• • • COVER STORY • • •

Versatility at the micro-scale A

A closer look at digital microscopes for electronics inspections, by Yosuke Kobayashi, Product Marketing Manager – Industrial Microscopy EMEA

cross the electronics industry there is a need for inspecting components and finished products with clear images and micrometer

precision. Digital microscopes combine the versatility to tackle a wide range of specimens with guaranteed accuracy in measurement.


Digital microscopes provide flexible, easy inspections and are designed for industry. With the digital camera at the center, digital microscopes show specimens directly on a computer screen, thereby avoiding the need for eyepieces. This setup gives users a more comfortable, ergonomic experience, which is particularly important in high-throughput settings, such as quality control, where users often spend long hours working at the microscope. Fully computer-controlled digital microscopes are

fast becoming the standard in industry. Here, users can simply place a specimen on the microscope and carry out setup, imaging and analysis from their computer. Inspections that require traceable documentation and measurements with guaranteed accuracy particularly benefit from this workflow. In electronics manufacturing, digital microscopy

has long been the workhorse for inspections all along the value chain. Here, we look at examples where the latest generation of digital microscopes deliver reliability and real ease of use to the inspection workflow.


As the trend towards miniaturization is continuing in the design of smartphones, tablets, PCs and wearable devices, the need to mount components on printed circuit boards (PCBs) with the highest possible density is becoming ever greater. This means that slight inaccuracies in manufacturing may cause electronic devices not to work properly due to current or signal transmission failures. In PCB manufacturing, routine, high-throughput inspection is usually automated, but digital microscopy is highly beneficial for additional, more detailed analysis. Measurements often form an integral part of the inspection workflow, and when

The Olympus DSX1000 has the versatility to deal with a wide range of different types of specimens and flaws.

carrying out measurements, it is not only the accuracy that counts – guaranteeing accuracy is a key parameter. Many inspection processes have audit trails where not just the measurement results have to be recorded, but also the equipment used and their specifications. For guaranteed accuracy* in measurements,

Olympus’ DSX1000 digital microscope uses a telecentric optical system. This is a feature that has been added to the microscope to correct for the convergence effect – an effect that causes the size of an object on an image to change depending on the focal plane. When light travels from the specimen to a non-

telecentric objective, the light converges onto the objective lens. This means that when the distance between the objective and the specimen changes, (for example when adjusting the focus) parallax and other distortions that affect measurement occur. Telecentric optical systems rely on light traveling

in parallel lines from the sample to the objective, avoiding size distortions and benefitting measurement accuracy. The right image shows an example of a measurement where the telecentric optical system gives precise and accurate measurements, which benefits internal auditing.


Capacitors have long been ubiquitous in many electrical devices, used for instantaneous electrical storage and discharge. Multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) have recently been attracting a lot of attention – their ability to handle larger capacities making them highly suitable to a range of fast-growing markets, such as 5G devices. An MLCC’s capacity is proportional to the surface

area of its electrodes, which means they require thin electrode and dielectric layers to achieve the desired performance – typically micrometers. Efficient inspection of MLCCs relies on fast switching between magnifications and observation modes in order to get the best images and the most reliable measurements quickly. Speeding up inspections, the DSX1000’s simple

slide-based objective replacement enables users to switch objectives in seconds. Magnification can be varied between 20x and 7000x for both clear overviews and intricate details. The DSX1000 also features six observation modes with an intuitive side-by-side comparison so even inexperienced users can choose the best images quickly (see bottom image).

The telecentric optical system of the DSX1000 improves measurement accuracy and repeatability by avoiding variation as a result of changing focus or magnification.


Electronics inspections greatly benefit from versatile equipment that requires little training to use. The examples highlighted here clearly demonstrate how modern digital microscopes stand up to these inspection challenges with features that improve detection of imperfections, measurement capabilities and user-friendliness. The flexible DSX1000 from Olympus (top) epitomizes

the benefits of digital microscopes with guaranteed measurement accuracy* for improved compliance, 20–7000x magnification and six observation modes for high probability of detection, and easy, intuitive operation. It lifts digital microscopy towards becoming an industry standard for inspections when both precision and versatility are top priorities. * Guaranteed XY accuracy requires an optional calibration by an Olympus service technician.

Both high (a) and low magnification (b) are required for thorough MLCC inspection, and fast switching between magnifications increases efficiency. Easy choosing between observation modes on the DSX1000 (c) further helps users speed up MLCC imaging.


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