Metallography is the study of the physical structure and components of metals, by using microscopy. Many different microscopy techniques are used in metallographic analysis. Prepared specimens should be examined with the unaided eye after etching to detect any visible areas that have responded to the etchant differently from the norm as a guide to where microscopical examination should be employed. Light optical microscopy (LOM) examination should always be performed prior to any electron metallographic (EM) technique, as these are more time-consuming to perform and the instruments are much more expensive.
Further, certain features can be best observed with the LOM, e.g., the natural color of a constituent can be seen with the LOM but not with EM systems. Also, image contrast of icrostructures at relatively low magnifications, e.g., <500X, is far better with the LOM than with the scanning electron microscope (SEM), while transmission electron microscopes (TEM) generally cannot be utilized at magnifications below about 2000 to 3000X. LOM examination is fast and can cover a large area. Thus, the analysis can determine if the more expensive, more time-consuming examination techniques using the SEM or the TEM are required and where on the specimen the work should be concentrated.