Structure of Materials from Up Close
The Quality department has replaced its previous equipment used for detailed material analysis with a new electron microscope
n recent months, the GQM-2 – Materials Technology and Special Measurements department has invested in the new ZEISS GeminiSEM 500 electron microscope. It has replaced the existing TESCAN microscope, which ŠKODA AUTO had been using since 2007. “In the case of demanding analyses, we previously had to rely on the free capacity of the Technical University in Liberec, with which we cooperate closely”, explains Petr Sobotka, Head of GQM-2, regarding the need for a new microscope. “This new microscope allows us to examine and detect much more and in more detail than the existing equipment. In addition, it provides us with sufficient independence and the ability to properly analyse, in a matter of hours, the causes of defects in production and from the customer field”, he adds.
Electron microscopes are among the most versatile devices with which to observe the micro-world. They provide comprehensive information about the sample’s microstructure, chemical composition and many other properties.
The new device not only offers observations with higher magnification and resolution but also significantly expands the portfolio of materials with those that could not be analysed before, such as polymers, glass, ceramics and textiles. Thanks to this, the Quality department can now examine, for example, operating deposits from the engine and cooling system or the components of high-voltage electric vehicle batteries. Furthermore, it can analyse structural changes that have occurred in the material during pressing, crash testing or other types of mechanical stress.
Almost 15 months passed between the first preparations for and the installation of the equipment, all of which culminated in the commissioning ceremony on 10 June 2021 attended by Florian Weymar, Head of GQ – Quality Management (photo on the left), and other Quality Management representatives like Roger Hillert, Oliver Starke and Jaroslav Vlk. The composition of the leaders, to whom the microscope was presented in detail, clearly shows the main motivation that led to the investment of almost half a million euros: to increase the quality of manufactured cars and expand competencies in the new technology fields. The strengthening of know-how in the field of electromobility, fault prevention and digitisation plays a crucial role in the transformation of the Quality department and gets significant support from the ŠKODA AUTO leadership. ED
What is an electron microscope?
This is not a well-known optical microscope but a complex electronic device that uses the interaction of an electron beam with a sample placed in a vacuum chamber to image the material surface. The electron beam ‘scans’ the sample surface with high accuracy. The resulting magnification and resolution allow viewing at the level of nanoparticles (starting from 1 nanometre, that is, one-millionth of a millimetre). At the same time, the chemical composition or material structure of the examined object can be analysed.
Production and quality of production
Analysis of defects from the customer network