Inspecting the Spectrometers

April 15, 2008
Process- and quality-control imperatives drive metalcasters to look for, and choose, newer and more convenient laboratory systems. According to our most recent reader survey, 13% of all ...
Process- and quality-control imperatives drive metalcasters to look for, and choose, newer and more convenient laboratory systems.

According to our most recent reader survey, 13% of all metalcasting operations in North America will be buying new and improved laboratory systems this year. That’s hardly surprising, considering how critical quality control has become to metalcasters’ customer service and cost containment initiatives.

That percentage may climb even higher as quality engineers, laboratory managers, and plant metallurgists come to understand and appreciate recent developments and introductions — particularly in the field of spectrometers.

For example, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. ( has improved its wavelength-dispersive XRF product line with Thermo Scientific ARL Optim’X device, with SMS-Omega automation. This compact unit combines X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry with process automation in a footprint less than 1m2.

XRF spectroscopy is a qualitative and quantitative elemental analysis technique that is nondestructive, multi-elemental, and generally fast and cost-effective. In other words, it is well suited to industrial sample testing.

The Optim’X device is designed for fully automated sample preparation and analysis, for users that need fast and precise examination of their metal components. Thermo Fisher calls it “easy to use” and claims it will improve the quality of results because it combines automatic sample preparation and handling with automated analysis and distribution of results. In other words, there’s no need for user intervention. A sample-handling arm is fixed with a suction device or a gripper to load samples for analysis, which are processed under strict identical and reproducible conditions. A fixed circular magazine provides storage of reference standards, and for occasional manual introduction of prepared samples. Standard, proven interfaces ensure easy system integration with laboratory quality-control methods. Control samples are regularly analyzed and processed by SPC methods to detect anomalies. Automatic standardization is triggered by the system when necessary. An integrated audit trail function (SMS-Omega) ensures increased traceability, for ISO compliance, and the entire package can be supplied with a housing for in-situ analysis close to the production process.

Oxford Instruments ( introduced a new hand-held XRF analyzer recently, the X-Met5000. The portable nature of this device makes it useful beyond the lab — on the plant floor or in the scrap-sorting area, for example. Oxford states the X-Met5000 accurately measures metal elements in concentrations below 1%, and the instrument can be loaded either with metal or other material analysis programs. It says the X-Met5000’s most important feature is its “light element treatment” mode, for fast and accurate analysis of matrix elements even when the sample contains light elements (e.g., aluminum, silicon.) This is not possible when using “fundamental parameters” on an analyzer that does not detect the light elements.

This rugged X-Met5000 is IP54 (NEMA 3) approved for dust and splash protection, and it is fitted with a long-life battery (one working day) for maximum, portable productivity.

PANalytical’s news WDXRF spectrometer is the Axios XRF, which along with the MagiX and MagiX Pro series are said to be the most widely used devices of their type. PANalytical ( calls the new MagiX Fast “the fastest and most sensitive spectrometer available” for metal analysis.

MagiX Fast combines 4-kW X-ray excitation, fourth-generation counting electronics, and other proven, industrial-grade features, for fast sample processing and operational reliability. Its simultaneous fixed-channel measurements cover up to 28 customer-defined elements, and where more flexibility is needed the device can be programmed with up to four goniometers.

The design and internal sample-transport system ensure long-term reproducibility of measurement, which eases system automation and maintenance. A VCR sample changer on the cabinet allows unattended batch analysis. PANalytical’s SuperQ software platform gives MagiX Fast a variety of options for most installations.