If you must verify metal and alloy content in your manufacturing facility, scrap metal recycling yard, or oil and gas refinery, you know that that X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology offers the best solution for analyzing metals throughout the entire metal life cycle. Portable XRF analyzers can be used to perform Positive Material Identification (PMI) of incoming raw materials, evaluate work in progress anywhere in the facility, conduct final quality assurance of manufactured finished parts, and they are especially valuable for verifying material composition when the metals eventually come full circle as scrap metal.
But if you know anything about these industries, you know that they can contain harsh environments. There can be sharp edges on manufacturing machinery or produced parts, broken and torn metal throughout the recycling facility, and lots of sharp edges on fasteners, screws and bolts on pipelines. These analyzers are also used in environments that contain excess dirt, dust and moisture.
If you are investing in these sensitive analyzers, then you should make sure they are rugged and reliable. So before purchasing, make sure they are durable, but that your operators handle them with care. Look for these features before you buy:
- Detector Protection. Detectors are the part of the XRF analyzer that measure the fluorescence radiation emitted from the sample after it has been irradiated, and helps identify the elements, so they need to be protected. The analyzer should contain a barrier to help reduce the risk of detector punctures (without impacting light element performance) as a result of sharp items and edges. Without this barrier, your detector is vulnerable to puncture damage, leading to costly repair services and instrument downtime that may impact your bottom line.
- IP54 certified. Getting dust or moisture into your analyzer can be detrimental. Oftentimes it will reduce the life of your analyzer and impact reliability. If you’re working in dusty, wet, environments, look for an XRF analyzer that is IEC IP54 certified, meaning that it is sealed against moisture and dust, making it the ideal choice for tough industrial environments. (The IEC is responsible for international standards and conformity assessment for all electrical, electronic and related technologies.) A splash and dust proof design helps ensure uninterrupted operation and worry-free use virtually anywhere.
- Tough but Lightweight. Some operators use XRF analyzers in the field all day long and the heavier the instrument, the more the user can suffer from fatigue – which could lead to dropping the instrument or accidentally banging it into other items. Look for analyzers that weigh less than four pounds (there are some XRF analyzers that weigh less than 3 pounds).
- Ergonomically Designed. In addition to the weight of the instrument, the design is also important. If it’s difficult to handle, it could slip from one’s hands and be dropped or slammed into other equipment. Look for pistol grips for ease of use.
- Stand-Out Coloring. A black or grey instrument lying among industrial equipment or piles of scrap metal could be easily lost, then stepped on, or have heavy items placed upon it. Look for bright coloring, like fluorescent green, to stand out from the background.
- Resilient Plastic. In order to keep the instrument lightweight, plastics are usually used for the housing and many of the parts. However, the instrument could be exposed to hazardous substances and harsh chemicals, so make sure the housing is made with tough, impact resistant plastic to withstand most adverse conditions.
- Battery Durability. It can be pretty aggravating if someone is up in a crane, hanging in the air on harnesses, or on top of a ladder, and then has to return often to the ground to re-charge or put in new batteries. Make sure battery charges can last at least a half-day or more. Even better, hot swap batteries enable uninterrupted operation, even if a battery is running low. Look for analyzers that do not need to power down for a battery replacement. With these types of instruments, users can analyze for over 10+ hours without pausing their daily operations.
So the answer to how tough should your analyzer be…. The answer is as tough as the workers who operate them.
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