ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Pittcon 2002 in Review

June 1, 2002
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Instrument manufacturers introduced a host of new QC/QA tools at the recent Pittcon show in New Orleans, La.

For manufacturers of advanced ceramic components, quality is crucial. The right instrument can often make a big difference in the quest to maximize product quality and prevent devastating flaws. At the recent Pittcon 2002 show in New Orleans, La., March 18-21, a range of new technologies was introduced specifically to meet the quality control and quality analysis needs of ceramic and related manufacturers. Following is a brief overview of some of these developments.

Thermal Properties Analysis

The new QuickLine™-40 from Anter Corp. is a bench-top device that directly measures the thermophysical properties of a wide range of materials. The heated-plate transient method used by the QuickLine TM -40 device is absolute—it does not require a known reference material for calibration. The cylindrical sample is placed into a thermally predefined stack that contains the heater and strategically located thermocouples. The sample itself does not have thermocouples inserted into it, making preparation simple and convenient. After achieving thermal equilibrium with the environment at the desired test temperature, power is applied to the flat plate heater for a predetermined length of time, and the resultant temperature excursion of the sample is recorded.

From the characteristic curve obtained, both thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity are derived directly. The proprietary design, which requires only a single sample (rather than two symmetrically placed samples, as is frequently required in conventional units), makes the method convenient, easy to use and inexpensive to operate. The new instrument reduces the time of thermal conductivity measurements to 10-16 minutes. It can be connected to any PC or laptop computer through a USB port using the optional RS-232.

For more information, contact Anter Corp., (412) 795-6410, fax (412) 795-8225, e-mail, or visit

Moisture Analysis

Arizona Instrument introduced several new Computrac® moisture analyzers at the show. The Vapor Pro™ accepts smaller sample sizes than conventional instruments (down to 10 mg), features a detection range down to 10 ppm or 10 micrograms of water, and has a temperature range of 25-275ºC. The instrument is portable and features automatic, menu-driven operation with automatic sample loading. The Max® 2000XL moisture/solids analyzer, which is also automatic, offers a detection range of 0.005-100% and a temperature range of 25-275ºC. The instrument stores up to 250 test programs for single-button, product-customized testing. User-programmable calibration prompts for simple balance and temperature calibration, and self-diagnostics alert the operator to any instrument problems that may arise.

For more information, contact Arizona Instrument at (800) 528-7411 or visit

X-Ray Diffraction

The new D4 Endeavor X-ray diffraction system was on display at Bruker AXS Inc.’s booth. The machine combines state-of-the-art X-ray diffraction technology and extreme versatility with the ability to handle 66 to 120 samples with easy operation and minimum size. It is designed to provide high analytical power in a very small footprint, covering all analytical tasks from qualitative and quantitative phase analysis, micro-strain and crystalline size determination, and residual stress analysis to crystal structure refinement and solution.

The sample handling mechanism allows the user to simultaneously load samples of varying shape, morphology, composition and quantity, and define a wide range of measuring tasks specific to each sample. The TCP/IP-based client/server architecture of the modular measurement and evaluation software, DIFFRACplus, allows the user to control and communicate with the system from any spot in the world through the Internet. The system incorporates a high-precision, two-circle goniometer with innovative optics and detectors to ensure excellent analytical results.

For more information, contact Burker AXS Inc., (608) 276-3000, fax (608) 276-3015, e-mail, or visit

Zeta Potential Analysis

Colloidal Dynamics introduced the ZetaProbe, an easy-to-use, accurate zeta potential analyzer designed to measure samples without dilution or sample preparation at concentrations up to 60% volume. The instrument features a compact design with built-in titration, a versatile dip probe sensor and software wizards. Automatic titration offers unattended rapid isoelectric point determination, as well as optimum dispersant or flocculant level control with the click of a button. The instrument also includes automatic correction for particle size and double layer distortion.

For more information, contact Colloidal Dynamics at (401) 738-5515, ext. 11; fax (401) 738-5542; e-mail; or visit

Gas Pressure/Temperature Monitoring

Gilson Co., Inc., the exclusive U.S. dealer for Fritsch GmbH, showcased a range of laboratory equipment from the Germany-based company. Among the products highlighted was the gas pressure and temperature measuring system (GTM), which measures gas pressure and temperature during the grinding process and remotely transmits the data from the mill to a receiver. By measuring the grinding container temperature, operators can obtain an integral figure for the process that reflects the effects of friction, impact and conversion processes. The system’s highly sensitive gas pressure measurement component continually records abrupt and minute changes in reaction, enabling in situ observation of the process.

Using this new tool, operators can determine the influence of grinding parameters (revolutions, ball-grinding/material ratio, grinding duration, etc.) on their products without time-consuming and costly “trial and error.” The system can be used wherever batch quantities need to be ground in a totally enclosed container.

For more information, contact Gilson Co., Inc., (800) 444-1508, fax (800) 255-5314, e-mail, or visit

Particle Size Analysis

Horiba Instruments introduced the Camsizer, manufactured by Retsch Technology, to the U.S. market. The instrument uses two matched digital cameras with different resolutions to provide a very accurate measurement of free-flowing powders over the broadest range possible (30 mm to 30 mm). Nineteen separate particle shape calculations are designed to provide the operator with the most comprehensive particle characterization available. Results are provided in less than one minute from powerful image analysis software, which includes real-time sample imaging. A 12-position autosampler with a barcode reader and an on-line system are also available.

The company also introduced new automation accessories for its Model LB-500 particle size analyzer, an instrument that uses dynamic light scattering to measure particles from 3 nm to 6 mm. A new auto-sampler and an automatic concentration control attachment enable the instrument to provide high productivity and accuracy with little operator involvement.

For more information, contact Horiba Instruments at (800) 446-7422 or (949) 250-4811, fax (949) 250-0924, e-mail, or visit

Flash Diffusivity

Netzsch Instruments, Inc. , displayed its new LFA 447 Nanoflash™. Designed to make flash diffusivity testing faster, easier and more affordable, the Nanoflash can automatically test multiple samples from room temperature to 200?C. It can test materials with thermal conductivity of 0.1 W/mk to over 2000 W/mk, making it ideal for testing ceramics, composites and other advanced materials. The instrument uses light energy to heat the sample and measures its temperature rise using the sample’s infrared emissions, so it adds no artificial interface resistance to the test. As a result, the instrument can be used to accurately measure very thin samples and bondlines.

Additionally, the Nanoflash’s modular design provides for easy configuration changes. The company offers a variety of sample holders for various sizes and numbers of samples, as well as a choice of furnaces. Both thermoelectric and LN2-cooled IR detectors are offered.

For more information, contact Netzsch Instruments, Inc., at (781) 275-3300, fax (781) 275-3705, e-mail, or visit

Industrial X-Ray Diffraction

Philips Analytical introduced two new high-speed X-ray diffractometers that are optimized for industrial applications. The CubiX PRO and CubiX FAST are designed to satisfy stringent quality control requirements in high-throughput production environments by delivering fast, reliable and reproducible results from XRD analysis of key compounds. The CubiX FAST uses Philips’ X’Celerator, an X-ray detector based on real time multiple strip (RTMS) technology, to yield enormous gains in speed. According to the company, the instrument is up to 100 times faster than conventional detection technology for a complete diffraction pattern without compromising resolution, data quality or ease of use. It is also designed to be virtually maintenance-free, as it does not require gas flow, cooling water, liquid nitrogen or regular re-calibration. Both models have a robust pneumatic sample loading mechanism with horizontal sample handling for very fast throughput (a typical load/unload cycle takes less than 10 seconds).

For more information, contact Philips Analytical at (31) 546-534444, fax (31) 546-534592, or e-mail

Rheological Analysis

Rheometric Scientific highlighted its new Advanced SpecTrometer for Rheological Analysis (ASTRA), a versatile, high-performance rheometer designed for every aspect of material characterization. The instrument features a large selection of environmental control systems and options for measuring a wide variety of materials, including fluids, gels, melts, and soft and hard solid materials. Designed for laboratories that require unlimited flexibility for testing any type of material and demand uncompromising performance, the instrument can conduct rheological tests simultaneously with other testing techniques—including dielectric measurements, birefringence and dichroism, light scattering, microscopy, etc.—to study material structure-related phenomena. Fast digital signal processing (DSP), a new approach to setting up tests (called the Visual Method Builder) and high test performance are combined with ease of use and flexibility to meet the needs of today’s research, product development, product formulation and process development staff.

For more information, contact Rheometric Scientific, (732) 560-8550, fax (732) 560-7451, or visit

X-Ray Diffraction

Thermo ARL, a Thermo Electron business, launched the ARL OPTIM’X, a new wavelength dispersive X-ray diffractin (WDXRF) product designed for optimum analytical performance. The new instrument is more compact than conventional XRF systems and can be configured with a series of multichromators for simultaneous analysis and/or with a SmartGonio for sequential analysis and flexibility. In addition to optimized configurations, the instrument offers flexibility in multiple sample handling. Solids, liquids and loose powders in organic or inorganic matrices can be easily analyzed.

Designed for autonomous and easy operation, the instrument does not require internal or external water cooling. In addition, it can be configured to work without external detector gas, reducing the peripheral dependence to a strict minimum. This independence minimizes operating costs and allows installation closer to the manufacturing process. The instrument provides general elemental analysis capabilities for complementary information when various structural-analysis methods are used, such as X-ray diffraction and FT-IR, which makes it an ideal tool for cost-effective and efficient chemical analysis.

For more information, contact Thermo ARL at (313) 271-5770, e-mail, or visit

Reticulated Ceramics

Vesuvius McDanel/Vesuvius Hi-Tech announced that Vesuvius McDanel will be promoting sales and servicing for Vesuvius Hi-Tech’s line of reticulated ceramic products (RETICEL™). RETICEL ceramics are low-density/lightweight materials that exhibit low thermal and electrical conductivity properties. Their low density makes them ideal for many kiln furniture applications, where they provide lower energy costs and increased productivity through faster firing rates. The company reports that RETICEL kiln furniture is used extensively in the firing of electronic (piezoelectric) ceramics, structural ceramics and powdered metal components.

RETICEL can also be used in catalyst support applications, where its unique structure provides a tortuous path and a low pressure drop. The available range of pore sizes and densities provides the flexibility to adapt the product to individual process requirements. Other established applications for the product line include heat transfer materials, pollution abatement components and custom refractory shapes. According to the company, new applications are constantly being developed.

For more information, contact Vesuvius McDanel at (724) 843-8300, ext. 247, or fax (724) 843-5644.


This article is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of all of the ceramic-related technologies introduced at Pittcon 2002. To add information about your company’s instruments to the online version of this article, please contact the Editor at (248) 366-2503, fax (248) 366-2504, or e-mail

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