Zeta3D™ Non-Contact Optical Profilers for University and Industry Research Labs

The surface metrology instruments in your lab shouldn’t be complicated, nor should they perform just one measurement. The instruments should be tools – tools to get your research done fast, accurately and then help quickly tell the story to your peer community.

The Zeta3D™ Optical Profilers are:

  • Easy to learn in a short time (< 1 hr for 90% of use)
  • Perform multiple measurements in one pass
  • Fast, meaningful results (< 30 seconds per scan average)
  • NO MAINTENANCE, no contracts, no waiting for the “service guy”

Why Zeta? See our FAQs or keep reading...

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For Difference-Making Research

Fast and Accurate

Your lab is working on groundbreaking research in your field. You need a tool that can quickly and accurately provide 3D imaging to give your team data to make decisions, re-engineer designs, and iterate experiments. Get results in minutes and iterate in hours – rather than days or weeks. Samples can be scanned with no sample prep. No fussing with leveling stages or trying to find focus. Our ZDot™ technology works with the most difficult of surfaces.

Not Just a Pretty Picture

Zeta3D™ Optical Profiler images are eye-catching, publication-ready and capture the attention of the reader. Images that reviewers and editors ‘get’ immediately, and make your findings clearly relevant. A single published image that can tell the whole surface metrology story, with data, and still be detailed enough for cover art.

Multi-Mode Technology enables multiple applications

Limited budgets make every major instrument purchase a big deal – getting the best surface metrology tool is important. Zeta 3D Optical Profilers measure surfaces to the nanoscale – like an interferometer, SEM, or AFM – and the 3D metrology (ZDot) technology delivers over 90% of research surface metrology needs. But the Zeta is also easily expandable to include:

  • Nomarski Imaging (ZIC)
  • Film Thickness Measurements (ZFT)
  • Vertical Scanning Interferometry (ZX5 / ZX100)
  • Shearing Interferometry (ZSI)
  • Automated Defect Inspection (AOI)
  • Dark Field Imaging
  • Defect marking with a diamond scribe
  • Environment – enclosures allow for multiple ambient environments
  • Sample size flexibility: Small-sample areas to extremely large areas to angled measurements
  • Customization of the hardware design or software analysis

We get how important your research is – talk to us to see how Zeta Instruments can help you help the world.

The Non-Contact Optical Profiler for Difficult Surfaces

The Zeta-20 3D imaging and metrology microscope (shown) is the typical configuration used for research at world-class universities and R&D institutions. The non-contact 3D imaging and metrology system incorporates a patented ZDot™ based vertical scanning mechanism, which is ideal for the measurement of ‘difficult surfaces’, such as transparent, low contrast, high roughness, mixed material, very low reflectivity or very high reflectivity.

Unlike a typical vertical scanning microscope, the Zeta-20 incorporates a unique optical design with very high light throughput that enables a height resolution of 10nm using standard microscope objectives. The high brightness white LED source combined with a color CCD camera means that the system can simultaneously measure both topography and the true color of the surface. Do you need to measure Angstrom level steps or roughness? Or nanometer scale Film Thickness? The flexible Multi-Mode optical architecture of the Zeta-20 optical profiler enables the system to be extended to include Nomarski imaging (ZIC), interferometery (ZX5, ZSI) and spectroscopic reflectometery (ZFT), depending on your research needs.


Researchers world-wide have published using data obtained from the Zeta Optical Profiler. From world-class journals such as Langmuir to newer journals like Green Chemistry, Zeta Instruments have been used on research spanning multiple disciplines, including dental materials research, steel corrosion for the food industry, as well as semiconductors.

Published a paper, but don’t see it on our list? Let us know, and we’ll help spread the word of your research!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What’s the difference between a Zeta 3D Optical Profiler and White Light Interferometers?

Both techniques have the ability to measure from the nanoscale to the milliscale, yet the innovative design of the Zeta 3D Profilometer is insensitive to vibration and sample tilt while allowing high light throughput. Download the application note, “ZDot Technology & White Light Interferometry” here for a more detailed explanation.

What’s the difference between a Zeta 3D Optical Profiler and Confocal Microscope?

The principals of confocal microscopy were developed in 1957, and extended to laser confocal microscopy in 1978. In 2009, James Xu and Ken Lee extended the concept further to Confocal Grid Structured Illumination (CGSI), the technology used in the Zeta 3D Optical Profilers. This extension provides true-color images with no coherent artifacts in the image. Additionally, this improvement eliminated the need for periodic adjustment by an authorized representative, therefore reducing the cost-of-ownership of a Zeta Optical Profiler as compared to a traditional confocal microscope. For more information, download, “ZDot Technology & Confocal Microscopy”.

What’s the difference between a Zeta 3D Optical Profiler data and a Scanning Electron Microscope image?

Scanning electron microscope (SEM) images are capable of extremely high x-y resolution and take black & white images with a large depth of field. The SEM images do not provide quantitative data, and samples are limited in size to fit into a vacuum chamber, possible affecting surface conditions due to the low atmosphere. The Zeta 3D Optical Profiler allows for unlimited sample size, provides true color imaging, but most importantly, provides surface measurement quantitative data in an ambient, non-contact environment.

What’s the difference between a Zeta 3D Optical Profiler and a stylus profiler (contact profilometry)?

A stylus profiler measures a surface by touching a diamond-tipped probe to a surface, and dragging the probe in line scans across the surface, measuring topography. Quantitative line scans are produced, but no images. The Zeta 3D Optical Profiler provides fast, quantitative 3D representations of a surface without contacting or changing the surface, and provides 3D images that really bring the quantitative data to life. Read more in this application note, “ZDot Technology & Contact Profilometry.”

What’s the difference between a Zeta 3D Optical Profiler and an Atomic Force Microscope?

An atomic force microscope (AFM) uses a tiny replaceable probe, typically made of silicon, to create ultra-high-resolution 2D scans of a surface. These scans are typically about 50 microns square (0.00005mm2) in size and take several minutes per scan, and are limited to small size samples. Probes are often changed at a rate of once an hour. The Zeta 3D non-contact Optical Profiler resolves Z-steps to less than 15 nm, and can accommodate any sample size. For a more detailed explanation, read this application note, “ZDot Technology & Contact Profilometry.”

Will I need a service contract?

NO. The Zeta 3D Optical Profiler is a stable system from day 1, and does not need periodic adjustment or annual maintenance from a “factory authorized dealer” (other non-contact profiling techniques require maintenance). The Zeta profilers have an extremely low cost of ownership.

What kind of hardware modifications can be made?

Zeta has made many hardware modifications for its customers, some of which have become standard options:

  • Swivel head
  • Vacuum or gas chamber
  • Continuous feed samples
  • Wafer-handling robotic systems

If you need a special configuration, our factory in California, USA, builds each system one-at-a-time, and can create a custom configuration for your needs, without adding significant ‘customization’ costs.

Is there automated software available for feature detection?

Yes. The Zeta feature detection software is easy to program and simple to implement; our software scientists can also create specialized packages for your specific need.

What different measurement methods can I get? Do they cost more?

The ZDot non-contact profiler technology achieves about 90% of our customer needs. Additional options are available a la carte to expand the functionality of your Zeta:

Additional options include:

See the “Technology” page of the website for more information.


Call Now to Speak to an Optical expert (855) 405-8008


The diversity and speed of the Zeta are unmatched qualities of this system that make it indispensable in the lab. The customer service is fast and helped us even with the most unique and special requests we had, including personal software updates.

– Florian Stumpf –

Fraunhofer Institute IISB

The Zeta non-contact optical profiler is the workhorse of our lab. While we own many other tools, including AFMs and SEMs, we always start with the Zeta and do most of our work on it.

– Dr Alex J. Goddard –

Department of Chemistry
University of Leicester, UK

We tried using our interferometer to profile an important transparent sample with low-contrast topography, but were unable to focus. With the Zeta non-contact optical profiler, we were able to completely characterize the sample in a few minutes.

– Dr. Antonio J. López –

King Juan Carlos University
Móstoles, Spain

The Zeta system in our lab is in high demand for multiple projects. We hardly use our SEM anymore for micrometer scale studies.

– Dr. Jose F. Fernández –

Ceramic and Glass Institute, CSIC
Madrid, Spain

I love using the Zeta for teaching – not only it is high interest to students, but the quantitative data it provides makes it easy to integrate geometry, math and 3D visualization skills.

– Carol Bouvier –

Nanotechnology/Biology Dept.
Wheeling HS, Illinois, USA

We use our Zeta nearly every day and rely on it for quick measurements and sample characterization. It suits our needs perfectly. We were especially impressed by Zeta Instruments' willingness to customize.

– Rebecca Krone Kramer, Ph.D. –

Assistant Professor
Purdue University, USA