New Generation of Handheld Metal Alloy Analyzers

The metal recycling industry now has access to a new generation of tools that can maximize their sorting processes to achieve higher returns and improve profitability.

Analytical equipment that can provide scrap yards with accurate alloy identification is not new to the global recycling market. Most metal scrap yards have some sort of analysis equipment in their fleet, or know of a colleague that does. The size and usability of this technical equipment can range from a large, benchtop system that needs to be used in a laboratory by a scientist to a small, handheld analyzer that can be operated by any sorter in the yard. The benefits of using any handheld metal analyzer to provide immediate alloy identification with a simple trigger pull can greatly outweigh the time consuming and costly analysis of larger systems … until now. When considering implementing a new method for scrap metal sorting, there are several factors that need to be considered. For example, if you struggle to identify valuable light alloy elements or if you experiencing high repair costs for your current analyzer due to a lack of ruggedness. The current dip in metal price returns also has an impact on the decision making process for scrap metal sorting equipment; it is now more important than ever that your analyzer meets the demands of modern metal recycling while delivering a return on investment.

An example of the new generation of handheld metal alloy analyzer has been developed by Rigaku Analytical Devices who hit several major milestones this past year with the launch of its KT-100 Katana metal analyzer.  KT-100 was developed to address the analysis and usability gaps that similar handheld metal analyzers do not meet. The team responsibles has been developing handheld analyzers for use in the harshest environments for years. Furthermore, it was identified early on that incorporating that a different analytical technique was required to take metals analysis to the next level. The analytical capabilities based on laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) provides accurate analysis of light elements – such as aluminum (Al), magnesium (Mg), and beryllium (Be) – which is problematic to previous generation handheld analyzers using x-ray fluorescence (XRF). Therefore, handheld LIBS increase the amount of alloys that can be identified, sorted, and then sold for more profitable gains. By integrating a laser-based technology, there are no radiation concerns that XRF analyzers impose.

LIBS process (Graphic: Rigaku Analytical Devices)

LIBS process (Graphic: Rigaku Analytical Devices)

Not only does the difference in technology set it apart from traditional handheld methods, the size and ergonomics have also been re-engineered. The device weighs just 1.47 kilogram and is considerably smaller than any other handheld LIBS analyzer. Operators can now sort for longer periods of time without fatigue, while also benefiting from the 10+ hours of operation the two included batteries provide.

There are many other features that are new to scrap sorting users – GPS tracking, on-board camera, auto surface preparation – but one with the most importance to a scrap metal sorter is the MIL-STD-810G certification KT-100 Katana received in April 2016. These tests involved rigorous vibration, shock and drop testing which focused on impact to every angle of the instrument to evaluate its durability and performance when exposed to environmental stress.  The IP-54 rating means the instrument is protected against wet and dusty work environments – very typical in a scrap metal recycling yard. KT-100 is the only handheld metal analyzer that has successfully passed durability tests achieving both the MIL-STD-810G and IP-54 certification.

(By Jen Lynch, Marketing Director at US-based Rigaku Analytical Devices.)