New DSC 204 F1 Phoenix® and TG 209 F1 Libra® with Unique Automatic Sample Changer

Dr. Thilo Hilpert, Research & Development

Automatic sample changers (ASCs) allow for measurements around the clock and thereby increase sample throughput. With a cutting-edge workflow design allowing for even greater efficiency, this brand new ASC by NETZSCH has been newly developed with a view to the 3in1 trays for the DSC 204 F1 Phoenix® and TG 209 F1 Libra®.

The portal design with five stepper motor axes – three for moving the gripper, one for opening the gripper and one for covering the tray – offers a completely new level of flexibility and accuracy. Up to two of the 3in1 trays in the 96-MicroPlate format can be inserted; scanners identify these clearly via the label.

The new gripper with concentric 4-pin movement – in conjunction with the new crucible database (see figure 2) – allows for SafeTouch functionality for the adaptive gripping of any crucible/lid combination. Gripping force and level as well as the different depths of the 3in1 trays are automatically adjusted.

The 3in1 trays offer advantages in terms of packaging, preparation and archiving; the unique serial number allows for reliable identification, even when reusing in the future. Compatibility with the MicroPlate format also allows for direct filling with pipetting robots.

Fig. 2. Concavus crucibles and lids in the crucible databaseFig. 2. Concavus® crucibles and lids in the crucible database

Concavus® Crucible of Al

Inner height to lid2.25mm
Outer height2.6mm
Inner diameter4.7mm
Inner bottom diameter4.4mm
Outer bottom diameter4.6mm
Avg. mass39.5mg
Purity99.5%
Max. temperature600°C
Nom. volume35μl
Cold welableyes

Concavus® Lid of Al

Add. height due to lid0.12mm
Delta height0.38mm
Outer diameter6.9mm
defined hole-mm
Avg. mass12.1mg
purity99.5%
Max. temperature600°C
Delta volume (down)-6.2μl
Delta volume (up)6.0μl
Cold weldableyes

Along with the fixed strip for 12 calibration and reference crucibles, respectively, up to 204 positions are possible.

The automatically maneuvered tray cover with integrated gas purging reliably protects the samples from environmental influences such as dust, humidity and atmospheric oxygen. The samples and trays are visible at all times. The cover can be manually opened and closed for such tasks as changing out the tray and samples. An automatic closing function ensures that the samples remain continuously protected to the greatest possible extent. The lids on particularly sensitive samples can also be pierced immediately prior to insertion into the measuring cell with a needle which can be optionally integrated into the gripper.

Fig. 3. Sample changer with half-open tray coverFig. 3. Sample changer with half-open tray cover
Fig. 4. Labels of two 3in1 trays with 2D code – they include type, content and serial number and can be read automaticallyFig. 4. Labels of two 3in1 trays with 2D code – they include type, content and serial number and can be read automatically

The Proteus® 7.2 software enables a cutting-edge workflow design and even greater efficiency – particularly for longer measurement series. Reference crucibles and one calibration set can remain in the ASC at any given time; there, they are protected by the tray cover. References are suggested by the software; automatic calibration can also be run over the weekend. The measurement can be defined as desired for either any given crucible position in the tray, any rows/columns, or the entire tray in one step. Selection of a measurement rule (method) is just as easy.

Anticipatory optimization allows for dynamic and fluid maneuvering and also reduces changing times by up to 20 s or 25%.

The crucible is detected in the gripper via a modulated laser beam and a photo diode as it passes by the detection position. This elegant solution saves time and is unaffected by intense light sources or solar radiation.

Along with readable information such as the order number, content and serial number, the label of the 3in1 trays (shown in figure 4) also contains a DataMatrix 2D code which is read upon insertion by the cameras installed in the ASC.

All currently available coupling options for gas analysis can also be delivered for the new ASC; the PERSEUS® coupling has been adjusted.

Summary

Having a cutting-edge workflow design with even greater efficiency, the new automatic sample changer by NETZSCH plays in a higher league. Features such as the 3in1 trays in MicroPlate format, rinsable tray cover, and SafeTouch (operating by means of a 4-pin gripper and crucible database) all allow for successful application in areas outside quality assurance as well.

Crucible Database

This includes all NETZSCH crucibles, lids and liners (altogether approx. 120 pieces) with pictures, order info, dimensions, material and dependencies – such as ASC and sample carrier compatibility and much more.

As an example, figure 2 shows a set comprised of a Concavus® crucible and lid with features from the crucible database. SafeTouch makes use of this data in order to ensure that all crucibles are gripped safely and gently. The measurement definition uses previously defined sets consisting of crucible, optional lid and liner as well as properties like cold-welded or pierced.

Customer-specific crucibles, lids and liners can also be defined and applied.