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March-April 2014 : A dramatically...low cost penetrant

Written by Dubosc
Wednesday, 05 March 2014 08:56

From a marketing point of view, chemicals may be classified in three families:

-    "Commodities,"
-    Chemical specialties,
-    Fine chemicals.

So-called "commodities" are widely used chemicals, manufactured in impressive quantities (by thousands of tons sometimes) such as those sold in supermarkets (cleaners for dish-washers, for soils, etc.). Competition is harsh and, then, selling prices and margins (measured as a percentage of the price) are low.

Chemical specialties are manufactured in much smaller quantities (by tens or hundreds of tons) and target far fewer users. There are fewer competitors. Prices are not driven only by the cost price of the products but also by the usefulness for the user. Therefore, margins are better.

Fine chemicals are high-purity products sold in rather small quantities at even higher prices. Generally, these products are designed to meet specific requirements from the customer. The main users are in the pharmaceutical, perfume, cosmetics, aroma, microelectronics, photograph, graphic arts, etc. businesses.

Till the '80s, penetrant materials may be considered as chemical specialties.

Then, more and more manufacturers/suppliers went to the market. Just to understand this, have a look at the QPL (Qualified Products List) annexed to the SAE-AMS 2644 American specification. Further, due in part to this specification, products’ performances are more and more close to each other’s in the upper range of required parameters.

When compared to the '80s in constant money, prices are now far lower; they could be compared with "commodities" prices when, in fact, penetrant materials are highly technical products.

A "proof": quite often, these products are referred to as "consumables!"

To lower prices, as is done for commodities, one cheap, easy way: dilute!! When a detergent for floor cleaning is said as "too expensive" by a school manager or a town-hall civil servant; no problem: instead of supplying a 50 % concentrate, supply a 40 % concentrate and adjust the price accordingly!

The same thinking led a penetrant manufacturer to "design" a low-cost penetrant: it was, in fact, a dilution of a dual-purpose penetrant (visible under white light and UV-A radiation) in an aliphatic hydrocarbon.

This penetrant was then supplied to companies, which had no specific requirements and may use any penetrant!

This low-cost penetrant was bought not only because of its low price...but also due to its "sensitivity": fewer defects found, less parts to repair or to throw away!!


SAE-AMS 2644E: Inspection Material, Penetrant, Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), 400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, Pennsylvania 15096, USA, 2006.

In the '60s, a UK Company had a motto: ‘‘for every surface treatment problem, there is a product xxxxxx" (trademark we do not display).’’

Engineers and Commercial people in this Company had made a "translation": ‘‘with every surface treatment product xxxxxx (trademark we do not display), there is a problem.’’

This anecdote is there only to remind everyone that problems met in workshops may be due to the suppliers/manufacturers as well as to the users.

Our idea in these documents is NOT to target anyone, but on the contrary to bring to your knowledge some interesting cases which may prevent you to duplicate the same mistakes while performing Penetrant Testing (PT) or Magnetic Particle Testing (MT).

All the ministories you will read are TRUE. We think they will be helpful:

-    First as examples of specific technical - or non-technical - requirements or peculiar problems.

-    Second to let you see that the problems do not always come where you think they should come from.

-    Third so that users feel free to ask for help from people (the experts) who may know more than they do.

If you know of examples of some interest for others, please feel free to mail them to us. They will be displayed on our website as anonymously as those already published.

One's experience may help others. In addition, any interesting problem met during audits may also help: auditors, who sometimes face incredible situations and have hard times, as well as auditees may have very useful pieces of information.

We thank you in advance for any input.


Last Updated ( Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:59 )