The range of metal alloys and composites is increasing along with the demand for lighter weight, energy-efficient materials with enhanced performance capabilities. Such materials require careful scrutiny to ensure the right alloys have been used with the right elemental percentages; off-specification alloys will fail to perform as expected and can have dangerous consequences.
Significant discrepancies have been discovered between material certification reports and actual chemistries. 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 finished parts, and they are especially valuable for verifying material composition when the metals eventually come full circle as scrap.
PMI — the practice of testing materials for their exact chemical composition to ensure that the incoming raw materials and the outgoing finished parts meet engineering requirements — is an integral part of the automotive world. Employees at Chip Ganassi Racing, makers of Nascar racing cars, never take for granted that the materials they order are the materials that they receive, even if the shipment comes with certification papers. Ganassi measures all the metal they use in car fabrication, from the chassis to suspension components, to make sure they are up to design specs. Watch the Ganassi QA/QC process in action.
Once these cars reach the end of their racing life, they still have a full afterlife as scrap metal. Louis Gordon, whose company, L. Gordon Iron and Metal Co. in Statesville, N.C., specializes in shredding damaged cars, explains, “Nothing off a race car should ever end up in a landfill. Everything can be reused. A car is 100-percent recyclable.” In an article on staugustine.com, Gordon said he’s shredded “hundreds of race cars” and sent their remains to a mini-mill to be refined back into raw steel, some of which can end up back in a race shop.
At the scrap yard, portable XRF analyzers can make one last appearance in the metal life cycle. Steel scrap is an essential raw material in making new steel, but it’s usually mixed with other materials. XRF analyzers identify the various elements contained in the metals so they can be graded and sorted appropriately. Non-destructive XRF technology can help determine the metal composition, discover tramp/trace elements, and positively identify numerous alloys at material transfer points to help ensure product quality and regulatory compliance.
Best practices for scrap yard operations should include inspection of all metals that come into the facility against paperwork, quality checks after metals are sorted and throughout the process, and then final analysis before the metals leave the facility. A scrap yard’s reputation depends on the integrity of the metal scrap that reaches the customer.
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