The available technologies for the direct three-dimensional characterization of microstructural features at a millimeter length scale are based on automated metallographic serial sectioning techniques and optical microscopy. Prior to offering commercial sales of the Robo-Met.3D, UES demonstrated the technology on applications ranging from pitch-based carbon foams in a study correlating microstructure with the mechanical and heat transfer properties  to dendritic solidification to porosity and phase fractions in sintered Fe-Cu materials .
Fig. 1 shows an example of a small volume (20 slices approximately 2 mm apart) of reconstructed manually serial sectioned optical images showing the outlines of the prior b grains. The scale in the “stack” direction is not to scale to better illustrate what could be observed once the installation of the Robo-Met.3D is complete. It is clear that the true shape of the grains can be determined. This image also shows grain boundary curvatures clearly (see arrows), as well as a distribution in the sizes of the prior b grains. Clearly, such reconstructions would provide invaluable contributions to the modeling of the full three-dimensional nature of materials.
The Robo.Met-3D Unit at OSU represents the first commercial sale and delivery by UES. Installation was completed in December 2006.
There are three principal components to the Robo.Met-3D, namely an Allied High Tech Multi-Prep polisher, a Rixan robot, and a Zeiss Axiovert 200 optical microscope. All three components are colocated on a 1500 lb artificial granite tabletop in an enclosed system. The software simultaneously controls each of the three components so that a small mount can be polished and have a certain amount of material removed in a controlled, preprogrammed fashion. There are then three stations where cleaning, etching, and neutralizing can occur, prior to imaging, including an autofocusing routine. There is the capability of acquiring mosaic images using the Zeiss Axiovert optical microscope with motorized stage.