Focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM) combines two beams (electron and ion) in one instrument. The SEM column provides high resolution imaging, while the FIB column enables the modification of the samples. A dual beam FIB-SEM system opens up a world of new capabilities enabling such applications which would otherwise not be possible to achieve with either of the standalone systems.
The configuration in FIB-SEM systems is such that the electron and ion beam focal points coincide, which results in the optimisation of many applications. Such a feature enables simultaneous SEM imaging during FIB milling tasks – a significant leap in terms of performance and throughput in all those FIB operations which demand ultimate levels of precision. The TESCAN FIB-SEM systems portfolio comprises LYRA3 and GAIA3 both Ga ion source FIB for high precision milling tasks, as well as FERA3 and XEIA3, the Xe plasma FIB options for large-scale milling applications. In addition, the newly developed high resolution Xe plasma FIB achieving resolution of less than 15 nm extends the patterning capabilities of Xe plasma FIB technology.

TESCAN FIB-SEMs feature state-of-the-art ion columns with excellent performance. On the one hand, the Cobra column is a Ga ion source FIB column, and the sharpest instrument for nanomachining capable of achieving a resolution of 2.5 nm. On the other, the i-FIB column is a powerful ECR-generated Xe plasma ion source capable of high ion beam currents up to 2 μA for challenging large-scale milling applications: the Xe plasma FIB can perform milling tasks up to 50 times faster than any conventional Ga ion source FIB. The FIB choice depends on the type of application the system is intended for. The Cobra and i-FIB columns have a different range of operational ion currents and, therefore, applicability. Even when working in the same range of ion beam currents, the performance of these columns differs by comparison. Xe ions are much heavier than Ga ions, therefore, they facilitate the sputtering of much more material in short periods of time for a given current which is a desirable feature for large-scale milling tasks (> 106 μm3). However, for those small (< 104 μm3) milling tasks which require high precision, Ga sources offer an improvement over Xe plasma as Ga ion source FIBs achieve better resolution at small currents.