Verifying the quality of a new vendor’s product. Uncovering the source of a haze or stain on your manufactured product. Validating the passivation of a newly developed medical device. From research and development to post-production troubleshooting, working with a trusted analytical testing lab is an important part of the quality assurance equation.
For decades, we’ve had the pleasure of providing materials analysis to clients across a range of industries. And the most successful partnerships that we’ve cultivated share one common characteristic: transparent communication.
Whether it’s a conscious decision that’s made in an attempt to limit testing bias or a simple oversight as you rush to submit your sample, it’s common for researchers, developers, and product managers to omit important background information that can enhance the analysis process.
As they say, less isn’t always more. Collaboration and communication is key for saving time, money, and getting the results you’re looking for. To get the most from your partnership with an analytical testing lab like Innovatech Labs and ensure the most accurate, relevant results, here’s why transparent communication of details is key to success, as well as some guidance on what information you should strive to always provide.
Why Details Matter to Your Analytical Testing Lab
Simply put, no two samples are the same. Each sample has a unique history that can have a significant impact on our testing strategy. While we all wish the Star Trek “tricorder” (which gave detailed information about a material’s characteristics at the push of a button) was reality rather than fantasy, our analysts use their expertise and the information you provide to make educated decisions on which analytical techniques to use.
For example, if a sample has been exposed to extreme heat or chemicals that could cause degradation, the data obtained will likely be different from what we would traditionally see from that material. As a result, it may require a different type of testing method.
As another example, residual solvents or salts from a solution on a sample, or even dirt and grime from handling, can impact the results of an analysis. As a result, we need to know whether a sample should be cleaned and dried prior to analysis.
Finally, time is always of the essence. You want fast results and we want to provide them to you. Without context and details, proper analysis will likely be delayed, which can impact your production timeline and bottom line.
Understanding the importance of providing detailed information is step one. Next, let’s uncover what information you need to give.
Critical Information to Give Your Analytical Testing Lab
The more information you supply your analyst, the more detailed of a picture we’re able to paint, which results in faster, more accurate results. When you submit a sample, make an effort to include the following:
1. The Correct Sample Identifications
We strongly recommend that you clearly mark samples with meaningful identifiers. (i.e. good, failed, or questionable, rather than Sample A, Sample B, or Sample C) This will provide more context to all parties reviewing the data later. We can certainly spend time changing sample names on already-collected spectra, but having the samples labeled in a clear and meaningful way from the beginning will save your company money and prevent confusion for other team members.
2. Your Objective
For our analysts to provide you with the most meaningful results and next steps, we need to know what you’re trying to achieve:
- Are you simply looking to identify a base polymer? Or are looking for a full materials characterization including a base polymer, additives, fillers, and so on?
- Are you looking for the presence of specific known or unknown contaminants?
- Are you looking for a comparison of two materials? Or are you looking for a comparison and characterization of each?
Sharing your goal ensures we perform the correct analyses to get you the most relevant answers to your analytical questions.
In addition, share the amount of sample you have available and whether you have specific acceptance criteria for your submission. This will help ensure the sample size used in the analysis will provide a minimum detection limit well below the acceptance criteria.
3. A Thorough Description of Your Sample
As we mentioned earlier, every sample is unique. And by nature, materials analysis is performed to uncover compounds and characteristics that can’t be detected without specialized equipment. The more detail we have, the better we’re equipped to choose the right analysis technique.
If you can, share any or all of the following insight and materials:
- Sample construction and handling details. Depending on the makeup of your sample, it may be prudent for you to provide special instructions on which elements to test or how to handle the sample. For example, an adhesive may have multiple layers that need to testing and analysis. So, some of the details we’d love to hear from you include: Is the adhesive single- or double-sided? If it’s double-sided, are both sides areas of interest? What about liner(s)? Are the release and backside of liners of interest? Should a liner be removed prior to outgassing or IC analysis? Providing this information at the start can mitigate testing delays, avoid retesting, and ensure the sample isn’t exhausted.
- Where the sample was found. This will help us understand the point in the development or manufacturing process the issue occurred.
- When and if the sample was exposed to extreme environments or contaminants. As mentioned earlier, this can help us set expectations and choose the proper technique.
- Whether you suspect a specific contaminant or defect. This will not bias the test. Rather, it will enhance it. Oftentimes, trace amounts of contaminants or particles can be present, and this information may help validate specific findings.
- The sample area or areas in question. If there is a specific defect or contaminated area of interest, attempt to mark the spot or provide a detailed description of its location. In the past, we’ve even had pictures taken from a smartphone submitted along with a sample. Note: In the case of contamination, contamination can move around during shipping, so this detailed description will allow our analysts to examine surrounding areas or packaging to find the material of interest.
More is Always More
Fast, accurate, and effective testing is critical for ensuring the quality of your products and the integrity of the business you work for. By providing us with insight into the origins of your sample, as well as your objectives, suspicions, and areas of concern, our team can move forward and deliver you with results that bring insight and help define your next steps.
Wondering about our turnaround time on materials analysis? Spoiler alert: It’s fast. Get a detailed breakdown of standard and expedited turnaround times for our analytical services.
Or are you ready to submit a sample? Looking for additional information? Contact us today.