Software Integration within Automated Thermal Desorption (TD) Systems: What’s in a name?

When people talk about Thermal Desorption(TD), GCMS, and the software for both, the word ‘integration’ and/or ‘easy to use’ or something like that often comes up in regards to the TD system software. For many people ‘easy to use’ implies integration. The term ‘integrated’ is very important with complex, multi-manufacturer GCMS systems, such as an Agilent GCMS coupled to a Thermal Desorption Unit (TDU). What does ‘Integrated’ mean? Why do you care?

When analysts hear the term they think about it differently. The most general meaning is ‘it all works together’, and for the most part the average lab person probably stops there.

A definition of ‘Software Integration’ could easily be the subject of a long (and very dry!) argument in a standards committee. Rather than haggle over an ‘official’ definition, let’s consider what the end results you’d like to see if the software is ‘Integrated’:

-‘Single Sequence Software’: This is probably the biggest thing in your mind. Having to enter sample information into sequences / sample lists in two pieces of software is aggravating! If the TD software is ‘integrated’ wouldn’t you think you’d only need a single sequence? If you have two very large sets of samples to run, how do you keep multiple sequences in sync?

-TD and GC Actually Talk Each Other with More Than Just a Simple Handshake: Besides telling the GCMS that it’s ready and to start, the TD software shouldinteract with the GC software. For example, if the barcode reader reads the wrong barcode (ostensibly from a misplaced TD tube), should the sample still be analyzed or should the operator have a choice?.

-All Method Info in One FIle: Ideally, all TD-GCMS method information should be in one place for ease of retrieval and archiving. You shouldn’t need separate methods for your TD and your GCMS. Doing this can make validation, method development, and troubleshooting a real pain. For legally defensible data, double methods are something else that has to be tracked carefully and explained in court.

GERSTEL Maestro software can be truly integrated into select versions of Agilent Technologies MS Chemstation and MassHunter as well as other GCMS software; its functions fall in line with the concepts above. Integrated methods and sequences can be quickly transferred between similarly configured systems. Keeping multiple systems up to date and (perhaps more importantly) on the same maintenance schedule is greatly simplified.

Although Maestro can be run in a stand-alone, non-integrated mode, true integration is more convenient and much less cumbersome, letting the analyst worry more about what the data means, and a lot less about where to find it.