Archive for May, 2017

The Cost of Neglect: X-Ray Tubes in XRF Analyzers

Circuit Board Damage XRFIf your organization has utilized x-ray fluorescence (XRF) for an extended period of time, then you’ve probably had to deal with the costs relating to an x-ray tube replacement.  A major component of XRF analyzers, a new x-ray tube can be fairly costly – ranging from $4,500 to over $8,000 in the most common systems.  However, that cost can be much greater if an organization neglects early warning signs or avoids preventative maintenance.

When an XRF Analyzers x-ray tube arcs, it will cause a hi-voltage “spark to ground”; which can result in additional components being damaged.  These electronic components can short out internally, creating heat and a burning effect.  Obviously, additional component damage will increase repair costs and may extend the downtime.

Fortunately, these extreme situations can be avoided with awareness and early action.

X-Ray Tube LifespanExpected X-Ray Tube Life – and the Variables

Like everything, x-ray tubes have a finite lifespan.  Pre-determined hours will vary based on the tube plus a number of additional – controllable – variables.  The environment that an XRF analyzer is in, the amount an XRF is used (ie single shift, double, etc), the collimator sizes used, and the applications can all factor into if the component lasts longer or less than the expected lifespan. Learn More!

What Routine Service Can Do

As an x-ray fluorescence owner, your organization should have a routine certification and safety radiation service performed by an Accredited XRF service organization.  When performed by Eastern Applied, this service would also include preventative maintenance and best practices consultation.

Service technicians from Eastern Applied Research are instructed to review the variables that affect x-ray tube life (and other major components), advising clients on operational or environmental adjustments to consider while also discussing what a realistic life span remaining is for major components.  Proactive replacement of components isn’t always a popular discussion but it can help to avoid unexpected replacement costs and downtime.

What An Operator Can Be Aware Of

Those preventative maintenance visits typically only happen at six or twelve month intervals.  So it’s important that operators are aware of warnings that an analyzer may need a service review.  Think of these like a ‘check engine light’ on your car…you may not want to deal with the cause of it, but early action could limit any long-term issues and costs.

A few primary indicators that an x-ray tube is close to arcing include an XRF locking out (PC freezes), the high voltage power supply ‘kicking off’, and the stability of measurements fluctuating greater than normal.  Any time an operator has to reboot and restart a machine could mean it’s time to call in a technician.

Moving forward…

Take time to discuss the variables that your facility presents to its XRF analyzer with an Eastern Applied Research service technician (Contact Eastern Applied).  They can advise you on any best practices to extend the life of major components.  However, you also want to rely on their evaluation of a current x-ray tube (and other components) because their findings and suggestions may limit expenses in the long-term.

XRF Circuit Board Damage

Expanded ED-XRF: counterfeit verification and contamination analysis

To many that know of Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence (ED-XRF) technology, the analyzers are simply thought of as a tool used for measuring coating thickness in production quality control.  While that was the main function since the early 1980’s, the technology has made great strides in just the last five years and has become much more versatile than it was – ED-XRF technology is now utilized in laboratory grade analytical instrumentation.

Vortex XRF Detection System

Hi-Resolution XRF Detector

One component that has been critical to the expanded application of XRF is the detector technology used.  Implementation of Silicon Drift Detectors (SDD) has raised the analytical performance bar – allowing for more sophisticated analytical testing than ever before.  XRF manufacturers have upgraded their existing analyzers with SDD technology, or created new models featuring it, that are prepared to meet the Elemental Identification needs that now exist.

Counterfeit Inspection and Contaminant Analysis are great examples of laboratory use of x-ray fluorescence. Using very precise stage systems, an XRF spectrometer can move a sample and “map” its structure.  A variety of information can be obtained about the sample structure and its internal components by comparing mapped images of elements obtained by sample penetrating x-rays.

Using this approach, a laboratory can quickly, and non-destructively, identify internal manufacturing differences that would indicate a potential counterfeit by comparing that samples mapping to the mapping of a known good sample.

In the same manner contaminants can be detected in the range of tens of micro-meters while scanning an entire sample surface.  A samples optical image is placed over the element mapping of the same sample and colors are assigned to different elements.  This allows an operator to quickly identify the contaminant material and see its location.  Even resin can be detected in organic material using these new silicon drift detectors (SDD) along with the correct motorized stage and software combination.

Hitachi XRF Mapping Functions

See through mapping of Hitachi EA6000VX XRF

Here we have taken a picture of a computer mouse (“optical image”) and mapped it for lead (Pb), tin (Sn), and bromine (Br).  This is a simple example of how we can apply advancements in XRF technology for RoHS screening or detection of counterfeit components (this example was performed on a Hitachi EA6000VX).

One major benefit of using x-ray fluorescence in these types of analysis is that it is a non-destructive method to quickly screen product.  Contact Eastern Applied Research for a discussion if you believe your laboratory can benefit from the benefits of energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence.

Additional Reading: PDF Download on Mapping Functions