As a quality assurance specialist you are trained to spot quality issues and product defects. You know that if the fit isn’t right or the specified color mixture is slightly off, you can find the solution. However, quality control is difficult when there’s an unknown contaminant on your products or a mysterious product failure. In these cases, you might need to send a sample in for materials testing.
Materials testing for quality control or failure analysis are helpful in cases where specialized chemical analysis is needed. Perhaps a device going into a critical environment must be verified to be free from contaminants; or unforeseen chemical reactions occurring during transit of a polymer based product are causing visual defects. If you’ve never experienced issues like this before, you might not know the types of materials testing techniques that are available. We’ve created a guide here to help you determine if it’s time for you to contact a materials testing lab like Innovatech Labs.
Materials Testing Method Guide
The following are a few situations that require materials testing. Take a look at these common issues and the corresponding testing methods that can be used to solve them.
1. Are you concerned about the surface of your product?
Is there a visible foreign material present? Or perhaps an invisible contaminant is affecting the adhesion properties of the surface? :
- Fourier Transform Infrared Analysis (FTIR Analysis) – which uses infrared light to measure the unique light spectra absorbed by molecular structures – can identify foreign materials present on the surface of a material.
- Electron Spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (ESCA) – which evaluates surface chemistry using x-rays, can also be employed to identify thin layers of contamination on the surface of a material.
2. Are you concerned with the ionic cleanliness of your parts? Could residual cleaners cause future corrosion issues?
- Ion Chromatography (IC) – identifies and quantifies ionic contaminants, such as chlorine, sulfates, phosphates, and ammonia, using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and a conductivity detector.
3. Are you concerned about residual solvents that may be trapped in your products or about compounds that being are off gassed from your product?
Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) identifies and quantifies off gassed compounds or residual solvents in a sample using headspace analysis.
4. Is it critical your product is free from particulates that could affect the performance of the device?
- Liquid Particle Counting (LPC) – measures particle size distribution using a laser diode, then detecting the scattered light to count and size the number of particles removed from a device.
5. Is the topography or elemental composition of the surface affecting the performance of your product?
- Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) – can evaluate and map the surface of your products and determine if the surfaces are composed as you expect them with this electron microscope process.
6. Is the thickness of the passivation layer critical to the performance of your device?
- Auger Spectroscopy measures the thickness and composition of the outer angstroms of a material, making it useful in determining the surface passivation in biocompatible alloys.
Bonus question: Do you need an expedited turnaround time?
Quality control, materials characterization, and failure analysis testing can be conducted very quickly at Innovatech Labs. Typical turnaround times are 5-7 business days, but any of the testing methods listed here are available for expedited turnaround times.
Get Materials Testing Advice
If you find yourself puzzled about a quality issue that hasn’t come up before, it’s best to consult with materials testing experts who can devise a custom solution for you. As you can see, some of the testing methods can solve multiple issues and may be combined if needed to find an answer to your quality issue.
In order to ensure the integrity of your products, it’s good to be in contact with a materials testing lab that can help you troubleshoot any product defects or cleanliness issues when they arise. Please reach out to the experts at Innovatech Labs to discuss your particular application or analytical needs.