Our last article discusses the urgency of ensuring product integrity by verifying the quality and composition of metals used in fabrication and manufacturing. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is a nondestructive testing technique that is helping industries with their positive material identification (PMI) efforts to help ensure that no incorrect or out-of-specification metal alloys caused by material mix-ups, lost traceability, incorrect weld chemistry and dilution, or even counterfeit materials enter the manufacturing process. Here are some examples of specific manufacturing areas where PMI is especially important:
Critical Fasteners: In applications such as aerospace manufacturing, metal fasteners made with the wrong alloy can result in costly or even catastrophic consequences, as evidenced in documented cases of counterfeit fasteners in industry. Different stainless steels have different degrees of corrosion resistance and with some metals, you can expect a reduction in yield strength at elevated temperatures. In the fasteners market, XRF is used for inspection of incoming raw material to ensure it matches the alloy grade and composition documented on the material test report prior to product manufacture. It is also used for final quality inspection before finished parts are sent to the customer. This “double-check” process helps ensure that the incoming raw materials and the outgoing finished parts meet the expected engineering requirements.
Petroleum Refining: The consequences of using incorrect material in a process plant are well documented. According to data compiled by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), since May 1992, 32 fatality/catastrophe incidents related to the release of highly hazardous chemicals have occurred in the petroleum refining industry. Many of these incidents occurred as a direct result of the use of incorrect alloy material in a critical process component. These incidents resulted in 52 employee deaths and 250 injuries, not to mention loss of revenue and substantial fines for the refineries and chemical plants involved. The requirement for PMI of alloy materials in refinery systems and petrochemical plant operations has grown dramatically over the past 20 years and Portable XRF Analyzers have proven to be indispensible tools for isolating finished welds to validate filler material and dilution as well as PMI of process piping, valves, and reaction vessels, and determining the silicon content in steel as a predictor of susceptibility to sulfidic corrosion.
Welding Electrodes: A welding electrode is a metal stick sometimes coated with powdered metals and minerals like nickel, manganese and iron. These electrodes, which are conduits for electricity, are used as a filler material in fusing two metal surfaces together. Different minerals are needed for different applications (which require different tensile strengths), so selecting the correct electrode is necessary for producing high-quality welds. Rods with the wrong additive element, or with incorrect amounts of the specified elements, can damage the work, leading to lost production time and costly rework. XRF technology provides a quick quality check and positively identifies the electrode in question to help ensure weld strength and resistance to corrosion.
With a current competitive manufacturing climate, and buyers looking to companies who produce products that live up to ISO standards, manufacturers have to be vigilant about maintaining the quality of products that are going out their doors. With so many pieces and processes involved in making products, even the smallest deviation from specifications of items like raw materials, fasteners, and welds can affect the quality of the product and the reputation of the company. And it’s all those little things that keep owners and quality assurance officers up at night. With a handheld XRF analyzer to instantly check for incorrect alloy materials, accurately verify alloy composition, and recover lost material traceability, maybe there will be less nightmares and more sweet dreams.
Here’s a video of a manufacturer who relies on an xrf analyzer as their last chance to verify the finished product against the bill of materials and help avoid catastrophes.