Portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers provide reliable, real-time data for sample identification and geochemical analysis of various elements. These analyzers allow miners and geologists to take assay analyses in real time, and can be used in mine mapping, ore grade control, and the exploration and mining of a wide variety of base metals, precious metals, rare earth elements, mineral fuels, industrial minerals, and gas-bearing strata samples. These analyzers can provide rapid, on-site qualitative screening directly in-situ or lab-quality quantitative analysis on prepared samples, bypassing the costly and time-consuming process of sending samples to off-site laboratories and waiting days, or even months, for critical data.
That means that portable XRF analyzers, and their operators, work in rugged field environments and harsh conditions on a daily basis. There is excess dust and dirt everywhere as a result of cutting, blasting, and the movement of rocks and minerals throughout a mining operation. There can be sharp edges on mining machinery as well as broken rocks. And whether the cause is outdoor elements or water used in reducing the dust, analyzers may be subject to wet conditions.
These analyzers – which utilize X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology — are sensitive and need to be in top working condition to produce accurate results. If you are investing in these tools, then you should make sure they are rugged and reliable. So before purchasing, make sure they are durable, and 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. Often times 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 and mining 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 items or the rock face. 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 the rock face or mining equipment. Look for pistol grips for ease of use.
- Stand-Out Coloring. A black or grey instrument lying among industrial equipment or piles of rocks 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 down in the mine or on top of a rock face, 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.
When most people think of mining equipment, they think of massive earth movers, oversized dump trucks, and giant crushing equipment. However, even an instrument that can fit in your hand can accomplish big tasks at the mine site. Just make sure it can tolerate the harsh conditions.