Ken Smith, Global Business Development Manager, Alloy & Specialty Markets Olympus Innov-X firstname.lastname@example.org Alloy compositions are specifically designed for their end-use application and performance requirements. An alloy’s composition has a direct impact on its corrosion resistance, mechanical characteristics and creep resistance. Unfortunately, alloy materials can be easily misplaced or lost during handling. Using incorrect or out-of-spec alloys can cause critical components to fail, resulting in lost production downtime, repair and replacement costs, lost or contaminated products, environmental and PR disasters, and possible injury or death. Many factors can lead to material mix-ups. Alloys can be: .. produced outside of its chemical specifications; .. incorrectly marked by the manufacturer; .. misplaced in inventory, .. mismatched to a material specification sheet; or .. incorrectly selected during installation. Because different alloy compositions can resemble one another, visual inspection should not be relied on for identification, as it could lead to mistakes. Handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (HHXRF) analyzers are fast and ruggedized tools which detect alloy chemistry and grade. They are particularly suited for alloy materials due to the homogeneity of these materials and the presence of highly responsive elements. (Elements heavier than Sodium may be quantified with HHXRF; direct measurement of Carbon, Beryllium, Boron, or Lithium is not possible.) While not 100% compliant with metallurgical certification, using HHXRF is a broadly accepted and standard procedure for QA/QC and PMI (Positive Material Identification) programs. XRF is completely non-destructive. And as the technology continues to improve, its applications are also expanding. Alloy grades that are ~99% identical, such as SS-303/ SS-304/SS-321/SS-347, and 9 Chrome/9 Chrome + V, are easily sorted by elemental differences as small as 0. 05%. The current generation of HHXRF analyzers is also being utilized to screen for residual content in low-alloy steels and light alloys, such as aluminum and magnesium alloys. These analyzers are also commonly used in aerospace and marine industries to screen titanium, copper, and even refractory containing alloys. HHXRF cannot completely replace lab certification testing at this time. However, unlike lab analyses, which must be paid for on a test-by-test basis, HHXRF represents an investment requiring only an initial capital cost. HHXRF tests only take a few seconds to complete and are completely non-destructive. The speed of HHXRF makes redundant testing a cost-effective and highly adaptable verification tool: .. test every sample during receiving to verify incoming materials; and .. test again during installation to detect any post-receipt material-handling errors. A single lab test at receiving won’t detect downstream errors in fabrication or installation. The goal of redundant HHXRF material testing is not only to verify that the material is correct and to spec, but also to correct any errant processes that could cause mix-ups. Implementing a quality control program with HHXRF is a straightforward process involving: .. Basic Training and SOPs for inspectors; .. Certified Reference Samples to confirm analyzer (and operator) performance; and .. Retraining and review of the XRF QC protocol, as required. ROI from a HHXRF Alloy QC program has many sources. Testing at receiving and installation during the final quality check reduce potential costs resulting from lost labor, catastrophic failures, material scrapping, and customer dissatisfaction. Many companies have also found that public relations and marketing practices benefit from implementing and advertising comprehensive and progressive HHXRF QA/QC programs. That’s because supplier reliability is critical to long-term success in building partnerships with customers. As a rule, every organization wants to avoid material mix-ups, which can impact process uptime and customer satisfaction. As a preventive measure, redundant HHXRF testing is a practical and cost-effective way to prevent material mix-ups at every stage of material handling.
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