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We need to serve the whole world Rainer Schramm, owner and managing director of Fluxana GmbH, talking about XRF supplies
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We need to serve the whole world

Rainer Schramm, owner and managing director of Fluxana GmbH, talking about XRF supplies

In just 15 years, Fluxana has established a strong global presence. This German contract laboratory and manufacturer of lab supplies, calibration supplies and XRF sample preparation equipment now has a strong, worldwide position in an expanding niche market. Fluxana is based in Bedburg-Hau, near Kleve on Germany’s border with the Netherlands. Its brand-new headquarters house labs, an R&D department, of ces and a spacious lab supply storehouse. Everything is geared toward X-ray fuorescent spectrometry, known in Germany as RFA, abbreviated from Röntgenfuoreszenzanalytik.
We need to serve the whole world Rainer Schramm, owner and managing director of Fluxana GmbH, talking about XRF supplies In just 15 years, Fluxana has established a strong global presence. This German contract laboratory and manufacturer of lab supplies, calibration supplies and XRF sample preparation equipment now has a strong, worldwide position in an expanding niche market. Text: LABinsights | Translation: Word’s Worth | Photography: FOODnote Fluxana is based in Bedburg-Hau, near Kleve on Germany’s border with the Netherlands. Its brand-new headquarters house labs, an R&D department, of ces and a spacious lab supply storehouse. Everything is geared tow ard X-ray uorescent spectrometry, known in Germany as RFA, abbreviated from Röntgen uoreszenzanalytik. In a factory near its headquarters, Fluxana manufactures Vaneox presses for preparing pellets and Vitriox ovens for fusing glass beads. The latest generation of ovens are no longer gas-fueled, but fully electric and computerized. This means they will be compliant with European Union laws after the EU bans gas. With their airtight, insulated electrical components, these ovens also emit less heat. The heat from Fluxana’s gas-fueled ovens is not wasted, however. Their premises have been constructed sustainably. The roof is covered with solar panels and the heat from the equipment is stored underground for later use. “Therefore, we draw very little energy from the grid, even though our energy consumption is high,” Rainer Schramm explains while giving us a tour of the labs. He shows us the new generation of fusion ovens. Through the window, we see how a platinum crucible full of white-hot, molten material is meticulously timed and poured out into a miniature mold. In-house expertise It took just fteen years for the start-up to grow into a rm with more than 40 personnel, Schramm explains, as he shows me two Vitriox Fusion-produced fused beads. This rapid success hasn’t gone to his head, however. The owner and managing director’s laid-back manner re ects the informal way he interacts with his employees. The easygoing climate at the facility feels familiar, almost Dutch. I gather from Schramm’s accent that he’s not from this region, and he con rms that he’s not from northern ‘Anybody who shows up here on Monday, will be ready to start using their XRF equipment on Wednesday’ Germany but the south. “Yes, you’re right. That sing-song intonation, that’s a southern thing, indeed. I’m from Freiburg originally, but I moved here with my family several years ago. It was when I started this company from scratch, in 2002. I had learned about the XRF market while working as an XRF product manager at Spectro. I was done focusing on equipment, though. I wanted to focus on supplies. Because that’s where the opportunities were. Every time I visited customers, I got a ton of questions about all the peripherals surrounding XRF: sample preparation, calibration, chemicals, cups, you name it. So, we turned that into our portfolio. A few years ago, we added our own DIN EN ISO/IEC 17025-accredited lab, where we can carry out analyses for third parties and develop analytical methods. We also supply sample materials for interlaboratory studies, because we have all the necessary equipment and the expertise, in-house.” Too small As a technology, XRF is indispensable in many industries and types of research, but any company active in the XRF supplies 40 LABinsights | December 2017 December 2017 | LABinsights 41 This article was originally published in LABinsights, January 2017 www.labinsights.nl ©maXusmedia LAB COMPANY REPORT LAB COMPANY REPORT Pouring the ‘glass’. A platinum crucible, containing lithium borate and sample in a ux/sample ratio of 10:1, is heated to 1,200 °C in the Vitriox oven in exactly 15 minutes. The contents are stirred through high velocity rotation. Next, the molten glass is cooled to room temperature in 5 minutes. ‘I can hardly think of an industry that doesn’t use XRF these days’ Pressed pellets and liquids In situations where the test results are less crucial—for example for quality control in a cement factory—XRF analyses are carried out using pressed pellets. “To create XRF pellets you need to use a higher sample to binder ratio than the ux/sample ratio you need for fused beads, namely four parts sample to one part binder.” Even so, such applications can’t do without fused beads entirely. “Weekly calibrations of the results require fused beads anyway. We make fused beads for cement companies according to their speci cations, in order to create reference materials for them to calibrate their test results on a weekly basis.” Fluxana also created reference standards for the mobile labs run by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). “Those were for analyzing noxious gasses in smoke and fumes released during a calamity. That’s the de nition of tailor-made.” To complete their XRF sample assortment, Fluxana also prepares liquid samples for XRF analysis. Samples in cups are covered in foil, then sealed with a lid, ready for upside-down analysis in the XRF equipment. “Widely used in the petrochemical industry to determine the sulphur content in fuel.” Growing demand The fact that XRF is used in so many different industries and elds of research means Schramm’s company is less at the mercy of the world market. Besides, the number of XRF analyzers is steadily growing, and the demand for supplies is keeping pace. “I can hardly think of an industry that doesn’t use XRF these days. It’s used for anything from measuring the wear on materials used in airplane engines in order to plan preventive maintenance, to determining the level of small additives like calcium, phosphate, zinc and sulphur in lubricating oil, to checking for metals in drugs. XRF is even making its way into the pharmaceutical industry too.” A series of platinum cups containing a mixture of lithium borate and powdered sample (1:4) ready to be turned into fused beads. The cups automatically slide into the oven one by one. market must operate internationally, Schramm contends. “Germany is too small for us. We need to serve the whole world. Fluxana serves more than a hundred countries. Germany is good for only a third of our sales, Europe another third and the remaining third is from further a eld.” But what about competition from the large XRF suppliers? “Yes, you’d expect there to be competition,” Schramm says, “but we found that neither large nor small businesses invest in those peripherals. So the fact that we do is our strength.” Another trend working to Fluxana’s advantage is that labs are losing their in-house expertise on XRF applications and are increasingly outsourcing this. “In-house specialists are on the decline. But when a lab buys a piece of specialist equipment, say an analyzer that can determine the slag content in cement samples, they soon discover that this requires a bit more specialist knowledge than they banked on. It’s for these practical matters that they turn to us. We’ve developed a fusion sample preparation method. So here on the premises, we can show them how it’s done. Anybody who shows up here on Monday, will be ready to start using their XRF equipment on Wednesday.” Fused beads Fluxana has thrived thanks to its knowledge of, and supplies for, fused bead production. Fused beads are indispensable in XRF calibration tests as well as for speci c analyses. Fused beads are created by mixing a nely granulated, homogenized sample with a lithium borate matrix and then heating the mixture in a platinum cup in an oven to obtain a uniform, liquid mass. The cup is then poured out into a at-bottomed mold and the liquid is allowed to set, resulting in a lens-like, glass disc. Although fused bead preparation is a complicated, time-consuming sample preparation method that requires expensive equipment, it is vital for high-resolution analyses of metallic substances, and not only for XRF analyses, but also for some ICP-MS1 applications. As Schramm explains, “We’ve developed a fused bead method that makes it possible to determine limits with the highest accuracy, for example for iron or zinc ore concentration measurement. Payment depends on concentration levels; 0.1% less or more iron or zinc can make a $10,000 difference on a shipment. We do something similar for the Australian and Brazilian mining industries. There, it’s all about the ore content before shipping. And again, that’s determined using fused beads.” Fused beads are also sold to glass manufacturers and steel works that need to test their raw materials. “And we also supply them to waste management companies that recycle palladium, platinum and rhodium from scrap catalytic converters. We’ve developed standards to calculate the content of these substances in recyclates.” 42 LABinsights | December 2017 December 2017 | LABinsights 43 1 Inductive Coupled Plasma Mass Spectometry
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