New product R+D – mainly optical!

The latest Cryptospiridium scare in Northamptonshire produced a plea from GB Environmental that the use of UV disinfection systems should be reviewed in the UK, following the lead of the US (and various other EU countries) where potable water use of the technology is widely accepted. Many such case studies have been reported, for both drinking water and pharmaceutical pure water applications (Link). Another health topic comes from the University of Southampton report on the positive effects copper surfaces have on eliminating C.diff bacteria: whether this is ‘process industry’ related I’m not quite sure, but it interested me.

With the news this week that Physics is a dying subject in UK schools, with apparently no teaching capability even if the students had an interest in the topic, it is good to see so many reports on optical techniques and spectrometry being used to monitor materials and processes. A recent ABB report reviews the use of their FTIR spectroscopy equipment in satellites, semi-conductors, pharmaceuticals and gasoline blending (Link), and Wyatt Technology announce their annual meeting of light scattering users and researchers, to be held in October (Link). Malvern Instruments describe the use of their Insitec laser diffraction technology to monitor particle size on-line in a wet clay suspension, for process control on porcelain tile production (Link). To be fair I don’t yet know what microplate luminescence is, but Charm Sciences say it can be used to detect spoilage in samples from beverage products (Link): maybe they will also supply a technical article describing some of their other products, that are quoted to rapidly predict the hygiene status of surfaces and rinse waters in seconds. Another similar product is reported by SafeSol, offering a water disinfection system to control legionella and other ‘nasties’ in building water supplies, (Link).

One of the many things that fascinated me in a visit to see the activities at GCHQ (in the Doughnut at Cheltenham!) was a ‘Compound’ bow on display on their archery club stand (Link). The Long bow has been around for quite a while: but this compound bow was only designed and patented in 1967, so demonstrating that there are good mechanical inventions yet to be produced in all fields. By the way, judging by the number of Enigma style machines on display at GCHQ, they might still be working along these lines. ABB have been demonstrating that there are patentable ideas in us all with their “Race to Innovation”: 17 patents were filed in their latest 3-day session in China, brainstorming on the topic of “Better city, better life” (Link).

Wireless sensors and other developments

Honeywell are stepping forward with their wireless transmitters: a release this week announces that their latest OneWireless release is the first process industry specified mesh network with ISA100-ready hardware. Honeywell say that the network will easily be upgraded to the ISA100.11a standard, when it is completed, through an over-the-air software update: we just need the standard completed! (Link). Similarly the Fieldbus Foundation are pushing the boundaries, in co-operation with suppliers and the oil companies, by demonstrating the availability of their Foundation for Safety Instrumented Functions (SIF) technology, at Shell Global Solutions in Amsterdam, in May, as reported in their recent release: (Link). The SIF field demonstration was intended to promote adoption of Foundation-based safety instrumented functions into the process industries. Having attended this demonstration, FF seem to be pushing at an open door in terms of the attendees present, the barriers seem to be in the approval and paperwork timescales for the FF devices.

There are two more stories about new developments that need to be highlighted: Ott Hydrometry have a delightful story advising that they just completed the development of a replacement to the Sir Christopher Wren designed tipping bucket rain gauge, after 344 years: (Link). Plus more news from Perpetuum, with their battery free wireless condition monitoring system, now teamed up with the Cap-XX supercapacitor, to store the harvested energy more efficiently: (Link).

Fieldbus Foundation demonstrates SIF technology

Demonstration attendees heard several leading energy companies describe the implementation of Foundation SIF in a wide range of industrial safety system applications.

Representatives from Shell Global Solutions in Amsterdam; Saudi Aramco in Dhahran; BP in Gelsenkirchen; and Chevron in Houston, gave presentations at the event.

The SIF field demonstration was intended to promote adoption of Foundation-based safety instrumented functions into the process industries.

The project also includes development of SIF best practices and guidelines, as well as training and interoperability test tools for control system and instrumentation manufacturers and end users.

Fieldbus Foundation President and CEO Rich Timoney stated the difference between a Foundation SIF system and a conventional emergency shutdown system is the same as doing a forensic analysis on a patient after he is dead versus performing proactive condition-based monitoring to address problems before death occurs.

Advanced diagnostics ensure that many issues can be addressed proactively before the ESD needs to step in and do its job.

He said, “Foundation SIF provides powerful diagnostic capabilities improving a wide range of safety instrumented functions and streamlining device testing requirements.

This technology offers new opportunities to optimise asset management initiatives and reduce plant operating expenses”.

At the Shell Global Solutions technology laboratory, Foundation SIF demonstration working group members constructed a fieldbus-based safety shutdown system demonstration rig incorporating logic solvers, safety devices, and SIF functions.

The purpose of the live demo was to evaluate Foundation fieldbus-enabled safety valves with Partial Stroke Testing (PST) capability, as well as various pressure, level, temperature and diagnostic devices.

The demo also evaluated the system integration capabilities with asset management and Basic Process Control System (BPCS) platforms.

The demo system itself was comprised of products from several vendors.

HIMA provided the logic solver system, while Yokogawa provided the BPCS and plant asset management software.

ABB, Endress+Hauser, Magnetrol, Siemens, Smar and Yogogawa provided field instrumentation.

Emerson, Metso Automation, and Westlock provided valves.

Other suppliers included RuggedCom and Softing.

The demos running at Saudi Aramco, Chevron, and BP include other systems and products, from all of the major process automation suppliers.

Audun Gjerde of Shell Global Solutions conducted the live SIF demo at the Amsterdam event.

Functions demonstrated included high and low level trips, partial stroke testing of valves, and a partial stroke test that was interrupted by the ESD.

The last example showed that even in the middle of a partial stroke test the ESD could successfully take over and shut down the system during an abnormal situation.

Two out of three (2oo3) voting was demonstrated using various fieldbus SIF devices.

The system also reacted successfully to a loss of temperature probe, as well as a measurement validation alarm and a diagnostic alarm generated from a dry probe on a level device.

According to Gjerde, the demonstration project sought to have a logic solver fully operable with all available SIF devices, to integrate an asset management system with the SIF devices, and to integrate SIF partial stroke testing/valve stroke testing within a safety system infrastructure.

Gjerde commented, “By implementing Foundation SIF, Shell expects enhanced diagnostics through a fully integrated asset management system.

We also anticipate less testing of final elements thanks to smart testing and diagnostics, as well as online testing and partial stroke testing.

This will result in early detection of dangerous device failures – and fewer spurious trips”.

He continued, “The added SIF diagnostics will help engineers and maintenance personnel increase the integrity of the plant by ensuring maintenance is performed where and when it is needed.

With smart online testing and diagnostics, we will be able to run for longer periods of time without shutting down the plant for testing purposes.

We will also save on the cost of adding a second or third device in many cases”.

With its industry-proven distributed function blocks and open communications protocol, Foundation fieldbus is an ideal infrastructure for advancing standards-based SIFs.

Process industry end users requested the Foundation SIF solution in order to realize the CAPEX and OPEX benefits of open and interoperable fieldbus technology in their plant safety systems.

This technology will enable significant reductions in the users’ total cost of ownership by extending fieldbus benefits into plant safety systems.

The Foundation SIF solution meets the rigorous requirements of the IEC 61508 standard for functional safety of electrical, electronic and programmable electronic safety-related systems, up to, and including, Safety Integrity Level (SIL) 3.

In addition, end users can build systems per the IEC 61511 standard covering SIF functional safety in the process industries (IEC 61511 is available as the ANSI/ISA-84.00.01-2004 standard).

Completion of the Foundation SIS protocol enables instrumentation suppliers to manufacture fieldbus devices for use in SIFs.

Third-party agencies will safety certify these devices, and the Fieldbus Foundation will test and register them for interoperability.

End users can apply the requirements specified in the IEC 61511 standard to determine the SIL needed for their particular application, and then select interoperable, safety-certified fieldbus devices from multiple suppliers for use in their safety systems.

The Fieldbus Foundation worked closely with TUV Rheinland Industrie Service, Automation, Software and Information Technology, a global, independent and accredited testing agency, to achieve Protocol Type Approval for its SIS specifications.

With TUV Protocol Type Approval, Foundation technology has been extended to provide a comprehensive solution for SIFs in worldwide process plants.

Companies participating in the SIF demonstration working group include: ABB, BIFFI, BP, Chevron, Dresser-Masonelian, Emerson Process Management, Endress+Hauser, Fieldbus Diagnostics, HIMA, Honeywell, Invensys, Magnetrol, Metso Automation, Moore Industries, MTL, Pepperl+Fuchs, Risknowlogy B.V., RuggedCom, Saudi Aramco, Siemens, Shell Global Solutions, Smar, Softing, TopWorx, TUV Rheinland, TUV SUD, Westlock Controls, Yamatake, and Yokogawa.

Evaluating a peristaltic pump free of charge

There’s a lot to be said for hands-on practical experience, and it is even better when this is on your own plant with your own liquids: so the food industry offer from Watson-Marlow Bredel, where they offer to supply a peristaltic pump free of charge for you to evaluate in your own food pumping application, is an opportunity not to be missed. Apparently this offer has been triggered by the standard questions customers always ask about food product pumps, presumably based on their bad experiences with other pump styles. These questions are typically:

Will the pumping mechanism damage the product?

Are the pumps hygienic?

Are they time consuming to clean?

If your current pumps do not give a satisfactory answer to these questions, then they say it is likely that a peristaltic pump from Watson-Marlow Bredel can improve your manufacturing process and save you money. So Watson-Marlow will provide one free-of-charge, to prove it does what it says in the advertising! (Link).

Competing with China in manufacturing

Many engineered industrial products face competition from new, lower cost supplies arising from emerging companies in eastern Europe, India or China: we hear the story often. The new imported products might be lower cost, smaller, more efficient, quieter: while their labour rates might indeed be lower, what this actually means is that these overseas design engineers have looked at the currently produced product using the latest materials and design technology, and produced a more cost effective, current design. If this has not been done by the current supplier, who has the advantage of knowing the product, the customers and having the existing production base, then he leaves the opportunity open to new competitors. So it was really interesting to visit Edwards, the vacuum pump suppliers, at Burgess Hill, and hear how they have maintained and developed their business. A vacuum pump is a mechanical pump in a housing: so you would think it is a prime target for the ‘low cost’ producers. But Edwards has a philosophy of constant innovation, focused purely on vacuum technology and their customer requirements: 5% of their USD1Bn turnover goes back into R+D. Every year 30% of the sales volume comes from new products introduced that year, meaning that any copycat producers will by definition be one step behind. With factory throughput and product mix changing so fast the Edwards production lines and machinery are constantly reviewed: with each review, production time and costs are taken out of each product: again providing rapidly diminishing return potential for new competitors. But perhaps above all, the distinct impression is that a key part of the Edwards success is that their engineers are deeply involved and integrated into the R+D project teams at their customers. Typical of this is their current involvement in the production of Flat Panel TV screens. The production of these units is almost totally located in Korea: so involvement in the project also meant the establishment of a production and assembly plant in Korea for the equipment needed to make Flat Panel displays, and provide immediate on site service when needed. This gets more interesting (from the process instrumentation point of view) when the customers are biofuel producers, or scientific instrument suppliers, producing mass spectrometers and so on. Successive generations of such instruments get smaller and lower in cost, and an essential part of that development is the smaller vacuum pump, which also has to run quieter, with less vibration, with each successive model. Read more of the impressions left by a visit to Edwards in the Special Report, on

Viscosity measurement in mineral processing

Hydramotion is a company that get deeply involved in the applications their customers find: this time their news story is about their XL7 on-line viscosity measurement system. Mineral exploration and separation is currently quoted as a high flying industry: but still there needs to be more efficient operation in the separation systems. Dense media separation is a technique where a liquid is made denser by adding powder: with a denser liquid it is easier (more efficient) to separate two heavy minerals using a vortex flotation technique: but if the powders added also make the liquid viscosity increase too high, the efficiency is reduced because the mineral movement through the liquid is slower! The on-line XL7 has been found to be the only accurate way to measure the viscosity, in the high shear rate conditions in the vortex: off line systems just were not capable. Who thought viscosity measurement was something that only took place in a glass jar in a lab?

The Hydramotion story is reproduced below:

Viscosity is an important factor in the process of “dense media separation” (DMS), because if the medium is too viscous the particle settling rate will fall and the efficiency of the separation will be reduced.

In the process, crushed ore from the company’s mines is wet screened to size it into different fractions then introduced into a conical or cylindrical separator in which the constituent minerals are separated in a “sink-float” process.

A vortex is created within the separator, causing denser particles to migrate to the bottom (the underflow) while less dense particles migrate to the top (the overflow).

Separation is more effective if a heavy fluid or “medium” is used rather than plain water, since material with densities up to 2.6 g/cc can then be made to float.

Suitable artificial media can be made by suspending dense powders such as ferrosilicon (FeSi) or medium-grade magnetite (ferrous-ferric oxide) in water.

The mining company attempted to monitor viscosity off-line using a rotational-type viscometer but found that, because the shear rate in their pipeline was significantly higher than the 150 per sec obtainable with the off-line instrument, the results did not reflect the rheology of the material in practice.

Other viscometers also failed for a variety of other reasons, including calibration problems, plant vibration and high wear rates.

Looking for a robust and reliable instrument that could deliver continuous real-time viscosity measurement at higher shear rates, the company turned to Hydramotion, and were immediately impressed.

The Hydramotion XL7 on-line viscometer was easy and quick to install, required no on-site calibration or set-up and began delivering accurate viscosity measurement as soon as the power was connected.

“The main objective here was to find an on-line unit that gives a realistic representation of the rheology characteristics of in-circuit media in order to correlate recovery performance with viscosity,” commented the engineer in charge of the project.

“I think that the XL7 viscometer is more than capable of fulfilling this objective.

It has shown itself to be a reliable process instrument for DMS”.

New techniques in high vacuum at Edwards

What can be new or impressive about a vacuum? You might say nothing: but Nick Denbow learned a lot more about making a vacuum in a visit to Edwards in Burgess Hill, and reported on 5 June 2008 as follows.

Creating nothing has never needed more technology, innovation and R+D.

Over 30% of the Edwards vacuum pump sales are from new designs, each year, so this is a business that is moving forward constantly, and as a result leads the world in many areas of vacuum pumping and processing.

Edwards, now an independent company, employs 3600 people at plants in Crawley, Burgess Hill, Shoreham and Burnley in the UK, plus other R+D and manufacturing facilities in Korea, Czechoslovakia, Japan, China and Mexico.

Sales in 2007 were around USD 1Bn, spread worldwide, with a bias into Asia, but the end products that rely on Edwards technology are then shipped worldwide.

This is because the vacuums that Edwards create enable the manufacture of semiconductors, solar panels, flat panel displays, biofuels and LEDs – the list of modern devices and developments dependent on vacuum pumps goes on.

Edwards had the right technology and the larger sized pump capability to be able to provide the pumps suddenly needed for the boom in solar panel and TV flat panel display production, and also the foresight to build new production plants and support facilities for these units alongside the new manufacturing companies established in Korea and Japan.

Both rely on the deposition of different chemical layers on glass or similar panels under vacuum, and this was just the application serviced by Edwards for the semiconductor industry: despite the rapid growth of these new industries, semiconductor production still represents the largest end-user industry for Edwards.

A recent visit to their plant in Burgess Hill showed off the production of aluminium pumps, both dry scroll and turbomolecular pumps, which are supplied to many OEMs for use on scientific and process analytical instruments and applications.

With no bearings, lubrication or grease in the vacuum space, and no shaft seals to wear, dry scroll pumps have largely eliminated the maintenance attention that was previously always necessary on vacuum systems: the spiral seal in a modern scroll pump might need consideration for replacement only after 12 months or more.

Operating for around 10 years, the plant at Burgess Hill was established purely for the precision machining of these aluminium units, and is an accurately temperature controlled environment: the orbital eccentric movement of the two scrolls (spirals) – within one another, achieving a rolling seal along the scroll face to extract the gas – requires a manufacturing tolerance of around 14 microns for the scroll spiral.

Similar, or better, precision is required on the turbomolecular pumps: these are often used on mass spectrometers, cyclotrons or electron microscopes – equipment where any noise and vibration cannot be tolerated.

Each multi-stage turbine unit, machined from a single billet, is individually balanced to eliminate vibration, and typically rotates at up to 90,000rpm in a stable (vertical axis) position – peak to peak vibration is quoted at below 0.02 micron: a 24 hour final running test is needed to avoid any stress relief type changes in the rotor.

A recent release from Edwards describes their latest turbomolecular unit, the STP iX2205 pump, again focussed on glass coating machines and solar cells (

This new unit release demonstrates one of the major factors that have driven the Edwards new designs and developments over the years: the new unit is much more compact and smaller than previous units, and has a maintenance interval that can extend to five years.

The Edwards business is in pulling the gases from processing areas, to enable manufacturing functions: but these manufacturing functions themselves involve various corrosive or hazardous chemicals.

While Edwards provide vacuum pumps with various corrosion resistant coatings to avoid damage from the chemicals, they have developed their business into neutralising and eliminating these vapours, in equipment known as abatement systems.

Perhaps typical in illustrating their specialisation and experience, some of the etching processes result in the extraction of fluorine gas: in the abatement, or thermal conditioning system, this is burnt in a methane flame, to produce hydrofluoric acid, which is then absorbed on crystals to produce calcium fluoride.

The Edwards abatement units are effectively treating the effluent from the plant, replacing the conventional chemical processing normally provided (See for example

An interesting side effect of this extension to their vacuum pump business activity is that instead of their production output being a major user of power and therefore contributing a large carbon use footprint to the World, the Edwards abatement products now eliminate so many ‘greenhouse gas’ type effluents, that this totally outweighs their use of carbon in the lifetime powering the pumps, and makes the overall Edwards product World footprint into a positive contribution, reducing greenhouse gas effects.

Another similar aspect of their businesses profile is that the overall yearly production output of solar panels in Japan can provide the power output equivalent to a new nuclear power station, every year!