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06 December 2022

Getting to the root of observations at the Surface Analysis Lab

The Ionbond Surface Analysis lab is part and parcel of our customers’ success in industrial components. The lab is staffed by an experienced team with highly creative problem-solving skills. Read on to find out how they work!
Getting to the root of observations at the Surface Analysis Lab

Ionbond Surface Analysis lab

Ionbond is involved in highly sophisticated technical projects, from plasma thrusters to high-precision machine components and everything in between. Part of the success of all applications, and therefore our customers’ success, depends on our ability to analyze what we produce – with speed, breadth and clarity. That is why we have many excellent labs in our global network.

Today, the spotlight is on the Ionbond Surface Analysis lab in Dulliken, Switzerland, staffed by a 4-person team who are all experts in their own right.



Workspace for metallographic preparation - cutting, embedding, grinding and polishing equipment

Workspace for confocal measurements with the µ−Surf Expert device

Supporting the success of Ionbond customers

Andreas Göb, head of the lab, and his team spend their time supporting Ionbond customers as well as Ionbond development projects in several ways. An important part is quality control on all produced batches, to see if the specified coating properties like layer thickness, surface roughness or adhesion of the coating on the substrate comply with the specification. Depending on the application and the workpiece material, substrate hardness is also measured to prove that it was not affected by the deposition temperature. If everything meets specifications, a certificate of conformity is issued by the lab.

Another critical aspect of the work is failure analysis and learning from it, whether the failure is a visible coating delamination, detectable immediately after processing or feedback from customers about product performance. Andreas: “Since we have the analytical capabilities and expertise, customers come to us to help them figure out how to resolve these issues – whether they arise before, during or after coating.”

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Finally, the Surface Analysis lab supports Ionbond engineers in R&D and qualifying new coatings. The lab often has to deal with expensive precision components that go into complex assemblies in various industries – from semiconductor tools to luxury watches to highly productive manufacturing applications. Val Lieberman, Global Segment Manager Industrial Components, says: “Coatings for these applications require a lot of front-end research and qualification before they can be brought to market, and the Dulliken lab is an absolutely critical asset to support these activities.”

Analysis capabilities at the Surface Materials lab

The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art analysis techniques for destructive and nondestructive testing. Andreas: “Because we often work with expensive products, all routine destructive tests are done on witness parts that receive the same treatment as the real parts. Occasionally, especially when we are solving a problem, customers will give us permission to cut into the actual component.”

Available analytical capabilities:

  • Thickness measurement: Ball crater technique, metallographic cross section technique, confocal microscopy
  • Surface roughness: Confocal microscopy
  • Hardness: HRC Rockwell indenter
  • Nano hardness: Hardness by nano indentation (HIT)
  • Adhesion test: Rockwell and scratch tester
  • Failure analysis: FE-scanning electron microscopy (SEM), special metallographic techniques
  • Chemical analysis: Energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX) for chemical analysis
  • Roughness: Tactile and optical options
  • Wear and friction measurements in reciprocating conditions

Nano Indenter TableTop TTX for Nano hardness measurements

Workspace with optical microscopes as well as handling of lab database

Complex analyses require a top expert team

These analyses are done by a highly experienced lab team, with expertise in materials science and analytical methods. Andreas: “Our work, and especially failure analysis, requires creativity, delicacy, experience and skepticism. You always need to question yourself and avoid any bias related to past experiences. Are you making the right assumptions? Do the numbers make sense? It is also critical to have access to information on how the part in question is used in the field, how it was assembled or handled and treated prior to appearance of the problem.”

Andreas himself has almost 30 years’ experience, gained in the automotive, electrical engineering, semiconductor and medical sectors, of which 20 years in failure analysis. Val: “Andreas has seemingly seen all the failure modes and has a profound knowledge of analytical methodologies. That means he has a big mental database of previous cases that he may draw from. We often call his lab ‘CSI Dulliken’. With this experience, he can find good solutions for virtually any situation – and very fast, too.”

Want to know more? Contact us!

Case study: the mysterious discoloration

A customer requested Ionbond to assess dark spots on an Ionbond coating on a large tube-like component of a complicated assembly. The component had been exposed to an aggressive environment, so the worry was it had attacked the coating and that this had led to the formation of the dark spots. “Because the component was so big,” recalls Andreas, “I cut out several of the black spots for analysis in our SEM to determine the composition by EDX. I detected the presence of some unusual chemistry that did not belong to either the coating or substrate. After receiving additional information from the customer on how the component was assembled, I could conclude that these black spots originated from the mating part, which was operated at an excessive temperature. The EDX data nicely confirmed this hypothesis. Fortunately, the TiN coating itself was entirely intact under the discoloration. This important fact was proved by a subsequent metallographic investigation of several of those spots.”

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Val Lieberman

Val Lieberman

Global Segment Manager Industrial Components

+41 62 553 42 35

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