Testing & Measuring Instruments: More Versatile, Compact, Affordable
From polymer characterization to on-line bottle or preform inspection, coordinate measuring, and color sensing, new testing and measuring instruments at the NPE show in Chicago were easier to use and more compact, yet often packed higher performance than earlier versions—and sometimes with a more attractive price tag.
POLYMER ANALYZERS DEBUT
Thermo Fisher Scientific introduced Antaris II MX, a FT-NIR analyzer for both R&D labs and shop-floor QC use. It has an integrating sphere for diffuse reflectance sampling, well suited to plastic pellets. It also offers automated transmission sampling and fiber-optic sampling with a probe on the production line. Four probes can be used to monitor polymer melt or thin films on four production lines at once.
Adding to its Niton XRF line of analyzers, Thermo Scientific showed its new hand-held XL3t series with a novel solid-state detector for heavy metals in plastics that is reportedly 10 times faster and more sensitive than conventional Si-PIN and SDD detectors.
PerkinElmer introduced its new high-performance line of differential scanning calorimeters (DSC), designed to quickly and accurately simulate plastics processing conditions. This line of four instruments includes two single-furnace models—the DSC 4000, an economical and compact workhorse; and the DSC 6000, which adds modulated-temperature DSC capability. Both units can analyze degradation under extreme UV exposure.
The new DSC 8000 and 8500 feature double-furnace technology for rapid controlled heating at up to 750° C/min and ballistic cooling at up to 2100°/min, which reportedly mimics rates in injection molding. Such fast heating and cooling reduces overall analysis time from the standard 45 min to only 3 min. The instruments have also been applied to blown film samples, and 1400°/min cooling is said to closely mimic processing conditions. The instruments are also capable of detecting the glass-transition temperature of PE, which up to now required the use of a costlier dynamic mechanical analyzer (DMA). DMA also needs more sample preparation and testing takes 1 hr, while the DSC 8000 and 8500 can measure temperature and heat capacity in 5 min.
VISION INSPECTION NEWS
A new vision inspection and gauging system unveiled by Agr International is said to offer a new level of vision-based quality management and process monitoring that takes into consideration day-to-day variations in production of plastic containers. OptiCheck is designed for bottle measurement and inspection as well as process control. It requires only 24 in. of line space and can handle more than 36,000 bottles/hr in sizes up to 15 in. tall. OptiCheck reportedly is compatible with frequent product and color changes. It can include modules for inspecting finish/seal surfaces and/or sidewalls.
The North American subsidiary of Germany’s Intravis launched the Sample-PreWatcher, a vision system for comprehensive inspection of PET preforms. Designed to provide continuous quality analysis, this system uses advanced software and camera technology. It can be placed directly behind an injection machine, automatically withdrawing periodic complete shots.
Preforms fed into the system are inspected at five different stations that measure critical dimensions, color, presence of uv blocker and barrier material. core coaxiality, and length of the injection point. The system also checks the body and thread area for contamination, crystallization, short shots, scratches, and notches.
Cognex featured its new Checker 3G series vision sensors, said to provide easy, reliable, and affordable QC of all products or parts on-line. Starting at under $4000, this series allows users to configure the sensor to verify that part features are present or to measure whether they are the right height, width, and/or diameter. In either mode, it can check an unlimited number of features.
These sensors can also detect and track over 6000 parts/min in varying positions along the production line, overcoming imprecise part positioning and delivering pass/fail results. A PC is not required for setup. Instead, the rugged SensorView Teach Pendant, offers “one-click setup.”
Also unveiled by Cognex is what’s said to be the world’s smallest vision system. In-Sight Micro packs a complete vision system into a package that measures just 30 x 30 x 60 mm—the size of a remote-head camera—ideal for mounting in very tight spaces on robots, machinery, and production lines. Five In-Sight Micro models cover a range of price, performance, and resolution levels, and all feature the new intuitive EasyBuilder configuration software and smart VisionView operator display.
A new series of multisensor 3D measuring machines includes 10 models that accommodate large parts or multiple smaller parts. The Excel series from Micro-Vu Corp. promise high speed and accuracy with new optics, new laser capabilities, granite base, closed-loop motion control, and high-resolution encoders. With its large 650 x 650 mm XY capacity, the machines accommodate large parts weighing up to 220 lb on the glass.
These gantry-style machines feature larger Z capacities of 160 to 400 mm. Parts remain stationary while the sensors’ XYZ movement takes place above them. All include InSpec metrology software. Excel systems are priced under $50,000, which is competitive with machines that have only a quarter of their capacity, according to Micro-Vu.
Optical Gaging Products (OGP) unveiled its new multisensor SmartScope Flash 500 automatic dimensional measurement system, with ample XYZ stage travel (500 x 450 x 200 mm, or 20 x 18 x 8 in.) to accommodate a single large part or groups of smaller parts. This small-footprint, floor-standing system moves its optical assembly along the X-axis on a steel crossbeam, so it is evenly supported throughout its travel beyond the width of the unit. The part moves only in the Y-axis.
OGP also showed its new SmartScope ZIP Lite 250 and 300 systems that reportedly offer a cost-effective approach to automated video inspection and measurement with motorized zoom optics. The 250 has an XYZ measurement volume of 250 x 150 x 150 mm, while model 300 expands that to 300 x 300 x 150 mm.
Also new from OGP is SmartScope Quest 300, said to offer measurement versatility and accuracy for critical, demanding parts. With an XYZ measurement volume of 300 x 300 x 250 mm (12 x 12 x 10 in.), it combines video and autofocus.
HunterLab unveiled a new portable color spectrophotomer that can be used on the plant floor or outdoors to measure the reflected color of a product. MiniScan EZ’s ergonomic design has a rubberized handle that is said to eliminate user fatigue when measuring a large number of samples. The instrument boasts superior measurement repeatability and agreement between instruments and the ability to take thousands of readings with standard AA batteries. It weighs 2.25 lb.
X-Rite launched the MA98 portable multi-angle spectrophotometer for color measurement of metallic, pearlescent, and other complex special-effect finishes. Weighing a little more than 2.2 lb, it provides 10 measurement angles and two illumination angles to create a master profile of each color.
New from Datacolor was a major upgrade to its color formulation software. Match Pigment 2.1 expands the functions and capabilities of previous versions with new algorithms that are said to provide faster, more accurate, and consistent matching for opaque, transparent, and translucent materials.
Another feature is Formula Central, a virtual color laboratory that enables users to match a single sample or an entire folder of standards and then correct, search, retrieve, save, scale, or change units—all on one screen. Also, the new Q function allows users to match an entire palette of colors against multiple sets of matching conditions (job template). Users can rank multiple job templates according to objectives for cost, hiding, compatibility, and durability.
C.W. Brabender Instruments introduced the Torque Logic System to its line of Plasti-Corder torque rheometers. The TLS has a 9.2-hp, precision digital servo drive with a torque range of 325 Nm over a speed range of 0.2 to 300 rpm. It also has a swiveling touchpad with graphical display.
Shimadju Scientific Instruments featured a new tabletop universal tester with high-end performance. The AGS-X operates with Trapezium Lite X software macros, which automate saving and transfer of test results and printing of reports. The machine has a guaranteed test force range of ±0.5%, testing speed of 0.001 to 1000 mm/min, and crosshead return speed of 1500 mm/min.
Tinius Olsen introduced Horizon software that monitors and collects information from multiple testing instruments such as tensile testers, melt indexers, and impact testers. It stores a library of ASTM, ISO, and user-generated standards and is based on an SQL database. Base price is $5000.
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