What is a Surface Profiler

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A surface profiler is a metrology instrument for topographical characterization of a product’s uppermost layers. It is a multipoint form of measurement that considers a material’s primary form and the sub-micron (μm) textural variations of its surface, which are typically characterized as dimensional fractality and surface roughness. These features may contribute to a directional lay, or a pattern, which can have a distinct impact on the physical properties of the material under observation.

The two key terms for surface profiling are anisotropic and isotropic surfaces. These respectively refer to materials that either have or do not have a distinct directional lay, or an obvious directional pattern. Surface profilers typically operate using one of these principles in conjunction with numerous other metrological techniques. These textures may be measured for quality control of products, or to measure the effects of ongoing performance wear on the surface of a mechanical component.

This article will explore the working principle of a surface profiler in more detail:

How Does a Surface Profiler Work?

A surface profile uses high-precision data acquisition components to measure the distinct features of a product substrate on nano-, micro-, and macroscales. This is carried out through contact or non-contact methods.

Contact surface profilers make physical contact with a material substrate using a sensitive stylus known as a profilometer, which is drawn across the component surface. This can register surface deformations and variations as fluctuations in friction and applied resistance. It is suitable for roughness, waviness, and form measurements and is impervious to optical interference and lubricating elements.

Non-contact surface profilers use a range of optical acquisition methodologies to obtain surface topography information from a product, including confocal and electron microscopy. These methods typically scan a surface with an incident light source and measure the emissive, reflective, or refractive light to acquire information about the product’s surface topography. This metrological method is often preferred over contact surface profiling due to its low invasiveness and improved measurement speeds.

Applications of a Surface Profiler

These measurement principles are regularly used for process control applications, particularly to assess the ongoing performance of mechanically mating surfaces such as shafts and bearings. Gradual wearing can exponentially reduce the efficacy of a device due to friction-induced defects and a reduction of lubricating agents. The surface profiles of sensitive optical lenses are also routinely assessed to monitor batch-to-batch consistency for optics of varying scales.

Surface profilers have eliminated the uncertainties associated with the arbitrary assessment of product surface topographies, and enabled previously unforeseen levels of precision in sectors where surface interactivity is a critical indicator of product performance.

Surface Profilers from Taylor Hobson

At Taylor Hobson, we provide a broad range of surface profiling instruments to satisfy multiple data acquisition requirements. Our surface profilers are routinely used in production environments for quality control of ultra-precision optical equipment and mechanical components.

Our range of surface profilers includes:

  • The Form Talysurf Series, for surface topography, contour, and dominant wavelength analysis of mechanical components;
  • The PGI Series, for highly accurate surface profiling of optical equipment with marginal degrees of error and outstanding degrees of automation.

If you would like any more information about our surface profilers, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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