Mountains® software used in study on world’s oldest drawing

9/13/2018 – Nature, the International Journal of Science, today reveals that the oldest known abstract drawing, made with ocher, has been found in a South African cave on a pebble retrieved from 73,000-year-old deposits. It is a crosshatch of nine lines purposefully traced with a piece of ocher having a fine point and used as a pencil. The work is at least 30,000 years older than the earliest previously known abstract and figurative drawings executed using the same technique.

The discovered pebble featuring a crosshatch of nine lines

Among the tools used to bring this exciting new discovery to light, SensoMap software, based on Mountains® technology allowed archeologists to reveal that the pebble in question was probably originally part of a large ocher grindstone, the surface of which may have been completely covered by a drawing which the fragment discovered would have been part of.

Surface analysis performed using SensoMap software (ISO and SSFA parameter calculations)

Read more:


CNRS (French National Research Institute) press release

What is a symbol?

This is a tough question to answer when tasked with analyzing the earliest graphic productions. What we might today interpret as figurative representations might just be an ancient doodle that had no special purpose. For a long time, archaeologists were convinced the first symbols appeared when Homo sapiens colonized areas of Europe about 40,000 years ago. However, recent archaeological discoveries in Africa, Europe, and Asia suggest the creation and use of symbols emerged much earlier. For example, the oldest known engraving is a zigzag carved into the shell of a freshwater mussel found in Trinil (Java) within 540,000-year-old archaeological strata1. And objects for personal adornment have been unearthed at several archaeological sites in Africa dating back to 70,000 to 120,000 years before the present (BP).

Earliest drawing 73,000 years old

The researchers describe the oldest known abstract drawing made with a piece of ocher used as a pencil. It was identified on the surface of a small piece of siliceous rock (silcrete) while analyzing stone tools collected during an excavation at Blombos Cave in South Africa. The silcrete fragment came from a 73,000-year-old archaeological stratum and bears a crosshatched pattern made up of nine fine lines.

Tribological analysis and roughness measurement

A major methodological challenge was to prove these lines were deliberately drawn by humans. It was primarily tackled by the team’s French members, experts in these matters and specialized in the chemical analysis of pigments. First, they reproduced the same lines using various techniques: they tried fragments of ocher with a point or an edge and also applied different aqueous dilutions of ocher powder using brushes. Using techniques of microscopic, chemical, and tribological analysis, they then compared their drawings to the ancient original. Their findings confirm the lines were intentionally drawn with a pointed ocher implement on a surface first smoothed by rubbing. The pattern thus constitutes the earliest known drawing, preceding the oldest previously discovered works by at least 30,000 years.

Abstract pattern engraved on a piece of ocher found in the same archaeological stratum that yielded the silcrete flake


The archaeological stratum in which the silcrete flake lay had already yielded many other objects with symbolic markings, including ocher fragments that feature very similar crosshatched engraving. These finds demonstrate that the first Homo sapiens in this region of Africa used different techniques to produce similar signs on different materials, which supports the hypothesis that these markings served a symbolic function.



This discovery is reported in Nature by an international team that includes scientists from the PACEA (CNRS / University of Bordeaux / French Ministry of Culture) and TRACES (CNRS / University of Toulouse–Jean Jaurès / French Ministry of Culture) research units.

An abstract drawing from the 73,000-year-old levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa. Christopher S. Henshilwood, Francesco d’Errico, Karen L. van Niekerk, Laure Dayet, Alain Queffelec & Luca Pollarolo. September 12th, 2018, Nature. DOI : 10.1038/s41586-018-0514-3


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Surface parameters give clues to life in the middle stone age

Welcome to our new website!

We are thrilled to unveil our brand new visual identity and new website.

Our logo has been redesigned to reflect more accurately who we are and what we stand for today and in particular our expertise in surface metrology and microscopic topography analysis.

Furthermore, the look and structure of our website has been updated and is now fully responsive across all devices including mobile, making information and resources easier to access.

Happy browsing everyone!

Mountains® 8: take your SEM image analysis to new heights

Mountains® 8 is on the horizon with features for scanning electron microscopy to be revealed this summer. But what exactly is the added value of using specialized software for your SEM image analysis?

1 – Scientific software with a document layout

Imagine being able to organize the different steps of your SEM image processing (original images, distance measurements, particle statistics etc.) on one or several pages and being able to publish these directly in different formats?
This is exactly what Mountains® software for SEM allows you to do, enabling you to put your data to use right away.
(This also avoids “ window deluge ”, a common disadvantage of many scientific software programs).

2 – Total traceability

Thanks to Mountains® unique analysis workflow, you can see all the analysis steps already applied to your data and instantly revert back to any step in the process. Edit any step and all dependent steps will automatically be updated.

3 – Automation : Let the software do the work

Many users working with scanning electron microscopes find themselves performing repetitive analysis routines, following the same steps again and again.
Why not automate your repetitive SEM work and speed up your analysis process with Mountains® powerful tools? These include : templates, Minidocs (macros) and the statistics feature.

4 – Trust the experts

Digital Surf has almost 30 years experience developing surface imaging & metrology software for the global industrial and scientific community.
We invest heavily in research and development. Many of the algorithms used in our products are unpublished and result from our own research.
Our team of experts constantly test and improve the quality of Mountains® and ensure the software is compliant with current scientific norms and methods.

5 – Compatible with all SEMs

We have partnerships with leading SEM manufacturers (such as JEOL, Hitachi, Zeiss, Thermo Fisher Scientific including FEI). This means Mountains® software is available as standard or as an option with most new SEMs purchased.
In some cases, Mountains® can be seamlessly integrated with image acquisition software, speeding up the process flow.
To add to this, Mountains® is capable of processing data from any brand of electron microscope.

6 – Click and colorize

Colorizing SEM images is a technique that has been around for a long time so what’s new here?
Well, the sheer speed with which you can take your image from black and white to color. In literally just a few clicks, objects in the image are automatically detected and colorized by the software.

7 – Measure anything

Sometimes obtaining measurements from your SEM data can be complicated. Mountains® makes calculating distances, angles, areas and volumes quick and accurate. You can also analyze dimensions of extracted profile contours and cross-sections.

8 – Enhanced 3D reconstruction of SEM data

Ever wondered what your scanning electron microscopy images would look like in 3D?
Mountains® offers you several techniques for switching from standard 2D images to “ topographic ” images. Version 8 algorithms have again been improved to make this easier and quicker than ever before.

9 – Pore & Particle analysis

This improved Mountains® feature allows you to quickly identify and quantify features in virtually any SEM image.
Methods based on thresholding, watershed and circle detection make it possible to detect objects of almost any type (particles, pores, grains, surface defects, cells, contamination, pits, pillars etc.)

10 – See your SEM data from every angle

Mountains® 8 will bring a new dimension to 3D visualization of images by enabling you to see them from any angle.
Using the multiple-image reconstruction tool, you can build a model from series of SEM images in stunning high definition 3D. A wide range of customizable rendering types, materials and lighting options are available. You can zoom in/out, rotate, make a movie and export the reconstructed model directly for 3D printing.


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New video tutorial


Browse Surface Newsletter – Summer 2018 edition

MountainsMap® in the classroom

Our readers may recall the winners of our 3D printing contest last fall who were none other than the fourth grade class at the Victory World Christian School.  We were curious to see how the class was using MountainsMap®, more commonplace in research labs and industry than in the school classroom.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is a growing movement in education, in particular in the United States but also around the world. STEM-based learning programs are designed to encourage students’ interest in one day pursuing a career in these fields.
Victory World Christian School (Georgia, USA) is one of those schools providing an advanced STEM educational program to students from a young age.

In the STEM lab, where students are encouraged to participate in a very “hands-on” way, one can find a scanning electron microscope equipped with MountainsMap® software.

Sophia Chin, the school’s STEM coordinator explained to Surface Newsletter that the presence of a SEM in the classroom helps “further develop practical applications with more advanced science equipment by exploring theoretical examinations. These examinations frame a working knowledge, which empowers deeper learning.”

The winning samples in last year’s contest were firstly of an aloe plant sample imaged in a study on the importance of growing healthy plants for people in the community. The second, hot chocolate powder, saw the students investigating characteristics of various different powders.
In another recent experiment, students investigated how bees pollinate plants. After imaging a bumble bee with the scanning electron microscope, MountainsMap® was used to convert the gray-scale image into a color image in order to make visualization of different features easier. Students were able to see spiral shapes on the bee’s legs which helps the pollen adhere to the insect’s body. The final step was to print out a 3D model of the imaged sample.

Well done kids – you are the scientists of tomorrow and almost certainly among the youngest MountainsMap® users!


Browse Surface Newsletter – Summer 2018 edition

From the image folder of an AFM practitioner

Dr. Sergei Magonov is an experienced and respected figure in the world of atomic force microscopy (AFM).
With over three decades of practice working with instruments from several different manufacturers, Sergei tells us why highly-specialized tools for preparation, visualization and quantification are the key to understanding AFM data.


Commercial AFM instruments mostly come equipped with software focused on the collection of data. Off-line data treatment capabilities and quantitative examination are typically limited.
This is why it is, in my opinion, essential that AFM users work with specialized software packages such as those based on Digital Surf’s Mountains® platform.
I myself have enjoyed working with Mountains® for a number of years. To demonstrate its value, the following article presents a few examples of AFM image processing and analysis taken from studies of single macromolecules and heterogeneous materials.

Visualization and quantification of single macromolecules

High-resolution profiling of nanoscale objects with an AFM probe has fascinated researchers since images of single DNA strands and their double helical structure were first observed in the early 90s. Since 1996, in addition to natural macromolecules, synthetic polymer chains are also regularly studied using AFM.
The chemists who create these macromolecules greatly appreciate being able to directly visualize the architecture of synthesized polymer chains deposited on an atomically-flat substrate from their dilute solutions.
However, a little data preparation is necessary to make this possible. And that’s where software like Mountains® comes in.

Preparing AFM data for analysis

It is often necessary to subject the raw height images of single macromolecules to processing such as leveling with the exclusion of raised structures and form removal which eliminates occasional sample tilt and tube-scanner bulging.
In Mountains®, these common procedures are very time-efficient and user-friendly. The software offers a broad choice of user-definable color palettes.
The resulting processed images are well suited to quantitative analysis and provide, for example, statistics on macromolecule length (an important characteristic of polymers, related to molecular weight distribution).
Also vital is the examination of chain conformation and changes caused by different factors: temperature, environment etc.
The height image below illustrates polymer macro-
molecules absorbed on a mica surface. Further analysis of these images can be performed for example using the Motifs analysis tool.

AFM height & phase images of brush macro-molecule.
Top right : sketch of the brush macromolecule
in “spoke-wheel” configuration.

1 – Characterizing membrane morphology

Membranes are important functional components for a variety of applications from batteries to biochemistry.
Size of pores, pore distribution and morphology are valuable characteristics for defining a membrane’s overall performance.
Figure A below shows the surface morphology of a Celgard microporous polymer film containing numerous nano-size voids originated in fibrillar regions separated by densely packed lamellar regions.
To quantify morphology, one can apply the Mountains® Slices tool (figure B), which provides projected areas, volumes and mean thickness of the voids and surrounding material. The procedure is user-controlled with a choice of one or two color-coded threshold levels separating features of interest.
Figures C & D show a similar analysis routine applied to an industrial nitrocellulose membrane with features much larger than those of the Celgard film. The size of the pores varies from tens of nanometers to several microns.

2 – Examination of bitumen composition

Bitumen is broadly used for road pavements and as roofing material. Technological properties of this material depend on its composition and morphology, which can be examined with AFM phase imaging and mapping of local dielectric response.
Typically, bee-like structures resulting from surface stress during cooling from high temperature can be observed in height images of bitumen surface regions. As their profiles are corrugated, the leveling of such images is facilitated by automatically excluding features below and above the average level (figures A & B below).
Their heterogeneous morphology and different domains can only be faintly seen here. However phase images are more sensitive not only to topographical features but also to differences in mechanical and adhesive local properties (figure C). Here, the color-coded contrast differentiates bee-like structures and two kinds of surrounding surface domains.
Composition was then quantified using Slices analysis applied to both height and phase images. Comparison of these allowed us to identify the bee-like features with surrounding domains as wax and the other regions as polar asphaltene material, these being two of the multiple chemical constituents of bitumen.




Dr. Sergei Magonov was attracted to field of scanning probe microscopy while working at the University of Freiburg (Germany) in the late 80s. In 1995, he joined Digital Instruments (Santa Barbara CA, USA). His expertise in STM and AFM further developed and he later spearheaded applications at Veeco Instruments, Agilent Technologies and NT-MDT. His contributions to research on the subject include a book, 16 chapters/reviews, over 200 peer-reviewed papers, 6 US patents and more than 40 application notes. As of December 2017, Sergei is a member of SPM Labs LLC where he is involved in the development of AFM instrumentation and novel applications.


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Bio-fuels research – fat stored in bacteria


Browse Surface Newsletter – Summer 2018 edition

FocalSpec and Digital Surf launch FocalSpec Map

Finnish high-tech company FocalSpec, specializing in devices for fast surface measurement and on-line testing of challenging materials and shapes, and Digital Surf announced they have teamed up to release FocalSpec Map, a cutting-edge software package bringing a whole new set of tools to users of the company’s innovative Line Confocal Imaging (LCI) technology.

Read more: 2018-01-PR-FocalSpec-Digital-Surf

Anton Paar launches Tosca™ Analysis for industrial AFM users

Following the recent launch of the Tosca™ 400 atomic force microscope, the leading scientific equipment manufacturing company Anton Paar announced the release of Tosca™ analysis software, based on Digital Surf’s Mountains® surface analysis technology.

Specially designed for industrial users, the Tosca™ 400 comes with ToscaTM Control software for operating the AFM. Add to that new Tosca™ analysis software and users have a complete solution for complex nano-surface analysis in a variety of areas including characterization of semiconductor properties and investigation of polymer chains.

5 things to consider when using scale-sensitive fractal analysis

To mark the release of the new Scale-Sensitive Fractal Analysis optional module, now available to Mountains® software users, François Blateyron, Digital Surf’s surface metrology expert, explains what SSFA is all about and how to use it.

1. What is fractal analysis?
We all learned at school that geometrical objects are sorted by the number of coordinates required to describe them. A line segment is 1-dimensional, a plane is 2-dimensional and a cube is 3-dimensional. However, in the real world, lines may be more complicated than that.

Benoit Mandelbrot, the American-French-Polish mathematician, described the basis of a new branch of mathematics where geometrical dimensions could be fractional instead of integer. This theory had many interesting applications in physics, economy and even the arts. 
The fractal dimension was found to be an interesting parameter to describe physical surfaces, and especially engineering surfaces.

A rough surface is like a microscopic mountainous surface, and its fractal dimension can be seen as an attribute characterizing its complexity. A very smooth and planar surface will have a fractal dimension close to 2.0 but a ceramic surface, which features many pores and cavities, will have a higher value, maybe closer to 3.0 than 2.0.

The work of Mandelbrot applied to engineering surfaces was developed in particular by Professor Christopher Brown of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) who introduced length-scale and area-scale analyses, together with several other parameters and statistical methods to establish functional correlations and discriminations.

These techniques are designated by the acronym SSFA – scale-sensitive fractal analysis.

2. Scale-sensitive graphs
When using length-scale analysis, a line-segment of fixed length (the reference scale) is used to measure the actual length of a profile (or a surface line). The cumulated length divided by the horizontal length is called relative length. This value is between 1.0 and 2.0.

In the first example here a segment of 5 mm length is used to measure a profile. We can fit 5 segments into a horizontal length of 24.94mm. The relative length is therefore 25.0/24.94 = 1.0024.

However, if we use a segment of 2.5 mm it is possible to fit 12 segments into a horizontal length of 25.06 mm, which gives a relative length of 1.197. In other words, the smaller the segment, the longer the measured length and the higher the relative length.

The measure is repeated with different segment lengths and a graph is drawn: log(relative length) in function of log(scale).

On this graph a threshold is set to find the smooth-rough crossover (SRC) which gives the scale of transition between large scales where the surface is analyzed from too far away (its fractal dimension is close to the Euclidian dimension 1.0) and scales where the fractal dimension really does describe the behavior of the surface. The central part, between the two green lines, is almost linear and its slope is used to calculate the fractal dimension.

3. Can a surface be analyzed using the same method?
The answer to this is yes, since relative length can be calculated on lines or on columns of the surface and the average value of relative length used to build the graph.

Alternatively, area-scale method can be used, where triangular tiles of a fixed area are used to calculate the actual area of the surface, and the relative area is obtained by division with the projected area. A similar graph is obtained and the same parameters can be calculated.

 Right. Three tiling exercises with different tile sizes.

4. Related parameters
These parameters are used in various fields of metrology and research such as the study of adhesion strength, fracture analysis, thermal-spray coating, tool wear etc.

Some parameters initially developed for dental texture analysis by Rob Scott and Peter Ungar.
One advantage is that these parameters are calculated within a scale range where the function is found to be active. This scale-limited approach is more powerful than calculating a field parameter on a surface with a default filter.
> See our Surface Metrology Guide videos on scale sensitive approaches:

The parameters listed above are described in ISO 25178-2, clause 4.4.9 and are also part of ASME B46.1:2002.

5. Where can I find the tools?
Recent versions of MountainsMap® 7.4 offer a new optional module called Scale-Sensitive Fractal Analysis which implements most of the methods that were available in Sfrax software (developed by Prof. Brown). This module can be tested for free for 30 days and purchased as a separate module.


TopoMAPS software

Researchers and engineers using Thermo Fisher Scientific’s revolutionary scanning electron microscopy (SEM) systems (including FEI Company) now have access to all the power of Mountains® technology. New TopoMAPS software opens up exciting possibilities for SEM colorization and reconstruction in a wide variety of application areas.

Read more: 2017-11-PR-TopoMAPS-Digital-Surf

3D printing contest, the winning samples chosen by you

When we launched our 3D printing contest back in September, we did not anticipate the sheer variety of examples that would be sent in by our users.

From biological samples to electronic components, it was great to see the full spectrum of what scientists, academics and industry members are studying with Mountains® software.

It was a tough decision as there were so many other worthy examples. Here are the five winning examples chosen by visitors to the Digital Surf Facebook page. These have been 3D printed with a copy being sent to their lucky owners and another to be on show at the MRS Fall Exhibit in Boston.

#1 – Hot chocolate powder

Data obtained using scanning electron microscopy
Entered by Sophia Chin, Victory World Christian School

#2 – Aloe plant

Data obtained using scanning electron microscopy
Entered by Sophia Chin, Victory World Christian School

These two amazing 3D views were generated from SEM images captured by fourth graders at the Victory World Christian School in Georgia, USA.

The school’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) coordinator Sophia Chin explained to Surface Newsletter that the goal of introducing the use of a SEM at such an early age is “to inspire, amaze, and expand the minds and curiosity of our children and to maximize the learning experience in the classroom.”

Great work kids, you are the scientists of tomorrow and almost certainly among the youngest ever Mountains® users!

#3 – Microreplicated ceramic pad conditioner

Data obtained using a 3D measuring macroscope
Entered by Douglas Pysher, 3M Electronics Materials Solutions Division

This “forest of cones” is an array of precisely engineered 3D microreplicated ceramic structures coated with CVD diamond.

Known as a “pad conditioner”, this component is used for Chemical Mechanical Polishing (CMP) in advanced node semiconductor manufacturing. The micro-structures ensure consistent performance disk-to-disk and the metal-free cutting surface is ideal for advanced node processes sensitive to metallic contamination.

#4 – Industrial polymer

Data obtained using an atomic force microscope (AFM)
Entered by Mengmeng Zhang, Keysight Technologies

This image comes from a recent study on industrial materials (applied in construction, pharmaceutics and other industries) where behavior of materials in different environments is of great importance.

Visualization of molecular structures and monitoring of conformational changes of polymers on different substrates opens novel possibilities for comprehensive molecular-scale studies.

#5 – 9mm fired cartridge casing

Data obtained using focus variation microscopy
Entered by T. Brian Renegar, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – Nanometer-Scale Metrology Group

3D topography is now used in crime laboratories in measuring toolmarks and striations produced by firearms and imparted on crime scene evidence, such as fired bullets and cartridge cases. These individual marks are used by forensic examiners in helping to solve violent crimes.

The measurement depicted is of a 9 mm cartridge case. The full “head stamp” or back face of the cartridge is measured here. Examiners concentrate on three key areas of a casing: the breech face impression, firing pin and ejector mark.


My first project with Mountainsmap®: one user’s experience

When using new software, getting started can be tricky. But did you know that MountainsMap® product users benefit from personalized assistance right from the word go? As well as access to a whole host of online resources, this includes technical support supplied by an in-house team who will guide you while you get accustomed to the software and answer any questions you may have on specific applications. Let’s have a look at one customer’s first steps using the software and see what he was able to achieve within the first few weeks of use.

Peter Van Rompuy is Primary Lab Technician with Agfa-Gevaert, provider of imaging systems and IT solutions for the printing and healthcare industries (HQ located in Mortsel, Belgium). He recently acquired MountainMap® software to analyze the broad range of samples and analysis requests from internal research departments and the company’s open innovation platform AgfaLabs (see

What instruments do you work with?

In 2002 we bought a stylus profiler, quickly followed by an interferometer and later on a confocal microscope. Now, 15 years later, we have 6 other interferometers worldwide for quality control purposes! A growing business…

What are the main challenges of your work?

At the central research department of Agfa-Gevaert we are challenged by a lot of issues. We characterize new materials but we also support our different business group’s research and application departments. Furthermore, our open innovation platform AgfaLabs is growing consistently and demands high-tech equipment, software and knowledge.

Up until now we were using our interferometer application software for all topographical analyses. A user-friendly software with lot of capabilities but also with some restrictions with respect to more complex analysis requests.

How did you hear about MountainsMap®?

At the end of last year a colleague told me about MountainsMap®. I was interested and had a look on the Digital Surf website. I decided to download the trial version and soon realized the software would have an added value for our research department!

What were your first impressions?

Installation and initialization were trouble free. The screen layout was innovative and functional but to be honest, it was not easy to begin with. I was not used to working with a ribbon toolbar which changes depending on which operator or study is selected. I was not familiar with the nomenclature used by the software (studiables, operators, studies and Minidocs). But I soon discovered some nice tutorials and examples together with a splendid on-line manual. Once you know how to open a dataset, perform some processing actions and analyze the processed data, I was surprised how easy and smooth the whole analysis worked out, resulting in a nice report!

What are the features you find most useful?

A very fine feature is the fact you can swap the loaded dataset with a new one and processing is done automatically, generating a new report! You can also save a report as a template for further use (called “minidocs”). At the right of the screen you will find an analysis workflow containing all the processing steps. At first it didn’t know the added value of this list but soon you realize this is the place to alter settings in order to fine-tune your analysis. Once again, the software carries out the new processing immediately.

A very nice feature of MountainsMap® is the fact you can load almost any commercially used topographic file. Also, MountainsMap® processed files can be converted to instrument-type files for further use in the instrument-related software or to be further analyzed by our customer’s applications.

What additional modules do you use?

We decided to buy the MountainsMap® Universal package with some extra optional modules: Grains & Particles, 3D Fourier & Wavelets and Advanced 3D surface texture. These modules are of great importance with respect to topographical analysis of spatial features. It is worth mentioning that this software package is extremely useful for dedicated wavelength or wavelet filtering of the measured surface texture. The Fourier analysis gives us the possibility to evaluate spatial features while the Grains & Particles module is useful for segmenting and characterizing local features.

What helped you most in your first few weeks using the software?

Aside from the software capabilities, I was very impressed by the comprehensive online reference guide (or the printed version like we have!) This guide is not just a manual but also a tutorial providing very useful information regarding all existing filter techniques and analysis algorithms. Furthermore textural parameters in MountainsMap® are categorized into their ISO standard group. This is very useful when you have to work according a certain ISO standard.

To finalize this review it is worth mentioning Digital Surf’s user-friendly customer support. It was not easy to start using the software (I didn’t expect it would be!). Sometimes you wonder if a certain feature is available or not or you don’t immediately find a solution in the help manual. At these times, you really need good and quick responding customer support. I must say, thumbs up for Digital Surf’s support. They assist you by generating an analysis report with the necessary comments. Even when I was using the trial version I was able to benefit from email support many times.

In conclusion, superb software and great support! In my opinion, MountainsMap® is the way to go if you want to raise the bar and get the most out of your topographic datasets.


Tell us about your applications

“One of the things we have been using MountainsMap® for in particular is studying substrates printed with conductive inks in the aim of improving the performance of our printed electronics products. Measuring the exact height of these inks is very important to us as their conductivity depends on this factor (see figure 1). We also need to quantify volume (figure 2) and area.

Figure 1. Height measurement of conductive ink

Figure 2. Volume measurement of the sample

We also use MountainsMap® to analyze the hardness of our synthetic paper. After performing an indentation test, we measure the “damaged” surface with our interferometer. However, this type of surface is difficult to measure due to the diffuse light scattering. Measurement of the center of the indentation is of good quality but the steep edges of the indentation pit result in a lot of non-measured points.

By means of MountainsMap®, it is easy to process these images (using the Filter and Remove outlier operators). We then are able to extract a representative 2D profile which runs through the center of the indentation.”


New to Mountains® software? Have any questions?

Isabelle, Damien and Catharine from the MountainsMap® support team would be happy to help.
Free support is included in all MountainsMap® products. If you are working with an OEM version of the software, you may contact your instrument manufacturer directly.

Support solutions

New video tutorial

Thanks to automatic object recognition, colorizing SEM images using Mountains® really is a straightforward exercise and will save you hours compared to performing the same operation with photo editing software.

Sometimes, however, objects in images are quite complex and you may not be getting the best results using the default segmentation settings.

Check out the video:

Bring your samples to life! New options for 3D printing

In recent years 3D printing has taken the world by storm and with the latest advances this technology is becoming more and more accessible to the general public. As far as the world of microscopy is concerned, there are many benefits of using 3D printing to produce scaled-up replicas of samples.

Two-dimensional (2D) images can often prove insufficient for detailed analysis of organization and morphology of micro-structures.

However, being able to generate a highly accurate, solid scale replica of the sample that you are studying with a microscope, being able to hold it in your hand, examine it and show it to students or colleagues, opens up new perspectives and better understanding of complex micro-systems.

Another interesting use of 3D printing is the fabrication of micrometer-scale devices for the medical and electronic sectors.


Above: Ink deposit measured using an atomic force microscope (AFM): from 3D view in Mountains to 3D printed model.

Improved export for 3D printing

Up until now, users of Mountains® and MountainsMap® software products could already export 3D models of their microscopy and profiler datasets in STL, VRML and X3D formats for 3D printing.

However, new 3D printing file formats have become increasingly popular in recent times. In particular the 3MF format has the advantage of allowing users to manage color and/or texture, something not possible with STL. This file format is set to become a new standard in 3D printing.

With the new 7.4 release of Mountains®, exporting 3D models in 3MF for direct 3D printing is now possible. Let’s take a look at the new options available.


Print a Mountains® 3D model in 4 easy steps

1- Go to the File menu and save your surface


2- Choose to save as a 3MF file


3- Choose export options:
* apply a color or use colors contained in an image file (if available)
* edit axes (choose scale factors for X, Y and/or Z)
* select options for 3D printing (close the object, add a base etc.)

4- Your sample is ready for printing (no post-processing required)!


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3D printing contest, the winning samples chosen by you

Surface parameters give clues to life in the middle stone age

Porc-Epic cave is located near Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia. It is home to the largest collection of ochre fragments ever discovered at a prehistoric site in East Africa, dating back to the Middle Stone Age (i.e. 35,000 to 40,000 years ago).

A team of archaeologists from the University of Bordeaux working at the site have recently been using conventional roughness parameters to analyze measurements taken on some of the ochre fragments. Alain Queffelec of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS/PACEA) tells Surface Newsletter how, more widely speaking, this is contributing to a greater understanding of the behavioral system of stone-age man.

“The purpose of our study is to bring new light to the debate on the origin and development of cultural complexity and to improve our understanding of the symbolic behavior of hunter-gatherers during the Middle Stone Age in East Africa” says Alain Queffelec.
“In order to do this, we analyzed a collection of ochre pieces found at Porc-Epic cave. A large number of these show traces of use, in particular flaking scars and striations produced by grinding.”


Analysis using surface parameters

“Non-invasive tribological analysis using a Sensofar S neox optical profilometer was conducted on 19 fine-grained archaeological ochre fragments with one or several abraded facets (see examples in figure page 5). The results of this analysis were compared to an experimental reference system established using pieces of ochre abraded on grindstones similar to those found at the site.


3D views of some of the experimental (A to C) and archaeological surfaces (D to F) used in the study,
generated using SensoMap software based on Mountains® technology

The resulting surfaces were processed using SensoMap software based on Mountains® technology in order to eliminate shape then remove outliers, fill in non-measured points and separate waviness from roughness by applying a Gaussian filter with a threshold of 0.25mm.
The figure on page 4 shows some examples of these surfaces, including experimental surfaces. After testing multiple standard parameters (ISO 25178), Sq and Sdr were judged the most effective for differentiating experimental surfaces. As a result, these two parameters were used for the comparison of archaeological surfaces.


Two examples of ochre fragments with facets and details of these facets showing striations.


Confirming the symbolic use of ochre

Our results indicate that some archaeological samples show similar wear on all facets whereas, in others, wear on different facets differs. This makes it possible, for the first time, to confirm that the ochre fragments were used on different grindstones and probably reused at different times to produce small quantities of ochre powders. These powders, of different colors and granulometry, may have been used for purposes of a symbolic nature (such as body painting, producing patterns on media or signaling).


Conclusions and perspectives

The results of this study greatly improve our understanding of the use of ochre by hunter-gatherers in the Middle Stone Age.

Measurement analysis using conventional roughness parameters allowed us to create, for the first time, a quantified referential model. Application of other analysis methods such as wavelets or fractal analysis could enable further research in this field in the future.

The study of ochre pieces from other sites analyzed using a similar methodology could help identify changes through time in the way ochre was modified and provide more information on its functions during the Middle Stone Age. Ultimately, this could help establish when early humans first used pigments symbolically.

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