Archive for March, 2014

Can Handheld XRF Measure Coating Thickness?

The potential benefits of handheld XRF technology for coating thickness quality control application are obvious – portability along with no limitations to how large a sample can be.  Additionally, handheld systems may offer greater application reach (alloy analysis, RoHS, etc) at a potentially lower price than many desktop analyzers.

Because of these benefits, the question ‘Can handheld XRF measure my thickness application?’ is coming up more frequently than ever.  The short answer is ‘maybe’.

Advanced handheld x-ray fluorescence systems, like the X-Met series by Oxford Instruments, can provide coating thickness measurements – to a point.  Many of the more basic, single layer applications are easily measured with a handheld analyzer by customizing an empirical calibration to the users’ specifications.  Solder thickness may also be measurable and multi-layer coatings can sometimes be measured simultaneously if they are thin enough.  These systems can also be applied to confirming the presence of plated layers under a top coat when a simple verification is the goal instead of accuracy.

However, unless portability and a large sample are absolutes in your quality assurance interests, then Eastern Applied Research (and anybody that offers both handheld and desktop) will typically always suggest desktop XRF options.  Desktop models, like the Hitachi XRF Line, offer the variety of filters, collimators, components and their geometry to each other that is required to provide great performance.  In addition to greater single layer accuracy, desktop analyzers will measure multi-layers up to four layers thick, expand the achievable thickness ranges, and offer smaller spot size capabilities for pin-point analysis.  Desktop analyzers also offer the benefits of programmable stage options, allowing for greater efficiency when measuring multiple spots or samples per run.

XRF Applications SupportIn summary…talk to an XRF Application Specialist at Eastern Applied Research about your coating thickness measurement needs.  If portability and a large sample is part of your requirement, then we can review handheld options for you but we’ll always be able to suggest both desktop and handheld if applicable.