Time to Upgrade?

Time to Upgrade? Analytical Balances

Precision, range, and stability are main considerations

Rachel Muenz

So, you’re thinking of upgrading your analytical balance. Should you purchase the latest and greatest model or just repair your current instrument? It all depends on a variety of factors, but there are some major signs that it’s probably best to buy a new instrument.

“There are several performance related warning signs that indicate a balance may need repair or replacement,” says Tom Delano, vice president of business development at Adam Equipment (Danbury, CT). “Oftentimes replacement with a newer product is a better decision than repair.”

One sign that could mean it’s time for replacement is that the balance is unable to hold calibration, needing re-calibration after very few weighing tasks. If the displayed results drift up or down, jump for no apparent reason, or are consistently unstable, that’s another indication that it’s time to consider purchasing new equipment.

Gilbert Vial, physical measurements product manager, Shimadzu Scientific Instruments (Columbia, MD) adds a few other signs users should look for:

“Depending on the laboratory environment and how the balance is being used, the range and precision may not be sufficient,” he says. “In addition, there may be signs that the stability and repeatability are no longer accurate. Finally, integration to a computer may be necessary and there may be definitive signs of corrosion.”

However, if a user’s current analytical balance performs well, holds calibration, has adequate range and precision, requires minimum maintenance, shows no signs of corrosion, and the user is certain they have no use for more modern features such as current computer interfaces, statistical calculations or data storage, upgrading is likely unnecessary, Delano and Vial say.

Delano notes the main benefits of upgrading are that the newest balance technologies allow labs to be more productive and cost efficient through improved processing speed and faster results. Upgrading also keeps labs on the cutting edge, he adds.

“Balance manufacturers continually introduce new products with updated features and capabilities driven by market needs and wants,” he says. “Most labs need to stay current with procedures and more than ever, data collection and traceability. Periodic balance upgrades ensure the lab has the ability to conduct business as needs change.”

To that list of benefits Vial adds improved precision, range, and stability.

“These are all important factors when utilizing an analytical balance,” he explains. “Another benefit is the ability to transmit data to a computer seamlessly.”

As with upgrading most lab equipment, the only main drawback to upgrading a balance is cost, but the price of a new balance is low compared to the expense of upgrading most other lab instruments, Delano says.

The only other con of upgrading Vial could think of was the relatively minor one of getting used to a new instrument.

“Adapting to anything new will take some time, especially if using a different manufacturer,” he notes.

There are drawbacks to postponing an upgrade, including the potential to be less productive than labs with newer equipment. Manual data collection and analysis are time consuming and allow human error, Delano says.

Additional points to consider before purchasing:

  • If your lab isn’t using automated data collection now, will it be in the near future?
  • Is workload going to increase thereby requiring more samples to be measured in the same time?
  • Would a new product with updated features be useful in another area of the facility? Would it help distribute the workload?
  • Is an upgrade really needed?
  • How well are your balances working? Do they meet your current requirements?
  • Do your research. Find out what you need and be sure to investigate all your options.
  • Readability, precision, stability, and cost of ownership.