Industry impact case studies

All EMRP projects engage widely with the user communities who can benefit from the research. For the Industry EMRP projects, this includes a wide range of industrial sectors that rely on effective measurement for process control and quality assurance, and for innovation to improve productivity and business growth. Here we highlight a selection of early examples of the impact generated by these projects.

Better heat-treatment process control

ALOtec, a German provider of materials processing services to the manufacturing sector, has improved the performance of its laser-hardening process.

Laser hardening is a heat-treatment technique and precise temperature monitoring is required to control the process to ensure high-quality products and minimal waste. Working with the EMRP project High temperature metrology for industrial applications (>1000 °C), ALOtec tested the portable ‘fixed-point’ temperature device developed in the project on its laser-hardening system, demonstrating its suitability as an in-situ calibration tool to correct the thermometers that control the process. Testing revealed that the device could correct for large deviations from the ideal processing temperature, where a deviation of 10 °C above or below the required temperature can cause faulty parts.

The information gained enabled ALOtec to optimise its laser-hardening process and provide an improved service to its customers in the manufacturing, automotive and power generation sectors, and mould- and tool-making industries. 

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Improving nuclear reactor safety

The Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) has become the first user of high-temperature cells developed by the EMRP project High temperature metrology for industrial applications (>1000 °C).

These new temperature cells are helping the CEA research how nuclear reactor containment materials would respond to both the high temperatures and radioactive materials present in the event of a severe accident. This will aid design of safer nuclear facilities and have wider implications for nuclear reactor safety research, design and energy use.

This EMRP project overcame longstanding problems of measurement uncertainties introduced by non-contact thermometer drift and contamination of measurement observation windows in the harsh environments in industrial furnaces.

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Investigating nano-defects

Keysight Technologies Inc, a major manufacturer of test and measurement equipment, can now offer customers accurate, traceably-calibrated atomic force microscopy-based near-field scanning microscopes (NSMMs) for measuring the electromagnetic properties of nanoscale electronic circuits.

Using reference materials and calibration methods developed by the EMRP project Electromagnetic characterisation of materials for industrial applications up to microwave frequencies, Keysight has been able to generate a traceable calibration route for its NSMM instruments. Upgrades to Keysight’s analysis software are also being implemented to incorporate the project’s models and algorithms, providing improved accuracy to analytical results.

The calibration techniques developed by the project give NSMM measurements traceability, making NSMMs viable for material electromagnetic characterisation measurements, offering an improved method for quality control of the next generation of microchips and supporting the development of new materials for future generations of faster electronics.

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High-performance self-heating materials

The Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) in Slovenia has implemented a new measurement system for characterising positive temperature coefficient of resistivity (PTCR) ceramics.

PTCR ceramics become extremely resistive when heated beyond a threshold temperature, making them ideal for use as PTC thermistors delivering temperature control in electronic devices. IJS develops prototype PTCR ceramic materials for its customers in the electronics industry and was looking to reduce costs through a reliable, automated measurement system for characterising samples. New measurement test cells for PTCR ceramics were developed within the EMRP project Electromagnetic characterisation of materials for industrial applications up to microwave frequencies and automated for use in IJS’s materials development facility.

The new system has enabled IJS to reduce the time taken to develop and test novel PTCR ceramics. STELEM, a major European producer of PTC thermistors used in domestic appliances and vehicles, is using the facilities at IJS to provide accurate characterisation of the components in its products, assuring their performance.

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Pressure-strengthened engines

Measurement instrument supplier HBM and high-pressure systems supplier Maximator have been two early beneficiaries of the new high-pressure facility developed by the EMRP project High pressure metrology for industrial applications.

HBM used the facility to calibrate one of its high-pressure sensors, P3MB Blue Line Top Class transducer©, creating an in-house standard which allows it to calibrate other sensors and provide reliable high-pressure measurement services to its customers who develop high-pressure technologies.

Maximator used the facility to verify its autofrettage systems, which use high pressure to strengthen materials. This has provided assurance to its automotive customers that its systems meet the pressures required for industrial strengthening processes for new, lower-emissions diesel engines. This is helping those customers meet new EU emissions standards and so remain competitive.

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Confidence in recycled steel

Two major steel recycling companies, Sidenor Aceros Especiales and Cyclife Sweden AB (formerly part of Studsvik NuclearAB), have adopted new calibration standards developed by the EMRP project Ionising radiation metrology for the metallurgical industry to assure the performance of their radioactivity monitoring systems.

Almost half the steel produced in Europe is recycled from scrap materials, some of which may be radioactively contaminated, such as waste from industry, medical facilities and decommissioned nuclear power plants. EU Council Regulation 333/2011 requires scrap metal recycling companies to provide certificates of radioactive content for each consignment produced. However, until recently, there were no calibration standards for steel in the forms commonly encountered in steel recycling.

Sidenor, a leading steel recycler in Europe, is using the standards as part of weekly quality assurance checks of its radioactivity monitoring systems, giving customers confidence in the contamination-free certificates issued. Cyclife is one of only a few steel producers able to recycle radioactive steel from the nuclear industry. Cyclife used the project’s calibration standards to confirm the response of its radioactivity detectors, generating greater confidence in the measurements they routinely make of recycled steel.

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Plastic deformation testing

Anton Paar, a specialist in instruments for materials characterisation, has developed a new instrument for plastics and upgraded its existing product range.

Through interaction with the EMRP project Dynamic mechanical properties and long term deformation behaviour of viscous materials, Anton Paar gained confidence in its instrument’s excellent stability and trialled a prototype specifically for the plastics testing market. Anton Paar is now marketing a new nano-indentation test instrument for plastics with improved load control and incorporating the project’s materials property model into its software. Similar upgrades have also been added across Anton Paar’s nano-test instrument range. It has been estimated that over €15 million in increased sales will result from the introduction of these new and upgraded Anton Paar instruments.

The project’s testing methodology has contributed to the development of a new ISO standard. This standard will help plastics manufacturers to understand how new feedstocks affect the variability of plastics and predict their behaviour and stability over their service life.

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Validating high-performance polymers

Mahr GmbH, a leading manufacturer of measurement equipment, has optimised its profilometers to provide reliable measurements of the polymers used in high-performance products such as electronic coatings and medical implants.

Profilometer measurements of surface features are used for quality assurance processes. However, polymers are relatively soft and can be easily deformed by the measurement process. Mahr used new reference materials developed in the EMRP project Dynamic mechanical properties and long term deformation behaviour of viscous materials to assess the performance of its profilometers when measuring polymers.

The knowledge gained through this assessment, along with correction algorithms also developed by the project, helped Mahr to control its profilometers’ measuring force at low loads. This significantly reduces surface damage and measurement problems caused by material accumulating on the profilometer probe. Applications of Mahr’s improved profilometers include measurements of plastic optics, as well as diamond-turned moulds for optical components. 

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Modelling material change

The Saxonian Institute, a surface mechanics consultancy, has extended and validated its models used to predict in-service performance of material surfaces using highly-accurate measurement data generated by the EMRP project Dynamic mechanical properties and long term deformation behaviour of viscous materials.

Using this data, Saxonian was able to improve its material surface deformation modelling software FilmDoctor©. This relates different surface properties to each other and enables predictions of mechanical properties to be made based on a smaller range of measurements, reducing the need for extensive testing.

The validated Saxonian models are already being used to reduce research and testing time for a wide range of industries, including automotive, engineering and consumer products. For example, one customer of Saxonian, instrument manufacturer Anton Paar, has implemented these models into materials nano-testing instruments, improving their ability to provide detailed material property measurements. The FP7 project iStress has also received licences to use a modified Saxonian model as a design aid for predicting properties of novel reduced-wear coatings for engine fuel injector research, reducing the number of variants to be tested by homing in on the required coating properties.

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Advancing quantum communications

Toshiba has used the results of an EMRP project in the first public demonstration of a prototype communications system secured using quantum key distribution (QKD). QKD, which shares encryption keys using single photons, offers a level of security beyond that possible with classical communication techniques.

The measurement capabilities developed as part of the EMRP project Metrology for industrial quantum communication technologies were used to characterise Toshiba’s laser system, a crucial element in the prototype communications system. After this performance validation, Toshiba had confidence in the laser’s use as a single-photon transmitter, and it was used as part of the first public demonstration of a QKD system using commercially-available components on a standard fibre optic network.

The success of this demonstration, conducted at telecoms company BT, provides validation of this next-generation communications technology and is an important step towards the widespread implementation of QKD networks for secure data transmission.

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Building trust in quantum technologies

Micro Photon Devices (MPD), a research establishment of leading producer of professional timing and adaptive optics systems Microgate Srl, has improved the accuracy of its single-photon counters’ specifications using the new detector characterisation facility developed within the EMRP project Metrology for industrial quantum communication technologies.

Single-photon detectors are the key components underpinning many new and emerging photonic technologies. MPD produces single-photon counters based on these detectors, specifically designed and optimised for applications requiring low-noise and low-power measurements, such as single molecule detection or atmospheric sensing. Precise characterisation at the new facility gives MPD’s customers in the research and development sector greater confidence in the performance of its detectors.

Reliable specifications for the components underpinning quantum communications will build end-user confidence and accelerate the introduction of next-generation quantum technologies.

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High-performance thin-film technologies

Plasma Quest, a developer of thin-film materials and deposition technology for customers in the electronics industry, has developed a new, cost-effective production technique for the high-performance barrier layers used to protect advanced thin-film products.

Plasma Quest used a new facility established by the EMRP project Metrology for the manufacturing of thin films to test the effect of different production techniques on barrier layer quality. This enabled the company to successfully demonstrate a new technique that enables high-volume production of barrier layers unhampered by dust in the production environment.

The ability to create effective barrier layers without the expense of maintaining clean-room conditions will significantly reduce production costs without any reduction in product performance, supporting the development of durable thin-film devices, reducing costs and opening new markets. Plasma Quest has already received enquiries from several manufacturers of mobile phone screens looking to implement the new technique. 

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Advanced magnetic sensing

Bartington Instruments, a UK-based manufacturer of high-performance magnetic fluxgate sensors, validated the performance of its sensors across an extended temperature range using a new magnetic field calibration facility established by the EMRP project Metrology for advanced industrial magnetics. Bartington used the results to upgrade its own measurement procedures and validate the performance of in-house test equipment.

RAL Space, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in the UK, used Bartington’s validated sensors as part of the preparation of navigational instruments for future gravitational astronomy missions like LISA. These missions require spacecraft to be ‘magnetically clean’ and Bartington’s sensors correct for the effects of small magnetic fields induced by spacecraft components.

This is just one early example of the impact created by the new magnetic field calibration facility, which will benefit not only the space industry, but all industries that require magnetic sensor calibration at a greater accuracy and over a more extended temperature range.

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Under pressure: sensors for new engines

Kistler Instrumente AG, a leading Swiss manufacturer of dynamic pressure sensors, was one of the first users of a new calibration facility, which tested the performance of its pressure sensors under dynamically-changing pressure conditions.

Kistler supplies sensors, electronics and software to a wide range of industries and is proposing to use the new facility, validated as part of the EMRP project Traceable dynamic measurement of mechanical quantities, in the development of new prototype sensors. These sensors must perform effectively under extreme conditions, and contribute to engine development aiming to reduce emissions and enhance efficiency and power.

The shock tube facility provides companies with more realistic and traceable measurements, as existing static calibration conditions differ from those experienced in service and can introduce measurement errors. This method to assure the performance of sensors in dynamically-changing pressure extremes has applications in the European automotive, aerospace and defence industries, where improved sensor validation contributes to competitiveness.

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Supporting high-quality consumer optics

Mahr GmbH, a leading metrology instrument manufacturer, has developed a new Tilted-Wave Interferometer, which is capable of measuring the free-form lenses used in high-quality consumer optics, such as cameras and DVD players, faster and with greater accuracy than previously possible.

Mahr tested a prototype device as part of the EMRP project Optical and tactile metrology for absolute form characterisation, and used the knowledge gained to upgrade the instrument’s mechanical and electronic components, increasing the accuracy of its measurements. Algorithms used to process the data were also improved within the project, leading to more accurate results.

The ability to offer its customers a faster, cheaper and more accurate way of characterising free-form lenses means the new instrument will give Mahr a commercial edge in an increasingly-demanding and rapidly-growing market. Manufacturers purchasing the instrument will benefit from greater control during production processes, increasing confidence in the quality of their products and the capability to develop higher-quality, more innovative products. 

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Supporting the Belgian diamond industry

SMD-ENS of Belgium’s FPS Economy and instrumentation company AC Optomechanix have developed a new scanning contactless measurement head for the Zeiss F25 micro co-ordinate measurement machine to significantly improve the accuracy with which diamonds can be measured.

SMD-ENS and AC Optomechanix used the improved measurement strategies developed in the EMRP project Optical and tactile metrology for absolute form characterisation to optimise their measurement head during the design stage. The improved head, which will be operational within the next year, now achieves measurement uncertainties below the level needed by the Belgian diamond industry to guarantee the quality and value of its products.

The results of the project will lead to more accurately calibrated commercial instrumentation, which in turn will enable diamond facets to be measured more accurately, leading to a better distinction between the various diamond grades. By encouraging trade through increased consumer confidence, the infrastructure provided supports the continued success of an industry at the heart of the Belgian economy.

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New standards for nano-testing

Friction and wear in industrial processes waste energy and degrade materials. Durable engineered surfaces that reduce friction and wear, based on nanoscale surface coatings, can be used to develop high-performance products and improve process efficiency in transport, energy generation, manufacturing and mineral extraction.

The EMRP project Metrology to assess the durability and function of engineered surfaces developed best measurement practice in testing nano-material coatings, improving the accuracy of low-level friction and wear measurements on engineered surfaces.

The best practice guidance has contributed to a new ISO standard for testing diamond-like carbon films and a new standard being developed by the ISO Technical Committee on Nanotechnologies to support the wider adoption of this technique. Having these new standardised measurements in place will support the development of improved products, with longer lifetimes and greater efficiency, across many industrial sectors.

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Temperature and friction testing

The EMRP project Metrology to assess the durability and function of engineered surfaces has developed a new technique to improve the reliability of friction measurements for industrial components.

By incorporating a temperature-sensitive ruby tip into existing friction probes, it is now possible to measure friction and temperature with a single probe. This overcomes a significant industrial problem, in which high temperatures at the point of contact during testing were compromising the measurements of the material response.

The new probe provides accurate temperature measurements, which can be offset when calculating the effects of friction, leading to a much better understanding of how engineered surfaces respond to friction. The probe is being patented and two manufacturers are now looking to incorporate it into their instruments. The improved measurements will help manufacturers in a range of industries – from automotive to mining – develop more durable products.

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Driving nano-precision positioning

TETRA, a developer of systems and components for sensors, robotics and automation, has developed a novel optical sensor for linear drives.

TETRA was commissioned by the EMRP project Metrology to assess the durability and function of engineered surfaces to develop a new optical sensor – the critical component in a linear positioning drive. TETRA’s sensor meets the project’s exacting requirements and is both compact and capable of positioning with nanometre precision.

The new sensor has wider application than the project and TETRA is incorporating this improved optical sensor into its highly-precise positioning systems giving them a market-leading capability. Increased precision in the operation of linear drives will improve positioning accuracy in many fields, from the precise location of surgical tools used in eye-surgery, to microscope stages, to the positioning of micro-components during manufacture in the aerospace and automotive industries.

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3D surface wear imaging

Alicona Imaging GmbH has validated its MeX 3D measurement software, which turns highly-accurate 2D images from scanning electron microscopes (SEMs) into 3D visualisations of surface features.

The EMRP project Metrology to assess the durability and function of engineered surfaces made extensive measurements of surfaces before and after wear. Simulations of SEM images of typical wear features from a range of angles were then used to develop a highly-accurate model. Alicona was able to use these accurate and validated images to make comparisons with its own MeX 3D visualisation software, confirming the software's accuracy and providing independent validation.

This technology has applications in a wide range of surface engineering industries. One key application is helping manufacturers of machine tools better understand surface wear and so develop more durable products, which will offer substantial time and cost savings to engineering companies.

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Faster vacuums for faster production

INFICON, a manufacturer of world-class instruments for gas analysis, used a new vacuum gauge calibration facility to accelerate the development of its new fast-response gauge.

The facility, developed by the EMRP project Vacuum metrology for production environments, is capable of providing a well-defined rapid change in pressure, from 100 kPa down to 100 Pa in just 23 milliseconds. This enabled INFICON to demonstrate that its new Stripe™ High-speed Capacitance Diaphragm Gauge has a response time twenty times faster than the previous model and validates INFICON’s claim that it is the ‘fastest gauge in the world’.

Vacuum chambers are an important tool during manufacture of high-tech and high-value products such as semiconductors, photovoltaics and LED lighting. Fast, accurate measurements of vacuum play an important role in process control as product quality, process efficiency and productivity all depend on how quickly and consistently a vacuum can be applied. Improved vacuum measurements will assist Europe’s precision manufacturing industries to develop more cost-effective products and processes.

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Ultra-sensitive temperature sensors

Three instrumentation manufacturers have obtained commercial benefits from a new prototype device for ambient temperature measurements developed by the EMRP project Thermal design and time-dependent dimensional drift behaviour of sensors, materials and structures.

Project collaborator MPro is commercialising the prototype to take better temperature control to a wider range of instrument manufacturers. This will lead to improved accuracy throughout high-precision manufacturing, seen as critical by these industries as they develop ever smaller and more complex parts.

SIOS Messtechnik has been able to use the prototype to investigate how its precision dimension measurement instruments are affected by small changes in temperature in industrial environments. This has enabled it to develop calculations to offset these effects, providing greater accuracy to its customers.

An additional industry impact has been that Magnicon, which supplied a low-noise amplifier for the prototype, has used the project findings to identify a new line of business in temperature measurements.

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Non-destructive surface measurements

Bruker Nano Analytics makes energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) instruments for non-destructive measurement of surface structure. It is one of several manufacturers that have improved instrument accuracy and confidence through involvement in the EMRP project Traceable quantitative surface chemical analysis for industrial applications.

The project developed new SI-traceable certified reference materials (CRMs) with carefully created and certified surface chemistries. Using the new CRMs, Bruker identified stability improvements for its EDS instruments, which led to the development of a new, more accurate instrument.

Access to CRMs are proving a valuable selling point for new and existing systems, helping Bruker maintain market share. This in turn is delivering higher levels of accuracy to the innovative products and processes produced by Bruker's customers, which include new catalysts for car exhaust cleaning and coatings to make faster and more durable microelectronics.

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Measuring organic layers

Kratos Analytical Ltd, which makes state-of-the-art spectrometers for material research, has proved the viability of a new measurement technique for layered organic surfaces using reference standards developed in the EMRP project Traceable quantitative surface chemical analysis for industrial applications. This technique is now helping sectors such as electronics and pharmaceuticals produce new, innovative products.

The project developed organic reference materials which validate and improve the accuracy of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), a technique being used by Kratos’s customers to measure layered organic surfaces by removing and measuring one layer at a time. With accurate calibration, Kratos can now be confident in the use of XPS for surface chemistry research and product quality assurance.

As a result, this technique is now being used to improve the surface chemistry of innovative multi-layer organic products used for solar cells, touchscreens and slow-release drug administration.

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Surface analysis for Alzheimer’s

SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden has used traceable time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) to help investigate the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

SP used a new technique, developed by the EMRP project Traceable quantitative surface chemical analysis for industrial applications, to identify plaques and tangles typical in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The new technique is the first to enable traceable quantitative analysis with ToF-SIMS, allowing researchers to study the characteristic features of Alzheimer’s disease with greater confidence.

This new technique will ultimately support further research into the causes of Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

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Semiconductor measurements

The Advanced Mask Technology Center (AMTC), a joint venture of GLOBALFOUNDRIES and Toppan Photomask, is developing photomasks used in the production of semiconductor devices. It is using calibration methods developed in the EMRP project Metrology of small structures for the manufacturing of electronic and optical devices to help measure the very small features on next-generation photomasks.

AMTC can now make traceable measurements with its scatterometry instruments. This has helped it to verify advanced photomasks with smaller features, below 80 nm, which will be used by AMTC’s parent company GLOBALFOUNDRIES to develop 14 nm and 7 nm technology.

The project results allow companies like AMTC to calibrate metrology tools based on scatterometry to improve production processes and develop more precise technologies. This supports the semiconductor industry in its mission to create ever smaller and faster products, fostering greater innovation and international competitiveness.

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Modelling small surface features

JCMwave, which produces finite element analysis (FEA) software for nano-optic design, has validated a new application of its software, for analysing the dimensions of small electronic features measured using scatterometry.

Through the EMRP project Metrology of small structures for the manufacturing of electronic and optical devices, FEA was investigated and demonstrated to be a viable technique for processing scatterometric data to provide accurate, rapid measurements of surface feature dimensions. This removes a barrier to the uptake of scatterometry and provides the electronics industry with fast, accurate surface dimension measurements in a production environment, speeding the development of smaller electronics.

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