What are the best practices to avoid damaging my equipment and keeping it in good shape? How can I assure you that my particle counter will last long?
First of all, we must consider that a Particle Counter is a piece of delicate equipment, although housed in a strong & sturdy casing. Unfortunately, this robust looking device sometimes leads the users to forget that the heart of the instrument is a tiny and precise chamber that employs a laser diode, a photodetector, and a mirror – all perfectly aligned and shiny to produce exact readings.
The photodetector has to evaluate the strength of the light scattering produced by a particle that has crossed the laser beam. Depending on the flash caused by that scatter, the sensor will provide a peak of electricity that will be evaluated by the electronics & software that converts it to particle size readings to the user. The larger the particle, the higher the scattering is.
So, now that we understood the principles of a particle counter, let’s go over some very simple steps to help to maintain your equipment HAPPY!
- AVOID ANY MECHANICAL IMPACTS
Always handle your particle counter with care, as a delicate equipment would demand. Avoid bumping or dropping it. Avoid vibrations, especially when carrying it from one location to the other. Use proper carts that have shock absorbers. If the unit is not in use, find a secure place for it. I would recommend always having these foams fitted protective carrying cases and leave your equipment inside, when not in use.
When submitting your counter to be calibrated or to any other location, use proper insulation and packaging. Label the box as “SENSITIVE EQUIPMENT”.
- CAPPING, CAPPING, AND CAPPING!
We have seen a lot of equipment arriving at our service centers with their laser chamber contaminated with foreign materials and liquids!
- If the unit is not in use, never leave your equipment with the sample inlet tubing open, cap it immediately after use.
- After sampling, make sure that the unit off and capped at the end of the cycle.
- Do not place your equipment in the carrying case uncapped. The sampling tube or the sampling probe can sometimes be sharp, cutting a tiny section of the foam and have it ingested.
- If you’re cleaning your process area or equipment, make sure all capping all your samplers.
- BE CAREFUL DURING SAMPLING
Liquids, moisture, and unwanted particles can quickly enter your instrument. During operation, your particle counter is pulling a high volume of air, and anything airborne will be drawn and will end-up stuck in your reading chamber.
Never clean/wipe-down your equipment uncapped or during operation or leave it in an area that is being decontaminated (vaporized) with an uncapped sampling tube.
- INTERNAL CLEANING
Your counter has collected a lot of particles. It’s a good practice that before using it in a different room, you should purge the unit and run a “zero count” cycle – a normal counting cycle but with the HEPA filter supplied with the equipment attached to the sampling tube inlet. These procedures will prevent room cross-contamination and make sure that your particle counter is not counting inexistent particles (internal contamination). Even if your particle counter stays in the same room I would recommend doing these procedures from time to time, but this is something your should evaluate and add to your SOP – there is nor a formal rule for that.
By doing this, you’re giving the right steps towards keeping your particle counter “happy”. I hope that this information brings value to your day, and please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you. Enjoy your day!