In March, Airgas Refrigerants began operating a sophisticated, AHRI-accredited refrigerants testing lab, after nearly a year of design and construction.
The Airgas Refrigerants testing lab is housed in Airgas Refrigerants’ Atlanta filling and reclamation facility, and is used to test samples from manufacturers’ bulk tankers, in-house reclamation, service technicians, and reclaimed gas cylinders.
Tests are conducted to determine refrigerant purity, oil content, amount of non-condensable gases chlorides and acidity, all as requested by customers.
Sources say that soon, the lab will allow customers to order sample test kits that they can fill and return to Airgas Refrigerants for a complete AHRI-700 analysis, ensuring peak performance, or identifying potential issues. Airgas Refrigerants handpicked a team of very talented people to staff the lab and manage analytical and testing operations. They’re serious about their work, but they have fun accomplishing it.
Sources say that soon, the lab will allow customers to order sample test kits that they can fill and return to Airgas Refrigerants for a complete AHRI-700 analysis, ensuring peak performance, or identifying potential issues.
The lab features five mass spectrometers, four of which are gas chromatographs. ARI also built proprietary systems with automated extraction and testing capabilities. A refrigerant sample is extracted, tested, then fully evacuated. The system then automatically cleans the chamber, preparing it for the next sample.
Ten associates are part of the analytical and testing processes. They are engineers and technician--all cross-trained to perform lab functions and work with Refrigatron™, the Airgas refrigerant analytical and cylinder evaluation system which operates with two additional gas chromatograph mass spectrometers for the most complete analysis available today. Turn-around time is one day from the time the sample is received by the lab in Atlanta.
The lab was designed for flow, flexibility and process automation. It has ample room to accommodate large cylinders and pull samples through an automated GCMS that is connect to a hard-plumbed system where small samples are introduced into the mass spectrometer for analysis. After the samples are analyzed, the system is evacuated and cleaned automatically. The next sample is brought in and connected.
INSIDE THE LAB: COMMENTS ABOUT THE PROCESS
Randy Perry, vice president of operations
Responsibilities: Overall Operations Applicable to Reclamation
Why build a lab, and why now?
"Airgas Refrigerants is a recognized industry name and we want to ensure that our customers know they can rely on us. We are focused on our customers and this lab is getting them the information they need as quickly as possible with accurate results so that they can make decisions that affect their system performance.
"Our ultimate goal is to take care of our customers. We are now providing a full service offering to our customers; from sales and delivery, to reclamation, to testing, to cylinder recertification. I don't think any other refrigerants company can offer the array of services that we offer.
"We are a 100% turnkey full service provider. With this state of the art lab, we have unmatched talent in the industry. During the accreditation process, the AHRI inspector was stunned with what he saw. It's all hard piped and designed for workflow. It's powerful and it's efficient. We passed our accreditation with flying colors and raving comments. Airgas is a 'Safety First' company, and we bring that every day into the lab, on the plant floor--in whatever we do."
Antoine Joseph, lab manager
Responsibilities: Managing the logistical flow of the laboratory and the personnel.
What motivates you as lab manager?
"Airgas is all about customer service. This lab shows that we care about our customers' experience well after the sale. We try to go above and beyond and with this level of skill and technology, we can deliver that every day. We're diligent with our accuracy. If we question a result, we go back and test again.
"We are head and shoulders above the competition with our lab. The team is diverse and has extensive laboratory experience. We have really smart people here working with processes and technology that have been carefully constructed to deliver accurate results quickly. I never have the same day twice and I love the challenges that I can solve for our customers."
Mike Kuchinski, chemical engineer
Responsibilities: Installation and configuration of the lab, AHRI and compliance, quality control and lab supervision.
What do you enjoy most about the lab?
"I really like the flexibility of the equipment and our testing abilities. With our technology and processes, we are well ahead of the rest of the industry. We're one of only two labs with mass spectrometers set up to identify all gases.
"We designed this lab with an eye toward the future. We're prepared for expansion and changes and we're certain that we can handle the next generation of refrigerants. I really enjoy working with the team. There's amazing talent among the team and a really good vibe here."