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A Moisture Analyzer Is A Critical Tool For Meeting Quality Control Regulations

A Moisture Analyzer Is A Critical Tool For Meeting Quality Control Regulations

You might be surprised to know that moisture content, as measured by a moisture analyzer, is a critical part of meeting quality standards across a broad range of products ranging from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS plastic) to wheat. Government regulations can be quite specific on moisture content for food products, pharmaceuticals, wood products and yes, even roofing tiles. 

All of us have experienced wrong moisture content – such as what happens when sugar and salt are left unprotected in high-humidity locations. But incorrect moisture content – either too much or too little – also impacts the efficiency of and quality control standards governing manufacturing operations and in designating accurate weights for a product.

Industry’s response to assuring correct moisture content is to use a moisture analyzer, which is also called a moisture balance. It tells how much moisture is in the product being analyzed. This information is compared against specified moisture content to determine if the moisture content is too high or too low.

This compact piece of equipment employs a drying process to extract and measure moisture.  In a simple 3-step procedure the sample is placed in a drying chamber, parameters of the drying process are entered on a keypad and the analysis begins.  The instrument calculates the moisture content by comparing the initial weight of the sample to the weight after drying is complete. 

Halogen quartz glass is generally the source of drying heat. These heaters provide constant even drying of the sample after temperatures are programmed in by the moisture analyzer operator.  Temperature is generally maintained within 1?C of the selected setting, and while most analyses involve ramping the temperature to a maximum of 160?C or less, in special cases higher temperatures may be necessary to achieve complete drying.  The analysis automatically terminates either when the dry weight is stable or at a time specified by the operator.

Not as simple as it may seem

Once the drying method has been programmed, operating a moisture analyzer is quite straightforward. Selecting suitable method parameters is typically simple for powders but more complex for other types of samples such as viscous or oily materials.  For substances with an inability to tolerate rapid halogen heating a process called soft drying is employed.  Fast heating, while frequently used for products with moisture content between 5 and 15%, may cause certain samples to form a film on their surface.  This slows the evaporation of the enclosed moisture.  Wet samples may need to be spread on fiberglass filter paper to increase surface area for drying and prevent splattering.

Regardless of how a moisture analyzer is employed, accurate record-keeping is critical for quality control and to prove that the company involved follows good manufacturing practices.

Once the analysis is complete results are shown on a digital display and remain until a new sample is positioned for analysis. Technicians are charged with keeping a complete record of the process starting with the initial mass, the residual mass, test parameters and results.  This is facilitated by connecting the moisture analyzer to a PC by using an RS-232 interface.  Data acquisition software enables technicians to produce a graph plotting results against time, providing valuable information on how fast the drying operation occurred and a confirmation of dry weight stability. Individual test results are stored in the computer memory for subsequent comparison.

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