The easyfairs Solids and Bulk Handling Expo2008

A report on products of interest found at the easyfairs Solids and Bulk Handling Exhibition, held at the NEC from 11-12 March, by Nick Denbow

The easyfairs Solids and Bulk Handling Exhibition at the NEC from 11-12 March presented some of the products we hear a lot about, such as radar level measurement systems from Vega Controls and Endress + Hauser.

Both companies presented new, low cost radar sensors for level and contents monitoring on smaller silos, up to 15m height.

The Vegapuls 67 is a light weight (1.2Kg) radar sensor that Vega offer for foods, aggregates, cement or crushers, that can also work measuring the load on conveyor belts, or equally in liquid tanks or sumps.

Using the standard Vega programming and software from their longer range sensors, the Vegapuls 67 brings radar technology to the price level of ultrasonic systems, and avoids the problems that some users have found from the hanging probes and wires needed with guided wave radar level systems.

Endress + Hauser introduced a similar low cost radar system at the show, aimed at replacing guided wave measurement systems, and light enough in weight to be suitable for mounting on the top of any small silo.

With a typical 4-20mA level measurement output, this unit is also available with PROFIBUS communications, and is programmable using their standard Fieldcare software.

E+H are celebrating 40 years in their Manchester base, interestingly located in ‘Floats Road’: their original building is now replaced with a much more modern head office, production, test and training centre.

Over the 40 years employees in Floats Road have grown from 20 to 200, and eventually the flow calibration facilities will also be incorporated into the new building.

The E+H replacement for the ubiquitous ‘float’ operated liquid level switch is the Liquiphant, and the solids version of this is a twin vane vibrating sensor known as the Soliphant.

A new version of the Soliphant is now available with much shorter forks, making it suitable for smaller bin and hopper installations, with only a marginal reduction in the sensitivity to the powder density that it can detect reliably.

Another well established name in the UK solids handling market is Golconda, formed in 1975, who are specialists in silo level control systems: they have recently added the Bindicator solids level switch product range from the USA to their European portfolio.

However far more interesting was the latest product on show on their stand, the APM 3D level scanner.

This is a totally different approach to level monitoring, but it still uses ultrasonic profiling of the level of solids in a silo or storage bin.

However three ultrasonic beams illuminate the surface, and the built in microprocessor presents an image of the surface across the bin in 3D.

The volume contents is computed, based on the different heights monitored, to give an actual stored volume measurement: essential for such people as highways managers trying to estimate the volume of salt or sand left in their storage areas.

But the information is also important to process plant managers, where it can give a visual picture of product hang-up in the silo, and show when an apparently empty signal from point sensors does not mean the tank can take a full delivery.

Already on trial at a petrochemical plant in the UK, in squat storage tanks, the APM 3D sensor is proving its worth: direct from the exhibition stand APM interrogated the silo and showed a large build up, or hang up, of powder on one sidewall: the tank was 30% full (by volume) yet the left hand discharge port was not able to deliver any of the stored contents.

The 3D Level Scanner is inevitably a retrofit product at the moment: so it uses radio to transmit the image from the tank top to the site manager’s PC, and publishes the info to a website.

So, Golconda reckoned they had the best new product to present at the show: but their stand did not win the prize for the best surprise! Orthos Engineering looked like a peaceful, tranquil stand, presenting some polished stainless steel vibratory screeners from Allgaier: no doubt in real life they would present a much noisier image, separating lumps and stones from finer particles.

But Orthos provide a range of dry processing equipment, which includes pneumatic conveying systems, and the Firefly dust explosion suppression systems.

Basically its simple, the Firefly sensor detects a sudden source of heat, so triggers a suppression system a little further along the line.

The demonstration on the stand used a lighted match, dropped into the simulated line in Perspex (thankfully through a very small hole): passing the detector the hot matchstick triggered the sensor, switching on a sort water deluge blast, which thankfully stayed inside the Perspex pipe.

It certainly made me jump! These Firefly systems are not just used in pneumatic grain conveyors, they are also used on tissue paper plants, underneath the web, and in wood processing machines in particular, where the forming of the wood into a skirting board moulding for example produces a great deal of heat, in a rather combustible atmosphere.

They also do a similar thing with tobacco leaf, but they tend to divert the fires into a separate branch of the line so that wet (and possibly smoked) tobacco does not get into the cigarettes.

Next to Orthos, an associate company, Lindor, showed their low shear drum blenders for fragile products such as foods or nutraceuticals.

Further along Kason showed their range of sifters and vibratory separators for pharmaceutical and food products.

Personally I certainly missed my true vocation, which would have been associated with spectral analysis in optical instruments, as you would have realized from previous reports.

So I found an interesting product range on the NDC Engineeering stand, with the IR reflectance measurements from bulk materials on conveyors providing several different chemical analyses on the transported material at once.

By changing the spectral measurement waveband the same instrument can measure the water, sugar, oil, protein, nicotine or caffeine! Apparently a lot of these relate to tobacco too.

As for my vocation, instead of researching optical instruments I spent a long time engrossed in flowmeters, and any decent flowmeter gives better than 1% accuracy on a clean clear liquid: the good ones are at 0.2 or 0.1%.

So to see a solids flowmeter claiming a 0.25% accuracy at easyFairs Solids seemed quite something.

Minsterport had the CLever flowmeter from Rembe on display (Note: their capitals, not mine, and not very clever, the almighty Word programme does not like you doing that) which claims 0.25% on bulk flow measurements of solids.

While you might dismiss this meter as another impact device, it is not: the flow of the solids is constrained to move in an arc in the ducting, and the wall that defines the plate is mounted with a strain gauge to measure the centripetal force transmitted as the solids are directed through the arc.

It sounds like a lot of CFD has gone into the meter design to be able to ‘regularise’ that force into one arc, and achieve 0.25%.

Minsterport come from Shipley, so must be OK, and are also Bindicator agents, so we look forward to some installation reports for the Rembe flowmeter.

There’s another UK bred supplier of solids level control systems, and that is Synatel.

Also specialists in speed monitors, Synatel have maybe applied this expertise to the classic paddle type high solids level alarm system, that normally uses a stalled motor and clutch system.

Synatel introduce their Step-A-Matic unit using a stepper motor, and getting rid of the problems of burnt out clutches and motors on these probes.

As a supplier of the simplest of solids level alarm probe, Synatel also achieve a bonus by creating a paddle design that can be inserted through the standard 1inch BSP instrumentation boss on the silo.

Last of all, we have to think about safety, and Newson Gale were at easyFairs Solids demonstrating their wide range of earthing systems and monitoring points for specialised solids handling applications, particularly they were showing the new Earthrite RTR earthing station for tanker loading points.

Even if the operator were to try to fool the clamping tool, in an attempt to by-pass the pump lock-out, the intelligent circuitry knows the expected capacitance value of a road tanker, and unless the correct measurement is seen on the probe, the pump is still locked out.

Braby also attended easyFairs Solids, showing some of their new Hapman conveyor systems.

A new name for me was Silocare, who provide steeplejack inspection and repair services for maintenance work on silos (www.silocare.co.uk), but that takes us into the realm of the associated Maintec Exhibition, which will be reported separately.

At the rear of the Hall holding easyFairs Solids, if you followed the Exhibition plan, just as you fell off the edge of the page another set of stands appeared.

This turned out to be ‘Industrial Environment at easyfairs Solids’, where you could find all the people who did not really fit under the “Solids” title: like liquids handling, water treatment and pollution monitoring people.

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