Universal low cost data acquisition system for a Scanning Probe Microscope (SPM)
SMT and FPGA reduce the size and cost of High performance Scanning probe microscope.
Technologies used


Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    332 Measuring instruments.

R.M.P. is a small Italian company of 19 employees that designs and manufactures optical, electrical and mechanical equipment for research institutes and laboratories. The company did not have at the project beginning any experience in microelectronics

The purpose of the experiment, was to realise a single low cost electronic control unit performing all the necessary functions needed to operate a Scanning Probe Microscope [Scanning Tunnelling Microscope (STM) + Atomic Force Microscope (AFM)]. The main technical objective of the experiment was to integrate all the control unit sections in a single board. To achieve this goal the digital section (realised in discrete logic in the old version) has been integrated in a FPGA component and the PCB has been realised using SMD technology.

The introduction of the new electronics achieved the following goals:

  • significant reduction of product cost and sales price;
  • increased accuracy of scanning ;
  • independence from availability (and delivery time) of commercial products;
  • significant size reduction.

The Scanning Probe Microscope (SPM) in the near future, is expected to be the most commonly used microscope for semiconductor and biological research applications.

The electronics have been completely re-designed. The feedback control section digitally performs a proportional / integral feedback and so it has been named D.P.I. The DPI has been realised by mean of an FPGA. Surface mounting technology has been adopted to obtain a important dimension reduction.

The program timescale was 12 months with an effective cost of 67.5 KECU.

The results are encouraging. There is an actual cost reduction of 55%, the electronics are all contained in one enclosure and the test time has been reduced by 60%. The company now has in house knowledge of electronic services (cost and technical performance) available in the zone of the First User.

The main lessons learnt through the AE is that electronics design and manufacturing are not as high cost programmes as we had first thought. Non-electronic firms can directly purchase electronics design and simulation tools for electronic design activities increase. Personnel training does not require as long as we had imagined because the friendly interfaces of today's software design systems. The expected results have been achieved in terms of product improvement and gained knowledge in the FPGA technology. In the worst analysis the payback period of the investment is anticipated in less than 2 years. The ROI expected is 1 MECU (improved cumulative profits) for the seven years product life. In the first year 75% of the investment will be returned. In the first one year and half we expect to totally recover the investment.


    R.M.P. Srl,
    via Enrico Ortolani 194,
    00125 Acilia (Rome),

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

FPGA, SMT technology provided R.M.P. Srl with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
Consorzio Roma Ricerche
Via Orazio Raimondo 8
I-173 Roma