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IMP Automation joins FLSmidth



Fire Assay » Cowan Separator for FIFA Laboratory

Cowan Separator for FIFA Laboratory


When IMP decided to automate the entire fire assay process from sample preparation to OES analysis of the lead button it became necessary to develop an automated method for the separation of the molten lead from the slag. A separator had to be developed which would produce a clean lead button with no slag adhering to it. Additionally there should be no loss of lead and the lead had to be frozen quickly to prevent inhomogeneities developing in the button which would compromise the OES spark analyses. After much R+D, mainly by George Cowan after whom the separator is named, a separator was developed which is suitable for the FIFA system.


The separator furnace can be heated to 1300ºC, and holds the Cowan separator which separates the slag from the lead. The molten slag is split away and drops into a waste bin, while the molten lead drops into a water-chilled mould where it is instantly frozen. Cowan separators can be used about 20 times after which they are replaced by the robot according to a cycle entered into the PrepMaster software.


As the robot brings a fusion crucible to the separator, the lid of the separator is raised and the robot tips the fusion crucible so the molten charge is poured into the separator. The robot then loads another sample with flux into the crucible and returns it to the fusion furnace. Just prior to pouring the molten charge into the separator, the water-chilled mould is raised into the base of the separator.


The molten lead drops into the mould and is instantly frozen. The mould drops out of the separator and the lead button is pushed out onto a conveyor belt and taken to the analysis system where it is weighed, a flat surface is milled on it, and it is then analysed on the OES spark spectrometer. The lead buttons can either be discarded or archived.


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