Cross-section a sample to image the sample’s interior

Encapsulation of samples followed by grinding and polishing to expose a particular area in a device for optical and/or SEM examination.

Cross-sectioning a sample - SEM examination, Nanolab Technologies 


Cross-section preparation is a very powerful way of examining how a material, laminate or component is assembled, manufactured, for determining how different layers interact or in the hunt for the mechanisms causing a failure.  In all of these cases it is vital that any cross-section preparation does not disturb, smear or alter the sample otherwise the wrong conclusions can be reached.  The choice of the technique to generate the section, therefore, is vital as is the skill and experience of the individual preparing the sample, particularly when samples are scarce.

Nanolab specialists utilize a diverse range of polishing and cross-section preparation equipment.  The skill in careful preparation stems from many years of work on micro-engineering, litigation efforts and competitor analysis.

Types of cross-section include:

    • Polished cross-sections of metals, glasses, ceramics and coated materials.
    • Fracture cross-sections of brittle materials and materials that undergo a ductile-brittle transition.
    • Scalpel cut cross-sections of soft materials such as polymers and laminates

Types of Cross-section 

Cross-sectional analysis can be used for a range of different reasons and the samples inspected by Optical Microscopy or SEM / EDX.  Features on calibrated images can be measured and quantified manually or by image analysis.

Cross-sections can be used for:

    • Determination of coating thickness or coating continuity.
    • Inspection for settling out of filler materials in painted coatings.
    • Metallographic sample preparation inspecting for the presence of different metallurgical phases, defects or porosity.
    • Measurement of the extent of interlayer mixing and diffusion in laminated or coated structures.
    • Physical failure analysis looking for cracks or evidence of failure initiation sites for mechanisms such as fatigue, corrosion, stress corrosion cracking, poor cleaning practices, buried interfaces, weak boundary layers, etc.
    • Component assembly inspection and reverse engineering.

Metallographic Analysis

Metallographic analysis is suitable for the assessment of the physical, work hardened, chemical and grain structure of different metals, materials and coatings. The cross sectional techniques are often used to look for and examine buried defects, contaminants, flaws, and/or cracks to determine the root cause of failures.

The methods are also applicable for reverse engineering studies where the aim is understand how a component has been manufactured and processed for reject studies or competitor analysis.

metallographic analysis using optical microscopy 

Nanolab has a wide array of the equipment and experience for the mounting, cutting, and polishing of samples for metallographic analysis using optical microscopy or scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

  • Samples can be cold or hot mounted. The auto-polishing unit allows up to 3 samples per session to be polished through five lapping and polishing stages.  Cold setting resins are ideal for investigating fragile samples.
  • For thin plated samples, an Electroless nickel top coating can be applied prior to mounting and sectioning. (The nickel layer supports the plated layer during sectioning and gives an unambiguous layer thickness result).
  • The metallurgical microscope has magnifications of 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 times, and is capable of conversion to transmission as well as reflection modes.

metallurgical microscope 


Metallurgical Preparation Equipment:

  • Polyester and Epoxy cold resin kits
  • Phenolic thermoset resin hot pressing kit
  • Slow speed diamond saw
  • Buehler Automated polishing/ preparation unit
  • Polishing bench (5)
  • Grinding bench
  • Leitz metallurgical microscope (Calibrated graticule)
  • Electroless nickel plating facilities
  • Glass polishing equipment

–> Service Request Forms

–> Contact Us


Sample Materials for SEM Analysis - Nanolab 

To enable certain features and improve your experience with us, this site stores cookies on your computer. Please click Continue to provide your authorization and permanently remove this message.

To find out more, please see our privacy policy.