How To Buy A Handheld XRF

Years ago, buying a handheld X-Ray Fluorescent analyzer(or XRF) was an easy decision. There were only a few manufacturers and the applications were limited. Fast forward to today where there are a litany of niches from:

  • stainless steels
  • aluminums
  • coppers
  • precious metals
  • E-scrap recycling
  • General scrap recycling
  • site-specific foundry alloy applications—including custom grades
  • geological
  • lead paint applications

That list just touches the surface of what handheld XRF has to offer!

The first step in deciding which handheld XRF to buy is finding one that works with your application. While there are many different handhelds, calibrations, X-Ray tubes, and X-Ray detectors that each have advantages and disadvantages, we can SIMPLIFY most handheld XRFs into two categories:

  1. Pin-Diode
  2. Silicon Drift Detector (SDD)

Pin-Diode XRFs are the least expensive of the two types. When you think about Pin-Diode handheld XRF heavy elements should come to mind!

A few examples of heavy elements:

  • Iron
  • Nickel
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Tungsten

Pin-Diode XRFs offer great versatility for most stainless steels, nickels, cobalts, copper, and other heavy metals that need to be identified. These handhelds have been the backbone of the modern day scrap yard allowing for FAST sorting in the hands of any trained employee. These analyzer also paved the way for finer sorting to take place increasing profits by capturing the full value of heavy metals such as nickel!

Light elements such as:

  • Aluminum
  • Silicon
  • Magnesium

… and light elements like these are not able to be detected by pin-diode handheld XRF guns. Even without light element capability, these low-cost XRF units work well for most alloys!

A pin-diode XRF is the right choice for you if:

  • You are only looking at heavy metals such as stainless steels, nickels, coppers, etc.
  • You need the most inexpensive solution to identify your metals
  • You need to test metals infrequently and the lack of light elements is good enough for your application

Silicon Drift Detector XRFs offer everything a pin-diode has with:

  • Increased Precision
  • Detects heavy elements
  • Detects light elements

Now, just because an XRF has a SDD inside of it does NOT mean it can see light elements. Sometimes the SDD is used in applications where the higher precision of the SDD is required. For example, higher precision XRFs are often used in applications where basic alloy identification is not good enough; such as catalytic converter applications where precision is directly tied to value.

In today’s world we are seeing finer identification and sorting of aluminum alloys and much more of them. Because recycling aluminum only takes 5% of the power it takes to produce new, raw aluminum, aluminum remains an excellent, light weight, and green alternative to other metals. With the advent of the SDD companies were now able to sort each family of aluminums into specific alloys. This leads to higher value scrap in turn feeding cleaner metal back into the aluminum industry.

An SDD XRF is the right choice for you if:

  • You are looking at heavy metals AND need light element analysis (aluminum, silicon, magnesium, etc.)
  • You have a specialty application such as analyzing Catalytic Converters, Precious Metals, precious metals suspended in fluids
  • A pin-diode analyzer cannot do the job you need your handheld XRF to do!

This guide is meant to be simple and teach you the basics of how to buy the right handheld XRF. There are other details that knowledgeable sales people can assist you with including: the power of the XRF, the right programs to run for your specific application, deals/bundles/packages from the many brands of handheld XRF units on the market today!

Ready to buy your next handheld XRF? Contact Us! Alloy Geek can help guide you on purchasing the right handheld XRF, regardless of brand!

Handheld xrf