Is your spectrometer producing the correct analysis?

Operator and technician training is part of the solution.

Developing a best-in-class quality-control program demands a thorough understanding of processes, both in the methods and practices set by an operation’s managers and in the minds of the metalcasting workers. To obtain the highest levels of quality control, it is important for modern foundries to be as well organised as possible, and developing a complete quality-control plan is the bedrock of any such endeavor.


Regular testing remains the cornerstone of any thorough quality-control process, but this cannot be a random practice, nor one that is focused simply on products exiting a production line. A company’s quality-control plan should explain exactly each step involved in the process, and the frequency with which it should take place, and define acceptable ranges of results. It also should set out the appropriate steps to be taken when a problem is identified.

Your spectrometer
Incorrect results produced by your spectrometer can lead to serious consequences, including high scrap rates and possible failure of castings in the field, to name but a few. The end result will always have financial implications. Huge savings can be achieved by ensuring that the chemical composition of your metal is according to the required specification.



Quality control in this area has become critical to a metalcasters’ customer service and cost containment initiatives. Quality engineers, laboratory managers and plant metallurgists have to understand and appreciate that the recent developments and introductions, particularly in the field of spectrometers, will facilitate their quality-control program enormously.

Spectro Analytical Instruments is a manufacturer of elemental analysers using optical emission spectroscopy and x-ray fluorescence spectrometry. They do not only supply spectrometers, but also offer a complete solution for the determination of the chemical composition of your alloys from sample taking to reporting of the results. Experience has shown that incorrect results can be produced by all spectrometers, but it is comforting to know that these can be alleviated by correct operation and practice. The main problematic areas, which contribute to incorrect analysis, are indicated below:
1 – Sample taking
2 – Sample mould type
3 – Sample preparation – different preparation is required for different metals
4 – Checking that the spectrometer is correctly calibrated prior to use
5 – The use of control samples and certified reference materials
6 – Operators of the spectrometer not being properly trained

Spectro Analytical Instruments held a workshop recently to address problematic areas related to the results that are produced, with particular emphasis on sample taking and sample preparation.


Danie and Gareth Henning from Franktech Metallurgical Services with Allan Bruggerman of Matt Cast Supplies


John Taylor of Spectro Analytical, Chris Robbins of GE Patterns & Foundry and Peter Moatshe of WASA


Andre Bezuidenhout of Sasol, Juane Mohr and Jean-Pierre Viviers, both of Frankwen Forge

The workshop included different types of sample moulds for the various metals, these being cast iron, steel, aluminium and copper base alloys. Various sample preparation methods were discussed, and available for practical demonstrations of the appropriate sample preparation for the various alloy groups was a cup wheel grinder, a disc “sander/grinder”, as well as a bench top milling machine.

The Spectromaxx, Spectro’s latest generation bench top spectrometer, was introduced to delegates as well as Spectro’s Spectrotest portable spectrometer and the Spectro xSort hand held XRF analyser.

The Spectromaxx stationary metal analyser has been among the most successful Spectro models in recent years.

The Spectromaxx is used mainly for material testing in foundries and for incoming and outgoing inspections in the metal industry. With it, users are able to determine all of the elements used in the metal industry, including trace analysis of carbon, phosphorous, sulfur and nitrogen. Calibration modules are available for base metals: iron, aluminium, copper, nickel, cobalt, titanium, magnesium, zinc, tin and lead.


Thys Redlinghuys of Heraeus and Reg Turton of MIS

The Spectromaxx fulfills the users’ need for simplification in several ways: The measurement is no longer controlled through the menu, but with symbols and toolbar buttons. Once a procedure has been started, only the functions that are logical at that point in time are active in the control software – all other commands are hidden.

The metal analyser also offers a user management system that permits rights for individual employees to be determined. Operators that have not been trained by qualified personnel from the spectrometer supplier will in all likelihood not be using the instrument correctly. This occurs when the properly trained operators leave the company, with subsequent “hand me down” training being given to the new operator. As this can happen numerous times, it could end up with the current operator having very little idea of what is actually required. With each retrained operator the training becomes diluted.


A bench top milling machine used for non ferrous samples


A cup wheel grinder used for the preparation of cast iron and high chrome white cast iron, but also suited for the preparation of all ferrous samples

Now in its fifth generation, the Spectromaxx features a new argon-saving module that reduces gas consumption when the instrument is not in use, with substantial savings. When the spark generator is turned off at the end of the day, the argon saver reduces the flush to zero. The operator can set the time when the instrument is to be used the next morning, so that the spark stand and optical system starts automatically and are optimally supplied with argon. The instrument can be set on a timer for longer idle periods, and it can be pre-programmed, too.

The new integrated diagnosis system continuously informs operators and service technicians about the state of the system and its main components, making it possible to rectify malfunctions more quickly and favourably complete service calls.

For further details contact Spectro Analytical South Africa on TEL: 011 979 4241 or visit