With NIR technology under constant development, this summary of key aspects offers a reminder of what to look for in your next NIR.By Richard Mills
Ever since the mid 1980’s, near infrared (NIR) analysis has helped the feed industry to improve feed quality and production economy. But while the technology has steadily become more accessible, there are still a number of considerations for any feed mill when starting out in NIR or moving on from an older system.
1. Range and versatility
Most modern NIR instruments are highly versatile and can measure all the samples and parameters required by the vast majority of feed industry users. It should therefore be possible to measure protein, moisture, fat, ash, amino acids, fiber and many more parameters in under a minute. This will give you the power you need to handle suppliers, to make production more efficient and to ensure product quality before products are dispatched.
2. Built for use in the mill
Any analyser destined for routine use in the feed mill should be designed with ease of use in mind allowing operators to make quick and reliable measurements with minimal training. Instruments must have IP65 certification indicating that they are robust enough for lasting use in the mill. Specifically, they must be insensitive to damp, dust, vibrations or temperature fluctuations.
3. Compatibility for minimal calibration work
Existing users of NIR will need to access the new best-in-class performance without worrying about losing hard-earned calibration data that they have acquired with their old instruments. For instance, new instruments should be backwards compatible with earlier solutions. In this way, existing product calibrations can be transferred directly with no or only minor adjustments. For newcomers to NIR, instruments providing readymade calibrations could be a good start.
4. Standardised instruments are easier to get started with
Varying instrument performance across units has sometimes been a problem for feed users. This can now be avoided with modern units that are factory standardised for light intensity, bandwidth and wavelength precision between instruments. With all instruments performing alike there is no need to standardise new units against an external standard. Built-in measurement standards then help to control instrument performance over time, making it easy to install updates to calibrations.
5. Let the experts do the work with networking software
Not only are new NIR instruments more stable and easier to operate, networking software also allows them to be managed by just one experienced user from the convenience of their desktop. The networking software connects NIR instruments in a network providing a simple way of monitoring the performance of multiple instruments even across a broad geographic region. Calibration updates across instruments can be performed in one go, saving travel costs and avoiding the risk of human error when going from one instrument to another.