Mark Lessard, Market Development Manager, portable analytical instruments Thermo Fisher Scientific, talks to AZoM.com about the Thermo ScientificTM NitonTM XL5 alloy analyzer and what sets it apart from others available on the market.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about handheld XRF in a variety of industries. Why is this technology becoming so important in today’s global economy?
Today there are many new applications for handheld x-ray fluorescence (XRF) technologies. We see significant growth potential for mission-critical applications.
For example, using the wrong alloy in a petrochemical facility can have catastrophic results, including explosions resulting in loss of property or injuries to workers. The consequences may be much more severe if materials are confused in an oil refinery or nuclear power plant or aerospace component manufacturing facility. It’s incumbent upon manufacturers that source parts and equipment to these industries to adhere to strict QA/QC regulatory requirements to assure performance and safety.
For more than 100 years, the automotive industry relied on steel, but these days, the industry is using aluminum, magnesium, and titanium. Verifying that the right alloy arrives at the receiving dock is an ideal use for an XRF analyzer, as is keeping the incoming raw materials and the scrap from production separated every time they’re handled. It’s clear that these industries need XRF analyzers now more than ever.
What sets the new Thermo ScientificTM NitonTM XL5 analyzer apart from others available on the market?
First, the Niton XL5 is a departure in size compared to previous models. It’s lighter and smaller than any other XRF alloy analyzer on the market today. A smaller analyzer is a big benefit because the user can get it into tighter, hard-to-reach areas. Weighing only 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg), it also reduces fatigue – this is especially important for operators that carry an analyzer around with them for the majority of the day.
A powerful 5W x-ray tube and optimized geometry between the x-ray detector and the sample improves limits of detection and shortens measurement times – especially for light elements such as aluminum, magnesium, silicon, phosphorous, and sulfur. The Niton XL5 has about three times better the level of detection than previous units and provides elemental results that, up until five years ago or so, were only available in laboratory-grade analyzers. The new analyzer also comes with a hot-swappable battery and travel charger so that it’s always ready when you are.
Also included are micro and macro cameras. The micro view assists in pinpointing a specific analysis location. For example, the micro view could show that the unit analyzed a weld bead but not the surrounding material. The macro view is helpful in that it provides an image of the entire unit or assembly. Both can help with better record keeping procedures.
The metal industry has seen significant benefits from using this technology over recent years. How can the Niton XL5 help metal fabricators perform precise, non-destructive analysis to ensure quality?
Precision in quality control testing of metal chemistry is very important in the metal fabrication market. This is one of the distinct advantages that can be attributed to the use of portable XRF technology. Without the ability to accurately and reliably test samples on the spot, in a non-destructive manner, manufacturers would require those samples to be sent to outside labs, and results of those tests often take days. This impacts productivity and incurs high costs that can be avoided with a handheld analyzer capable of returning lab-quality results in real time.
Sulfidic corrosion is a big problem for many oil and gas companies and can lead to expensive downtime. How can the Niton XL5 analyzer help reduce and solve this problem?
Sulfidic corrosion of piping and equipment within the refining industry is a significant cause of leaks and issues that can lead to early replacements, unplanned outages, and incidents potentially resulting in loss of property and injury to workers. Carbon steels with low-silicon (<0.10%) content can corrode at an accelerated rate when exposed to hydrogen-free sulfidation corrosion conditions. To help prevent these incidents from occurring, silicon analysis of such piping and surrounding equipment with portable XRF is an ideal solution. The Thermo Scientific™ Niton™ XL5 analyzer allows for fast, accurate, and precise analysis of silicon and other elements in the field to help prevent these incidents from occurring.
Given appropriate sample preparation, the Niton XL5 is able to reliably detect Si levels in steel at less than 0.05%, and extended measurement time can be used to achieve even better results than that.
How easy is it for the user to reach tight spots and corner welds?
The compact size of the Niton XL5 analyzer allows operators to reach difficult-to-reach areas, tight welds, corners and joints to get critical alloy measurements and maximum test coverage. A smaller analyzer is a big benefit because the user can get into these tighter, hard-to-reach areas, where they couldn’t before. It's much easier and less expensive if they can use it while processes are running. Otherwise, they have to shut down a system or a subsystem and partially dismantle it to remove the components that were in the way to conduct testing.
What user friendly features have been incorporated into the design for use in these challenging environments?
In addition to the new, sleeker industrial design and smaller, lighter weight, more intuitive, simplified software allows users to build custom profiles based on a particular set of conditions. For example, someone in a quality control department would focus on specific details that are different than those of someone in a managerial position. This creates a significantly improved and more tailored user experience. A tilting, color touchscreen that enables viewing from multiple angles features swiping functionality, and may be used in the same way that you use your smart phone.
Are there any recent case studies which demonstrate the Niton XL5 analyzer’s flexibility and performance capabilities discussed above?
I can share a customer testimonial video from Acuren Inspection Services, Houston, Texas, to hear, in users’ own words, why they choose and prefer Thermo Scientific™ handheld analyzers.
In addition to that, there are several application notes that we have written and based on studies we conducted using Niton XL5. Each features data and analysis that support our position that the Thermo Scientific™ NIton™ XL5 analyzer is a powerful solution for our customers. Among those, Analysis of silicon in steel using the Thermo Scientific Niton XL5 analyzer to prevent sulfidic corrosion failures and Use of Thermo Scientific Niton XL5 in power plant FAC inspection protocol.
How does this method compare to previous technology or methods used by industry?
The Thermo Scientific Niton XL5, is much more capable than its predecessors. The unit has about three times better the level of detection than previous units. The latest unit can detect the presence of some elements down to single-digit parts per million. As recently as five years ago, this level of detection (LOD) was available only with laboratory-grade analyzers, not handheld units. Putting this power in the palm of your hand measurably increases productivity at a work site. It’s now possible to obtain real-time data that was only previously available from an off-site laboratory. This is not only more costly, but it also shuts down operations or parts of operations in order to wait for lab results. With the Niton XL5, this is no longer necessary.
How do you plan on developing the XL5 further?
We introduced the Niton XL5 analyzer with a general metals analysis mode, which is suitable for most applications and we are prioritizing additional modes based on customer feedback. We also developed the analyzer with a future-proof design that is flexible to meet our customers’ connectivity needs.
Where can our readers learn more?
Anyone interested in learning more about Thermo Scientific Niton XL5 analyzer can visit www.thermofisher.com/XL5. For more information about XRF technology and our extensive portfolio, visit www.thermofisher.com/portableid.
To contact us directly with specific inquiries or to request a meeting with a sales representative, call 1-800-875-1578 or email us at [email protected].
About Mark Lessard
Mark Lessard is market development manager for the portable analytical instruments within Thermo Fisher Scientific.
He has been with the company since 2007 and has 29 years’ experience in all aspects of x-ray fluorescence technology.
He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern University, Boston, MA, and is an active member and contributor to a number of professional organizations including ASME, API, ASTM, ASNT, and NACE.
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