Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, or FTIR Spectroscopy, is considered the gold standard in quality control and assurance in manufacturing today.
This form of material testing analysis is powerful and accurate enough to not only identify individual components within a manufactured product, but also to determine how and where those components were introduced to the sample.
This information allows manufacturers to manage the quality control of their products and identify problems in the manufacturing process.
Here’s everything manufacturers need to know about FTIR Spectroscopy, including how it could help you permanently improve your entire manufacturing process.
What is FTIR Spectroscopy?
FTIR Spectroscopy is a form of material analysis that is very commonly used for a wide variety of quality control and assurance purposes in professional manufacturing settings.
FTIR Spectroscopy is fast, highly accurate, and capable of successfully identifying a large number of organic (as well as some inorganic) contaminants, even if those contaminants are present in very small quantities.
There are many different types of FTIR Spectroscopy analysis techniques, including Attenuated Total Reflectance spectroscopy and Specular Reflectance spectroscopy. Each of these variations are capable of providing different material analysis, which enable FTIR Spectroscopic tests to provide a great deal of useful information about different aspects of the analyzed materials in a relatively short time span.
How does FTIR Spectroscopy work?
FTIR is an absorption spectroscopy technique, which means it analyzes material samples by shining infrared light onto them and measuring how the material absorbs the light. Bonds between elements within the sample material absorb different wavelengths of light radiation at unique rates and combinations.
By cross-checking how the material absorbs each wavelength against a library of known references, analysts can accurately identify all the components present in a sample. The precision of this analysis is particularly helpful for manufacturing, because it can successfully separate and identify all the materials that should be there from any that shouldn’t be.
FTIR works a little differently from other forms of spectroscopy because, rather than shining a single, or “monochromatic,” beam of light through the sample at a time, FTIR shines a single beam onto the sample that contains all infrared spectrums in one. This light passes through a configuration of mirrors called a Michelson interferometer before it reaches the sample.
As the machine runs the test, the Michelson interferometer spins very quickly, blocking different spectrums of light one at a time in order to rapidly alter the frequencies of infrared light the sample is exposed to. This produces a great deal of raw data called an “interferogram” in a very short period of time. This interferogram is highly useful for manufacturing needs because of how quickly FTIR can produce it and how much analysis data it generates.
After the FTIR test generates an interferogram, the device uses an algorithm called the Fourier transform to convert its raw data into a spectrum graph of the substance’s absorption of each spectrum of light over time. Finally, analysts compare this spectrum graph to a reference library of known materials to identify any and all substances in the sample tested.
What do manufacturers use FTIR Spectroscopy for?
Because of its sensitivity, accuracy, and the wide range of materials it can identify, FTIR Spectroscopy is used for a wide variety of quality assurance and material identification applications in manufacturing.
FTIR spectroscopy is frequently used to ensure that a sample of product contains the right amount of each of its constituent components and does not contain any contaminants that may affect the quality of its function.
This analysis can have a wide range of applications. Innovatech once helped a manufacturing company determine that its concrete contained a water soluble acrylic (latex) additive by using FTIR Spectroscopy to analyze small, floating samples of concrete material.
What makes FTIR Spectroscopy so helpful for enhancing manufacturing quality control?
FTIR Spectroscopy is particularly helpful for manufacturing applications because it’s so effective at identifying specific components and contaminants that it can be used to investigate where and when those contaminants came into contact with the product during its manufacturing.
For example, one of Innovatech’s clients once discovered unknown fibers on their medical device’s plastic packaging trays. Worried that these fibers would disrupt the functionality of these highly-sensitive devices, the client had Innovatech use FTIR analysis to identify the fibers.
After successfully identifying the fibers as cellulose-based cardboard, Innovatech was able to help the client backtrack through their manufacturing and production process to find exactly when and where the device’s trays came into contact with the cardboard. They discovered that cardboard dividers were being used to separate the trays on the client’s production line. By replacing the cardboard dividers, the client successfully stopped the fibers from contaminating their devices.
As this example shows, FTIR Spectroscopy isn’t just useful for characterizing materials or finding contaminants. The procedure is accurate and specific enough that manufacturers can actually use its results to find and correct systemic issues occurring in their manufacturing and prevent these issues from compromising the product again, ultimately improving the quality of their processes.
How can I get FTIR Spectroscopy for my manufacturing process?
If you’re a manufacturer who wants to use FTIR Spectroscopy to analyze your products or to quality control your overall manufacturing process, Innovatech’s experts would be glad to help you. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll determine the FTIR testing technique that’s right for your unique needs.