Continued consumer demand is putting increasing pressure on production, which in turn is putting pressure on the supply of coated or plated materials. Thus, it becomes necessary to produce components, parts, assemblies and finished products in higher volumes with less tolerance for quality defects to optimize yield.
In many cases, it is expected that 100% quality inspection will now always be carried out, especially in sectors such as automotive, aerospace and medical devices, where failures are not tolerated due to inherent safety concerns.
At the same time, labor costs are rising and employers are struggling to find enough skilled workers to staff their operations.
To ensure success under these conditions, quality test programs – including XRF coating thickness and composition analyzer – must be able to keep pace with production to ensure end product quality and detect defects before they become a problem.
The sooner good results are achieved, the sooner appropriate action can be taken. This is where the new FT230 Coating Analyzer comes in.
Image Credit: Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science
Five ways the FT230 can help you save money and improve program quality:
1. Automated Focus
A key step before initiating an XRF measurement is to ensure that the part is properly focused. This ensures that the geometry between the x-ray tube, part and detector is set correctly.
Many X-ray fluorescence analyzers use video focus or laser focus to perform this task, and these are well suited for good focus. In fact, as a standard configuration, the FT230 is equipped with a laser focusing element. The FT230 can also have two automated focus techniques that work differently: auto approach and auto focus.
The result of automatic approach is similar to laser focusing – the scan head is transferred to a fixed, predefined geometry. The difference is that the operator simply initiates the automatic approach and the instrument automatically moves to that geometry rather than having to manually activate the focus laser. The uto approach is up to 33% faster than manual laser focusing.
Autofocus works in a different way. Instead of the scan head being moved to a predefined position, the distance between the head and the part is measured by the instrument, which then updates the XRF calculations.
The head does not need to move, even if there are changes in height, for example, measuring steps or recessed areas. Autofocus is sometimes referred to as distance-independent metering and works up to 80mm (3.1″). Because there is no need for head movement, autofocus can be up to 62 % faster than aligning parts with a focus laser.
2. Wide-angle camera
When large or complex parts with many features need to be measured, finding the appropriate area from which to take the measurement can be a challenge.
The traditional built-in cameras in an XRF coatings analyzer were developed to magnify a small area of the part to make it easier to locate a measurement location. This means that the operator must manually hunt around the part or with a motorized stage to ensure the area is in sight.
It is possible to configure the FT230 using a second camera capable of viewing a much larger area of the room. The wide angle camera has the ability to capture an image of the full measurable area on the scene and allows the user to click on an area of that image to bring the desired feature into view of the conventional positioning camera.
Using the wide-angle camera to generate a multipoint program can be up to 20% faster than finding the intended measurement locations.
3. Find my partMT
Routine part scanning means that the same setup tasks are repeated by operators every time. They must establish the measurement location(s), select the correct calibration(s), select the most appropriate collimator size for the area, configure the prescribed measurement time, and determine the data processing requirements.
With the exclusive Find My PartMT machine vision function, each of these steps can be fully automated into one streamlined routine.
The operator simply loads a part into the chamber, launches Find My PartMT, and the software scans the part and searches the instrument’s library. When a suitable match is found, the operator only needs to confirm the prompt, and all measurement and report parameters are automatically loaded.
It’s the optimal tool to get results quickly and take operators away from coating thickness measurement to get the most value added to jobs as quickly as possible.
find my partMT can also save operators more time and minimize effort by loading measurement routines using a simple text search or by scanning a QR code or barcode. With each of these modes, configuration is simplified, eliminating questions about the role of the operator and preventing errors, leading to quick decision-making.
4. User-centric software
When working with the XRF machine, the operator spends almost all his time on the measurement screen. With the all-new FT Connect software on the FT230, operator needs are key to facilitating analysis.
The software platforms used today are generally based on design requirements, limitations, and user preferences from long ago. Although they incorporate a number of great features, training new operators can be difficult as the interfaces have evolved considerably since the development of these tools.
The software on your phone, computer, tablet, TV, car, and even your toaster has evolved significantly over the past twenty years. With FT Connect on the FT230, the software for any XRF coating and composition analyzer is up to modern demands.
With FT Connect, the user comes first. FT Connect reverses the user interface of previous software platforms. Rather than having a small view of the part surrounded by buttons, controls and settings, the FT Connect measurement screen focuses primarily on the two key tasks an operator needs to perform: setting up a measurement and acting on the results.
FT Connect incorporates the largest sample display on the market, covering 60% of the screen, and features extremely flexible lighting controls. The user has the ability to adjust dozens of LEDs as rings, corner segments or individually to ensure the best possible view.
Factory preset suggestions can help users who also have the ability to generate new custom lighting setups to aid in future measurements.
Results are communicated clearly alongside the camera view with effective tools to assess trends and statistics, generate reports or export results and track historical results. It is possible to expand each result map to show more details about previous measurements for quick interpretation.
Data processing capabilities are ready for Industry 4.0. Results can be exported in full JSON format or via spreadsheet for integration with SCADA, QMS, MES or ERP systems. Similarly, reports can be customized for internal or external clients.
5. Instrument maintenance and diagnostics
Production facilities are monitored to ensure the continuous operation of the operation; they don’t want to deal with unwanted downtime of production equipment or quality control instruments. One of the best tools to prevent unplanned downtime is XRF’s on-board machine diagnostics and instrument health check tools.
Regularly performing these checks – which typically take seconds to minutes – and tracing the results can provide a good indication to the owner and manufacturer of the overall condition of the instrument and its components.
It is comforting to know that the instrument is in perfect condition and equally useful to identify the warning signs as soon as something goes wrong.
The FT230 incorporates a number of features to facilitate this assessment. The instrument comes standard with a reference that is measured to perform a health check, which tracks the status of vital components such as the x-ray tube and detector.
There is also a daily check routine that can compare the results of calibrations over an extended period to see if the instrument is experiencing any drift that requires attention, whether in the form of recalibration or hardware maintenance.
On-board diagnostics run additional tests to collect additional information about the state of the instrument. All diagnostic data can be transmitted electronically to Hitachi engineers, including directly via ExTOPE Connect, Hitachi’s secure cloud-based data storage and management solution.
It’s the fastest way to get data to engineers, so they can examine the instrument and pinpoint the problem area before they go on site. This helps ensure the correct parts are available to the engineer and gets customers up and running as quickly as possible.
The job does not end once the FT230 is installed; Hitachi High-Tech will work with customers throughout the life of the instrument to ensure full support is available – whether it is additional training, technical assistance or routine maintenance, including preventive maintenance and certification or repairs.
Hitachi offices in the US, UK, Germany, India, China and Japan provide world-class technical support and application development capabilities. Hitachi High-Tech also has a complementary global team of factory-trained partners who are equally committed to customer satisfaction.
This information was obtained, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.
For more information on this source, please visit Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.