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XRFLoosevsPellet

High Throughput XRF sample prep

The APEX 400 press can produce approximately 40 pellets per hour

XRFLoosevsPellet

High Throughput XRF sample prep

APEX 400 Press 

The APEX 400 hydraulic press is dedicated to the production of pressed pellets for XRF laboratories and other elemental analyses. It is a benchtop press designed for repeated use in high-throughput analytical testing environments, producing sample pellets in steel rings, aluminium cups, or as unsupported pellets.

Best-in-class features
• Automation of two-stage pressing with standard (non-ring) dies. Via Quickshift
Technology
• Ability to lock programs from editing with a password.
• Ergonomic design of all user touchpoints to minimise user strain.

Class-matching features
• Ring dies for high throughput batch preparation of samples.
• Benchtop size and weight – can be set up anywhere.

Programming features
• Simple program blocks for load, dwell, and pellet release automations.
• Give programs a name and description for clear reference.
• Robust touchscreen can be operated with gloves.

APEX4004
APEX4003
APEX4002

APEX 400 Features

  • Compact, benchtop press: Suitable for all laboratories, even where space is limited.
  • Fully automatic and programmable pressing cycles: Automated processes streamline your workflow and free your team to work on other tasks.
  • Quickshift Technology for automatic pellet extraction: When pressing pellets without steel supporting rings, the pressing platen switches automatically between pressing and extraction modes.
  • Supports use of ring dies and standard dies: Specac’s first press to support ring dies, for both 51.5 x 35 mm rings and 40 x 32 mm rings, as well as standard dies of 32 and 40 mm diameters.
  • Sample loading made easy: Access to the die is via a pull-out drawer, positioned at a comfortable height for repeated sample filling. The external position of the die when filling prevents build-up of stray powder inside the machine.
  • Designed for maintenance: The press is designed with servicing in mind, from modular fitment of components to diagnostic reporting.

APEX 400 Specifications

The APEX 400 pellet press is designed for use in busy on-site testing laboratories at mining, manufacturing, and other material testing facilities. It has several features designed to automate the pressing cycle, including 'Quickshift' technology, which automatically moves the pressure plate between load and release positions to remove the pellet from the pellet die without manual intervention.  

Specifications

  • Rated maximum load: 400 kN (40 t)
  • Dimensions: W 462 mm x D 346 mm x H 573 mm 
  • Weight (uncrated): 120 kg 
  • Power: single phase, universal power supply
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Ring Pellet Die

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Standard Pellet Die

Explanation of pressing cycles

The pressing cycle depends on the type of Pellet Die used.

Programming of any cycle is conveniently achieved with the touch screen.

Using Ring Dies

(single stage pressing)

When using a Ring Die, the pellet is formed within a reusable supporting steel ring. The steel ring sits loosely in the pellet die such that it can be removed by hand after a single compression stroke. Each sample is prepared in its own steel ring, so a supply of several such rings is needed to produce a full batch of samples. After the samples have been tested, the samples can be removed and the rings cleaned and returned for reuse. Using ring dies is generally the faster process because a single pressing stage is required. 

Using Standard Dies

(two-stage pressing)

When using a standard die, the pellet is formed within the body of the pellet die itself. The pellet can be extracted by a second compression stroke which is applied to the die body only. This allows the plunger to drive the pellet clean through the bore of the die body. A recessed area must be provided around the top of the bore for the pellet to exit into, which is achieved on the APEX 400 using 'Quickshift technology'.  

Quickshift Technology

 

The APEX 400 features a sliding pressure plate with two positions: a flat 'load' position which applies a force to the die body and the sample together; and a recessed 'release' position which loads up the die body only and provides space for the finished pellet to release into. The position of the pressure plate is controlled by the APEX press itself as part of its programming, and does not require separate actuation by the user of the press. Quickshift Technology speeds up the two-stage pressing cycle by removing the need to manually adjust the pellet die and press platen for pellet extraction.  

Quickshift Technology

 

The APEX 400 press can produce approximately 40 pellets per hour with single stage pressing in ring dies and 20 pellets per hour using standard dies and Quickshift Technology. Note that the actual rates achieved will depend on the types of sample materials, the pressing sequence, and availability of sufficient sample to work continuously for one hour.

Accelerating XRF pellet production with Apex

The introduction of the Apex 400 Press can dramatically cut down on operator involvement and speed up the pellet making process by automating certain steps. And when used in combination with dies for steel supporting rings, high volume, high throughput sample production for intensive industries such as mining and production is greatly sped up.

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Benefits of Apex

Pressing a pellet is a two-stage process involving sample compaction followed by pellet extraction. The procedure takes place in a “pellet die”, which consists of a thick-walled cylindrical tube, a matching piston or “plunger”, and a cap to blank off one end of the tube. A hydraulic press is used to drive the plunger through the bore of the tube, compressing the powders into the capped-off end. During compaction, the powders flow to fit the boundaries of the cavity, and then undergo adhesion into a thin, solid disc or “pellet”.

With a traditional die set, the cap must be manually removed and replaced with an extraction sleeve, which allows the plunger to push the finished pellet clean through the die bore, using a second application of the press.

Apex offers two ways to simplify and speed up this two-stage procedure:

1. Pressing in steel rings using a “ring die”
2. Pressing with “QuickShift” technology.

Using Ring Dies

(single stage pressing)

If you’re looking for a fast and efficient way to make pellets, then a Ring Die might be the perfect solution for you. This process uses durable and reusable steel rings, which sit loosely in the die body and therefore can be easily removed by hand after a single compression stroke. Each sample is prepared in its own steel ring, so it’s important to have several rings on hand in order to produce a full batch of samples. After the samples have been tested, the rings can be cleaned and returned for reuse. Overall, using Ring Dies is a faster process compared to other methods because only a single pressing stage is required.

Quickshift Technology

The APEX 400 features a sliding pressure plate with two positions: a flat ‘load’ position which applies a force to the die body and the sample together; and a recessed ‘release’ position which loads up the die body only and provides space for the finished pellet to release into. The position of the pressure plate is controlled by the APEX press itself as part of its programming, and does not require separate actuation by the user of the press. Quickshift Technology speeds up the two-stage pressing cycle by removing the need to manually adjust the pellet die and press platen for pellet extraction.

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The ‘QuickShift’ cycle diagram for the APEX 400 press.

Cycle times

The APEX 400 press can produce approximately 40 pellets per hour with single stage pressing in ring dies and 20 pellets per hour using standard dies and Quickshift Technology. Note that the actual rates achieved will depend on the types of sample materials, the pressing sequence, and availability of sufficient sample to work continuously for one hour.

Programming for the Apex Press

Programming the press is easy and intuitive: a new recipe is added and individual steps are added as program blocks using the on-screen editor.

The special ‘end’ symbol has two modes: a standard mode (used for ring dies) which simply ends the program; and a special QuickShift mode, which automates the procedure for extracting a pellet from a standard die.

The Apex press ships with two default programs as an example.

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Consider your whole workflow

Pressing powders involves several steps both before and after the actual pressing process. First, materials are mixed and blended, and then homogenized using a mill, which also creates a size distribution ranging from larger particles to small ones. In some cases, sieving and shaking are needed to filter out larger particles.

Once the pellet is pressed, it may be transferred directly to a measuring instrument or remounted in holders beforehand.

Since many processes are happening simultaneously in the lab, automating some parts of the pressing cycle can allow laboratory staff to focus on other parts of the process, particularly preparing the next batch of powders for pressing. This is especially important in industrial settings, where throughput of testing is a significant consideration.

Safety Features

The APEX 400 press has several safety features. No load can be applied if the drawer is open, and switches ensure that it has been fully closed before the press can operate. The progress of any program may be interrupted by pressing the stop key, which is a physical button on the front panel of the press. The die is also fully enclosed in the press when operating, which guarantees that even in the unlikely event of failure, your staff are completely protected.

Preparation is the key to success: optimising workflows for pressed pellet preparation

In busy XRF laboratories that are working constantly to make samples for XRF and other elemental analyses, pellet preparation is essential for quick turnover of samples and ease of sample handling.

Different sample preparations qualitatively affect the results, but also have the potential to simplify and speed up workflows. In our latest article, we examine these trade-offs in two sections, first looking at why we press pellets for XRF analysis, and second looking at how the choice of equipment impacts workflows.

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