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Supporting Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEMs) with the SEM-Base VI

Wes Wigglesworth

In this interview, Wes Wigglesworth, Product Manager from Technical Manufacturing Corporation (TMC) talks to AZoNano about their new product the SEM-Base VI.

Similar to the original SEM-Base system, the SEM-Base VI is designed to support commercial scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) and Focused Ion Beam (FIB) tools.

Please tell us a bit about the SEM-Base VI.

SEM-Base® VI is the next generation of TMC’s STACIS® active piezoelectric vibration cancellation product line.

Like the original SEM-Base system, SEM-Base VI is designed to support commercial scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) and Focused Ion Beam (FIB) tools.

It features improved vibration isolation performance and a faster and more-robust controller that provides the user with an advanced graphical user interface (GUI)

The SEM-Base VI is designed to support all commercial scanning electron microscopes (SEMs).  What are the benefits and features of the SEM-Base VI?

SEM-Base VI provides, on average, 6dB improved vibration isolation performance over previous models, depending on the frequency and direction of the input. The aggressive inertial active vibration cancellation over a bandwidth starting at 0.6Hz is unmatched in the industry.

This is very important for SEMs and FIB tools as they are very sensitive in the 1-3Hz range. SEM-Base VI provides 8-25dB attenuation in this range in a serial hard-mount architecture allowing the microscope’s on-board passive isolators to also be fully optimized.

SEM-Base continues to mitigate floor vibration over all higher frequencies, further protecting SEMs and FIBs from noisy floors and enabling their highest magnifications with high resolution in labs and facilities that would otherwise not be suitable.

Furthermore, TMC’s next generation controller—the DC-2020—provides tool owners and researchers with a very simple and easy-to-use front panel LCD or PC-based GUI for fast system assessment and operational peace-of-mind.


How can the SEM-Base VI achieve high levels of vibration attenuation, even in quiet floors?

SEM-Base employs TMC’s unique and proprietary STACIS® technology in a fully integrated compact package. Stacis is the only commercially available active vibration isolation system with piezoelectric actuators and low-frequency inertial sensors to cancel low-frequency floor vibration in series with a stiff rubber spring.

The DC-2020 controller is the brain of the system with a dual core processor and proprietary Stacis operating firmware providing the complex algorithms and signal processing needed to drive the active control loop with high dynamic range, stability, and real-time response.

Furthermore, the new DC-2020 allows TMC to more easily customize the firmware if needed for even the most noisy environments. Admittedly, however, the standard firmware is more than adequate for over 90% of our installations.

How can the SEM-Base VI achieve high levels of vibration attenuation, even in quiet floors?

Was there a gap in the market for the SEM-Base VI? How does it compare to other models?

When SEM-Base was originally introduced in 2009, it was the first of its kind. Integrating the STACIS technology, SEM-Base was the first, and SEM-Base VI still the only, commercially available platform to support SEMs with serial hard-mount inertial active vibration cancellation in a single fully integrated system.

The STACIS technology inside is unique to TMC with performance at 0.6Hz to 5Hz unmatched in our industry. Other solutions do not combine the low frequency attenuation, load capacity, and hard-mount stable platform in a single integrated package.

With a floor-facing active control system decoupled from the SEM payload to aggressively cancel floor vibration over a very wide active bandwidth, SEM-Base VI is also fully compatible with all commercial SEMs’ and FIBs’ on-board internal vibration isolation systems.

Please explain how the SEM-Base VI will enable labs and facilities to achieve the level of floor vibration needed?

More and more, electron microscopes and focused beam tools are installed in areas that do not meet the ever-increasing demands of these high-resolution instruments. These include nanotechnology, life science, materials research and semiconductor fabrication and failure analysis facilities located in cities, near highways, on upper floors, and so on.

Most sites being considered for an installation are surveyed to determine if the ambient floor vibration levels meet the instrument manufacturer’s published vibration specification. Stacis technology really is the most effective solution allowing such instruments to operate to their fullest potential in these non-compliant locations by reducing high floor vibration to within the tool specification.

Additionally, in facilities that meet specification at the time of installation, SEM-Base will provide insurance against increasing vibration levels due to future construction, increased human activity, and maturity of the facility. We’ve actually worked with several facilities where the vibration levels were within specification initially, where later the floor vibration levels had increased.

In such instances, normal SEM activity can continue when SEM-Base is already installed resulting in no down time and overall greater throughput of materials.  

how the SEM-Base VI will enable labs and facilities to achieve the level of floor vibration needed

Which applications will benefit with the SEM-Base? How?

Any application for which SEMs and FIBs are used. This includes single-particle analysis, minerals research, IC failure analysis, sample preparation of S/TEM samples for cryo-tomography, just to name a few.

Many manufacturers combine the FIB (for milling) and SEM (for imaging) in one tool, often with a payload exceeding 2500 lbs. SEM-Base VI can be installed to support and enable these advanced tools as well.

Which applications will benefit with the SEM-Base

Is a forklift or rigging equipment required to install SEM-Base VI?

Actually, SEM-Base can be very easy to install. TMC provides options such as heavy duty casters, a convertible packing crate incorporating a roll-off ramp, and SEM-Lift, a unique lifting jack designed specifically for SEMs.

These simple tools allow SEM-Base to be installed in about a half a day with no forklifts or other specialized rigging equipment. A TMC engineer will visit the site to support the installation, optimize the control system, measure the vibration performance and provide a certification report.

Where can our readers go to find out more?

To find out more feel free to call  TMC at 1-800-542-9725 to speak with an Application Engineer, or send us an email at [email protected].

Readers can also visit our website at

About Wes Wigglesworth

Wes Wigglesworth has been with TMC since 1997, and is currently the Product Manager for TMC’s flagship line of Active Vibration and Noise cancellation systems, including Stacis, Stacis iX, Mag-NetX and the new Everstill. Wes Wigglesworth

Wes has previously held positions in Application Engineering, Sales Engineering, and OEM Account Management in the scientific and technology industry over a period of over 24 years.

He holds a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University in Medford, MA.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.


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