Materials Analysis Solves Manufacturing Mysteries

materials analysisWhen a manufactured electrical switch unexpectedly experienced a series of shorts, quality assurance personnel noticed several abnormal particles within the switch. Because these particles were the only abnormality apparent on the product, and the QA team could not readily define where they came from, the manufacturer decided to submit the particles for materials analysis.

This is a real-life case from a recent collaboration between Innovatech Labs and Materials Evaluation and Engineering, Inc (MEE). Close in proximity and practice, Innovatech Labs and MEE have a partnership utilizing their respective specialties of materials analysis and failure analysis to help the customer find a solution to this manufacturing issue.

A Winning Combination of Techniques

The team decided that using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR analysis) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), in tandem would allow them to fully identify the particles. The labs had to identify the material composition and the elemental constituents of the particles so that the client would know exactly what kind of contaminant(s) they were working with.

They first used FTIR analysis, a materials analysis method for analyzing microscopic materials with infrared light to determine their composition. With three distinct particles to analyze, the team compared each infrared spectra to a reference database. The comparison determined Particle A to be mainly inorganic, Particle B to be a mass of polypropylene fibers, and Particle C to be an ABS based polymer.

Particle B, a mass of polypropylene fibers with small amount of NaCl present on the surface.

Particle B, a mass of polypropylene fibers with small amount of NaCl present on the surface.

With the results of FTIR analysis in hand, the team analyzed each particle with SEM and its accompanying process, Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS). Together the methods took microscopic images of the particles, then identified the elemental constituents of the sample. Analysis found the inorganic material in Particle A consisted of mainly calcium, phosphate and oxygen, which likely meant it was the compound calcium phosphate. Particles B and C showed small particles of sodium chloride present on both, the polypropylene fibers, and ABS polymer.

Particle A, an inorganic material, likely Calcium Phosphate based on the EDS spectrum

Particle A, an inorganic material, likely Calcium Phosphate based on the EDS spectrum

 

EDS spectrum of Particle A

EDS spectrum of Particle A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting the Results to Use

The materials analysis team’s findings of calcium phosphate particles or sodium chloride present on the polypropylene and ABS could each have led to shorts exhibited by the switch. MEE and Innovatech Labs delivered the testing results to the client who then had the information they needed to find and eliminate the source of the contaminants.

The fast turnaround time of materials analysis will let your manufacturing team get ahead of any issues when they arise.

If you have encountered a manufacturing issue or have questions about materials analysis, contact Innovatech Labs for answers. We are experts at identifying and quantifying microscopic issues so you can solve your big problems.

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