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10 Tips to Keep Your Instrument Running in Top Condition

Every manufacturer in the instrument business has gotten the phone call from an old customer.  The customer bought a great analyzer and used it successfully. Then, for various reasons, the instrument became forgotten. A few years later, there is a new project and nobody remembers how to use instrument or software properly. Even worse, nobody quite remembers where to find the sample cells.  Repair people visit and bring back reports of new civilizations evolved from unidentified crud that was left by the last user. Eventually and at some expense, the instrument is brought back to life. Users are trained, useful data is collected and the instrument owner profits.

Running an instrument regularly (every week) and using the data forces laboratories to keep things clean and confirm instrument performance. Regular use gives operators practice and familiarity that leads to better analytical results.

As new opportunities or problems arise, laboratories will shift focus and work in other areas. Analyzers can be stored away. But, the best analyzers are run by skilled people. And these skills can atrophy with time. Below we list some suggestions for the minimum effort required to keep an instrument and staff ready to quickly restart regular particle analysis.

  1. Designate and train one person responsible for the health and well-being of the instrument. 
  2. Thoroughly clean the instrument two times a year. 
  3. Ensure that the cells and accessories are clean and put in labeled boxes 
  4. Measure standards once every 3 months to stay in practice. 
  5. Qualify the instrument performance with each cell type once a year. 
  6. Designate and train a successor to be ready for the day when the responsible person is promoted or leaves the company. 
  7. Ensure that the instrument is cleaned after every measurement and turned off at the end of each day.
  8. Use the “Blank Check” feature and compare your data from blanks (samples with no particles) to identify issues with dirt collecting on cells.
  9. Schedule an annual preventive maintenance (PM) check or a service contract.  This does not replace the advice that the person responsible make measurements in #4 and #5.  The responsible person needs to stay in practice. 
  10. Read the HORIBA particle analysis newsletter and listen to webinars that catch your interest so you can stay up-to-date.  

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