Archive for December, 2014

XRF Installation Service: X-Strata920 for PCB Quality Control

Many organizations that invest in x-ray fluorescence ask what happens at the installation service, especially first time users of XRF technology.  I had the opportunity to attend a recent installation for coating thickness of circuits boards and thought I would write a brief summary of a typical installation, set-up, and training service.

Whenever possible, our technical staff likes to break the installation into two days – using the first day to set-up the analyzer and the second day for the training portion.  The service can be completed in a single day but breaking it into two will allow for more time with the users to discuss applications and questions.

The installation I attended was for a manufacturer of printed circuit boards that uses x-ray fluorescence in their quality control process for thickness measurements.  One of the most common applications is immersion tin over copper but all the common PCB applications are performed (electroless Ni, gold plating, etc).  This particular client had the previous version of the X-Strata920 (the CMI-900).

The technician involved in this set-up used the first half of the day for travel and dedicated the second half to the set-up of the analyzer.  We always ask that the client keep the system packaged until our staff arrives, this insures that the set-up is handled properly and our associates can document any issues that may have occurred during shipping.

The first step was to remove the old analyzer and any computers, monitors, and chords.  After a quick cleaning of the area, we opened the new systems packaging.  Everything was in good order, so we set-up the analyzer.  That’s a relatively simple process but it is important to make certain that all the chords are plugged into the correct spot.  No problems here.

After powering up the analyzer, our technician makes sure all the settings are correct and meet the manufacturers’ requirements.  The next step is to let the analyzer ‘warm up’ by running a quick spec-cal.  After that is complete, we create a calibration so that a stability check can be run.  The stability check is simply running 100 measurements on the newly created calibration and comparing the average of the first ten, the last ten, and all 100.

Once the spec-cal and stability check are performed without issue, the technician will finish the first day by performing the safety radiation check and completing all the paperwork required for the XRF certification.

This is the day that our technical staff will work with the user (or users) of the analyzer.  A first note is that the X-Strata920, and most XRF analyzers, will function in either an ‘operators’ mode or a ‘supervisors’ mode.  Operators can take measurements and pull data but supervisors are able to add calibrations, adjust settings, develop report formats, etc.

A general overview of the system is provided to anybody that will be involved with the XRF analyzer.  This includes a discussion of the safety features, best practices, what information is shown on the monitor, etc.  The importance of the spec-cal warm-up period is discussed before letting each user run a measurement of the calibration we added the day before.  When each user understands how to run a measurement and pull the data as required by the organization (report functions) our staff works with the supervisor(s) of the machine on adding calibrations.

The goal of a training session is not for our technician to go in and set up every calibration for the user.  Instead, it is to prepare the user to add calibrations on their own (teach a man to fish kind of stuff).  Our sales staff and Application Specialists will work with clients before and after the investment into XRF so that the clients understand the importance of having certified reference standards and having some at the installation so that they can set up their most common applications with our technical staff (contact us to discuss the adding calibrations).

After a question an answer period, our technical staff cleans up the space, shakes hands, and leaves knowing that another facility will be obtaining highly precise and repeatable results with an XRF analyzer from Eastern Applied Research…and the client understands the operation of the analyzer but also knows that Eastern Applied will be supporting them throughout the life of the system.