Using RBD’s Portal

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Why should I register on the Portal instead of just sending an email with my question/request?

Many people would rather just send an email than register or create an account in a system. We understand this, so we’ll talk about the issue with emails a little later. For now, though, here are a few of the benefits of using the Portal:

  • When you register on the Portal, you have access to all of your tickets. This includes open and closed (resolved) tickets, as well as sales and service tickets. (Closing tickets is discussed later).
  • You have access to our Knowledgebase, which is discussed in more detail later.
  • You can search though your tickets, using any of the topic-specific words you have used in the ticket, to help find the relevant ticket more quickly. (Try doing this quickly when  you have many emails – maybe even thousands of emails – to go through! But again, more on emails later). It may be a little while between when you post and the search finds the ticket because there’s some data base indexing going on behind the scenes.

Do I need to register to use the Portal?

If you are asking for support assistance, yes, you need to register to use the Portal. If you have a sales-related question, no, you don’t need to register on the Portal. But, we encourage you to register for the reasons given elsewhere.

Why should I register on the Portal if I have only a sales-related question?

We have discovered that tickets that begin as sales questions frequently include technical discussions that contain information that is useful later, even if a purchase isn’t made right then. So, when you register, you have access to these discussions when you need them. And you can avoid the dreaded search through emails to find that wonderful technical tidbit you need.

Registering on the Portal also gives you access to our Knowledgebase (KB). Our KB contains articles that address many commonly asked questions about Physical Electronics products that we work on, trouble-shooting tips, and information about RBD Instruments products and services. Many of our customers have found it helpful to use our KB to determine which version of our products (like our 9103 or water vapor desorption products) will best meet their needs.

How do I do register?

Go to and click on the Portal Register button as shown here:

Accessing the portal

Accessing the portal from RBD’s website

On the Registration screen, we ask you to enter the following information.

  • A Username. It can be anything that you want. Many people just use their first and last name, which makes it easy to remember.
  • A Password with at least 6 characters; it can’t match your username. You can even have the Portal remember you on your computer.
  • Your email address.
  • Your full name.
  • Your phone number.
  • Your time zone.

Then, just click “I’m not a robot” then click “Complete Registration” and you’re done!

What’s the issue with using emails?

Many of you have gotten comfortable sending emails to a specific staff member at RBD Instruments. But when that person is out of the office and is unable to check emails during the work day or maybe for a couple of days, your email could get stuck in their email list and it may be awhile before they get back to you. Enter the Portal.

When you create a ticket in the Portal, it goes into a General Queue, which is something that everyone at RBD Instruments is able to view. We can then, depending on what you’ve asked, help you quickly or assign your ticket to the appropriate expert. Now that you have created a ticket, all communications about your question are in one, easy-to-access spot. Continuity is maintained!

Please note that you should always create a new ticket to address a new topic or request. This keeps communications nice and clean. Have you ever written an email that has asked about a few different things but not all of them are answered in a single reply? And then you end up with multiple emails that are kind of about the same things but not completely? Using tickets in our Portal takes care of this: one ticket that contains a discrete, entire discussion.

Can I still send an email with my question?

The Portal is actually an email-based system. So, when you send an email to our sales or support department, your email is automatically sent to the Portal and a ticket is created there. We will be able to tell if it was a sales-related or a service-related question based on the email address you sent it to, and route it to the appropriate person in the applicable department.

When we reply, you get an email with a ticket number added to the subject of your email. If the subject of your email was “Question about your microCMA,” the subject of the reply will look something like “[123-1234DEV-456] Question about your microCMA”. The stuff in the brackets ([]) is your ticket number, which you need to keep. The ticket number is what our system uses to identify your ticket. When you reply to the email, keep the ticket number in the email’s subject to maintain continuity. If you change or delete the ticket number, the continuity and history of your discussion will be interrupted, which will make it more difficult to ensure that you get the answers you need. So, please don’t change or delete the ticket number.

How do I reply to a ticket?

Because the system is email-based, you can reply to the email you received or you can reply in the Portal itself.

When you reply to the email itself (and as mentioned above, please don’t change or delete the ticket number) this will ensure that everything already discussed in the ticket will stay in the ticket. If you change or delete the ticket number, it can get confusing and discussions will be interrupted. Yes, we’re saying this a lot, but it is really important!

You can avoid concerns about losing continuity by logging into the Portal and replying to a ticket in the Portal itself:

  1. Log into the portal.
  2. If you don’t see “My Tickets”, click the Tickets button.
  3. Find the ticket you want to reply to. You can enter the ticket number if you know it, or some text that you know was included in the ticket.
  4. When you are in your ticket and want to reply, scroll to the bottom of the screen. You should see something that looks like this:

    Portal Reply to Ticket

    Replying to a ticket and adding files on the portal

  5. Type your reply in the big text box.
  6. To attach a file, click the Choose File button to open the document storage location on your computer. Navigate to the file you want to attach and double-click it (or however you normally select a document). You can attach multiple documents.

How do I download documents that someone at RBD Instruments has attached to a ticket?

When you view RBD’s reply in the Portal, the ticket may look something like this:

Portal reply files

Accessing files attached to a reply on the portal

See the “Attachments” line at the bottom of this post? The light blue text to the right of the word Attachments is the name of the file (or files) that an RBD staff member has attached to the reply. Click on the file name to open the file.

How do I close a ticket? And, is a closed ticket permanently closed?

When the question that you asked has been resolved to your satisfaction, your ticket can be closed.

A ticket can be closed in a couple of ways:

  • As you can see in the graphic above, there is a check box that says “This ticket can be closed”. Simply click that box. We will receive a notification of your request and close the ticket.


  • You can reply to the ticket and ask us to close the ticket for you.

Let’s say that you later determine that you have more questions about the same issue. You don’t want to create a new ticket because you would lose the continuity of the earlier discussion. Instead, you can simply go back to the ticket in the Portal (which you can do if you have registered on the Portal) and reply to it again. The ticket is automatically reopened.


We are excited about how our new Portal helps us to help you! We encourage you to register if you have not already done so.



20-610 3kV Adjustment

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The 20-610 high voltage gun supply used on PHI 600 and 660 scanning Auger systems provides the beam voltage, filament current and emission voltage to the Lab6 filament in the cylindrical mirror analyzer.

As part of the linearity adjustment process, the beam voltage is set to 3 keV so that the top of the elastic peak comes in at 3 keV.

The 3 keV elastic peak adjustment potentiometer in the 20-610 is R108.   The process is simple:

  1. Adjust the specimen stage Z axis for maximum counts and best shape of the peak during a 3 keV elastic peak alignment.
  2. Adjust the analyzer control gain so that the AES peaks come in at the correct location in a survey. Typically clean copper is used since it has both low and high energy peaks.
  3. Reacquire the elastic peak but do not move the specimen stage. If the elastic peak does not come it at 3 keV, move the elastic peak to 3 keV by adjusting R108 in the 20-610.

Sometimes there is not enough range of adjustment with the R108 potentiometer.  For those cases, this blog post will explain how to modify the PCB 100 board in the 20-610 in order to extend the 3 kV adjustment range.

The schematic below shows the R108 potentiometer circuit.

R108 Pot

The ends of R108 are connected to + and – 12V via two 49.9 K ohm resistors, R107 and R109. Adjusting R108 adds a small offset current to IC 103, which in turn changes the 3 kV output of the 20-610.

If there is not enough range with R108 then we need to change the balance between the + and – 12 volt supplies.   The way to do that is to remove R107 and replace it with a 100 k ohm trim potentiometer that is set to an initial value of 49.9 K ohms. 100 K ohm trim pots are available from any electronic component vendor (Digikey, Newark, Mouser….)

To prep the 100 K ohm trim potentiometer, the center wiper connection needs to be soldered to either end as shown below.

Bend center pin

With an ohmmeter, measure the resistance between the trim pot legs and adjust it for a resistance of 49.9 K ohms.

Turn off the 20-610 and on the back of the unit, unplug the main power cord, the remote program cable and the unscrew and remove the large HV cable connector. If there is a ground wire attached, remove it as well.

Place the 20-610 on a work bench and remove the 100 board. You will need to remove the board tie down bracket. Important! – Make sure that the 20-610 in unplugged when removing or installing the board tie down bracket as it is very close to some exposed wires that have voltage on them when the 20-610 is plugged in.


R100 board location in 20-610

remove bracket




Unsolder R107 and install the new trim pot on the back side of the 100 board.   You will need to bend the two pins on the trim pot so that the adjustment screw faces up.

R107 resistor

Reinstall the 100 board inside the 20-610.  Make sure that it is seated all the way into the mother board connector. Reinstall the board tie down bracket. Do not put the cover back on the 20-610.

Install the 20-610 into the electronics rack and reconnect the large HV cable (be sure to screw it in all the way), and the HV programming cable.  Make sure that the 20-610 main power switch is  OFF and then plug in the main power cord into the interlocked power strip.

Slide the 20-610 out enough so that you can get to R108 and the new trim pot.  Make sure that the 20-610 main power is OFF.

Remove the filament cap from the analyzer (3 screws) and connect a DVM and high voltage probe to either of the filament tabs.  The ground reference on the high voltage probe should be connected to the vacuum chamber.


***Caution, high voltage is present! Refer adjustment to qualified personnel ***

Turn on the 20-610 and using AugerMap and the normal turn on procedure, set the beam voltage to 3 kV.

***Caution, high voltage is present! Refer adjustment to qualified personnel ***

Center R108 and then adjust the new 100 K ohm trim pot so that the voltage on the filament cap is 3,000 volts.

Turn off the beam voltage in AugerMap and then turn off the 20-610.

Reconnect the filament cap to the analyzer.  Press down on the cap as you tighten the 3 screws that hold the cap onto the top of the CMA filament adjustment housing.

Turn the 20-610 back on and turn the beam voltage on and set it to 3 kV.  Bring up the filament current to the normal operating point (typically 1.3 amps)

Perform the AES calibration procedure and adjust R108 so that the elastic peak comes in at 3 keV.   When you are finished with the AES calibration, put the cover back on the 20-610 (front 2 cover screws only) and slide it back into the console.  The AES calibration procedure is listed below –

Auger energy calibration on 600 and 660 scanning Auger systems

This procedure requires sliding the 20-610 high voltage supply out and removing the cover to gain access to the beam voltage offset potentiometer, R108. Turn off the 20-610 when sliding it in out or in, and when removing or installing the cover.


  1. Load a sample of pure copper.
  2. If you are using AugerMap software, set the magnification to 10,000X and use the Area Scan mode to minimize sample topography effect on the Auger signal.
  3. Perform an elastic peak alignment and adjust the Z axis sample position to obtain maximum counts and best peak shape.
  4. Sputter the sample clean until no carbon or oxygen is present.
  5. Re-acquire the elastic peak to ensure that the sample is at the optimum position: highest counts and best peak shape. When the elastic peak is differentiated, the positive and negative excursions should be equal and symmetrical.
  6. From this point on, do not move the sample!
  7. With the beam voltage at 3kV, acquire a survey from 30eV to 1030eV, using .5eV/step, 50 ms/point.
  8. Differentiate the survey and check the peak positions against the correct values as listed in the PHI handbook or other reference. A typical value is 920eV for the high energy peak and 60eV for the low energy peak on copper.
  9. Note: If using AugerScan software, you can simply adjust the scale factor in the AES
  10. Acquire an alignment with a range of 900 to 940, .5eV/step, 15ms/point and do the adjustment in real time. For copper, set the n/e peak to approximately 917eV. When differentiated, the high energy Cu peak should be 920eV.
  11. Acquire another survey and check that the differentiated peak positions are correct. Document the results for future reference and file it in the system calibration log.
  12. Acquire another elastic peak, but do not move the sample!
  13. If the elastic peak is not centered at 3kV, then adjust R108 in the Bertan 20-610 High Voltage power supply to center the elastic peak.

Calibration is complete.

From this point on, every-time you set the elastic peak, the sample will be at the focal point of the analyzer (maximum signal and best shaped peak), and all of the Auger peaks will be in the correct positions.

New high speed 5kV floating Picoammeter

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RBD Instruments has released a new version of its 9103 USB Picoammeter which incorporates faster reads per second with 5000 DC volts of isolation to chassis ground.

9103 HV

9103 HV









Increasing the DC voltage isolation from chassis ground to 5000 volts (5kV) opens up new possibilities for researchers such as direct DC current measurement of very small electron and photo multiplier signals.  Electron and ion beam measurements can be biased to reduce secondary electrons or to retard the beam as needed for experiments.

Designed to provide accurate bipolar DC current measurements in noisy environments such as synchrotron beam lines, the 9103 can measure bi-polar DC currents from low picoamps to milliamps.

The drawing below shows how the 9103 is floated on your HV power supply.  The high voltage is referenced to chassis ground, and the signal ground is referenced to the high voltage.   To help keep the supply and signal connections clear, the HV connection is a MHV connector and the signal input is a SHV connector.

Floating picoammeter

Floating picoammeter


There are a number of manufacturers of programmable DC power supplies that can be used to float the 9103 up to whatever voltage is needed (as long as you do not exceed +/- 5 kV).

For example, TDK-Lambda provides a programmable 0 to 6.5kV supply that can be voltage limited to 5 kV and can drive up to 2 mA of current.

The model number for a 120 VAC line input is PHV6.5P2-USB-1P115.  The base model has a ripple of 700mV which is somewhat high, but TDK-Lambda does offer a low ripple option that gets the ripple down to 75mV.  You can also easily make a simple RC filter to do the same thing.    A number of interface options are available (USB, Ethernet, Serial, analog….

TDK Lambda supply

TDK Lambda supply





PHV series

PHV series









The new high speed option for the 9103 increases the reads per second from 40 to over 500, which is fast enough to perform optical chopper experiments.  And, by taking more reads in the same amount of time as the first generation 9103 could, the accuracy is improved.

The Actuel software included with the 9103 provides new features for high speed acquisitions and display, but you can also write your own software to control the 9103 using the simple ASCII commands or in LabVIEW.

Since 9103s can be synced, it is now possible to configure a multichannel DC Picoammeter with up to 256 channels that has high speed, high voltage, or both options.

And if you do not need the high speed or high voltage options, the standard 9103 USB Picoammeter is still available as well.

For more information visit the RBD Instruments website at