cubesSince the introduction of the Thermo Scientific Trace 1300 Series GC (Gas Chromatography) in 2012, we observed a growing market acceptance for its innovative and unique modular design. Over the past years, we have collected reactions and feedback to generate a strong picture of the benefits that modularity aims to offer. It’s all about user experience, and this blog post aims to focus on some key aspects of cost-saving and time-saving requirements in both routine and non-routine analytical testing environment.

Analytical instrument manufacturers are in a constant race to deliver tools and services that match customers’ expectations for faster, easier, more productive analytical experience, and this is pushing a constant need for technology innovation. This evolving environment called for a more agile and smart approach to laboratory instrumentation: it was modularity.

If we look at the majority of the gas chromatographs in the market, we’ll see that the concept of the instrument design has not changed since the very first GC equipment was introduced back in the 1950s. Since then, injector and detector bodies are fully embedded in the top part of the mainframe to assure the best thermal insulation, connected to the pneumatic control on the back through dedicated plumbing for gas supply, and connected to the electronic boards through cables for temperature control and signal processing. Therefore, GC systems are typically factory-configured and upgrades or changes in configuration at a second stage, after the first installation, require expensive and time-consuming operations. This design, in spite of the fact it has been in use for decades, is actually limiting users in its daily operation. For example, maintenance procedures, as well as troubleshooting operations, can be complex and a service call is sometimes required to operate on the instrument for cleaning procedures or for parts replacement. Also, having GCs in the lab in fixed configurations could prevent possible temporary different analytical needs to be fulfilled in a short time. Additionally, those laboratories who anticipate different analytical requirements in the future may feel forced to invest more at the beginning in a fully-equipped system to avoid the burden of upgrades in the future.

picture1The recognition of these challenges led to the development of the Thermo Scientific Trace 1300 series GC. This GC platform offers a revolutionary approach to the end-user, through an innovative design which is embedding injector or detector body, pneumatic control and electronic control board in handy plug and play modules known as Instant Connect  (iC) injector and detector modules. Thanks to the Miniaturized IEC (Integrated Electronic gas Control), gas connections, restrictions, and electronic valves are built-in, along with electronics for temperature and gas control, for signal amplifier and A/D conversion.

The iC injector and detector modules can be easily inserted in the dedicated slots on the top of the GC, utilizing a plug and play concept, which can complete this operation in less than two minutes, with no need for expertise or special tools. To simplify this operation and have the system up and running immediately, every module is delivered analytically tested and calibrated, so no additional user calibration is required.

You can refer to the TN 52364to know more about the repeatability, accuracy, and robustness of the iConnect injector and detector modules.

Modularity Drives Service Delivery

Modular architecture can fundamentally transform the way laboratory technicians and managers approach technology, unlocking new savings opportunities while addressing both the technical and business needs.
Having the capability to easily and quickly install and uninstall injectors and detectors, iC modules can be easily kept as spares in the lab for fast replacement, reducing the back-up from an entire GC to spare back up modules. Alternative approaches for off-line maintenance /cleaning operation are possible, maintaining the GC system up-and-running and minimizing instrument downtime. The swapping operation is so fast, simple and secure that it requires no service engineer, leading to significant time and cost-saving.

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Routine laboratories need to deliver quality results on time. In a situation where a laboratory needs to quickly solve a contamination issue, for example or needs to quickly recover a correct instrument behavior, the module replacement allows users to restore running conditions in less than 30 min, including cooling and powering down the instrument, disconnecting the column from the original SSL injector module, removing the module and plugging in the new one, re-connecting the column, and powering up the GC again. The same operation on a conventional GC design would require a service call and a working day of instrument downtime.
In fact, in a situation where the laboratory has a spare module available, no troubleshooting actions are needed nor service calls, and the instrument downtime is reduced to half an hour, with a limited investment of a spare module.

Modularity Enables Flexibility

Especially for start-up, non-routine laboratories, the initial budget can be limited and investments need to be prioritized. A very common situation is that the short term requirements are clear but future requirements remain unclear, and the same GC might be required for use in a different application. So which configuration should be considered to balance, at best, the initial investment with growing analytical requirements? With conventional GC, saving money today may lead to higher costs for the future.  Through modularity, it is very easy to invest based on current requirements and benefit from additional modules whenever are necessary, with no additional fees. Through modularity, it is very easy to follow up opportunities with the right investment by choosing the right modules when needed, combining them for any required configuration reducing bench space and reducing costs. Modularity opens up to high flexibility to quickly adapt the GC system to current and future needs and easily address evolving priorities.

Modularity Drives Higher Return on Investment

The modular concept, so innovative for a GC system, gives access to unlimited GC configurations, multiplying the analytical opportunities. It offers a completely new approach for system configuration, especially when a laboratory is going to purchase a new GC system. The flexibility offered by the modularity allows the laboratory to optimize the investment for current and future needs. By optimizing the investment and improving time and cost savings, the modularity design offers the opportunity to accelerate the return of the investment by increasing the overall laboratory efficiency in running their GC systems.

Modularity allows the capability to share modules between GCs, for example, allowing efficient use of the existing hardware in the lab, or simply benefit from the unlimited combinations of injectors and detectors available on the systems. Modularity means unlocking the opportunity to quickly respond to different analytical needs or different workload requirements, just by purchasing additional modules at the time you need them. The ultimate benefit is accelerateing your return on investment with enhanced analytical flexibility and service capability.

To learn more about Thermo Scientific Trace 1300 Series GC modularity, watch this video.