XRF In Use: Case Study of Real World Process Control

An industry leading food and beverage company with multiple production facilities and a global client base through various distribution channels (including restaurants, grocery stores, etc).

The client has various in-process technologies to discover any foreign materials that may appear, including on-line metal detectors.  After discovery of metal contaminants, the client needs to have the materials identified so that they can confirm where the materials entered the production chain and resolve any issues.  Before working with Eastern Applied, the client was using a third party contractor to identify any metal contaminants that were found.  This was a slow, outsourced, resolution that inhibited them from identifying the source of contamination and extended production line shut-downs.

By investing in x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers for their in-house process control laboratories, the client is able to perform immediate analysis of found metal materials.  The real-time results of XRF spectrometers allows the client to quickly determine the source/location of possible contamination by cross referencing results with a database of metal grades found through their production line.

The client chose to add Handheld XRF analyzers, the Hitachi XMet8000 analyzer, to multiple plants throughout the United States.  This gives them the ability to use the bench-top stand in the laboratory setting for identifying found materials.  However, the handheld model also provides the portability to review various points throughout their production lines in order to create/confirm their database of metal grades as well as the ability to test at their suppliers sites if needed.

Client was able to eliminate costs and delays in shipping material out for third party testing while gaining the ability to quickly identify the source of the problem and take almost immediate action to resolve the issue.  These short term benefits will result in a long-term ROI on the Handheld XRF analyzers purchased for multiple facilities.

Contact Eastern Applied if you have a story on the benefits x-ray fluorescence offered your organization – or, if you think XRF can help improve your processes.

Handheld XRF in Testing Stand

XMet8000 in Testing Stand      

Handheld XRF by Hitachi

Hitachi XMet8000









Three Benefits of Hitachi’s Acquisition of Oxford’s IA Division

You may have already heard that Hitachi High-Tech Corp acquired the Industrial Analysis division of Oxford Instruments at the end of 2017.  The new division, Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science America, Inc (Hitachi), will provide both bench-top and handheld x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers plus optical emission spectroscopy (OES) and handheld laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS).

Hitachi High-Tech XRFThe combination of Hitachi and Oxford resources, talent, and technology provides a number of benefits to users of Hitachi XRF moving forward.  With the announcement that Eastern Applied will continue as a distributor of Hitachi x-ray fluorescence, we put together a quick list of the top benefits this new Hitachi will provide to XRF users:

Only The Strongest XRF Analyzers Survive: the two lines of x-ray fluorescence had obvious overlap in some application areas and the Hitachi team has selected the best options from those overlapping analyzers.  Looking at options for coating thickness measurements, while a majority of the Oxford XRF analyzers have been discontinued the hugely popular XStrata-920 will still be offered along with the Hitachi XRF’s (FT110A, FT150).  Bulk analyzers from Oxford, the LabX-5000 (replaced the LabX3500) and XSupreme8000 will be offered alongside the Hitachi elemental analyzers (EA-Series), eventually replacing one or two models.

This benefit means organizations considering Hitachi x-ray fluorescence options are looking at the best analyzers from two high performing lines.

Restructured Pricing: any analytical system with the Hitachi name provides top quality and performance, which easily justifies a slightly higher price point.  However, a number of factors have allowed for even more competitive pricing on a number of the x-ray fluorescence analyzers.  Excellent pricing is available on configurations of the primary analyzer for coating thickness measurements, the Hitachi FT110A, and on a true leader in its product class, the EA6000VX (which provides thin coating measurements, RoHS testing, elemental analysis, and more).

Resources and Support: this benefit covers a few areas…First, the combination of support teams will result in an even greater knowledge base in the development of future systems but also in providing you with important information as you consider your XRF options (access to sample testing, application briefs, etc).  Second, only the best of both component resources will be used – positively affecting costs and performance.  Lastly, North American support is strengthened on both coasts because of the Hitachi facility in California and the former Oxford facility in Massachusetts – these facilities will act as a strong back-up to the support that Eastern Applied Research can provide to users of the Hitachi XRF line.

Eastern Applied is excited to be part of the Hitachi XRF Distribution team and the above reasons are just a few that potential users of Hitachi XRF should be excited as well.

Contact Eastern Applied to discuss any questions or interests.

The Cost of XRF Analyzers: both short and long term

Our organization, Eastern Applied, works with a wide range of organizations on their x-ray fluorescence needs.  We realize that budget is always a factor – regardless of whether we’re working with a general metal finisher, University laboratory, aerospace/military facility, or any other organizational type.

There are two budgetary considerations to make…both the short term decision relating to the XRF analyzers price but also the long-term costs to maintain the system.

Short Term: Price of XRF
The first discussion with our XRF Sales Team will always be about your testing goals and analyzer requirements.  Eastern Applied offers both new and used XRF options, so we want to make sure we narrow down the options to meet your testing goals while making the machine as efficient as possible for the operator.

It will be important, however, to discuss target budgets you are working with to make sure we discuss appropriate options. Depending on the testing goals, new energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence systems can range from the high $20k’s to the mid $100k’s.  Used XRF analyzers will typically start in the teens and go to the mid $50k’s…in general, quality used systems are about 50% of what an equivalent new analyzer would be priced at.

Long Term: The Cost of XRF
Then, there is the after installation cost of XRF.  Owners of XRF will want to know their state regulations relating to ownership of the technology and if there are any annual fees or requirements.

XRF Safety Radiation

XRF Safety Radiation

Fees vary per state and are generally very low but, in most states, it is mandated that any x-ray fluorescence analyzer have an annual safety radiation survey performed and documented.  We suggest an annual preventative maintenance service be performed which includes Accredited certification in addition to the safety radiation survey.  Pricing for this service will vary based on model, location, etc so contact our Service Department for a customized quotation.

So, state fees and annual service are the only costs that XRF users need to be concerned with on a regular basis.  However, as systems age, there are costs associated with repairs – so, when considering a used analyzer, be sure to confirm the age of major components (x-ray tube and detector tube)…the age of a used XRF is not as important as the condition of those components. Some prefer to put budget into new systems for that initial purchase and extend the likely ‘worry free’ time with their analyzer.  Another way to have ‘worry free’ time is to put budget towards an annual XRF Protection plan, which can limit repair costs, etc. It’s really up to you and your organizations situation.

Are you considering adding an XRF Analyzer for your coating thickness measurement or elemental analysis needs?  Contact Eastern Applied Research to discuss your specific testing goals and the costs to consider.

Silicon Drift Detectors (SDD) in Hitachi Elemental Analyzers

Determining the right XRF spectrometer for your elemental analysis interests can be a long process – the market is filled with different software features, staging options, chamber sizes, etc.  Even within the Hitachi High-Tech line of elemental analyzers (appropriately known as the ‘Hitachi EA Series’), different options can make one analyzer a more appropriate fit than others depending on your testing goals.

Vortex XRF Detection System

Hi-Resolution XRF Detector

One of the x-ray fluorescence options, or variables, that needs to be considered for most elemental analysis needs is the detector technology used.   The Hitachi EA Series offers four different analyzer configurations, from the ‘ultimate’ Hitachi EA6000VX to the more ‘entry model’ Hitachi EA1000A-III.  Three of the four feature a Hitachi manufactured Vortex Detector (VX in their names).  The Vortex Detector is a multi-cathode Silicon Semiconductor Detector but is more commonly referred to as a Silicon Drift Detector (SDD) and provides greater resolution, which can help improve results for many applications.

Associates of Eastern Applied Research ran some samples to show the difference in spectral resolution that a Vortex (SDD) Detector can offer over a more common Silicon Semiconductor Detector (SSD).  Analyzing two samples for RoHS testing interests, one plastic matrix and one metal, we compared the detailed spectrum for Pb from each detector technology.

Elemental Analyzer Detector Spectrums

It is clear that the Vortex SDD provides a more defined spectrum than the SSD technology.

The questions to ask are ‘why does this happen’ and ‘what is the benefit’?

Why a Vortex detector provides more defined spectrums:
The Vortex SDD’s feature large active areas (between 30mm2 and 80mm2) and are produced from high purity silicon with state of the art CMOS production.  They are able to provide excellent energy resolutions and high count rate capabilities – with a very short peaking time, a high count rate can be achieved.  Processing high count rates with very small loss in energy resolution and minimal peak shift is unique to these detectors – resulting in their high performance and longevity.  Learn more about the Vortex Detector.

What are the benefits of the Vortex Detector:
When the Hitachi XRF line is used for quantitative analysis of trace elements or qualitative analysis of unknowns (mining, geological testing, or a more detailed process control application) then the improved spectral peak differentiation provided by these detectors will result in the ability to achieve lower detection limits for a broad range of elements.

However, many of the Hitachi EA-Series spectrometers are used for RoHS testing.  So, when considering the benefits for this interest, basic RoHS interests can typically be achieved with the more common SSD technology – but the highly defined spectral peaks of a Vortex SDD can reduce the error of measurement while providing faster measurement times…resulting in increased confidence of results and greater throughput.

The detector technology in an XRF spectrometer is really only one aspect of the decision process your organization will be making.  Contact associates of Eastern Applied Research to have a complete discussion of your testing goals and the benefits that each Hitachi elemental analyzer can offer.

Installation of an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analyzer

The fact that x-ray fluorescence is a well established quality control tool for many metal finishing companies will often make the installation and training portion of any analyzer purchase an afterthought.  However, the initial support and capabilities for future service of an XRF analyzer should be considered by any company making the investment – whether a first time, or long time, user of the technology.

Here is a quick overview of what happens after you decide on an XRF:

Pre-Installation Steps:
The technical staff at Eastern Applied Research will put any analyzer, new or used, through some basic testing to insure analyzer stability.  This happens at our service center and can take one to two weeks depending on the details.

During this pre-installation time, our Application Specialists will review a buyers applications and highlight any that should be set-up and tested prior to the installation.  These are typically multi-layer coatings or complex alloy coatings.  The application support staff of Eastern Applied will also review any current XRF calibration standards that a client may have and suggest new ones, or modifications, if beneficial.

The goal of the pre-installation is to simply insure the purchased XRF is operating to specification.  It is not to install a clients full application range – our on-site installation technician will be teaching operators how to add calibrations.

Common at All XRF Installation Services:
After arriving at your facility, the technician will unpack the XRF and get it set-up in its operating space…making certain that the environment is the best possible one for the long term performance of the system.

The XRF will require a warm up period, which varies based on the system, and then the technician will perform the analyzer certification.  They will perform all the steps detailed in our article on XRF Analyzer Certification and Safety Radiation services and provide the related documentation at the end of the installation.  This step will confirm the analyzer is in good working order after shipping and actual training can begin.

Experienced XRF Users:
When a facility, or operator, is familiar with an x-ray fluorescence make/model, then training will often be fairly quick.  As an example, a plating shop replacing a Seiko SFT-9200 with the newer version of that system, the Hitachi FT110A, won’t need to learn much relating to software flow, report generation, etc.  The bulk of the training in this case would be to introduce any new features that the updated model may have…in the example noted, a Hitachi FT110A may have auto-focus, wide-view, or improved fundamental parameters which would require an introduction.

First Time XRF Users:
These installation services will certainly be more in-depth.  The first topic will cover adding calibrations…whether your facility will use the ‘standard free’ fundamental parameters or create full calibrations through the empirical software will have already been confirmed and our technician will focus on the preferred approach but provide training on each method if requested.

Once adding calibrations is discussed and practiced, the installing tech will introduce any special features that can help with a users application or throughput.  These will vary based on the system being installed and a clients testing goals.

At this point, the installer will have operators run a few measurements so they can practice sample alignment, selecting calibrations, etc and provide feedback to them.  Then, with measurements complete, the training will focus on how data is handled – reporting through Word/Excel or simply pulling lot numbers, etc.

At the end of the training, the Eastern Applied associate will provide a summary of ‘best practices’ for your specific interests and facility – highlighting the environment, regular XRF maintenance that you can handle, and discussing any required services (certifications) schedule.  They will provide documents on the purchase and certification provided at the start of the day.

You can move forward knowing that Eastern Applied’s service center and field technicians will be available to support your use of x-ray fluorescence – and we appreciate the opportunity.  Feel free to contact Eastern Applied with any questions about the installation services.

New XRay Fluorescence Analyzer

New XRF Analyzer at Installation – Hitachi FT110A