An easy way to determine whether or not an ion pump needs to be rebuilt is to perform an endoscopic ion pump inspection. The hard way is to drop the ion pumps.
In the last few years the prices have really come down on USB and android/iPhone endoscopes. If you do a search on EBay for USB endoscope you will see a lot of choices for under $20.00. The one used in this blog post is 7mm in diameter, which is small enough to fit into a 1.33” CF flange hole.
For this example we inspected a PHI 660 scanning auger system equipped with a 220 l/s ion pump. This system has been in use for about 10 years primarily for depth profiling using Argon gas.
Since there is a shield below the TSP filaments the only way into the ion pumps was thru the un-used 1.33 CF flange that is opposite the ion pump high voltage connector.
This video link shows what it looks like as you move the endoscope around inside the ion pump – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DQVW3DCG9A&feature=youtu.be Note that the video has a blue tint to if from the built in LED camera lighting.
The color corrected pictures below show that the ion pump elements are pitted, the insulating ceramics are coated and there are some flakes in the bottom of the pump well. The conclusion was that the pump elements have another year or so left on them and so we will plan on replacing them in 12 to 18 months.