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Time to Upgrade? Mass Spectrometers

When to upgrade your mass spectrometer (MS) varies from user to user but there are a few main indicators that are common to many situations, the experts say.

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When to upgrade your mass spectrometer (MS) varies from user to user but there are a few main indicators that are common to many situations, the experts say.

“Overall, the big thing that everyone needs to be concerned about is return on investment (ROI),” says Patrick Jeanville, South American mass spectrometry commercialization leader for PerkinElmer. “Can you improve your overall ROI by replacing your current technology?”

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PerkinElmer’s AxION® iQT GC/MS/MS , released June 2013, is the first mass spectrometry platform of its kind that performs both superior quantitation and exact mass identification for complex sample analysis.Other key reasons to buy a new MS include the system needing too much maintenance or the instrument doesn’t meet the user’s expanding research requirements in terms of detection limits, linearity, speed of analysis, robustness, reporting and regulatory requirements.

Also, if known standards and blanks are incorrect when tested, service and training costs are too high, and replacement parts too difficult to find, it could be time to replace. Growing business is another reason to upgrade.

“If an organization is outsourcing its samples in greater numbers, it may be time to purchase a, or another, MS to meet the growing demand,” says Vicky Lander, global director of marketing communications for Bruker Daltonics.

However, there are situations where, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Jeanville says. “If your current instrumentation meets your productivity, sensitivity, robustness, service requirements and the needs of your customer base, then I really would not recommend replacing it until it suffers from a derogative technical issue or reaches its end of life cycle.”

Lander adds that for validated methods or routine analysis, a new mass spec isn’t usually necessary. “Also, if they can outsource some work, that may be a preferred, if not temporary, option to buying new.”

Bruker’s new solarix XR FTMS System, recently introduced at ASMS in Minneapolis in June.Yet waiting too long to upgrade can cause future problems.

“You don’t want to wait so long that technology is antiquated and … it’s going to cost you a lot in terms of what you need to put into it, whether it’s training, or whether it’s updating the technologies,” Jeanville says.

Sticking with a current MS has some short-term benefits, such as saving the cost of buying new, and staff are familiar with it and don’t require new training.

“The cons crop up when that system no longer meets their needs and the efforts to keep it running or to work around its shortcomings start to cost more than they save, and certainly if the existing system precludes the organization from meeting new challenges,” Lander explains.

Upgrading parts of a current system is also a budget-friendly option, but isn’t usually the best choice, especially with older systems.

“Honestly, probably the only benefit is the amount of capital that’s going to be needed to perform the upgrade, and this is on a case-to-case basis,” Jeanville says.

Both experts agree that in many cases updating parts won’t make a future upgrade unnecessary.

“It’s just a temporary solution and the user is only delaying the inevitable,” Lander says.

With a new system, users may need to invest some time in getting used to new software and hardware, but that software is easier to use and the technology more powerful, speedier, reliable, suits many applications, and often pays for itself in better productivity and higher revenues, the experts conclude.

Options for Buyers on a Budget:

  • Leasing or trade-in programs
  • Buying a demo model
  • Swapping out older components for new ones, but beware of the third-party market
  • Customized purchase agreements

Resources to Consult Before Buying:

  • Current system users and colleagues
  • Vendors and sales reps
  • Social media sites or forums focused on MS instruments
  • System literature
  • Trade shows