As an engineering or manufacturing lead for your business, you have enough to do without trying to troubleshoot a mysterious product failure. From staffing issues to inventory and manufacturing to fulfillment, a product failure due to contamination or unexpected out gassing in transit is the last thing you want to hear about.
Luckily there materials testing techniques that can mitigate these risks ahead of time or quickly in the face of crisis so you can keep production moving.
Below are 7 issues that can be solved with the help of materials testing, and the specific testing methods to help you find the solution.
- The surfaces of your metal product are stained by a thin layer of an unknown substance
Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES) is a high spatial resolution analytical technique capable of mapping less than 1 micron using an incident electron beam. AES is used to determine the composition of a surface, map the spatial distribution of surface constituents, and to obtain an in-depth profile of the constituents on the surface of the material. Knowing what the contaminant is made of will help pinpoint the cause of the issue.
- There are unknown additives in your products
Often the first step in materials testing because of its relative speed and simplicity, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR analysis) measures the range of wavelengths in the infrared region that are absorbed by a sample material. Unknown materials within a product can be evaluated by comparing the FTIR spectrum of the sample against a reference spectra of the base material. A spectral subtraction can often identify the additives present in the material. When spectral subtraction is not an alternative, solvent extractions can be done to remove the additives from the base polymer for identification. FTIR analysis can help identify additives within products such as children’s toys or packaging materials.
3. You need to ensure ionic cleanliness in your product
High levels of ionic species (chlorine, sulfates, ammonia, etc.) can cause corrosion and electrical shorts. The levels of anions and cations in a sample are analyzed using ion chromatography. The levels measured from a product sample can then be compared to regulatory requirements in industries like electronics and hard disk drives.
4. You need to identify an unknown liquid
If you have an unknown sample of liquid, Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) can be used to identify the components of the liquid. Only several microliters of the sample are required. The mass spectrum of the compound is compared to our spectral database for identification.
5. There is particulate contamination on your product
The amount and size of particulates on a device can be tested using Liquid Particle Counting (LPC). Particulates on a solid sample are extracted by , placing the sample and extraction fluid (water or a detergent solution) in an ultrasonic bath. After a period of time, the solid sample is removed and the extraction liquid containing the particles is irradiated with a laser diode that detects scattered light. The light distribution is used to measure size and quantity of material particles. Particles from 0.5 to 20 microns in size can be measured and counted.
6. You need to determine if a stainless steel surface is passivated
The figures of merit used to evaluate passivated stainless steel are the chromium-to-iron and the chromium oxide to iron oxide ratios. Both of these ratios can be measured using electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis (ESCA, also called x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, or XPS). In addition, the thickness of the passivation layer can be determined from either Auger or ESCA materials testing methods.
7. You need to determine the difference between polymers
Switching suppliers? Products not performing as they should or as they have in the past? These two materials testing methods may help.
a) FTIR analysis is helpful for comparing two polymers for differences. Measuring the infrared radiation absorbance within a sample can measure oxidation or degrees of cure and contaminants or additives within some polymers.
b)Thermal Gravimetric Analysis (TGA) measures weight loss from temperature changes in a controlled environment. The temperature points where active components volatilize are plotted and the resulting graph can be indicative of the material composition, such as inorganic filler within a polymer.