Foreign Body Identification

Challenge

Foreign objects found by the final end-user in food, beverages or non-food products are a serious issue. Fragments include glass, metal, plastic, or other non-organic or organic solid objects. The stage at which the fragment has been introduced may be unknown, so delaying corrective action. A foreign object incident can undermine a company's image and reputation and needs to be addressed quickly. Some foreign objects must not be destroyed during testing. Other foreign objects are extremely small, leading one to wonder whether they can be analysed at all.

In the power generation industry, deposits on turbine blades and boilers can impair operation and increase maintenance costs. The chemical composition of the layers of deposits may need to be identified to assist with determining the possible root cause.

During failure analysis on large plant or equipment, small pieces of material found during the investigation may need to be identified, again to assist with determining the failure mechanism or origin.

Solution

Our foreign material investigation laboratory specialises in the investigative analysis of small samples, usually fragments, layers or particulates. The analysis of a sample may assist in identifying the origin of that sample. We employ a range of methodologies and instruments to perform non-destructive analysis including:

  • Optical microscopy - visual features of foreign objects, with capacity to produce digital microscopy photographs
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (SEM­-EDX) - fast and non-destructive means of determining the elemental composition and identification of foreign objects, deposits or contaminants
  • Fourier Transform Infra-red Spectroscopy (FTIR) - used to identify plastics and organic contaminants etc. This instrument also includes an extensive spectral library which assists with identification of the fragments and unknowns
  • Density measurements (sink-float method) are an excellent way of distinguishing the origins of glass fragments as this is an extremely sensitive method

Further analysis may be useful, for some samples, utilizing the following techniques:

  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) is an elemental analysis technique, which complements SEM-EDX. It has the capability to determine minute quantities of elements in various samples. It is possible to get a spectral 'fingerprint' to assist identification of materials.
  • Classical chemical analysis entails a wide range of 'wet chemical analysis' techniques, known for hundreds of years. These techniques often help to elucidate the composition of materials.

Benefits

hrl: provides individually tailored solutions and analysis results to support the unique requirements of individual clients.

Benefits include:

  • accurate results provided to our clients within an agreed turn-around time
  • independent, expert testing and analysis
  • from our many years of experience, our laboratory staff are able to draw conclusions about the identities of a very wide range of foreign objects
  • although glass fragment identification poses unique challenges, our experience and expertise in glass fragment identification is second to none
  • ability to analyse and identify samples down to sub-micrometre level (essentially no sample is too small)
  • foreign objects are generally not destroyed so they are still available for inspection after the testing
  • potentially provide understanding about how the contamination occurred
  • may assist in the preservation of company image and brand reputation
  • assist in the understanding of failure mechanisms or deposit formation
  • assist clients with future mitigation of operating expenditure.

Meet the expert


GREG RICHARDS
Over 27 years of experience analyzing and identifying foreign objects for the food and beverage industries. Development of the test methods that are now used to characterize foreign objects. Read more

 

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Wayne Gason

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Our certifications

NATA accredited AtS/NZS ISO 17025, AS/NZS ISO 17020NATA Accredited Laboratories number 561.


ISO 9001 Quality Management certied by BSI under certicate number FS605116.

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