Arjan Bikkel
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At Bronkhorst® we’ve experienced an increase in the demand for skids: a customized system that consists of various types of instruments such as liquid and gas flow meters and an evaporator. In this blog post we explain why we think that there is a correlation between an increasing demand for skids and the ability to compete in competitive industries.

Europe’s Solution Factories

We were triggered by a publication in the Havard Business Review by S.E. Chick, A. Huchzermeier, S.Netessine and others which analyzed applications from European manufacturing which deem themselves “excellent” in manufacturing and won Industrial Excellence Awards. It is remarkable that despite the fact that Europe has some of the world’s most stringent regulations regarding the use of labor, facilities, and equipment and relatively high labor cost, the factories that have won an Industial Excellence award have all prospered in highly competitive industries.

The four distinquishing factors as described in the article which made the winning European manufacturers succesfull:

  • They leverage data flows to integrate closely with their supply chain partners.
  • They optimize customer value across the whole chain, not just their part of it.
  • They harness their technical capabilities to offer a high degree of product customization for their customers
  • They cooperate with suppliers to rapidly improve their manufacturing processes.

In short- the winning manufacturing companies work with partners to manufacture solutions for other partners. It is a privilige of Bronkhorst to work closely together with our customers to design smart customized designs which support them with their specific needs. A skid is a customized system based on a standard concept. Customization of standard concept by leveraging the experience and knowhow of our customers and us as low flow experts seems to be an attractive offering for many winning companies in the industry for several reasons. We would like to share with you why we believe customers partner with us to create their own skid.

The four reasons why customized skids are popular

1. Focus on core business Companies are increasingly focusing on their core activities. They expect from a supplier to deliver complete solutions instead of only individual instruments. We engineer the skid together with our customers and deliver a solution in which all relevant instruments and accessoires have been integrated. The ‘solutions approach’ is explained in more detail in this video.

2. Purchase at one supplier On a skid we can integrate flow meters (thermal or coriolis), an evaporator, RH sensors, pressure indicators, pumps, liquid vessels and other third party instrumentation. All internal tubing in the skid will be assembled by Bronkhorst. This way, customers can purchase a complete solution at one supplier instead of individual instrumentation at multiple suppliers. The skid will be pre-tested and ready for use by the customer. Besides, the skid is pressure and leak tested and will be delivered including instruction manual. A bonus is that our skids are based on standard proven platforms which make the time to market meet the expectations of our customers.

3. Customized design Customized products, support and after-sales services support customers to distinguish themselves in a competitive market. All skids are designed customer specific. Even if the customer needs only one skid, we offer a solution. Besides, we offer support and after-sales services that fit with the needs of every individual customer.

4. Compact design The miniaturisation trend is observed in many places. Small components need fewer quantities of raw materials, in production as well as in (chemicals) use. Customers of high-tech machines would like to have their equipment as compact as possible. Machines have to be smaller in size, as floor area is expensive, especially in cleanrooms - the 'natural' habitat of machines that manufacture solar panels and microchips. A skid can be a very compact solution integrating multiple instruments.

Europe’s Solution Factories

Source: Europe’s Solution Factories by S.E.Chick, A.Huchzermeier and S. Netessine, Havard Business Review, April 2014 issue

James Walton
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Quality Control has a very high value. The value comes from the security it provides. Air and Liquid tightness can be of critical importance, also on a small scale. It is our mission to support the development of tools that can help achieve this goal. Leaks can lead to unstable process conditions which in turn can create potentially dangerous results. An example is the Bhopal disaster : a gas leak incident in India which is considered as the world’s worst industrial disaster. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals.

There are three major solutions that we have provided to demonstrate leak integrity:

  • Valve seat leak testing
  • Fabric permeability testing
  • Ventilation and Air conditioning systems (HVAC)

Each of the challenges has different demands and requires an independent approach.

Two of these solutions required a flow pressure combination and one was a Coriolis solution. The valve seat leak test required a Coriolis sensor to meet the specific demands of that industry. Both the fabric and ventilation systems required a Thermal Mass Flow meter and Pressure instrument and that is what we are talking about this week.

Fabric permeability testing

The fabric test was completed by using a closed loop flow-pressure control solution. A chamber with an outlet, Digital Electronic Pressure Meter (DEPM) to control the internal pressure and an inlet, Mass Flow Controller (MFC) to control the inlet flow was built with a custom made fabric clamp on top of the chamber for the fabric.

This system allows the end user to clamp in a chosen fabric sample, always a consistent size, give set-point to the pressure meter, which via a closed loop control cable then controls the valve on the mass flow controller to allow the addition of air into the chamber until the pressure set-point is reached and then maintain it. Once reached the flow controller records the flow of AiR required to maintain the set-point giving a value to the permeability of the fabric. This process provides data acquisition for the test.

Ventilation and air conditioning system

The ventilation leak test system requires a more industrial approach. Also, with larger volumes to fill and potentially several devices under test (DUT) the system is controlled by a Digital Electronic Pressure Controller (DEPC). A Mass Flow Meter (MFM) is used in series to meter the flow of AiR required to maintain the set pressure. With an MFM and DEPC in-series you can set a pressure on the DUT via the DEPC and fill with AiR, the DEPC then controls the pressure while the MFM records the amount of AiR required to maintain the pre-determined pressure. This will then give a reading on the leakage rate of the DUT. Image description

There are a few key factors to making sure that you get repeatable and consistent test data:

Firstly, if the test volume would require a long fill time, or secondly, a small leak rate might be measured then a safe by-pass would be required to achieve a quick fill and stabilisation time.

The third and most important parameter that can affect the result of the test is temperature. The gas and components must be allowed to equalise before testing begins, for example a 2 Deg C shift in temperature can result in a 0.7% change in volume measured due to gas expansion. Any leaks smaller than this volume would not be measured and the integrity and repeatability of the test would be under question.

To help counter some of the issues discussed we have developed a new flow controller that will provide your process with cutting edge performance, click here for more information.

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