In surface science, a goniometer is a tool used to measure various properties of a surface at precise angles. Properties include static and dynamic contact angles as well as surface tension. Goniometers are very useful tools in the field of optomechanics.

Custom Goniometer for materials characterization


DSM has designed and built goniometers for a variety of applications. DSM has experience with gonioreflectometers, spectrometers, reflectance distribution, and general material characterization.

The engineers at DSM are capable of designing and building goniometers for single/multiple axes positioning. High position resolution can be achieved depending on the scale of the application. Goniometers can highly automate procedures.

DSM is capable of playing a role in any or all parts of the design process. Depending upon the application and customer requirements, DSM can integrate a complete motion system based on custom components and/or industry standard equipment including National Instruments motion products.

Robotic Manipulators

Many of the optical goniometers designed and built by DSM are robotic manipulators built with the intent of optical application. The Robotic Optical Scatter Instrument (ROSI) is a great example of this. The robotic manipulation technology developed by DSM and used in the ROSI is technology that is relevant to a variety of other applications. DSM does not work exclusively with optics and is open to designing a custom robotic manipulator for your project.

Robotic Optical Scatter Instrument

The Robotic Optical Scatter Instrument (ROSI) was designed and constructed by DSM.  The surface goniometer allows researchers at the the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to automate the data collection process needed to generate bidirectional reflectance distribution functions. The system’s design specification and acceptance testing procedure were developed to ensure that samples ranging from a less than an inch in diameter to over 12x12” square could be positioned and oriented with the accuracy required by an agency whose very name is synonymous with accuracy. The system uses a COTS precision 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) robot and a custom sample holder with an integrated rotation stage to precisely position and orient optical samples with respect to an incident laser and detector.  This system was a robotic manipulator designed specifically for an optics application.

Click here to see the NIST Paper describing the system. 

At the time of construction, ROSI represented the first robotic goniometer in the United States and one of only a handful of such systems in the world. ROSI was officially presented to the optics community at the Socity of Photo-Optical Engineers (SPIE) Optical Engineering + Applications conference in August of 2013.

Goniometer instrument to automate optical data collection.

Goniometric Optical Scatter Instrument

DSM delivered a custom optical goniometer to the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.  This 6DoF goniometric positioning system was developed for optical characterization of materials.  It was designed for high accuracy, with encoder position feedback on all axes.  Typical minimum resolutions for the linear and rotary axes were 0.5 um and 0.001 degrees, respectively.  The Goniometric Optical Scatter Instrument (GOSI) can use ultraviolet and visible laser light sources. It can be used for studying low-scatter surfaces such as silicon wafers and optically smooth mirrors and can accommodate sample sizes up to 300 mm.

Click here to see the description of the GOSI on NIST’s web site.

NIST goniometric instrument with wafer attached for inspection

Custom Goniometer built by DSM for the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Large Linear Excursion Goniometry

DSM was faced with the challenge of designing and building a high-precision surface goniometer with closed-loop control of six independent degrees of freedom, including over 100ft of linear displacement, for use at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Calibration Facility for Retroreflective Traffic Control Materials.

DSM designed and built an automated goniometer capable of supporting samples weighing up to 10kg and measuring up to 125 cm in length. The system is capable of translating samples ± 30.5cm along the vertical axis while maintaining the samples position along orthogonal axis to within 0.005cm. DSM was able to accomplish this feat by using precision stages incorporated into a precision assembly, all mounted on 30m of precision railing.

A blog post further describes the application.