Since SPM specialists Image Metrology and Digital Surf joined forces a few years back, development teams from both companies have been working hard to create the next generation of SPM image analysis software, based on the industry-standard Mountains® platform and including all the best SPIP™ interactivity and analytical tools. The new product line, named MountainsSPIP 8™, will be unveiled at the MRS Fall Exhibit in Boston on November 27-29 and made available to users in Q2 2019.
Here we premiere some of the benefits of this uniquely powerful toolbox for SPM data analysis.
Researchers wishing to explore a sample beyond the limitations of one single instrument technology need look no further than MountainsSPIP 8TM.
Whether working with data from 3D optical profilers, AFM, SEM, fluorescence, Raman, IR or other microscopes, users benefit from powerful detection tools which allow them to easily manage data at different scales (see image above).
Density maps, SEM, fluorescence and other images can easily be overlaid on surface topography to facilitate the correlative study of features.
Characterizing molecular interactions at the nanoscale using atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a key application in the fields of materials and life sciences.
MountainsSPIPTM contains all the features necessary for viewing, processing and analyzing force curves and force volume images.
This includes tools for correcting data, creating interactive parameter maps and managing large collections of curves.
All parameters and results can be exported to Excel at the touch of a button.
MountainsSPIPTM takes particle analysis to a whole new level. Combining all the best Mountains® and SPIPTM tools, this tool allows users to easily detect and quantify features of any shape and size on virtually any surface.
It is possible to choose which layer of data to use for feature detection then select an appropriate detection method (threshold, watershed, edge or circle detection).
When it comes to quantification, over 70 parameters (area, perimeter, diameter etc.) are available. Analyze the sample as a whole or just click on any individual particle to see parameters instantly displayed!
SPM users often work with data comprised of multiple images (current, phase, thermal etc.) obtained using different scanning modes.
MountainsSPIPTM manages multi-channel files in exactly the same way it manages single-channel data, allowing users to switch easily from one channel to another during each and every stage of image processing.
Thanks to its unique analysis workflow (see image below), MountainsSPIPTM makes it easy to keep track of analysis steps already applied to data and instantly revert back to any step in the process.
Even better, any step can be edited, resulting in all dependent steps being automatically recalculated.
As in previous versions of Mountains® software, MountainsSPIPTM allows users to save work and pick up where they left off next time.
Repetitive analysis routines, following the same steps again and again, can be automated with robust tools including templates.
MountainsSPIPTM is capable of processing data from any brand or type of scanning probe microscope (AFM, STM, SNOM, etc.) The software can open over 170 different file formats covering various data types (profile, surface, image, multi-channel, force curve, hypercube, etc.).
Digital Surf and Image Metrology have many years experience developing surface imaging & metrology software for the global industrial and scientific communities. Both companies have research partnerships with leading laboratories worldwide. The majority of national metrology institutes (NIST in the USA, NPL in the UK, LNE in France etc.) rely on the expertise and precision of Mountains® and/or SPIPTM software.
Digital Surf’s main focus is on working as a partner with instrument manufacturers worldwide, in the fields of surface metrology and microscopy.
Mountains® software is now offered by over 50 profilometer and microscope manufacturers, embedded in their equipment.
Digital Surf and Image Metrology joined forces in July 2014. In the run-up to the release of MountainsSPIP 8™, Christophe Mignot, Digital Surf CEO, explains the reasons behind this merger and what it means for current SPIP™ and Mountains® users.
In July 2014, Digital Surf acquired 100% of shares in Image Metrology, a Danish company founded in 1998, creator of SPIP™ (“Scanning Probe Image Processor”) software. SPIP™ is the market-leading image analysis software for the SPM world (Atomic Force Microscopes, Scanning Tunneling Microscopes etc.)
Digital Surf, a company founded in 1989, is the editor of Mountains® software, leading analysis software for contact (stylus) and non-contact (optical) profilometers. Most profilometer manufacturers now offer Mountains® to their customers, either as an option or an embedded standard component.
Profilometers and SPMs share a lot in terms of surface analysis needs : for instance, interactive 3D rendering, form removal, filtering and roughness analysis can be required when working with data from either technology. However each instrument family also requires specific optional analyses e.g. automotive surface texture parameters for profilometers or force curve analysis for AFMs.
Image Metrology and Digital Surf were not directly competing as we were focusing on different markets. However over the years, it appeared that we had a lot of scientific enthusiasm and long-term expertise that we could pool for the benefit of our respective customers. Merging the two products was an opportunity to serve the surface analysis community more globally and in a better way, with tools for analysis from the nanometer scale to the millimeter scale.
In parallel, over the last 10 years, Digital Surf has been driving an internal R&D program with the idea of allowing Scanning Electron Microscopy to move from 2D grayscale images to 3D color images. Currently this technology has been adopted by the four biggest SEM manufacturers. As a result of both these internal and external developments, Digital Surf is planning to launch the new Mountains® 8 range in Q2 2019. Not only will Mountains® 8 be the most advanced software package for each type of surface or image analysis, but laboratories working with several different types of instrument (profilometer, microscope, SEM, AFM, spectral analyzer etc.) will be able to benefit from a unique synergy between all their instruments.
Laboratories working with several different instrument technologies will benefit from Mountains® 8 unique synergy
MountainsSPIP 8™ is a new product based on the Mountains® platform. It incorporates the advantages of both Mountains® 7.4 and SPIP™ 6.7 in a single product and adds many new features.
Mountains-SPIP™ is the Mountains® 8 software product line dedicated to SPM instruments. It will replace both MountainsMap® SPM 7 and SPIP™ 6.
Of course, it would be easy to assume that Mountains® 7 being the expert for surface analysis on profilers (and SEMs) and SPIP™ 6 being the specialist for SPM image analysis, we would just merge these two characteristics to form the DNA of our new product. However, there’s more to it than that. The approach used in SPIP™ is more interactive and direct than in Mountains®. For instance, extracting a cross-section profile or a sub-area from a surface or leveling a topography are one-click operations in SPIP™, whereas they follow a longer sequence in Mountains® 7.
On the other hand, Mountains® 7 is very good at automation, traceability and publication, thanks to its unique document-based architecture and its clear and visible workflow. In Mountains® 7, the user can permanently monitor the operations applied, modify any of them at any time, use the work done as a template at any time and save or export work to Microsoft Office or other common programs in just a few clicks.
It has been a tremendous challenge to marry advantages of both software programs into a single product, as the philosophy of the two predecessors was really different, but we eventually got there! Mountains® 8 is as immediate as SPIP™ 6 and as traceable and automatable as Mountains® 7.
Development teams in Besançon and Copenhagen have been working hard to bring customers the next generation of SPM image analysis software
An important advantage for Mountains® 7 users will be new tools for Particle Analysis. Image Metrology did a brilliant job on this in SPIP™ and now all Mountains® users will have access to that. Conversely, Digital Surf really nailed multi-channel SPM image management. Multi-layer images are processed as simply as standard images in Mountains® 7, whereas this required windows synchronization mechanisms in SPIP™. Those using multi-channel microscopes will see their productivity increase significantly when upgrading to MountainsSPIP 8™.
However, Mountains® 8 is much more than just SPIP™ 6 and Mountains® 7 advantages put together. The new platform offers other new advantages. For instance users have been asking us for a while for a complete undo/redo function everywhere in the document: DONE!
The new Mountains® 8 range will have three main product lines:
All four software lines will come with a dedicated choice of optional modules, such as specific analysis tools for the automotive industry or powerful spectral data cube analysis for chemical surface mapping in microscopy.
Obviously MountainsSPIP™ will be a big step forward for users of SPIP™ 6 (and earlier versions). It will require more time and effort for them to find their feet than for Mountains® 7 users. We realize that and we are committed to making the shift as easy as possible.
Mountains® 8 will allow users to start from tutorial examples. Not tutorials that you use to understand, then close before applying to your own work, but actual useful examples you can use yourself to start with (including comments and explanations that you can switch off and on as you please). You can easily replace example data with your own data, save and retrieve your work.
We are producing a specific set of examples dedicated to guiding former SPIP™ 6 users.
Mountains® is very consistent. It is quite different from any other image analysis programs. But once you have got used to the basic concepts and names (such as “document”, “studiable” and “operator”), the software behaves the same for all data types. There is a small effort involved during the first five minutes, but then the gain in productivity is huge. Also, as Mountains® reproduces the familiar layout of desktop publishing software, if you are used to products like PowerPoint® or Word®, you will quickly be at ease with our powerful analysis documents.
MountainsSPIP™ will be available in 11 languages, including on-screen help, so most users will be able to work in their native language.
Last but not least, we are training our customer support people so that they fully understand the differences SPIP™ users will face when using MountainsSPIP™. So, they are ready to help and share their enthusiasm for the new product! Customers should not hesitate to call our support team for even the smallest concerns.
The merger of SPIP™ and Mountains® has been a long process and has delayed the release of version 8, but it was worth the wait. SPIP™ has come as a breath of fresh air, with attractive concepts that will now be part of Mountains®. And it is now our intention to recover the pace of new major versions. With SPIP™ joining us, the community broadens, and synergy between instruments and applications once again increases. Whatever surface analysis instrument you have, you know you can trust Mountains® to stay at the forefront, as 50+ instrument manufacturers do already.
We would like to thank our users and integrators for their loyalty and trust and we pledge to keep up the hard work in the future!
Digital Surf and Image Metrology joined forces in July 2014. Image Metrology has been supplying SPIP™ data analysis software for scanning probe microscopy to scientists in academia and industry for the last two decades. The company founder and CEO, Jan F. Jørgensen, tells us more.
After a degree in biomedical engineering, I worked as a software engineer for hi-tech analytical companies. I completed a PhD in cooperation with IBM and the Danish National Metrology Institute (DFM), where I worked on fundamental metrology, standards and technology. I founded Image Metrology in 1998 with SPIP™ as its primary product. The development of SPIP™ started as part of my PhD project. Our focus has always been on providing intelligent image processing techniques that facilitate the measurement and analysis of SPM images in a way that is as accurate as possible whilst being user-friendly.
SPIP™ users are set to gain significantly in productivity. MountainsSPIP™ allows users to save, close and reopen their work at any time. There are many tools for automating repetitive work and speeding up analysis processes. I also think many users will appreciate being able to export data as a report in PDF format at any time.
In addition to improved interactivity I would highlight three features.
During the upcoming year, we will be 100% committed to accompanying each SPIP™ customer in their first steps with MountainsSPIP™. The interface and features of MountainsSPIP™ are closer to the current versions of MountainsMap®, so to help SPIP™ customers make the transition, we are compiling a series of tutorials and examples that we will soon make available to them.
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind SPIP™ users that customers who have an active maintenance service at the time of the MountainsSPIP 8™ release will be entitled to an upgrade to this new product, absolutely free of charge. So, it is important to make sure your SPIP™ maintenance service is renewed, even if it expired a long time ago. We would be happy to answer any questions, so please feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Particle analysis is used in research and industry across many fields ranging from quality control of structured materials (metal alloys etc.) to characterization of nano-structure assemblies. Mountains® 8 brings an updated, extensive tool set for quickly identifying and quantifying features in any image or on any surface.
In Mountains® 8, the very best SPIPTM and Mountains® features have been merged to bring users top-of-the-range tools for particle analysis.
This means access to a range of detection methods, improved interactivity and new options for calculating and displaying data.
Mountains® 8 particle analysis offers four feature detection methods based on different segmentation principles.
Users can choose amongst a wide range of graphical representations and customize how they wish to display analysis results:
The particles can be classified and colored based on user-defined settings; various charts and statistical results are available.
Particle analysis is fully interactive. You can click on any individual particle and instantly jump to the relevant row of the parameters table and vice-versa.
Available parameters include: motif type (open or closed), height, area, volume, X, Y and Z extremum, number of neighbors, pitch, coflatness, perimeter etc. Mean morphological parameters can also be displayed for the entire image.
All results can be exported directly to Excel and Word or in PDF format.
No problem! For multi-layer data, a selection tool allows users to choose which layer to use for feature detection and parameter calculation.
Investing in professional scientific software such as MountainsMap® for surface analysis and metrology can be a complex decision to make. Perhaps you’re not sure if you are going to get sufficient use out of the product or maybe you’re working on a time-limited project? Could a subscription or “rental” be the answer?
If your software needs change from project to project depending on what you are working on, renting MountainsMap® may be the solution for you.
Sometimes a 30-day free trial just doesn’t give you enough time to make your decision. Subscription or “rental” licenses are available for periods of 3 months or more. They include access to whatever functions you need, free updates as well as help and technical support. If you decide to buy MountainsMap® at the end of the rental period, 30% of the fee you paid is converted into a discount.
Buying a perpetual software license can be a big upfront investment for some companies and research facilities. Renting MountainsMap®, on the other hand, allows immediate full access to the software at a lesser cost.
MountainsMap® is often used by students completing a thesis or a Master’s project. Renting the software means you aren’t committed beyond the end of your studies. A rental license gives you full freedom to use and publish the results of your work.
Renting MountainsMap® means you can directly pass the cost to clients. You can treat access as an operating expense rather than a capital expense.
Anne Berger, Direct Sales Manager, explains: “It’s actually pretty straightforward. You select the configuration you want (product and optional modules) and decide how long you wish to use MountainsMap®. This could be 3, 6 or 12 months for example.
After signing an agreement, you will receive a USB dongle. You pay at the beginning of each quarter (by wire transfer, Paypal or credit card) and receive an activation code by e-mail for each payment. You will have full access to our extensive help documents as well as to technical support provided by our team of experts.
Software updates (including major updates) are included in all rental packages at no extra cost. You may also extend your rental period at any time”
We recently launched a new visual identity for Digital Surf and Mountains® software.
So what’s the story behind this new design?
Watch the video to find out.
Nature, the International Journal of Science, recently revealed the discovery by an international team including scientists from the PACEA (CNRS/University of Bordeaux/French Ministry of Culture) research unit of the oldest drawing known to man.
Among the tools used to bring this unique treasure to light, SensoMap software, based on Mountains® technology helped researchers to precisely characterize surface features and confirm the drawing was indeed done intentionally.
The oldest known abstract drawing, made with ochre, was found in a South African cave on a pebble retrieved from 73,000-year-old deposits. A crosshatch of nine lines purposefully traced with a piece of ochre having a fine point and used as a pencil, this work is at least 30,000 years older than the earliest previously known abstract and figurative drawings executed using the same technique.
Above: This silcrete flake displays a drawing made up of nine lines traced on one of its faces with a sharp piece of ocher. © d’Errico/Henshilwood/Nature
A major methodological challenge was to prove these lines were deliberately drawn by humans. First, researchers reproduced the drawing discovered using various techniques: they tried fragments of ochre with a point or an edge and also applied different aqueous dilutions of ochre 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 ochre implement on a surface first smoothed by rubbing. Both ISO parameters and SSFA analysis clearly demonstrated that the drawn surface was significantly smoother than the other parts of the flake and the other artifacts from the cave.
Above: Dr Alain Queffelec of the University of Bordeaux, one of the researchers involved in the groundbreaking study.
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.
Above: Surface analysis performed using SensoMap software (ISO and SSFA parameter calculations)
Watch the video: https://youtu.be/ntLBvNgDn7Y
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 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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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