Case Study: Handheld XRF for Positive Material Identification


Powell Valves recently celebrated 150 years of producing valves of exceptional quality that are competitively priced.  This multi-national company has plants throughout the world and is known within the industry for having the highest quality standards - they have even been awared an ISO 9001 certification for representing quality worldwide.  Powell Valves is a global supplier of high-performance valves used in piping systems for industrial manufacturing within prominent companies throughout the world, spanning multiple industries such as chemical, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical to name a few.  These valves are used in the most challenging applications: high-pressure, high-temperature, and highly corrosive environments where dependable performance is critical.

As a manufacturer of high-end valves being introduced into these critical performance situations, it is important for Powell Valves (and their customers) to ensure that each product they manufacture and supply meets and exceeds the expectation of the superb quality that they are known for.  A basic and integral part of meeting these stringent quality demands is to follow a comprehensive quality assurance program; this requires having complete certainty that every valve produced is made of the correct alloy.  To have complete confidence that their high quality valves meet specification, Power Valves implemented testing with Oxford Instruments' X-Met 7000 handheld XRF analyzer into their quality control program for the positive material identification (PMI) of both incoming and outgoing products.

Jim Hengehold, VP of Engineering/Quality said, "PMI is a necessary part of our business.  It is very important to us, and extremely important for our customers, that we provide valves that are high quality with the correct material composition.  We deal wtih numerous alloys, so the X-Met has become a valued and important part of our quality control program."

Verify Grades and Chemical Composition of Alloys through Positive Material Identification

For PMI, the X-Met analyzers can be used to quickly verify alloy grades as well as identify the chemical composition of each alloy.  Although alloys are purchased to given specifications, this task has become necessary for many manufacturers with global supply chains because it has become common to find that the chemistry may not match the grade stamped on the alloy.  Powell Valves also uses the handheld XRF to screen incoming shipments of raw material, castings, and even finished products to check that suppliers are delivery products to spec.  Once the analysis of the valves is complete, the results are displayed clearly on the X-Met's large touch screen display, showing the alloy grade at the top of the display followed by a list of the actual chemistry below.  The AISI specification (or other specification table of choice) for the grade is also displayed in order to easily see if the alloying elements are within the grade tolerances.  In addition, the analyzer is used to screen the final product once more to ensure that final products comprised of the correct grade of alloys, meaning that they will be able to withstand the pressure test done on 100% of the valves sold prior to shipping to their customers.  Powell Valves has found the X-Met to be a great tool for making their quality control process much more refined and less complicated.

Handheld XRF Tests SteelBecause these valves are used for such quality-critical applications, many of Powell Valves' customers demand proof of a PMI inspection prior to product purchase.  Jim said, "On critical orders, we have a certain number of customers that require us to do a PMI inspection and supply them with a materials report.  If we had to send this work out, or bring in a consultant to do this inspection, it would add a minimum of $10,000 annually.  Having the ability to identify the valves' alloy grade in a matter of seconds eliminates the need for costly, and time consuming, third party testing.  With the X-Met 7000, operators can create customized reports that they can use as certificates of inspection.  These tamper-proof reports can be printed, saved to a network location, or downloaded onto a USB drive directly from the analyzer.  Recouping the cost of the X-Met 7000 is very often less than two years under normal use and can be immediate when a single out-of-spec material batch is identified.  If the wrong material were to slip through the manufacturing process and end up with a customer, it could cause devastating and irreparable harm to their reputation - and could potentially lead to the loss of a major customer.  With the stakes being that high, the X-Met 7000 allows Powell Valves to guarantee that their products' material composition is accurate.

Why Oxford Instruments line of handheld x-ray fluorescence?

Positive Material Identification by XRFPowell Valves has been a customer of Oxford Instruments for eight (8) years and have recently added a fourth X-Met analyzer that is used on a regular basis - used daily, in most cases.  They have remained an Oxford Instruments customer through the years largely due to the reliability of the first analyzer along with the support they have received.  In addition to great support, the X-Met 7000 exceeded all of Powell Valves' technical requirements at a lower cost than the competition.  "We compared features of a couple of competitive instruments and the support available.  What tipped the scales for us was our experience with Oxford Instruments and the overall price for the X-Met compared to similar instruments available.  We were also really impressed by our sales representative and his helpfulness.  Unlike other sales pitches, we believe that Oxford Instruments' representative has gone well over and above the call of duty to meet our needs".

According to Dickie Thompson, Quality Director at Powell Valves, "We like the speed of the analyzer, and the new computer interface.  The data output capalities are also great...the ability to create a report directly from the system is perfect for when we need to generate certifiation report for our customers."  In addition to these benefits, the built-in grade library includes around 1,600 alloys, and if using AISI, the grade library includes 600 alloys.  This includes many Aluminum alloys, Copper alloys, Nickel alloys, Stainless steels, Low Alloy steels and others.  Plus, adding to a grade library can easily be performed by its operators.  The battery life for the X-Met is extra long, approximately 10-12 hours, which allows for a full day of work in the field without ever swapping batteries.  (bonus read: the five most common reasons to choose X-Met for PMI testing)

Conclusion:

Powell Valves has found the X-Met 7000 series real value in its ability to quickly, and accurately, determine the composition of incoming alloys in order to be fully confident that they are supplying the quality products that their customers have become accustomed to.  "In summary, Oxford Instruments has a good combination of an excellent product, a good price, and an excellent support group.  For us, that is the bottom line and we would definitely recommend the X-Met 7000 to anyone in the industry."

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