ELMDAS Co., Alexandria, PA
Nov 1989 - Mar 2001 President / Proprietor
ELMDAS Co. was founded at the outset to manufacture data acquisition boards and software for the IBM PC for the purpose of capturing SEM images (from multiple signal sources) to digital images on the PC for immediate use by word processing and other programs. The basis for the risk was that the cost of replacing Polaroid film with digital images was attractive, and secondarily, that a software based scan controller in the PC could bring improved methods of imaging.
The hardware/software development environment consisted of a program called DMEE for schematic capture and PCB design, and Borland C++ for software development. All versions of the DRV-2000 interface PCB were for the IBM PC/AT bus,and contained:
- Two 16 bit D-A converters for scan control
- Two 12 bit A-D converters for digitizing SEM video signals
- Four 16 bit programmable counters for counting X-ray events
- A programmable timer and time constant selector for analog signal integration
- Analog buffering circuitry for magnification (scan size) calibration
- Miscellaneous bit level control circuitry for enabling SEM blanking, external scan control, etc.
This DigiSEM Link will launch the DigiSEM documentation CD which provides a great overview of the main product I developed (in my garage), sold and installed in hundreds of 'top shelf' research institutions. These institutions included National Laboratories, CIA, FBI, NSA, Major Universities, and many Fortune 500 level research labs. The CD was to assist in installation, calibration and use of the DigiSEM/DRV-2000 system. This launches in a new window, and will not install DigiSEM on your PC. See it!
The basic hardware platform allowed various software packages to be written, a few include:
- DigiSEM, a basic package which allowed auto-brightness/contrast by utilizing the dynamic range of the A/D video converters. DigiSEM could also generate 6 separate TIFF images (from different signal sources, SE, BSE and Xray)in a single scan over the sample.
- SEMscan, which allowed software controlled pan and zoom using the dynamic range of the 16 bit D/A converters
- StereoScan, which allowed the user to view a real-time stereo image.
- XFind, which allowed Xray features to be identified based on the proportions of Xrays emitted at any given pixel
- And others which I will relocate and catalogue as time permits.
The various 'black boxes' shown in the image below were required for certain SEM models. These were manufactured using an inexpensive milling machine called a 'Shoptask', which I retrofitted with CNC control. The overlays (labels) are a bi-color plastic material which was engraved using a home-made CNC engraver. The engraver was made using control software to convert HPGL to stepper motor energization patterns at the IBM PC parallel port. These patterns drove an X-Y microscope stage to which a Dremmel tool was mounted in the Z axis.
I "dabbled" in a digital BSE detector, which simultaneously digitized the BSE images produced by 4 separate detectors. This used two DRV-2000 interface boards and software which performed math on the data streams to render topographic views of the image in real time.
All aspects of hardware manufacturing were accomplished in my garage-workshop. Approximately 250 systems were sold nationwide to clients which represent the apex of US technological innovation. These clients included national laboratories, major universities, and R&D departments of major technology corporations.
When the SEM manufacturers introduced the first truly PC compatible SEM models, DRV-2000 sales were limited to upgrading older SEM models, even though the DRV-2000 retained many features not found in the new SEM's of that day (2000) and of today. Installed systems were replaced through normal capitol equipment replacement of the SEM's whose useful lives they extended. The last known active client is: Bart Cannon, at Cannon Microprobe: http://www.cannonmicroprobe.com/
- Designed, documented and otherwise supported 4 revisions of data acquisition and control PCB's to interface PC's to Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM)
- Designed, manufactured and installed digital beam control interfaces on JEOL, Hitachi, AMRAY, ISI, and other SEMs and TEMs
- Troubleshot customers SEMs to achieve maximum image resolution
- Trained customers on fundamentals of SEM operation
- Cultivated, trained and supported VAR's
- Generated leads and closed sales to government, healthcare, and university clients
- Set up and successfully executed live demonstrations on-site in customers lab
- Wrote and documented real time image rendering and acquisition software in C++
- Wrote supporting documentation for end users and manufacturing support
- Wrote technical and bid specifications
- Installed systems and trained end users nationwide
- Invented digital Back-Scattered Electron (BSE) image rendering system
- Interpreted schematics and designed analog interfaces for various SEM models
- Presented courses in digital image acquisition for SEM
- Represented our technology directly and in technical support capacities at trade shows
- Designed 'Black Box' interfaces using CAD and CNC manufacture