The Case for Proportional Counter XRF Analyzers

In recent years, a lot of the conversation around advancements in x-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology has related to the detector systems.  XRF analyzers are offered with two major types of detector technologies…the more traditional proportional counter detectors and newer solid-state detectors.  Unfortunately, even though proportional counter may be a great choice for some applications, it is often not discussed because the XRF sales company doesn’t offer it or are more focused on promoting the newer, more hyped, technology.

However, proportional counter detection systems still have a place and organizations looking to purchase an XRF should answer an important question before moving forward with any investment … “What detector system is best for our situation?“.

Background on XRF Detector Systems
Hitachi XRF for Metal FinishingWhen x-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology was first made available for coating thickness measurement needs they featured proportional counter detector tubes.  However, the industry saw the potential to expand the application reach of XRF and began introducing analyzers that used solid state detectors. Two types of these solid state detectors offer higher resolution and potentially faster measurement times; Silicon PIN Diode Detectors (Si-PIN) and, more recently, Silicon Drift Detectors (SDD). These new detector technologies were initially featured in XRF analyzers built for elemental analysis (RoHS testing, geological, etc) while proportional counter remained the go-to for plating quality control.

Manufacturers of XRF recently began looking to the newer solid state detectors for plating thickness applications.  The higher resolution of Si-PIN and SDD can be beneficial for very thin coatings (think ENIG, ENEPIG, coatings under 2u”, etc) but proportional counter systems still have a place in coating thickness measurements – and offer critical benefits.  It’s important to know if…an XRF manufacturer only offers solid-state based analyzers because discussing your goals with organizations that offer both styles can help you learn about all the unbiased options and benefits.

Benefits of Proportional Counter Systems
The major benefit of proportional counter detectors is their lower cost.  When compared to an XRF with a high quality Si-PIN or SDD, the proportional counter system itself will be a lower initial investment and future repairs will also be lower in cost.  Note the reference to ‘high quality’ Si-PIN or SDD, which may not always be offered…systems with lower quality solid state detectors may have a competitive list price but more detector issues in the long-term plus, potentially, not as good a resolution which defeats the main purpose of a solid state detector.

In addition to lower costs, proportional counter detectors will typically provide better longevity.  As we’ve noted in the past, a bad working environment can negatively affect an XRF but we’ve seen that to be especially true for units with Si-PIN or SDD technology…specifically, they appear to be more susceptible to heat and humidity than a proportional counter detector.  This durability ties in with the component cost and long-term benefits that proportional counter can offer.

When a Proportional Counter Should Be Considered
As previously noted, solid state detectors (Si-PIN and SDD) were first offered for elemental analysis and remain the best option for those applications.  However, their application reach expanded to where they can be considered for some coating measurement needs.  Organizations can now consider solid-state detectors when looking to measure thin film coating measurements (ENIG, ENEPIG) or coatings where resolution could benefit accuracy (multi-layer stacks, etc).

That being noted, proportional counter still offers excellent performance (with the benefits noted above) for more typical coating applications and can still be considered for many thin coatings or complex multi-layers. Each individual application will have a different threshold for where proportional counter detectors will offer better accuracy…the threshold being where thicker coatings should be measured with a proportional counter detector and thinner ones should look to a solid-state detector.

While coating measurements occur for many applications and at a variety of organizations, it’s important to note that any general metal finishers will often be plating thicker coatings and that is just one reason metal finishers should really consider the benefits of proportional counter based XRF analyzers.

Bottom Line (especially for general metal finishers)
Any organization looking to add an XRF to measure coating thickness should certainly consider the detector system options – taking into account the finishes to be measured and the benefits of each detector.

Remember too, that some XRF manufacturers only offer Si-PIN and SDD based systems…so, they won’t point out when proportional counter would be a better fit.  However, other XRF analyzer sales companies, like distributors of Hitachi High-Tech (Eastern Applied Research Inc being one), offer both types of detector tube options.  Some new analyzers like the Hitachi XStrata920 are even offered with the buyers choice of detector tube. So, discuss your specific testing goals, and even test out specific applications by submitting samples, etc. This can help identify when the benefits of proportional counter will be a long-term benefit to your company (while meeting your performance needs of course).

Contact an XRF Application Specialist from Eastern Applied Research
to discuss your situation and the pro’s/con’s of various XRF Analyzers.

XRF with Detector Tube Options

Hitachi offers detector options (!) in the X-Strata 920 XRF

3 Benefits of the New East Coast Facility of Hitachi High-Tech

It was recently announced that Hitachi High-Tech Science America (Hitachi) was set to open a new East Coast facility for support of their x-ray fluorescence (XRF) line.  This facility, located in Westford, MA, is the result of Hitachi High-Tech’s acquisition of Oxford Instruments Industrial Analysis division and is an example of the commitment Hitachi has made to XRF support and consultation – which is certainly important to many operators of XRF analyzers.

Hitachi XRF East Coast Facility MapAs a distributor of the Hitachi XRF line, Eastern Applied associates were invited to attend the official opening of the new facility – we did, and it was great to see the commitment to the Hitachi XRF analyzer line.  Most impressive was the team of Hitachi support personnel, application staff, and technical advisors…all available to help Hitachi XRF users get the most out of their investment into x-ray fluorescence.

This facility provides several benefits to Hitachi XRF users but the following are the top three benefits to organizations considering an Hitachi XRF analyzer…


X-Ray Fluorescence analyzers can do a lot more than measure single layer coating thickness…especially some of the exciting elemental analyzers from Hitachi.  The new facility has a team of Application Specialists, and an inventory of the primary Hitachi XRF analyzers, in order to work on any applications of interest.  They can accept samples in order to prove analyzer capability, determine best practices, etc.

Among recent examples, Eastern Applied has worked with Hitachi Applications Support on interests relating to contamination analysis where the high speed mapping of the Hitachi EA6000VX proved to be a beneficial, and relatively low cost, method of process control.


The same systems used in application testing are available for demonstrations to interested contacts.  While the Hitachi West Coast facility has some XRF systems available, it does not cover the full range offered.  So any interested parties now have the option to visit the Westford MA facility to review multiple systems (or a single one) but we can also quickly provide web-cam demonstrations without coordinating through Hitachi Japan.

Demonstration analyzers really cover the full range of units for coating thickness measurement needs (including thin film measurements and micro-spot analysis needs) and elemental analysis from bulk analyzers like the new LabX5000 to multi-use systems like the EA6000VX.


Eastern Applied says it all the time, Hitachi X-Ray Fluorescence Analyzers typically provide years of problem free operation.  However, at some point all XRF analyzers will have issues.  The new East Coast Hitachi facility will be the primary location for stocking components…and it is a large facility with room to grow.  So most items should be available when needed (but, again, we don’t foresee that being a concern to new Hitachi XRF users for a very long time!).

Having been a distributor of the Hitachi XRF line for several years, Eastern Applied realizes the benefits of the Hitachi Westford, MA facility but anybody using a Hitachi XRF – or considering adding one – should be aware of them as well.  Contact Eastern Applied with questions, schedule an application review, or demonstration.

Contact XRF Sales and Support

Do You Realize?…Hitachi XRF is the Evolution of Seiko XRF!

Due to the recent news about Hitachi High-Tech acquiring Oxford Instruments industrial analysis division, many people think of Hitachi and Oxford as being one in the same.  That is not entirely true – as covered in our recent post about the benefits of the acquisition, Hitachi has brought many good parts and people from Oxford XRF into the new Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science America, Inc (Hitachi) while filtering out less desirable aspects.

However, most Hitachi XRF analyzers have more in common with the very well respected and reliable Seiko NanoTechnology line of x-ray fluorescence.


For about 40 years, Seiko was a leader in XRF for coating thickness measurement and RoHS testing interests – and these systems became leading units in the Hitachi x-ray fluorescence product line after Hitachi acquired Seiko a number of years ago (about 2015).  Some of the top Hitachi XRF analyzers are descendants of a Seiko XRF and provide the same reliable performance and ease of use that Seiko users came to expect.

Here is one example…a testimonial…from a company that Eastern Applied has worked with for years but they have experience with Seiko analyzers as well as other brands of XRF.  As you will see below, their experience with the new Hitachi FT110A shows the continued commitment to high performance, unique operations, and ultimately saving users time and money.

“We’ve been using the Hitachi FT110A system for about 1 ½ years now and really like it.  The software is intuitive and the GUI is also helpful and quick.  A couple of helpful upgrade features are the auto-focus function and the POM (point of measurement box selection) remains open for the setting up of multiple POMs on one or two samples.  These seemingly little things can make for a quicker, more efficient measuring procedure which saves time and money…”

“Their reliability remains rock-solid.  This is our 5th (Seiko) Hitachi purchase and the other units have been running strong for over 12 years now with few repairs & maintenance.  Service has also been impeccable!  Thank you Eastern Applied Research!”

Quality Director of a NY based metal finishing company

The Hitachi FT110A is from the Seiko family tree that produced the Seiko SFT3200 and SFT3400 in the 1980’s and 1990’s (many are still in operation today) to the extremely reliable and precise Seiko SFT9200 series.  The Seiko SFT9200 was produced until about 2015 when it was replaced by the Hitachi FT110A.


If you have used Seiko in the past and are interested in newer XRF analyzers, then Hitachi should be at the top of your list (we like to think that even if you don’t have experience with Seiko too).  Contact Eastern Applied Research to discuss your goals and what’s important in your next XRF – we can also share many more testimonials from users of the Hitachi FT110A.

–  Presentation: Seiko to Hitachi for Coating Thickness
–  Literature: Seiko to Hitachi Performance Data

Hitachi XRF Evolved from Seiko XRF

Trade-In Values of Older XRF Analyzers: Four Factors

The analogies of owning an XRF analyzer and a car are endless…one similarity is when it’s time to replace an older model. That older model may still have some value that can be seen in a “trade-in” which will reduce your out of pocket towards a newer model. But what makes one x-ray fluorescence analyzer see a larger trade-in value than another?

Eastern Applied is one XRF sales company that provides a trade-in credit for most systems, regardless of age.  Plus, credit can be applied to both new and used x-ray fluorescence analyzers (as opposed to just new systems).  However, there are some aspects of older analyzers, and how they are cared for, that will get your organization a higher trade-in value than others.

4 Factors to Determine XRF Trade-In Values:

Working or Not? _ an obvious starting point…if your system is not working, or aspects of it aren’t working (ie experiencing stability issues or inaccurate readings), then expect to see a minimum trade-in value offered.  So, rather than wait for the next big repair or problem to occur, it’s suggested to look into your options sooner than later in order to maximize the value – and minimize your out of pocket for a replacement system.

Internal Condition _ we say all the time that XRF analyzers need to be kept in good working environments to maintain their performance – this also helps to maintain their value.  Poor environments can lead to dirt, dust, and rust that compromises components, performance…and the value of the analyzer.

Age of Components _ more important than the systems age is the age of the major components.  If you had an x-ray tube replaced a year ago then that will generate a higher trade-in value than if the unit has the original tube…so have records available.

Computer/Software _ if you have an issue with the analyzers interface, then you will likely see an automatic decrease in value as some of these issues will limit the ability to confirm other aspects of the system and may hinder an analyzers operation.  This is especially true for units with built-in interfaces.

So, keeping your current XRF Analyzer maintained properly will let you get the most out of it while it’s in use – and when it’s time to upgrade.  Contact Eastern Applied with any questions or to discuss the potential trade-in value of your current analyzer.

XStrata XRF Analyzers Trade-In

Old Oxford XStrata Analyzers Traded-In for New Hitachi XRF’s

Proper Disposal of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) Spectrometers

Any number of reasons can result in having an un-used XRF analyzer that ends up collecting dust or acting like a large paperweight – you may find yourself with an XRF that requires expensive repairs and you simply replaced the analyzer, don’t have the testing requirements to have a system moving forward, or already have multiple systems and want to take one out of operation.

If your facility has an XRF that has been shelved, for any reason, then it may make more sense to properly dispose of the analyzer.

Did you realize that even non-working, or decommissioned, x-ray fluorescence analyzers should still be registered with the state?  This is one reason to dispose of a shelved XRF…because state regulations of XRF analyzers typically require annual fees (in addition to paperwork) if a system is on-site – working or not.  So…that ‘out of service’ XRF may be costing your organization money.

In addition to state requirements relating to x-ray tubes of any age, many older tubes will be wrapped in lead, contain oils that need proper disposal, and have Beryllium based windows.  These last points (Beryllium, oil, etc) relate to another reason XRF analyzers should be properly disposed of.  Detector tubes and circuit boards in all xray fluorescence analyzers will contain hazardous materials.

We have noticed that owners of older portable XRF‘s tend to keep them around after they aren’t in use because they don’t take up as much room as a desktop or free standing x-ray unit.  However, the regulations and hazards are the same with portable or desktop analyzers – portable XRF’s have the added concern of theft too…and your company name is linked to the analyzer and its components.

XRay Fluorescence is Out of Service

Time to Dispose of an Out of Service XRF

Proper disposal of an ED-XRF spectrometer can be a very simple process.  Organizations like Eastern Applied Research can remove the analyzer and provide appropriate documentation to meet your reporting requirements.

If you find yourself in a position where you have an un-used XRF, then contact Eastern Applied to discuss your situation (will you be using it in the future, etc) and options to properly store or dispose of the XRF.

One important note: Eastern Applied Research works with x-ray tube based fluorescence analyzers, not isotope based.  We will, however, try and help direct you to organizations that will help in disposal of isotope based analyzers.