Comparing X-Ray Fluorescence Styles, Handheld and Desktop

Energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence (ED-XRF) analyzers play a critical role across many industries and cover a wide range of material analysis applications.  Each analyzer has features that make it more suitable than another in achieving specific testing goals.  Looking at the big picture, however, two major types of ED-XRF analyzers are on the market today – handheld and desktop.  One of the first decisions that organizations investing in XRF have to make is which style of analyzer is best suited for their measurement interests.

Big Picture; it’s all X-Ray Fluorescence

The technological concept behind either style of analyzer is energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence and any system will feature similar components, including the two major ones (x-ray tube and detection system).  However, these components will vary in configuration and specifications which results in optimized performance for different applications.  The variety in component also allows each style to offer different benefits to the end user.

The micro-components that handheld systems feature are what give them their greatest benefit…portability.  While these components excel at many applications, they limit the handheld analyzers capabilities on others (multi-layer coating thickness as an example).  While desktop analyzers are built to minimize footprint, they also allow space for larger components and more options.  As an example, the Hitachi FT-110A desktop model may have multiple collimators, including some that provide a very small spot size and make them more beneficial in measuring specific spots on a PCB (for RoHS screening or solder analysis).

Looking Closer: benefits and applications of each style

Oxford Handheld XRF AnalyzerThe greatest benefit of Handheld XRF Analyzers is the portability they provide, this allows for immediate, on-site, results. While beneficial in many applications this is highlighted in mining related applications when quick decisions save time and money (ore analysis, mapping).  Additionally, handheld analyzers do not require that samples fit in a chamber so they are excellent in situations with large sample pieces – weld analysis of large pipes, alloy analysis in aerospace applications, scrap recycling, etc.  While their is price overlap between handheld and desktop analyzers, most handheld configurations will have the benefit of a lower cost of acquisition…but this will typically only be a factor when both styles meet a users’ specific application, like in precious metal assay.

Hitachi FT-110A XRF InformationWhen looking at the benefits of desktop analyzers, a major benefit is the user free operation when a programmable stage is included in the system.  This functionality allows the user to measure multiple points per sample and/or multiple samples per run without manually setting up each measurement.  This offers great efficiency to organizations because the operator can set samples up and walk away – many organizations quickly justify the investment based on this feature.  Additional benefits of desktop analyzers include the multiple collimators (for very small measurement areas), mapping functions (helpful in PCB screening), and the versatility that they offer in specific applications (coating thickness measurements).

All of the features and benefits offered by desktop systems make them the best fit for most coating thickness measurement interests.  The component configuration allows desktop systems to measure more than single layer coatings; opening a user up to multi-layer, composition analysis, thin film measurements, and plating bath analysis.  The mapping and programmable capabilities will often make desktop analyzers the most efficient choice in quality control of printed circuit boards (PCB’s) and the versatility (RoHS, composition, thickness measurement) adds to the overall value that desktop XRF offer to organizations involved in testing PCB’s.

Eastern Applied Research is one of the few XRF sales organizations to be able to offer both handheld and desktop x-ray fluorescence analyzers.  So, when talking about the best fit for a testing goal, our associates don’t suggest one style or another based on what we can offer.

Have questions about the best fit for your testing goals?  Contact Eastern Applied Research and our associates will support your research with information and options

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