E+H acquires Blue Ocean Nova

A new Endress+Hauser press release says the company is further expanding its portfolio of products, solutions and services in the field of process analytical measurement, by  acquiring Blue Ocean Nova AG, a manufacturer of innovative inline spectrometers for monitoring quality-relevant process parameters. 

Blue Ocean Nova will operate under the umbrella of the Endress+Hauser centre of competence for liquid analysis headquartered in Gerlingen, Germany: the 15 employees currently located in Aalen, Germany will be retained. “The intelligent process sensors developed by Blue Ocean Nova will enhance our offering in the field of process analytical measurement, adding a strategic building block,” said Dr Manfred Jagiella, Managing Director of Endress+Hauser Conducta GmbH+Co. KG. As a member of the Group’s Executive Board he is also responsible for the analytics business. 

Innovative concept

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The process sensors developed by Blue Ocean Nova cover the relevant optical spectroscopy regions of UV-VIS, NIR and MIR to analyze liquids, gases and solids inline. The innovative technology allows the spectrometer to be directly integrated into the measurement probe, even in explosion-hazardous areas. The sensors can furthermore be automatically cleaned and easily integrated into process control systems.

The systems from Blue Ocean Nova are utilized in the food & beverage, oil & gas, chemicals and life sciences industries for applications such as concentration and moisture measurements and for measuring relevant quality parameters. The technology enhances the Group’s portfolio, which already encompasses Raman spectroscopy, tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS) and process photometers.

Extensive experience

Blue Ocean Nova was founded by Joachim Mannhardt and Stefan Beck in 2015, bringing extensive product development experience in the field of industrial spectroscopy and process analytical measurements to the company. “Endress+Hauser opens the door to international markets and customers for us,” explains Stefan Beck. Joachim Mannhardt adds: “We’re convinced that our technology will be an ideal enhancement to Endress+Hauser’s optical portfolio.”

Endress+Hauser acquired Blue Ocean Nova effective 31 October 2017. Both parties agreed not to disclose the details of the transaction. Joachim Mannhardt and Stefan Beck will remain on the management team of the innovative company. “With this acquisition, we are continuing to pursue our strategy of strengthening the process analytical measurement portfolio and in the future supporting our customers from the lab to process,” says Manfred Jagiella.

 

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Protect your flowmeter IP

trevor-forsterThe following comments come from Trevor Forster, the MD of Titan Enterprises, a specialist flowmeter manufacturer based in Dorset, UK. He recounts his experiences over the development of a new style of time-of-flight ultrasonic flowmeter, later called the Atrato, in their latest newsletter, called the Titan Flowdown. It is an interesting experience and maybe holds some lessons for all.

“A few years ago, Titan Enterprises filed a patent application for some new ultrasound technology we had been developing over the previous 12 months. On examination by the patent authority it transpired that someone else had the exact same idea and had filed some three months before us. Annoyingly this competitive filing was nine months after we had our first thoughts and six months after our first successful experiments. There were two valuable lessons here:

  1. File your ideas as soon as possible.
  2. Do not waste time in developing a completely viable idea before protecting the intellectual property behind the innovation.

As a consequence of this setback we had to revisit what we wished to achieve with our ring technology development. This project involved development of an ultrasonic device which was tolerant to variations in tube diameters due to the material, temperature or pressure. Our new idea was to section the device annulus into several segments which where independently acoustically coupled to the pipe but joined electronically. The benefit of this innovation is that it would provide us with a “flexible” crystal which can accommodate variations in the tube diameter as well as having a consistent acoustic connection.

Our developmental options were to make drawings, get the specially shaped crystals manufactured and then perform the tests. Alternatively we chose to get some miniature diamond cutting saws with appropriate boring burrs and make our own segmented crystals from existing larger crystals which we use on another ultrasonic meter. This enabled us to prototype and test our idea much more quickly.

The initial tests on the new device were extremely promising which gave us sufficient confidence to file our patent application while more accurate components were being manufactured and tested. This technology has formed the basis of our soon to be released Metraflow ultra-pure flowmeter and our developments with a new 1350 bar flow device.

The initial disappointment was a valuable lesson in getting intellectual property registered as quickly as possible especially with any rapidly developing technology.”

ENDS

Editor’s comment:

From previous discussions about this development, the initial research and testing of the flowmeter concept was undertaken in co-operation with a University, using a research student, so the development was not completely ‘under wraps’, under the control of the company. Nevertheless in a fast developing technology area, many minds are grappling with similar perceived problems and solutions, so parallel work would have been going on elsewhere: an early patent filing is very important under such conditions! The ultra-pure nature of the Metraflow flowmeter arises as the flow tube is a simple straight glass or similar tube, and the ultrasonic transducers are all external. To register to receive further info on the Metraflow, please email Titan.

600,000 flowmeters measure beer and lager flow

Titan Enterprises has established a long-standing working relationship with Vianet plc (formerly Brulines) for the supply of beer flowmeters for pub and bar automation projects. Over the last 20 year period Titan have delivered, and Vianet has installed, over 600,000 of these meters for beer and other bar flow measurement and automation applications.

Brulines, was formed in 1993 with the intention of providing pub chain owners with data on their bar activity via an electronic point of sale (EPOS) system. After trialling several other flowmeters, the company sought a solution to resolve flowmeter bearing lifespan problems and to overcome the unreliability of the optical detection method in beer.

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The beer flowmeter

Following a collaborative approach to developing the solutions needed for the Vianet customer base, Titan Enterprises proposed an adapted version of its 800-series turbine flowmeter as the design included durable sapphire bearings proven reliable for many thousand hours operation, and a Hall effect detector which was not subject to problems with discolouration inside the pipe. After successful tests, a trial order for 400 units was placed in 1997, which after the subsequent field trials, was followed by an order for >5000 meters which were all delivered to the clients required timescales.

To ensure the flowmeter was ‘fit for purpose’, Titan additionally adapted the cable type as well as the body and increased the length to 10 metres. These adaptions enabled Brulines installations to be maintained in beer cellars with differing wire runs to the control panel without any junction boxes.

Twenty Years of Collaboration

With the widespread reliability of this product, Vianet turned again to Titan Enterprises in 1999 to develop for them an “intelligent” flowmeter (IFM) for their enhanced iDraught retail product. The specification for the IFM required that it should additionally measure temperature as well as determining the type of fluid in the line to detect line cleaning cycles which are essential for the dispensing of a good pint.

At the time, Titan did not have the technology to provide sensing electronics at a reasonable price so we produced a revised version of the beer flowmeter with the capability of being matched to a PCB designed, manufactured and installed by a third party.

After trialling and testing, this new IFM was introduced in June 2000 and supplied to Vianet at the rate of up to 3500 units a week. Mark Fewster, product manager at Vianet commented “Titan’s supply chain has always delivered to our quality and timescale needs”.

IoT Developments

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An intelligent flowmeter design

Since this first IFM introduction, close collaboration between the two parties has resulted in 5 iterations of the product with revised features as end user requirements have developed and evolved with the growth of the IOT (Internet of Things). Drawing upon this close working relationship, over a long period of time, Titan continue to work with Vianet on new solutions and offerings as the Vianet customer offering further develops.

This Titan Enterprises application story is based on a report in the Autumn issue of Flowdown, the regular news bulletin published by Trevor Forster, MD of Titan, from their Dorset, UK base.

The mystery of intelligent sensor diagnostics @ProcessingTalk #PAuto

The fashion, or trend, that has developed over the last few years for process and analytical instrumentation sensors is to use their on-board intelligence to monitor their own performance status. They achieve this by monitoring and tracking various diagnostic measurements – secondary parameters where consistent values are said to indicate the sensor is working as it should, and has not been subject to any changes since leaving the factory.

This approach is easily understood if you consider the possible effects of exposure of a sensor to excessive temperatures, which might soften the potting or glues holding a sensor to a ‘window’ – and it can be expected that this would be detectable. The addition of a diagnostic sensor, such as a temperature probe, within the sensor housing, could also be an option for checking the sensor condition, and alarming if the sensor exceeds a high or low set-point.

But how else do sensors check their own performance, and how relevant are these “checks”? This topic was discussed in the latest issue of the South African Journal of Instrumentation and Control, August 2017 issue: SAIC is a journal produced by technews.co.za.

Modern (intelligent?) sensors

So, over the past two years of attending and listening to presentations, and reading relevant articles describing the advantages of self-monitoring systems and sensor diagnostics, waiting for an engineer’s explanation as to how the clever monitoring system actually tells the factory instrument engineer anything, it is a bit of a disappointment to report that there seem to be no suppliers that actually make any significant disclosure. This applies across sensors ranging from ultrasonic and Coriolis flowmeters, electromagnetic flowmeters, level measurement systems using radar or ultrasonics, and level alarms. Obviously all the major suppliers are involved in such equipment, and compete with each other, but this secrecy seems a little extreme.

The problem is possibly that until a manufacturer can point to a failure that was detected – or anticipated – using their diagnostics, and decides to publish it, the user population has no idea what systems might actually work. But equally, by publishing a success for the diagnostics, the same manufacturer is saying that one of his sensors failed – and that is a very unusual event, these days. Plus also maybe not something they would wish to publicise.

The older approaches

The whole idea of diagnostics and sensor monitoring has been around for a long time. From personal experience with Bestobell Mobrey, in the 1980s, Mobrey launched an ultrasonic version of a float switch, the ‘Squitch’, which switched a two wire mains connection through a load circuit. When not alarmed it just sat there taking a small control current. For customer reassurance that it was operating in this quiescent state, there was a blinking red LED to show that the sensor was ‘armed’ and operating normally. Mobrey called that a heartbeat indicator, a term that is now used more widely.

For custody transfer flowmeters, the classic approach to validate confidence in the reading is to use two meters in series, and check that both give the same answer. This has progressed to having two separate ultrasonic flowmeters mounted in the same flowtube, on some installations.

For the more safety conscious plant there are often requirements for duplicated sensors for such duties as high level alarms, where two different technologies are used by the sensors – e.g. by mixing float, capacitance or ultrasonic level alarms.

The modern approach

It seems that the ultimate approach is to let the sensor supplier link into your plant automation and data system to interrogate the sensor, and he will verify the measurement and performance diagnostics on a regular basis. With many and varied sensors, this leads to a lot of external interrogation of your plant assets, and possible worries over losing control of your plant.

Overall, it begins to look as though it is becoming impossible for a discerning plant engineer to decide which supplier has the best performing diagnostic system to monitor the relevant sensor’s performance. Rather like opening the bonnet of a modern car, and deciding it would be best to take it to a garage!

At a recent lecture on this subject, held by the InstMC Wessex section in co-operation with Southampton University, a detailed discussion concluded that the sensor suppliers now have all the real expertise in-house and a normal plant engineer could not be expected to cover the depth of this technology for all the many sensors and other equipment within his control. In the end the decision as to ‘which supplier to use’ returns to your own previous experience, including the service and support that has been and is now on offer, and the suitability of the product for the money available for that sensor task.

Fashions in sensor technology

I confess it was 50 years ago when I started looking at new technology for sensors. Back then, colleagues and I updated the old WW2 mine detector, using really low frequency (i.e. 1 kHz) magnetic waves to discriminate between ferrous and non-ferrous items, and assess the size and range of the target by the signal phase measurement. Here the electronics used ‘modern’ operational amplifiers, on a ‘chip’.

The 1980s

Ten years on, in the ’80s, the technology coming into vogue was ultrasonics, replacing float systems to make liquid level switches, and then, still using analog electronics, the first Doppler ultrasonic flowmeter appeared. With the availability of digital microprocessor circuitry, timed pulses transmitted through the air down to the surface of a liquid led to non-contact liquid level measurement, and major success in the automation of sewage sump pumping systems. (The success lasted maybe 30 years, as when the mobile phone business created low cost microwave components, similar systems based on radar began to take over in this market.)

The next leap forwards in the mid-’80s was the time-of-flight ultrasonic flowmeter – actually achieved with discrete digital circuitry, which was faster than the available microprocessors. The technology was originally developed at Harwell, for measuring liquid sodium flows in nuclear reactors, but these flowmeters found major application in monitoring clean water flows, primarily in water distribution mains. Over the next 25 years the technique was picked up by commercial interests, and continually refined, introducing clamp-on sensor systems, and adapting the technique for gas flows as well. Even domestic gas meters were introduced using the same principle. Eventually the microprocessor speed became fast enough to achieve the flow measurement accuracy needed – using multiple sound paths – for the fiscal measurement of oil flows, which is now one of the major applications, along with similar gas flow measurement tasks.

Other sensors where I was not initially involved were in the fields of gas detection – where for flammable gases, Pellistors created a major business area – and fire detectors. It seems that UV and IR fire detection systems are still seeking the best approach. Possibly because of the awareness brought about by the Internet, the pace of change and the commercial opportunities, the large corporations are quick to acquire small spin-off companies from university or other research after any small success, because of what technology they may have discovered: they do this ‘just in case’, to protect their market position.

Current developments

The area I see as most important currently, and a fruitful area to flag up for research projects, is in any style of optical analytical measurement sensor. Specifically, the component that brought this into industrial instrumentation was the tuneable diode laser (TDL), developed prior to 2005 for the telecommunications industry, to transmit telephone conversations and data down fibre-optic cables. Around 2007 Yokogawa acquired a business from Dow Chemicals, which used TDL sensors for near-infrared absorption (NIR) measurements of a gas mixture, which gave the proportions of oxygen, carbon dioxide and monoxide, and water vapour. This allowed the unit to be used as a combustion analyser for industrial furnaces, boilers etc.

Over the last 10 years this area of technology has grown in importance, and in its capabilities. Spin-off companies have emerged from various universities, like Manchester and Glasgow. A significant task in these developments is the application of the solution to an industrial problem: it needs the two factors of solving both the technical design and the industrial application. Cascade Technologies was established in Glasgow in 2003, and their analysers were initially targeted at marine flue gas emissions monitoring. From 2013 they added a focus on pharmaceutical gaseous leak detection, and also the process industry, on ethylene plants. Their technology allows multiple gases to be measured simultaneously. The Cascade business has now been acquired by Emerson.

Another closely market-focused supplier of NIR analytical systems is TopNIR Systems of Aix en Provence, in France, actually a spin-off business from within BP. TopNIR use their systems to analyse hydrocarbons – both crude oil and processed products – to allow a refinery operator to know how to most profitably blend the available components into a final product, as well as to minimise any quality give-away in blending the different grades of gasoline and diesel. TopNIR quote the annual benefit to a typical refinery at $2 to $6 million, with an implied investment spend of up to $2 million!

This article was first published in the May 2017 issue of “South African Instrumentation and Control” published by Technews.co.za

©Processingtalk.info

KROHNE emphasises networking R+D with new CTO Attila Bilgic

The Advisory Board of the Krohne Group has appointed Dr Ing Attila Bilgic as CTO and Managing Director of Ludwig Krohne GmbH & Co KG. He assumes global responsibility for research and development (R+D) and extends the managing board of the Krohne Group alongside the existing Directors, Michael Rademacher-Dubbick and Stephan Neuburger.

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New Krohne CTO Dr Attila Bilgic

Dr Bilgic’s main task is the “digitization” of the Krohne measuring devices and measuring systems, their networking and their integration amongst themselves, as well as with and into the digital systems of the users. The area of “smart sensors”, which Krohne has already pioneered with various research projects under his leadership, is also of particular significance. With more than 350 employees, The Krohne Group currently employs about 10% of all staff in research and development, with more than 350 R+D employees and a budget of approximately 8% of the total group turnover (in 2015 the turnover was approximately EURO 500 million).

The topic of networking has been the major topic in the previous career of Dr. Bilgic: prior to joining Krohne, he held various positions in the “Communication Solutions” division of Infineon Technologies AG from 2000 to 2009, most recently as Director of System Engineering. From 2007 to 2009, he was head of the Department of Integrated Systems at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Since 2016, he has been a member of the board of the VDI / VDE Society of Measuring and Automation Technology. He is also a member of the German Physical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Power Industry Boiler Water Level Measurement Techniques

The March 2017 Inst Measurement and Control Technical Seminar evening will be hosted by Doosan Babcock in Manor Royal, Crawley, on Tuesday 21st March 2017.

This will be a tri-company, collaborative event, presented by Doosan Babcock, and also featuring contributions from Vega and TC-Fluid Control. It is aimed at providing attendees with a useful insight into industrial measurement application challenges in order to further their professional development knowledge.

Drum Level Control

The first presentation by Doosan Babcock will discuss Drum level measurement using DP Measurement and Hydrastep Measurement techniques.

Power station Steam Drum Level measurement is required for drum level control, Burner Management System (BMS) protection and Code compliance. Drum level is both a critical and difficult measurement to make. At steady state conditions, considerable turbulence in the drum can cause the level to fluctuate. A changing rate of water inflow and steam outflow adds to the potential for measurement error. The DP Measurement technique uses the difference in pressure between a head of water in an external reference column and the level in the drum. The density of water and steam vary appreciably with pressure, so the differential pressure obtained at any given level will vary as boiler pressure changes.

The Hydrastep technique detects the conductivity variation between the steam and the water. The electrode principle is an efficient system for measuring drum water levels.

Microwave Technology

Vega will explain how microwave technology can tackle a wide variety of applications associated with steam boilers. Non-contact or guided wave techniques have the ability to measure reliably, even with fluctuating temperatures up to 450C combined with pressures of up to 400 bar. Measurement is virtually unaffected by pressure and temperature changes. Top mounting makes installation and maintenance easy. In many cases microwave transmitters provide an alternative to legacy equipment for both solids and liquids. SIL qualification and boiler approval now enables microwave technology to  be used directly on steam boilers, with special modifications to compensate for saturated steam effects.

Visual/Glass and Boiler Steam Glass level gauges

untitledVisual/Glass and Boiler Steam Glass level gauges are a requirement on steam boilers for visual verification of the level control system, and will be discussed by TC-Fluid Control. Magnetic level gauges have many applications on and around the boiler, providing visual level indication whilst minimising potential leak paths, and can be used as an alternative to one of the glass level gauges on the boiler drum. Simple, robust technology provides a highly visible indication of process level at pressures of up to 400 bar and temperatures up to 450C.

Postscript: Wessex IMC Section meeting

Vega Controls will also give a talk to the IMC Wessex Section meeting on 15th March about the technology behind their 80GHz radar liquid level measurement systems. The talk will include live demonstrations, and takes place at the Forest Lodge Hotel, at Lyndhurst. A video is available that shows their new sensor.