Powder Testing Instrumentation What’s it worth?

Author / Editor: Jamie Clayton* / Manja Wühr

In certain circumstances, an analytical system is purchased to directly meet a regulatory requirement to measure a specific variable. However, more commonly, the investment decisions surrounding analytical instrumentation involve a more nuanced balancing of the perceived benefits and cost.

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How can an analytical system can deliver economic benefit?
How can an analytical system can deliver economic benefit?
(Picture: Andrey Popov)

Analytical instruments deliver data or information. The purchase of an analytical system is therefore usually triggered by one of two issues: a requirement for information that is more detailed or different from what current systems can provide, or the need to access the same information faster or more efficiently. Analytical instrumentation is used at every stage of a product lifecycle: in R&D, through scale-up, into commercial manufacture; for process troubleshooting and for finished product quality control. Each stage is associated with a different analytical need, and the value of an analytical system can therefore alter depending on how it answers to the specific requirement being addressed.

For example, R&D activity is typically associated with extensive information gathering. In order to drive progress, analytical data must therefore provide the insight required to understand and control process and product performance. Measuring relevant data efficiently is important, but in this environment instrumentation that helps to elucidate complex observations is particularly valuable. An analyser that can help in this way may instantly deliver substantial economic benefit, by accelerating time to market and/or supporting the development of a superior product. Similarly, in troubleshooting applications, instruments that reveal the solution to a processing problem can rapidly deliver returns that far surpass their cost.

Application: Quality Control

In quality control, analysers must deliver to very different requirements. There is less interest in the breadth or novelty of information that the system provides, rather a need for clear and efficient differentiation. Sensitivity is crucial and defines the robustness of quality assurance. However, analysis also needs to be fast, reliable, and highly automated to assure productivity and repeatability, with minimal manual intervention and training.

Rigorously reviewing the potential applications of an analyser is an essential aspect of any assessment of its value. More sophisticated instrumentation is typically associated with a higher capital investment but this may be more than justified if the instrument efficiently and effectively meets defined requirements.