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Project SEM
SEM imagining.jpg
Getting SEMsational images of chips, materials, and more!
Status Initializing
Contact User:Shiz, User:Peterbjornx, User:PeterC
Last Update 2019-10-16


With the recent improvements to RevSpace's chip analysis infrastructure, we want to take it to the next level and acquire and maintain an actual scanning electron microscope (SEM)! We've found a good candidate and are pending contact with the seller to get confirmation of all the details.


  • We can image chips with ridiculous clarity
  • We can image anything with ridiculous clarity, who needs normal microscopes
  • It's a super cool device!
  • It'd be the first public usage device of its kind in the Netherlands, and a good opportunity to get people to participate in RevSpace to do any projects requiring it, see #Use_cases!


  • Initial funding (see #Funding)
  • Initial RevSpace resources (space, people willing to set it up)
  • Ongoing maintenance (cleaning, occasional Tungsten fillament replacement if heavily used)
  • Ongoing RevSpace resources (electricity, maintenance)

Use cases!

  • Chip reverse engineering
  • Chip failure analysis
  • Metallurgy
  • Detailed material analysis
  • Biological analysis (subject to pre-processing depending on kind)


We are currently looking at a candidate from a seller in a nearby country. It has the following properties:

  • Precision: 4.5 nm
  • Magnification: up to 300,000x
  • Accelerating voltage: up to 30 kV
  • Probe current: 1 pA - 1μA
  • Pump type: turbo
  • Built: early 90's
  • Power (peak): 2300W

Additionally, it has the following benefits that certainly sweeten the deal:

  • Support for energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX)
  • Support for digital imagining
  • Confirmed working
  • Very extensive manual available


Name Amount Paid
Shiz €2000 no
pbx €1000 no
PeterC €x no
merethan €1000 no
cmpxchg €1000 no
Morphje €10 no
Sebastius €150 no
noopwafel €300 no
jelle €50 no
eightdot €500 no
Peetz0r €50 no
Total €6060

The preliminary cost estimation as of right now is €7000. A bit over €6000 for the microscope itself, and the remainder for getting it to RevSpace and up and operational. We are looking into minimizing these costs, among others by haggling and finding cheaper options for transport. We are also in the process of running a full cost estimation.

All contributions matter, no matter how big or small!



  • SPACE! The size approximates a bigger desk.
    • Idea: move the current desk containing the t-shirt press (which can also stored on a shelf and used on the main desks, as it is only used occasionally) and microscope (deprecated) out of the way.
      • tshirt press needs a proper sturdy table and it needs to remain relatively clean, so it should live in the main room. The centre-desks and the side desks are NOT suitable (not strong enough. The microscope is NOT deprecated, not even with an SEM present.
      • ^ The t-shirt press could sit on the SEM table itself, which is very sturdy. The microscope being deprecated was a quip, but it could be moved to the table leftside of the heavy-duty electronics measuring equipment.
  • Electricity! It's a rather heavy machine on max draw of 2300W.
    • If this is problematic for normal usage: charge for use?
      • Measure it during the first few uses. Probably not a huge deal.
  • Sound: the roughing pump is rather loud, which you do not want in a normal lounge room.
    • Nope, that will make it impossible to remain in the main room.
    • Possible to keep it at short distance from the actual machine, so it's possible to put it on the other side of a drilled-through wall.
      • That will put it in the werkplaats, which is way to dusty for equipment to survive.
      • ^ Maybe making a protective cover for the pump solves this.


Current candidate is in a nearby country within driving distance.

  • Transport company (land/sea)
    • Benefits: cheaper when you have no access to a van, don't have to worry about packing it up
    • Downsides: need to pick a company with clear experience in packing up lab equipment, or hire separate packing company, may take long to arrive
  • Pick-up
    • Benefits: cheaper when you have access to a van, quickest to do, guaranteed done properly, combinable with inspection trip
    • Downsides: significant effort and stress, costs (van + gas + hotel), have to pack it up ourselves


We can divide SEM maintenance in two rough parts: regular (consumables, cleaning) and irregular (part replacement).

Regular maintenance requires:

  • Filament, depending on SEM type.
    • Tungsten: semi-regular need for replacement, but cheap (€80-100 for 10 used filaments)
    • CeB6: rare need for replacement, but replacement is expensive and needs specialized knowledge
  • Pump oil, depending on SEM type.
    • Roughing pump oil: always needed, type depends on pump but generally not very expensive (€20-30/L): replace every 1-2 years with non-constant use
  • Vacuum dessicator
  • Dry nitrogen

Irregular maintenance, breakages, include:

  • Roughing pump breaks: fairly cheap to replace;
  • Turbo pump breaks: moderately expensive but also very hard to break;
  • Vacuum failure: depends on SEM type:
    • Modern SEMs have protection against this, would at most be just replacing the O-rings
    • Without protection, may break the column (see below)
  • Column breaks: expensive, requires specialty parts


  • Get in contact with seller and confirm condition
  • Talk with other (hackerspace) SEM owners, their experiences can come in handy
    • Bitlair's plan: [[1]]
    • Analytics Lounge: [[2]]
    • HackerFarm Chiba: [[3]]
    • Other spaces (outdated): [[4]]
  • Find best way forward for potential resource issues above
  • Set up acquisition and maintenance plan
  • Get approval from board


2019/10/15: found candidate, discussed foundations, started preliminary planning, created project page

2019/10/16: got into contact with seller and acting servicing company when it was in operation; expecting to receive more complete details within the next few days


General information

Public logs