If 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.
Expected 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.