Expert View: The role of material analyzers in Quality 4.0

Right now, the manufacturing world is adopting what is widely termed to be the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or, to give it its shorter title, Industry 4.0. Since its introduction some decades back, Industry 4.0 gains more and more importance in this globalized world. Like every major upgrade in manufacturing that has occurred since the very first industrial revolution in 1784, Industry 4.0 takes the best of what went before and improves it using the technology of our time.

While talking about Industry 4.0, a lot of people connect this fourth industrial revolution with digitalization, big data, and smart manufacturing, but not as much with PMI (positive material identification) testing. However, in each industrial age we don’t lose the key components of the previous revolution, but rather we use new ideas and technology and theory to boost the productivity in our existing manufacturing process. The need for quality control gains even more importance with the introduction of a smart factory and smart production.

When a process is totally automated and integrated into the internet of things (IoT), we’re only able to ensure that the right product is manufactured through quality control by showing the elemental composition of incoming and outgoing materials using the most modern and latest spectrometer technology.

Expert View: The role of material analyzers in Quality 4.0


What is Quality 4.0?

The concept of Industry 4.0 was first proposed around 2007 in Germany, building on the automation, computer-driven systems and electronics that were the keystones of Industry 3.0. Industry 4.0 is not a new theory, but the next logical innovation in manufacturing and production. 

The aim of Industry 4.0 is to bring intelligence, connectivity, data driving, and automation to individual manufacturing processes with the goal of having a global competitive smart factory. While PMI and Quality Control, QC for short, were already introduced in Industry 3.0, the core concept of Quality 4.0 is to align the practice of quality management with the emerging capabilities of Industry 4.0 to help drive organizations toward operational excellence.

A quality system built to Industry 4.0 requirements will measure and send data instantly across its network to enable minor changes to be made in real time within the same production cycle.

The bottom line is that Quality 4.0 is an integral part of Industry 4.0 by constructing a quality control process that allows for effortless data driven connectivity.  It demands that the technology matches the industry need for instantaneous changes, based on real time data and a proactive approach to manufacturing. This involves the entire supply chain process from incoming material inspection to outgoing material inspection. 


What about elemental analysis?

Elemental analysis in manufacturing and fabrication is important.  Quite often, when a smart factory and smart production is implemented, very little or no consideration is given to PMI and QA/QC of products and this can cause unexpected consequences – if a “non-tested” product fails in its service.

However, the issues that are avoided by elemental analysis techniques are just as relevant as ever in a smart factory:

  • Identification of the wrong alloy/material delivered by the supplier
  • Ensuring the expected chemical composition of material
  • Avoiding supply of the wrong material to the end user
  • Identification of material mix-ups in the warehouse
  • Ensuring the product has the right elemental composition and desired quality


So when a manufacturing process is completely automated, with little to no human intervention, the only way to ensure the right product emerges at the end is by checking the elemental composition of incoming and outgoing materials. Ideally at every step of the process where the composition is likely to change. The analytical equipment chosen to integrate with these steps must be in-situ (i.e. not off-site) and be able to give precise elemental information immediately at each stage. This information must then be transmitted across the network for immediate review and real-time process feedback.


Choosing the right analyzer for each stage of the process

In a metals processing , foundry, fabrication or manufacturing plant the most reliable way to integrate analysis across the process is to choose the right technique for the right job. As there is not one ‘right’ technique for the ’right’ job, often companies look for complementary technologies.

For example, non-destructive testing of finished components will need to use XRF technology as that’s the only one that leaves the surface completely residue free. Testing to verify that incoming material matches the expected grade can be completed by LIBS or Spark-OES technology, as it has been defined in the ASTM 1476. However, for complete metals elemental analysis, including carbon, phosphorous, sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen detection, companies must use spark OES.

Hitachi metal analyzers are Quality 4.0 ready

Our range of XRF, LIBS and spark OES analyzers work together to ensure right material, right place from goods-in to goods-out and every step in-between.

And real-time connectivity of these instruments is delivered through our ExTOPE Connect data management solution that connects all enabled devices to a centralized point. The devices don’t even have to be in the same facility, or even the same country. ExTOPE Connect works across the globe, giving you the level of connectivity, you need to make Quality 4.0 a reality in your organization.


Want to find out more?

Get in touch with one of our experts to arrange your demo or quote.

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About the author

Frank Theuws is General Manager for Global OES Distribution of Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science. With over 30 years of global experience in Optical Emission Spectroscopy, Frank has a strong understanding of customer needs and future analytical requirements. He has also previously worked in the applications and method development teams and has astute knowledge of the technology in this field of metal and non-metal industry.

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Date: 27 April 2021

Author: Frank Theuws, General Manager Global OES Distribution

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