Appliction Note: X-MET8000 Series for the rapid, at-line analysis of plating solutions

Background

The monitoring and control of the metallic content of electroplating solutions are critical to the coatings process. If the metals’ concentrations in the plating baths are too high or too low, the process is likely to deliver poor surface finishes such as blistering or uneven colouring, and have a detrimental effect on the coated parts’ properties. The requirement for a rapid, simple analysis (carried out by non-laboratory staff) on site makes field-portable energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) spectrometry the ideal analytical technique.

Reputation in your hands: when it pays to test in-house

When it pays to test in houseWhen UK firm GT Factors met with Oxford Instruments to test the Vulcan Laser Induced Breakdown (LIBS) analyser, they were impressed with its speed in accurately identifying a mislabelled sample, which could have had catastrophic consequences for the business. Now, with a Vulcan of their own, they can bypass expensive third party testers and avoid unreliable suppliers – all while assuring the quality and safety of their products.

As a manufacturer of ratchet straps used for securing freight, GT Factors are acutely aware of the health and safety and business implications of a product failure. They also know their reputation rests on consistent product standard and quality of component parts. There are growing instances where metals including steels are being mislabelled, or suppliers are selling one grade as another, which could lead to serious consequences. GT Factors component part testing was sometimes being carried out by costly third party companies and also painstakingly in-house.

A team from Oxford Instruments visited GT Factors to demo Vulcan, a handheld LIBS analyser. GT Factors Managing Director Patrick Tait provided a number of sample components that had been sent to the company by a potential overseas supplier. As one of the fastest analysers on the market, in one second Vulcan identified that the sample components were not marine grade 316 stainless steel as labelled, but grade 304.

These components could have made the end product – the load restraint – weaker and more susceptible to corrosion. The result could have been catastrophic – both for the customer and for Patrick’s business.

Impressed with the precision and responsiveness of the product, Patrick realised that Vulcan would eliminate inaccuracies in identifying component parts, removing health and safety risks for his business. Vulcan also made good financial sense. GT Factors would no longer have to send component parts to expensive third party companies to test because internal teams can easily use Vulcan themselves, with very little training.

The company purchased a Vulcan and have been testing their component parts themselves ever since. Vulcan helps GT Factors to hold suppliers to account when they are mis-sold a product and allows them to identify and buy from only the best component companies. Patrick has now ended the relationship with the prospective supplier who sent the incorrect sample components, and others who have tried to mis-sell to them.

GT Factors is now so confident in the performance of its products that it stamps them with ‘316 SS’. This shows that the company takes full responsibility for and is proud of, the products it manufactures and sells.

“Vulcan has already saved us money which is fantastic,” says Patrick. “It’s light and easy to use and it has a simple user interface that reduces user error. It delivers accurate and consistent results, and gives us peace of mind and the confidence to grow our business, using only the best component suppliers and products.”