My company is thinking about bringing metallographic testing in house as the testing at outside labs is adding up. I'm looking at several vendors (Leco, Buelher, Pace/Metallographic).
I'm interested in hearing about people's experience with equipment from these or any other brands (good or bad)
Thank you in advance.
I spent 40 years in the Metallographic Laboratory at Babcock & Wilcox (now BWXT) and I am familiar with all of the vendors and their equipment. I would suggest you contact at least three of the vendors and meet with them to explain what you plan to do. They will want to know your expected sample types, materials and volume/day or week. Also, your space available for the equipment, services available (power, water, air, etc.) and what personnel training might be necessary. Just a little warning, it could take at least a year or more to get everything in place as a functioning laboratory. Good Luck.
We recently replaced our entire lab, I had a very good experience with Allied High Tech. We met with Leco and Buehler as well, as expected Leco tried to sell us on the most expensive of everything while our rep from Allied listened to what our needs were and made recommendations based on that, even saving us some money rather than upselling everything. Their customer service has been excellent as well.
I've used Allied, Buehler, and Struers equipment in the past. Here's my take on each:Allied equipment is typically more spartan. The older dispenser setups also were not synced well with the programs and had to manually be changed along with the step on the polisher. Accordingly, their equipment is on the lower price end, but it is durable and user-repairable in many cases (BIG benefit). I believe their newest polisher (Metprep 3x) has introduced multiple programs and a better dispenser setup, so it's in the same territory as Buehler/Struers. If appearance is a concern, their black finish won't yellow over time like Buehler and Struers. For what it's worth, I purchased a Metprep 3 for my lab and have been quite happy with it; my biggest gripe is the slow programming. I also have a TechCut 5 saw, and I'm kind of lukewarm on it. I really like the reservoir/pump setup and crank for manual cutting, when required, but it's less powerful and can sometimes struggle on difficult materials when using the same blades. In my experience, their support is top-notch; they've always been very responsive and helpful.
At my last company, we got new Buehler equipment (~2021) including an AutoMet 250 Pro polisher and IsoMet High Speed Pro saw. The polisher felt very robust, and the menu was very usable. Programming and settings were quickly changed with the touchscreen, but a touchscreen tends to collect debris when it's used while polishing - wet hands/gloves, and all. The machine also requires two hands to start the cycle by pressing buttons on both sides of the head simultaneously. It can be a hassle, but I understand the safety benefit by requiring both hands to be clear of the working area in order to start. The water nozzle is removable like a spray nozzle on a kitchen sink, which can help with rinsing. I thought it was a good piece of equipment and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. The IsoMet saw, however, was a bit disappointing. The saw's reservoir and pump were awful. The setup always caused splashes/spills, picked up debris, and clogged up the system. We generally had to change the water out every couple days when we were cutting ~3 hours/day because of this. The lights were also finicky and had to be repaired. The automatic-dressing feature was nice when it worked - no matter how tight we made the bolt holding the stone on, it would always work loose and fail to dress. On the plus side, it has plenty of power, and the programming options were excellent. Automatic slicing in increments was very useful. I just felt the saw could have been much better designed at that price point. Their support was always pretty responsive, but not quite as good as Allied.
The company before that had Struers equipment. Our lab had a Tegramin polisher, Secotom saw, CitoPress hot mounting press, and CitoVac cold mounting vacuum system. The Tegramin worked well, but seemed unnecessarily complicated. I'd consider it similar to Buehler's Automet with respect to performance, but repairs and parts were very expensive for what, in retrospect, seems like little benefit. I liked the Secotom. It cut well, for the most part, and the reservoir wasn't too bad to work with - much better than Buehler's setup. For whatever reason, I saw more blade deflection issues with the Secotom than the TechCut or IsoMet. For hot mounting, the CitoPress was great and easy to use - no complaints, very reliable. The CitoVac was quite good, but has consumable nozzles/tubes to draw resin in that must be replaced between uses. It's a necessity to have that feature, but something to keep in mind. Overall, I thought Struers equipment was good, but now having used other brands, I don't think I could ever justify the price point. In my experience, support was not bad, but was the least responsive of the three.
Good morning Diane,
I am familiar with several of these brands and a few others. From the beginning, be aware that "your mileage may vary" especially depending on which materials you're working with. Our materials are particularly challenging with respect to cutting and polishing (high alloy white iron). Buelher made some quality / workhorse type equipment in the past. I understand that they changed ownership several years ago, and I have no experience either way after that.
My experience with the quality and support from Leco has been mixed, especially with abrasive saws. This may be regional, and to be fair our materials are particularly difficult.
I am not familiar with Pace.
Struers makes high quality and reliable lab equipment, especially sample preparation, at a premium price.
Allied High Tech is or was a more budget friendly option.
I've been impressed with Leica microscopes, we have used their stero and optical microscopes for years with good results.
Keyence has some good metrology and inspection equipment, and a very broad portfolio, but set up a filter on your email before contacting them, they are very aggressive marketers.
Innovatest makes excellent hardness testers.
Those are the vendors that spring to mind. I would certainly affirm Gene's assertion that it will take a significant amount of time to set up a new lab. Do not underestimate lead times / delivery times, or the cost of lab furniture, utilities (water, electricity, compressed air), chemical cabinets, fume hoods, etc.
Best Regards, GIW Industries, Inc. (A KSB Company) Advanced Manufacturing Engineer – Metallurgy & Foundry Systems
Paul Taylor 5000 Wrightsboro Road Grovetown, Ga 30813 Tel.: +1 706-863-1011 ext 2559
Cell : +1 706-830-4394 Fax: +1 706-868-8025 Email: email@example.com
I have worked a bit with Allied, Buehler, and Leco. As others have noted each company has there strengths and weaknesses, also every local sales person is different(are they support or just sales?).
We have gone with Allied for our consumables and more of our equipment as we replace items. We are already with Allied for our consumables, grinding/polishing, and considering for mounting. We have a Buehler micro hardness tester, and a Leco carbon sulfur analyzer (previously all Leco equipment for metallurgical analysis, before my time). We have had great experience so far with Allied High Tech. I would say we would consider Leco, but have had a bad salesperson before(who is long since retired, and was before my time but burned a lot of bridges, some of the issues I am still dealing with, we have had no issue with our current sales person). The old Leco sales person (years before my time sold us a bunch of items we did not need or want, or realize until we became self educated on what was needed once we found out we needed to buy even more expensive equipment to do what we actually need(great short term strategy for the salesman, who is no longer there and we are still thinking about that experience almost twenty years later). My best advice is get self educated and don't just rely on a "good salesperson to tell you what you need", although a good sales person is important and a great asset.
We are currently working on repairing our allied grinder polisher, and have been happy with the customer service so far (we are not down, but thinking a belt is starting to get worn in our 5to6year old unit and the customer support has been good from Allied so far).
Our experience with Buehler is we have Buehler equipment for our Rockwell hardness testing out on the floor and employees are used to it and their equipment is more intuitive(my personal thought, or we are already used to it). We have a great independent tool representative that is very knowledgeable and worked with us on our Rockwell hardness items on the production floor, but was not the officaial territory representative for microscope hardness testers in our area.
I have been much more impressed with our local independent tool representative, who sells Buehler product than Buehler as a company overall (a lot of great people at Buehler and I was a huge fan before they got purchased by ITW in 2006, in my personal opinion the international focus has not improved companies owned by ITW which is a lot of companies). We were previously forced to buy from another Buehler tool representative(territory sales person for Microscopes on our microhardness tester) because of territory issues even though we had worked with the other independent tool representative before, and had wanted to purchase through that independent sales company we could not for territory issues.
The company/sales-person (that Buehler required us to use against my protest) did not order the microhardness tester to our specifications even though the purchase order we agreed to stated what we were expecting and they did not even order the complete mount holder or the correct configuration of machine/accessories. (the Buehler set-up technician was even a bit frustrated as he had to scramble to be able to try and finish the machine set-up the best he could with the missing parts/ he ended up ordering the needed mount holder for us). I am now able to again work with our knowledgeable independent representative after the other company did not specify the equipment correctly (I have to give the Buehler set-up tech a lot of credit for being able to make the best of a bad situation). We still cannot get our metallurgical test reports to properly say inches for the case depth reading even after reaching out when we purchased the incorrectly ordered system, so we are always having to explain it says mm but is inches).
All companies have their pros & cons, I would also recommend talking to someone who is not selling you product for opinions as noted, some sales people try and up-sell (on things you don't need or sometimes want). My best advice "simple is usually better" an example is automatic dispensers on grinders/polishers does not make sense if you will spend more time cleaning and maintaining than you would if manually adding grinding and polishing compounds. If you are just getting started and learning manually can be a great thing, as it forces you to understand the process. In my experience the first thing to go out is touch screens and electronic components, so if they don't have good support you could be having to replace an entire unit for electrical component failure when the machine is still good.
P.S. if you can go to the ASM Dome and take an in person class on metallography you can touch multiple machines and see the space requirements and get a feel for what it takes to collect, section, and mount a sample before analyzing it (better to spend money on knowledge up front than on years of expensive frustration from learning the hard way after purchasing items that don't really meet your needs).
Just my two cents worth. Good economical equipment that is easy to use and requires little servicing is what you want in my opinion especially starting out. Any sales person that starts with all the bells and whistles without listening to what you need is what you want to avoid.
------------------------------David LammersEngineerTotal Component SolutionsSioux Center IA(712) 451-6646------------------------------
------------------------------Diane EsemplareQuality Metallurgical EngineerHytorcRiverdale NJ201 738 2733------------------------------
I guess you already have your answer, i can see a lot of ASM members responded with detail information. But still let us know if you have any questions. I would also suggest few but still it's depended on your end use for samples.
I've experienced of using Buehler, Struers & Allied all of three are big company in metallography testing Equipements supply. Currently we've polishing machine from Allied & it's works really well & happy with that. But you can explore other all equipment too. I can give you Allied Technical Sales persona contact you may check with them & ask about your requirements. @Craig McMillan firstname.lastname@example.org is the contact person for Allied Equipements.
Hope this will help & answer your questions.
--------------------------------Kind Regards,Chirag Raval - (M.Eng. in Metallurgical & Materials Engineering Specialize in Material Technology)Sr. Manager Materials – Thermal & Cold Spray ApplicationsHANNECARD Roller Coatings, Inc1031 Lambert St., Barberton, Ohio – 44203T +1 330 753 8458 | M +1 330 208 3161www.hannecard.com | www.asbindustries.com------------------------------
It's been a while since I have purchased any metallographic gear. The general comments by others all seem very valuable, so I'll just toss in a different aspect.
I was present as a "last metallurgist standing" during a business turndown, and we had to transition from having multiple trained metallographers to my having to direct and train a rookie, in a situation where any substantial amounts of prep work were supposed to be done by the union/bargaining unit workers. We also had a very low volume on a daily basis and inconsistent amounts of work. This was the ideal time to go to equipment with reproducible results, with menus, automatic force applications, and standardized prep cycles rather than relying on experience.
The point I am making is to suggest looking at the workloads expected and have in mind that equipment will have to be maintained and used, possibly by people with limited experience. A documented training process for every new user including basic metallographic princicples, rather than just a "go to the freezer and get the can of sauce", will almost certainly prevent quality problems in the future. Having a fully knowledgeable person in charge of the metallography process, whether an engineer or a technologist-level person, will give benefits. You may need to sell management on the effort to document the entire process with a quality manual, but it may save the day when a crucial resource person leaves voluntarily or involuntarily and the alternative is loss of the lab function.
Avoid at all costs a situation where someone who has been trained, but doesn't have much background, then attempts to train the next person, who then attempts, etc. etc. And having someone who watches how many samples are prepared, keeps track of the maintenance intervals and necessary consumables, and prevents workers from deciding that shortcuts in consumables or prep time will "improve" things, is important to a consistent output. A quality program that includes occasional blind check samples and a library of past results, similar to a calibration record for other measurement and test equipment, is a good idea as well. All of these steps may be seen as cost adders, and to an extent that is entirely correct, but bypassing them to justify bringing the prep process in-house without maintaining a firm commitment to quality and consistency will result in a loss of control of what is being done and measured. Every lab has to justify its existence and expenditures/costs, and racing down to the bottom line/minimum cost can be disastrous. Be sure to help justify the in-house process with the less tangible savings or improvements that result from having the firmer control of quality and schedule.
Thank you. You make some very good points.
Please also give it try to MetLab Corporation. I bought few equipment for our plant from them in the past and working rally well. They are competitive. Specially if you are looking for cost savings on equipment.
------------------------------Sanjay KulkarniMaterials EngineerMSSC2040 Crooks RD, Suite ATroy, MI email@example.comCell: 248-840-1056------------------------------
------------------------------Diane EsemplareQuality Metallurgical EngineerHytorcRiverdale NJ201 738 2733Original Message:Sent: 02-20-2024 01:59From: Paul TibbalsSubject: Metallography Equipment Recommendations
------------------------------Paul TibbalsOriginal Message:Sent: 02-08-2024 16:53From: Diane EsemplareSubject: Metallography Equipment Recommendations
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