Pressure on production continues to increase as consumer demand outpaces supply for coated or plated materials. There’s a need to produce higher volumes of components, parts, assemblies, and finished goods with less tolerance for quality defects to increase yield.
In many cases, 100% quality inspection is now expected, especially in industries like medical devices, automotive and aerospace where failures aren’t tolerated due to inherent safety concerns. At the same time, labor costs are rising, and employers are struggling to find enough qualified workers to consistently staff their operations.
To succeed under these conditions, you need your quality test program – including your XRF coating thickness and composition analyzer – to keep pace with production so you can ensure product quality and catch potential deficiencies before they become a problem.
The sooner you get results, the quicker you can act. This is where the new FT230 coatings analyzer can help.
Here’s 5 ways the FT230 can save you money and improve your quality program:
A critical step before starting an XRF measurement is ensuring the part is properly focused. Meaning the geometry between the X-ray tube, part and detector is established. Some X-ray fluorescence analyzers use video focus or a laser focus to perform this task and those are well-suited for focusing. In fact, the FT230 has a laser focus as a standard configuration. The FT230 can also have two automated focusing techniques that work in different ways: auto approach and auto focus.
The outcome of auto approach is similar to the laser focus – the analysis head is moved to a fixed, pre-set geometry. The difference is, instead of the operator activating the focus laser and then clicking a few times to reach the proper position, the operator simply initiates auto approach, and the instrument automatically moves to that geometry. Auto approach can be 33% faster than manually using a focus laser.
Auto focus works differently. Instead of the analysis head moving to a pre-set position, the instrument measures the distance from the head to the part and updates the XRF calculations. The head doesn’t need to move, even if the height of the part changes, e.g. measuring steps or recessed areas. Auto focus is sometimes called distance independent measurement and works at a range of up to 80 mm (3.1”). Because the head doesn’t need to move, using auto focus can be up to 62% faster than aligning parts using a focus laser.
When measuring large parts or complex parts with many features, finding the right area to take a measurement can be a challenge. The standard camera in an XRF coatings analyzer is designed to magnify a small area of the part to make it easy to pinpoint a measurement location. This frequently means that the operator needs to hunt around the part either manually or with a motorized stage to get that area into view.
The FT230 can be configured with a second camera that sees a much larger area of the chamber. The wide-view camera captures an image of the entire measurable area on the stage and allows the user to click on an area of that image to bring the desired feature into view of the standard positioning camera. Using the wide-view camera to create a multi-point program can be 20% faster than hunting for the intended measurement locations.
Analyzing routine parts means the operators repeat the same setup tasks every time. They need to find the measurement location(s), select the appropriate calibration(s), choose the collimator size that best fits the area, set the prescribed measurement time and define the data handling requirements.
With our exclusive Find My PartTM machine vision feature, all these steps can be fully automated into a simple routine. The operator loads a part into the chamber, starts Find My PartTM, the software looks at the part and searches for it in the instrument’s library. When a good match is found, the operator simply confirms the prompt, and all the measurement and reporting parameters are loaded. This is the ultimate tool in getting your results fast and your operators off measuring coating thickness to value-add tasks as quickly as possible.
In addition to using machine vision, Find My PartTM can save your operators time and effort by loading measurement routines by simple text search or by scanning a QR code or barcode. With any of these modes you simplify setup, remove operator questions, and avoid mistakes, all of which leads to quicker decisions.
When using their XRF machine, operators spend nearly all their time in the measurement screen. With the all-new FT Connect software on the FT230, we’ve put the operator first to make analysis easier.
The software platforms in use today are generally based on design requirements, limitations, and user preferences from decades ago. While they include many valuable features, it can be difficult to train new operators since interfaces have changed a lot since these tools were first developed. The software on your phone, tablet, computer, TV, car and even your toaster oven have adapted in the last twenty years. With FT Connect on the FT230, software for your XRF coatings and composition analyzer can once again hold its head up high.
With FT Connect, the user comes first. FT Connect completely inverts the user’s interface from previous software platforms. Instead of having a small view of the part surrounded by buttons, controls, and settings, the FT Connect measure screen focuses on the two most important things an operator needs to do: set up a measurement and act on the results.
FT Connect features the largest sample view display on the market, occupying 60% of the screen, and has incredibly flexible lighting controls. The user can adjust dozens of LEDs as rings, wedge segments of individually to ensure the best view possible. You can use the factory pre-set suggestions or create new customized lighting setups to simplify future measurements.
Results are displayed clearly next to the camera view with tools for evaluating trends and statistics, creating reports, or exporting results and looking at historical results. Each result card can be expanded to view additional details about previous measurements for quick interpretation.
The data handling capabilities are ready for Industry 4.0. Results can be exported in spreadsheet or comprehensive JSON format for integration with SCADA, QMS, MES or ERP systems. Customized reports can similarly be created for internal or external customers.
Production facilities strive for continued operation and don’t want to face unexpected downtime from production equipment or quality control instruments. One of the best tools to avoid unexpected downtime is the XRF machine’s on-board diagnostics and instrument health check tools.
Running these checks routinely – generally taking a few seconds to a few minutes – and plotting the results can provide the owner and the manufacturer an indication about the overall health of the instrument and its components. It’s reassuring to know that the instrument is in good shape, and equally valuable to recognize early the warning signs that something may be going wrong.
The FT230 has several features to help with this evaluation. The instrument comes with a reference standard that is measured to perform a health check, which looks at the status of key components like the X-ray tube and detector. There’s also a daily check routine that compares the results from calibrations over a period to see if the instrument is experiencing any drift that requires attention, either in the form of recalibration or hardware maintenance.
The on-board diagnostics runs additional tests to collect more comprehensive information about the state of the instrument. This diagnostics data can be shared with our engineers electronically, including directly via ExTOPE Connect, our secure, cloud-based data management and storage solution. This is the fastest way to get the data to our engineers so they can review your instrument and work to pinpoint the exact problem area before going on-site. This will help to ensure that the right parts are available to the engineer and get you running as quickly as possible.
We know our job doesn’t end once the FT230 has been installed. We’ll work with you throughout the lifetime of the instrument to make sure you’ve fully supported – whether you need additional training, technical support, routine maintenance including preventive maintenance and certification or repairs. Our offices in the US, UK, Germany, India, China and Japan provide top-level technical support and applications development capabilities. Complementing our offices is our global team of factory-trained partners, who are equally committed to your satisfaction.
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