Q&A with sales executive Matt Barns on everything scrap metal related

At Hitachi we are lucky enough to offer range of different analyzers for scrap metal identification and recycling. We asked Matt Barns, our Sales Executive in the UK, to answers some of questions our customers frequently ask us about handheld XRF (X-ray fluorescence), handheld LIBS (laser induced breakdown spectroscopy) and spark OES (optical emission spectroscopy) analyzers in to help you decide which one of our analyzers is best suited for your needs.

If you’d prefer to watch a video, watch it below where Matt will answer most of the questions or if you prefer to read, skip the video and you’ll find answers the answers to the questions we asked Matt.


Hitachi: If a scrapyard wants to move to testing every piece of scrap metal they have, which is the fastest analyzer?

Matt: If you’re wanting to move to complete alloy testing, testing every component coming into the yard, the handheld LIBS analyzer, like Vulcan, is going to be far better for you.

The Vulcan has a one second analysis time and you can hold samples in the palm of your hand. It even takes one second for aluminums, which might take 20 to 30 seconds with an XRF analyzer. With a handheld metal analyzer like Vulcan, you’re going to get through all of those materials far faster, so many more samples in a day which helps with your bottom line.

Hitachi: Which analyzer is easier to use?   

Matt: Both our handheld analyzers are pretty much point and click operation but I would say say because the XRF machine uses X-rays where as the Vulcan doesn’t, the Vulcan is easier to use because you can hold samples in the palm of your hand. If you’ve got small fiddly little things to measure, it’s definitely easier with a LIBS analyzer.

Hitachi: Is it true that LIBS analyzers aren’t as accurate as XRF?

Matt: Yes, technically this is true. With an XRF analyzer you’ve got a wider measurement window and a longer measurement time so this will give you a little bit more sensitivity than you could get with a LIBS analyzer.

However, the difference in sensitivity isn’t really enough to shift a grade from one to another. Some of our customers are saying  that a LIBS analyzer is more accurate because you can do more measurements in the same amount of time which means that for bulk stock on the whole, you’re getting improved grade ID matching than you would with an XRF analyzer.

If you’re really concerned about sensitivity and precision, we also have both mobile and stationary spark OES analyzers. Mobile OES analyzer will also enable you to measure your lighter elements like your carbon, sulfur and phosporous and will give you chemistry that’s that little bit closer to certified standard. Whilst our stationary OES range will take analysis performance to the next level. The FOUNDRY-MASTER Smart is reliable entry level spectrometer for precise detection of all relevant elements in iron  whilst the OE750 high performance benchtop optical emission spectrometer goes beyond grade information to help you verify tramp and trace element content.

Hitachi: Which analyzer are they most likely to break?

Matt: Both of our Hitachi handheld spectrometers are IP54 rated for splash water and dust resistance so you can use them in the rain. They’re both drop tested to military standards (MIL-STD-810G), and are IP54 compliant.

Our reliability videos show just how robust the instruments are:


So neither one of them are particularly easy to break as they’ve been designed to work in rough environments. If you were going to nitpick, the X-MET8000 handheld XRF analyzer has a thin plastic window on the front which you could tear on a piece of swarf or a sharp edge on a piece of metal which you don’t have with a LIBS analyzer. But we do offer a different windows for the X-MET especially if you’re measuring on a scrapyard and they’re really easy to change by yourself.

Hitachi: Which analyzer is better for measuring swarf?

Matt: We hear a lot that you can’t measure swarf with LIBS. If you are trying to measure the elemental composition for bulk stock of swarf, it’s easier to do it with an XRF machine as it’s got a wider measurement window and it penetrates a little bit deaper into sample but you do need to be careful as the risk of measuring swarf in this way is that you can split the thin window on the front of the XRF analyzer.

In terms of measuring though, if you’ve got one load of swarf and it’s all the same material, I actually find it easier just pick up a single piece and hold it to the nose of the analyser. So if it’s something you do a lot, then XRF might be something you prefer but it’s perfectly possible with a LIBS analyzer.

Hitachi: Can the analyzer test scrap jewelry?

Matt: Our Vulcan LIBS analyzer only has one calibration, the alloy calibration, so if you need any additional calibrations such as precious metal, the best analyzer for you would be our X-MET8000 handheld XRF analyzer. For precious metals, we even have a travel stand which enables you to measure jewelry on the go.

Hitachi: Is there a way of measuring car catalysts powders?

Matt: Our X-MET8000 has a variety of different applications, including precious metal and car catalyst calibration that will detect your rhodium, platinum and palladium in your car catalyst powders. You can also use the travel stand set-up and prepare your catalyst powder in a small little sample cup.

Hitachi: Are Hitachi metal analyzers connected?

Matt: Yes they are. We’re very aware that scrapyards are starting to look at moving towards a digitalized scrapyard of the future and that’s why our instruments come with connectivity enabled so you’re able to store your measurement data remotely but equally access it in real-time from anywhere to enable datasharing. For our handheld instruments, you can also use your mobile phone to quickly pass images and data to prospective buyers thanks to ExTOPE Connect.

Hitachi: Which handheld analyzer is the cheapest?   

Matt: Tthe important question. Both our handheld analyzers are very comparably priced. We have a model that doesn’t measure light elements and a model that does measure light elements for each, and they’re very closely matched to one another. We don’t want price to be the thing that makes you decide on one analyzer or another, what we want to do is to choose the best analyzer for your application so that you’re getting the one that best suits your needs.

Hitachi: So, which analyzer is the best?

Matt: It’s difficult for me to answers because it’s entirely determined by what you’re doing with the analyzer. If this is your first analyzer and you’re looking for an all arounder to be able to analyzer car catalyst, precious metals and you want something for doing your alloys, the X-MET8000 handheld analyzer would give you that flexibility.

If you’re wanting a high throughput, you’re getting a lot of materials going through your yard, I think for 95% of materials the LIBS analyzer will do what you need to do and it will do it faster and easier so should pay for itself more quickly.

If you really want to dig into the chemistry, get the ultimate sensitivity and also detect elements like carbon, sulfur and phosphorous so you can differentiate between your 316 and your 316L then a mobile or a stationary spark OES analyzer would be the best suited instrument for you.

We hope this clears up some of your questions. If you have any other questions or you’d like to see any of these analyzers on your own yard, please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Find out more Book a demo


You might also be interested:

Share this blog

Date: 28 June 2022

Author: Laura Phimister, Senior Global Marketing Communications Manager

Share this blog


Case Study: Enhancing steel manufacturing with the OE750

Read More
Rapid measurement of Platinum (Pt) and Iridium (Ir) loading in Proton Exchange Membranes (PEM)

Rapid measurement of Platinum (Pt) and Iridium (Ir) loading in Proton Exchange Membranes (PEM)

Read More

When galactic might met galactic blight: PMI testing on Vader's suit

Read More