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Sample manipulation system helps optimize analysis, quality control.

Analyzing metals is an essential part of the metalcasting process to ensure optimum performance. Because of that, modern metalcasting facilities require the most reliable metal analyzers to increase productivity and deliver fast, accurate results. Using optical emission spectrometry allows greater stability, better precision, low detection limits and unequalled accuracy.

Automating sample preparation and analysis can significantly improve quality control in the metalcasting industry. The automated version of optical emission spectrometers (OES) using a sample manipulation system (SMS), such as the ARL SMS-2000 from Thermo Electron Corp., Waltham, Mass., enables quicker analysis, better productivity and increased capability. Automation reduces chemical analysis variation and eliminates the possibility of measurement errors since all samples are prepared and measured under Mentical reproducible conditions. This means the system delivers more precise results and is completely versatile.

SMS also allows full integration with laboratory processes, linking the analytical facility to sampling locations via air tube systems for the convenient transport of samples. Each component, including the OES, SMS robotics system and preparation machine, works simultaneously and independently from the other. Tasks are performed in parallel rather than sequentially, providing for heavy sample workloads and short response times of 2 min. or less depending on the application.

Units are generally preconfigured and calibrated by employing a proven methodology like CARL (Calibration ARL), thereby ensuring accurate metal analysis.

The quality of the automated system's output is constantly monitored. Control samples are regularly run to ensure the system permanently delivers quality results, which are evaluated using statistical process control techniques to determine whether corrective action is necessary. Standardization can be routinely triggered without any need for manual control or intervention. Most importantly, a fully auditable and traceable record of the performance is automatically generated for certification purposes. This, in turn, contributes to minimizing risk and poor quality thereby considerably reducing the potential costs involved with misleading analyses. If required, qualified users can gain direct online access to examine results, register and introduce manual samples, initiate instrument monitoring and verification procedures, evaluate control charts and track samples. This also can be carried out remotely and does not interfere with sample processing activities.

Automated optical emission spectrometers can be installed on the production floor, in protected rooms or in stage laboratories for unattended onsite analysis. When these facilities are not available, in-situ analysis can be set up to bring the laboratory to the samples. Thermo Electron's ARL QuantoShelter is in effect a "lab in the box." It is fully transportable and in an air-conditioned reinforced cabin, specially designed to house the fully automated spectrometer--comprising the ARL 3460 or ARL 4460 metals analyzer and the ARL SMS-2000 robotics system with sample preparation.

These container systems enable online, in-situ automatic metalcasting facility production control and operate similar to process sensors. This has led to a substantial decrease in analyses times and has further satisfied stringent product specifications while contributing to marked productivity gains. Sample processing--including preparation, analysis, result distribution, sample labeling and filing--is fully automated and performed on the production floor. Once the sample has been introduced to a feed box fitted to the outside wall of the shelter, it does not require any further involvement from an operator.

Routine production control in the metalcasting industry, where high samples volumes have to be processed and where the same tests are continuously repeated and almost never change, is an ideal application field for automation and robotics. The full automation of sample preparation and analysis is becoming a necessary step to advance quality-control capabilities. It contributes to the rationalization of the production line. This investment in technology further helps to increase production efficiency and quality.

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Title Annotation:New Product
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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