Helium’s unique properties make it ideal for a number of industrial applications, especially leak testing. But as the price of helium continues to rise, many companies are eager to cut costs by replacing their helium leak detection systems with effective alternatives.

Vacuum Technology Incorporated (VTI) specializes in alternative leak testing. VTI’s engineers have developed a number of unique alternative leak detection systems that can use hydrogen, refrigerant, and even argon for leak tests. VTI’s alternative leak detection systems leak test candidate parts using vacuum chambers, allowing companies to perform leak tests just as reliably as they would with helium.

“Vacuum chambers make alternative leak-testing more viable for industrial applications,” said George Solomon, co-founder and president of VTI, “and to the best of my knowledge, we’re the only company that develops vacuum chambers for alternative leak tests.”

Solomon explains that, previously, companies could only perform alternatives to helium leak testing with “sniffer” probes. While highly effective at locating helium, these handheld sniffer probes can be unreliable when searching for trace amounts of other gases. Extraneous signatures from things like forklift exhaust, moisture in the air, and even operators’ breath can interfere with the accuracy of alternative leak tests performed with sniffer probes. And because sniffer probes can only locate nearby leaks, operators may mistakenly pass defective parts simply because they fail to inspect those parts closely.

“Leak tests using hydrogen or refrigerant are only more cost-effective than helium leak tests if they’re implemented correctly,” said Solomon.

By leak testing a product with vacuum chambers, companies can isolate candidate parts from their industrial environments, preventing background interference from jeopardizing the accuracy of a leak test. In addition, because these systems are automatic, they also reduce the risk of inaccurate test results caused by human error.

“Combining the reliability of a vacuum chamber test with the potential of testing with gases other than helium can allow our customers to maximize the efficiency of a leak test while minimizing the cost,” said Ryan Delozier, a design engineer at VTI.

Delozier, who designed a system that performs leak tests using R410A as the tracer gas, believes that vacuum chambers have the potential to revolutionize how companies leak test their products.

“It’s exciting to be on the forefront of this new innovation in alternative leak testing,” he said.

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