, the coating thickness can be measured precisely and reproducibly in one pass even when the substrate changes, as the probe automatically identifies what the base material is.

Typical measurement tasks in the automotive industry. MS = magnetic induction method, WS PS = phase sensitive eddy current method, WS AS = amplitude sensitive eddy current method.

Especially with costly EDP coatings, very small tolerances – often of just ± 2 µm – must be met in order to ensure the minimum thickness for effective corrosion protection while minimising the amount of material consumed. This is why it is necessary to measure the Zn layer underneath the paint to determine the real thickness of the lacquer, since even minor variations in the Zn coating could erroneously indicate a (non-existent) flaw in the paint process.

The PHASCOPE® PMP10 DUPLEX, together with the ESG20 probe, was developed especially to meet the requirements of the automotive industry. Its three different measurement methods make it possible to measure lacquer coatings precisely, in one operation, whether on galvanized steel or on aluminium. Learn more by following the link:



New Datacolor® Paint and Coatings Industry Guide

Many industries need to accurately measure, communicate and consistently reproduce colours. Effective colour management is important to business success for a number of reasons:

  • Colour consistency is associated with high quality
  • Colour can improve the safety and usability of products and environments
  • Colour problems can create unnecessary production expenses and delays
  • Colour management can help reduce environmental impact


In the new Datacolor® industry guide, the reader will find all they need to know about colour management and challenges in getting colour right. This free guide can be useful for anyone who works with colour. Get your guide now at https://bit.ly/34bpZwE

New environmentally-friendly recirculating chiller

/// RC 2 GREEN saves not only on operating costs, but also tons of CO2

Staufen, 14 September 2020 – IKA extends its range of recirculating chillers with the addition of the powerful and environmentally-friendly RC 2 GREEN basic and control models. The new devices combine a natural coolant with the tried and tested demand-controlled compressor technology. The result: Brilliant energy-efficiency, CO2 savings from the very first hour of operation and a reduction in operating costs.

Plant 163 trees or choose the RC 2 GREEN: You can save up to 4 tons of CO2 over a period of ten years using the new circulation cooler as compared to conventional equipment. This corresponds to a return flight from Frankfurt to New York. IKA achieves this significant reduction in the CO2 footprint as a result of the environmentally-friendly and natural coolant R 290 and the energy-efficient compressor technology.

The coolant R 290 is classed as a pure hydrocarbon. It does not damage the ozone layer and has only a slight greenhouse potential. In addition, it has very good thermodynamic properties and promises a long service life for the recirculating chiller, even with future utilization requirements. Combination with the demand-regulated compressor in the RC 2 GREEN achieves a cooling capacity of 800 Watt and a minimum temperature of -30 °C. Not only is this good for the environment, but it also saves from 150 to 250 Euros per year of operation, calculated over a ten year period.

Both variants of the device are developments of the RC 2 recirculating chiller. However, at 800 W, the RC 2 GREEN conceals double the cooling capacity, in identical housing, thus saving 30 % in installation footprint and half the device volume when compared to competitive devices. The result is a space-saving operation of two rotation vaporizers, each having a vaporizing piston of 1000 ml, for example.
In addition, the RC 2 GREEN offers everything one would expect to see in a good recirculating chiller: a powerful pressurization and suction pump, a high-quality fine-mesh stainless steel filter and, of course, the typical IKA modern and user-friendly design incorporating intuitive menu navigation. The display on the control variant can be removed. This permits straightforward remote operation, freeing up space immediately around the working environment for additional essential laboratory equipment.

The IKA recirculating chiller product group now includes a total of six devices. They are all particularly suited for cooling in extraction processes and in combination with rotation vaporizers and laboratory reactors.

New Rotavisc Helistand from IKA

The measurement of highly viscous samples such as creams, pastes, paints and gelatin is a particular challenge for static viscometers. These substances are so viscous that they are forced to the edge by the rotational movement. An air channel is created around the rotating body, which is why the acting torque is then no longer meaningful.


The new motorized HELISTAND allows you to smoothly measure the viscosity of highly viscous samples, too. It moves the mounted viscometer and its rotating body slowly and uniformly up and down in the sample. Combined with the included T-spindles for non-flowing samples, you can thus acquire meaningful viscosity measurements.


Handling, installing and cleaning the HELISTAND is very easy. The ROTAVISC viscometer is simply placed onto the stand’s drive motor and the T-shaped needle spindle is attached to the viscometer.


Available as a standalone accessory or as a package complete with a ROTAVISC viscometer for more details please visit https://www.ika.com/en/Products-Lab-Eq/Viscometers-csp-279/HELISTAND-Set-cpdt-25008233/ or contact IKA at sales.england@ika.com

Why it’s time to embrace digital colour masters

A combination of digital standards and industry-leading instruments enables businesses to reduce costs and wastage across the entire supply chain by getting the colour of every component right first time.

Investment in R&D excellence from quality control instrument specialist BYK-Gardner enables companies across the globe to achieve consistent measurement and control of important characteristics such as colour. And not just colour. BYK-Gardner instruments measure many other characteristics such as gloss, orange peel, multi-angled colour, sparkle, graininess, colour fastness, cloudiness, transparency, clarity and haziness.

This is achieved through industry-leading LED illuminated instruments with optimal inter-instrument agreement and enables true full digital masters to be introduced for all these characteristics. The digital masters can easily be distributed through the supply chain making a digital approval process possible at every stage, in every location from beginning to end.

Guarantee repeatable product quality across time and space
Digital masters include spectral data and client requirements, while also allowing automatic colour identification where appropriate. Measurement tolerances and an instant pass/fail can be included on both hand-held and robotic installations. The result is self-approval throughout the supply chain and improved harmony between products to guarantee a high right-first-time rate.

Working with major manufacturers across many industries, the benefits from reductions in waste and delay as well as improvements in communication of measurement data, to productivity, quality and sustainability deliver a complete return on investment – the instruments can pay for themselves!
Digital masters can be sent by e-mail as an xml file to locations anywhere in the world. They have applications within industries including automotive, coatings, plastics, printing inks leather and even wine.

Blagden distributes BYK-Gardner instruments to companies across the United Kingdom. To find out how your business can benefit from the use of these instruments in combination with digital masters, call Simon Moss at Blagden on 01959 560818 or email.

Please note: Information provided here is given in good faith and without liability. It is intended for guidance only. Users are advised to conduct their own independent examination of the product to ascertain its suitability for incorporation into processes or products. Users should ensure that the use of the product complies with all pertinent current legislation. We guarantee to supply to specification, not performance.


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X-Rite Pantone