NIR is invisible to the naked eye, but sometimes the cost of near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy systems may feel a little too transparent, too.
To be fair, the answer to “How much does a NIR system cost?” really is “it depends.” Materials, hardware features, software, and licenses will all play into the final cost. In this post, we’ll break down some of the major factors that come into play when it comes to the cost of NIR systems and provides some estimated costs to shed some light on the subject.
The costs provided reflect the average 2022 list prices for the US market and are represented in USD. The prices are provided to convey a general idea of the differences in technology and features. For more specific pricing of solutions for your needs, contact us.
What is under the hood?
Spectrometers come in various forms. The ones you’re most likely to run into are Fourier-transform (FT) and diode array (DA).
Fourier Transform (FT) Spectrometers. These would be the luxury sedan version of NIR spectrometers. They are great for applications that require high sensitivity in measuring low-concentration components within a sample. A great example of this is the NIRFlex N-500 spectrometer.
Diode Array (DA) Spectrometers. The DA spectrometers are akin to an all-terrain vehicle. A simpler design (i.e., with few moving parts) makes these spectrometers a lot tougher and more versatile in terms of installation environments. You’ll find DA NIR spectrometers in at-line or online systems, right on the production line.
You can find a much more detailed discussion of FT vs diode array technology in an earlier blog linked here.
You might expect to pay $30,000 more for an FT-NIR system versus a diode array instrument with a comparable sampling interface, but of course, many other factors come into play that could increase or decrease that cost gap.
The BUCHI diode array systems include the at-line (benchtop) ProxiMate™ system and our on-line NIR-Online™ analyzers.
In addition to measuring in the NIR wavelengths, you have the option to add color measurements to your diode array NIR. Configuring your system with a VIS detector will add about $4,500 to your ProxiMate™ purchase and around $10,000 to a NIR-Online™ sensor but could be well worth it with the extra analytical capabilities. A good example of this is when measuring ash in food samples.
The placement(s) of the spectrometer within a system may also matter to you in terms of functionality and cost. For example, the ProxiMate™ system can come in any of three configurations: Up View, Down View, or Dual View.
In Up View, NIR light passes through the bottom of a sample in a sample cup. Because the surface is consistent and flat at the bottom of the cup, measurements may be more accurate and repeatable. However, sometimes it’s more desirable to have the light interact with the surface of a sample.
In areas where glass is prohibited, the Down View mode offers the advantage that NIR light doesn’t interact with the container (typically plastic, which is NIR-absorbing). The Down View also offers a larger spot size, which is helpful for obtaining measurements for larger sample volumes and for averaging out inhomogeneous samples.
A standard-issued ProxiMate™ in either Up or Down View will cost around $40,000 – $50,000.
If you have a wide array of applications and require both measurement configurations, get both Up and Down View configurations in a Dual View system. The Dual View comes in about $9,000 more than the standard Up View.
If the spectrometer is the heart of a NIR system, the software is the brain. All the BUCHI NIR products mentioned come with standard operating software. Here, we’ll break down what that software does, what the upgraded software options are, and (of course) how much the upgrades cost.
The NIRFlex N-500 is operated with NIRWare. The standard NIRWare software provides an interface for application development, data collection, sample management, and administrative tools.
Upgrade to NIRWare Advanced to add the Library Designer for qualitative analysis and the NIRWare regulatory kit which provides 21 CFR Part 11 compliance with IQ/OQ procedures, enhanced data security like digital signatures, audit trail, and data encryption.
If BUCHI has already developed a calibration for your application (for example, a wheat flour or wet pet food calibration that you can upload into your software for plug-and-play results), then your software needs may stop there. Licenses to unlock these pre-calibrations come in around $3,000. However, if you need to develop your own qualitative or quantitative calibrations, then you’ll also need the NIRCal chemometric software. Add this powerful modeling software after point-of-sale for around $8,000.
ProxiMateTM systems come standard with NIRWise software including a simple, easy-to-use interface and integrated AutoCal feature. AutoCal allows users to create calibrations with a few samples and a few clicks—no chemometrics degree required. For those who want to be more hands-on with calibration development, NIRWise Plus software is available with a chemometrics user interface for around $4,000 more.
A library of plug-and-play calibrations is available for ProxiMate systems. You can license any of these applications (e.g., palm oil or processed meat) for around $3,000.
But, enough talking about what’s on the inside…
Sometimes, it’s what’s on the outside that counts (materials).
The materials encasing the spectrometer and all its associated electronics will also play a part in the cost of a NIR system. Here are some examples:
Aluminum. Brushed aluminum is the standard casing for laboratory benchtop NIR systems that don’t require enhanced ingress protection (IP) from dust or water. The trade-off for IP is typically more flexibility in sampling modules and accessories that can be interfaced with the spectrometer.
Find an aluminum enclosure on: The BUCHI NIRFlex N-500 FT-NIR System
Food-grade PMMA polymer. This material offers higher ingress protection (IP-54) over the standard aluminum version while satisfying the hygienic needs of the food and feed production environments.
Expect to pay around $12,000 less for this production floor-compatible (but less flexible) version of an FT-NIR spectrometer.
Find this enclosure on: The BUCHI NIRMaster Essential FT-NIR System
If you want to take advantage of higher ingress protection and a food-safe design, but don’t need the highest-performance (and higher price-tag) spectrometer to achieve the accuracy your lab needs, then look to stainless steel diode array systems.
Stainless Steel. This metal enclosure is specially designed to handle harsher environments and prevent corrosion when acidic, basic, or chlorine detergents are applied. It’s also a perfect fit for food production environments requiring hygienic surfaces.
When corrosion isn’t the only worst-case scenario, dust- and gas explosion-proof varieties (IPX9K) are available in stainless-steel builds, as well.
Expect to pay around $18,000 less for stainless diode arrays vs. PMMA-enclosed FT-NIR systems.
Find stainless enclosure options on the following diode-array systems:
- BUCHI NIR-Online™ sensors: X-One, X-Two, X-Three, X-Four, X-Beam, X-FFPA, Multipoint (IP-66)
- BUCHI NIR-OnlineTM X-Sential process analyzers (IP-69/IPX9K)
- BUCHI ProxiMateTM benchtop systems (IP-69)
Gold. Ok, we couldn’t find any spectrometers with housing made of precious metals. However, there are high-precision gold sample cells that apply to our next category… accessories.
It’s all about accessories, accessories, accessories.
Accessories used in the NIR world are all about optimizing sample handling, throughput, or data quality.
Accessories for the benchtop NIRFlex N-500 system:
Sample Modules. These are essential accessories in that your system won’t be complete without one! Hot-swappable sample modules (and sampling accessories) are what put the Flex in NIRFlex N-500 FT-NIR systems. The modules are optimized for solid or liquid sampling. Here are some options to mix and match with your favorite lab coat and goggles:
Solids Measurement Cell. The solids measurement cell is optimized for diffuse reflectance measurements of samples like powders, pet food kibbles, grains, solid cheese, etc. Select from various other sampling accessories that allow for data collection in unbreakable sample cups, vials, small plastic bags, glass petri dishes, or most flat-bottomed, transparent glassware. For a slight bump in sample throughput, select the 6-position vial holder.
For semi-solids, slurries, and other gooey liquids, a transflectance adapter can be added to a sample cup to enable measurements of semi-transparent materials.
A basic package including the spectrometer base, solids measurement cell, and basic software may fall around $76,000. Or, add a solids measurement cell (only) to an existing N-500 system for around $45,000.
For specific applications like content uniformity in intact dosage forms like tablets or capsules, you’ll want to check out the Solids Transmittance Measurement Cell instead.
Liquids Measurement Cell. Liquids require a little extra care to get the best quality measurements. The temperature-controlled liquids measurement cell will standardize sample temperature to help avoid biased measurements when the lab guy who cranks the air conditioner up is on shift and other factors that may impact the temperature of the sample aren’t controlled for.
Samples can be collected in cuvettes (recommended) or vials.
Expect to pay around $9,000 more for a system with liquids measurement cells compared to solids measurement cells. Or, add a liquid measurement cell (only) to an existing N-500 system for around $48,000.
Fiber Optics Measurement Cell.
The fiber optic measurement cell allows users to sample things in situ (which is fancy for “in their original place”). So, if you’re looking to sample from a giant drum and don’t want to pull a sample from the drum, you can simply put the fiber optic sampling interface directly into the drum. Add some single-use plastic sleeves to the optics to avoid cross-contamination and for easy clean-up. Get yourself a custom cart with an integrated power supply to take your NIR around the warehouse, lab, or wherever your data collection adventures take you. Just don’t take it in the rain (remember, this one isn’t IP69!).
Expect to pay around $118,000 for fiber optic measurement cells equipped with a 3-meter fiber optic cable. A longer cable will cost more, but the signal quality will decrease slightly.
Add just the Fiber Optics measurement cell (3 meters) to an existing N-500 system for around $79,000.
Accessories for the benchtop (at-line ready) ProxiMate™ NIR system:
The ProxiMate NIR system has various sampling accessories to accommodate different types of samples.
Large and small sample carrier accessories are available for the ProxiMate NIR systems, although the small carrier is only available for the down-view configuration.
Sample cups are available in a variety of materials and options including PET (polyethylene terephthalate), FDA-approved (what), high-performance, robust (unbreakable), plus glass and plastic petri dishes.
Transflectance Covers are offered in 0.3-and 2-mm depths to accomplish liquid measurements in up-view configuration. For extra special applications, the gold transflectance cell is available.
Sample cups start at around $40.
How about the less obvious costs of ownership?
Since NIR does not require chemicals to prepare samples, the cost of ownership pretty much boils down to the costs of preventative maintenance. Here are some common wear parts and their typical replacement schedule.
Lamps. A Tungsten-halogen lamp offers around 9,000 hours. For systems with dual lamps, expand the lamp lifetime to 18,000 hours before you’re left in the dark. You’ll appreciate the heads-up notification when the secondary lamp kicks on after the primary light dies. Most NIR systems get lamps replaced during an annual preventative maintenance service.
Filters. Filters on FT-NIR instruments work to keep dust off the spectrometer. Buy these in bulk for a few hundred dollars. Replacement schedules depend on the work environment but replacing them every 6 months to a year may be sufficient for most cases.
Lasers. FT-NIR instruments use a laser within the spectrometer design to provide the best wavelength accuracy. Laser life varies but they may need replaced around a 5-year schedule. The cost of a new laser is around $8,000.
Service Contracts. Service contracts reduce potential downtime and help make service costs more predictable on an annual basis. BUCHI offers a variety of service contract options including installation, IQ/OQ, priority scheduling with a professionally trained BUCHI service technician, extended warranties, and more. Find service and support information on our website, or contact us to ask a question.
Like a car, a NIR system’s lifespan will reflect the care and ongoing maintenance it received, as well as the conditions it was operated under. We typically see NIR systems last 8 years or longer (sometimes much longer), although a return on investment is often reached within 1-2 years.
Let’s wrap this up.
Just like buying a car, the cost of NIR depends on the model and features that your lab requires.
To determine which NIR solution is the best fit for your lab, get an up-to-date quote, or have any lingering NIR questions answered by an expert, just contact us.
Leave a Reply