New Year's marks a time not only for resolutions, but also reflection. We are very delighted that our blogs have been received so well! This past year there were again many interesting stories to tell, how could it be otherwise given the industries in which we operate. I would like to share our top 5 best-read blogs of 2017 with you.
1) The importance of mass flow measurement and the relevance of Coriolis technology
Why is Mass Flow Measurement important within process industries and what are the strengths of Coriolis Flow Meters and Controllers? Given the number of readers of this blog, this is a frequently asked question.
2) A typical day at Bronkhorst’s flow meter Calibration Centre
We followed Mandy Westhoff, one of our Calibration Centre operators at our headquarters in Ruurlo, during her daily routines to get a realistic view on the activities of the Calibration Centre. A unique moment for readers to gain more insight about this challenging and important work!
3) How to measure low flow rates of liquids using ultrasonic waves?
In June 2017 we were proud to launch our ultrasonic flow meter, the ES-FLOW™, for measuring and controlling liquid volume flows. In collaboration with TNO (Netherlands organization for applied scientific research) we were ably to develop this instrument using Ultrasonic Wave Technology. More in-depth information on this subject can been found in this blog post.
4) Bronkhorst, its share of a clean – solar – energy future
Sustainability and clean energy remains a hot topic. CO2 reduction is one of the major trends worldwide in the energy market. The global focus on CO2 reductions matches perfectly within the Bronkhorst principles regarding respect for nature and environment.
5) How low can you go?
Well, this recent blog of Marcel Katerberg is not very low on our rankings. If you are keen to learn more about how to handle ultra low flow, then you definitely should read this blog.
Furthermore, I would like to thank our guest bloggers of this year, who were so generous spending their time in crafting an interesting blog contribution.
Frank Nijsen (Quirem Medical), Bram de la Combé (Green Team Twente), Maarten Nijland (Veco B.V.), Jeremy Lowe and Ian Brown (Anglian Water Services), Jens Rother (Rubolab GmbH), and Kees Jalink (NKI – Netherlands Cancer Institute)
I am confident that you will enjoy reading these blog posts - if you haven't read them already. But for now, I wish you on behalf of our whole team great health, happiness and success in the coming year.
Today I would like to share an application story with you using mass flow meters in an application at Umicore in Suzhou (China).
Umicore is one of the world’s leading producers of catalysts used in automotive emission systems. The company develops and manufactures high performing catalysts for, among other things, gasoline and diesel engines to transform pollutants into harmless gases, resulting in cleaner air.
Umicore’s production location in Suzhou ‘Umicore Technical Materials’ is using Bronkhorst Mass Flow Controllers and Vapour Systems for research and testing of automotive emission catalyst materials. Newly developed catalytically active materials of Umicore consist of oxides and precious metals, such as platinum and palladium, incorporated into a porous structure which allows intimate contact with the exhaust gas.
What catalyst materials does Umicore test?
Umicore in Suzhou uses various test benches in which newly developed catalytic materials are tested on performance (read: low output of toxic emissions). “Umicore develops new catalysts directly with top-tier automobile manufacturers in China. We are testing new formulations of materials and shapes of the catalysts on performance” explains Mr. Yang Jinliang.
How are the mass flow meters and controllers applied for identical testing and simulation?
The Bronkhorst mass flow meters and controllers are used to accurately deliver the right amount of several gases in a mixture that simulates the exhaust of an engine in different circumstances. “To really compare the performance of newly developed formulations, we have to be sure that the operational conditions of our tests are identical.” Mr. Yang explains that this requires the use of high performance mass flow controllers to accurately mix the simulated exhaust gas.
“We need flow control equipment which is reliable and has excellent repeatability during our simulation runs. Therefore Umicore developed the test equipment together with the Bronkhorst flow specialists.” Umicore runs various simulations. “We simulate exhaust gases of engines under various life cycle simulations and operating conditions. For example, the exhaust gas of the car is different if the engine is still cold or if the engine has a high number of revolutions.”
Test bench for ageing simulation
One special test bench of Umicore simulates the ageing of the catalyst materials. This has been achieved by heating the ambient temperature of the Catalyst up to 800° Celsius for a couple of hours up to 24 hours in a test run while adding the simulated exhaust gas. “Here the Bronkhorst instruments prove high stability under the harsh testing conditions,” says Mr. Yang.
Exhaust gas simulation recipe
In order to simulate engine exhaust gas, Umicore mixes multiple gases. In general the following reactions take place in the catalytic converter:
- Reduction of nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and oxygen: 2NOx → xO2 + N2
- Oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide: 2CO + O2 → 2CO2
- Oxidation of unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) to carbon dioxide and water: CxH2x+2 + [(3x+1)/2]O2 → xCO2 + (x+1)H2O
To mix these gases, EL-FLOW Select digital mass flow controllers are being used. In order to maintain the gas mix under the same pressure, an EL-PRESS pressure controller instrument is used to control the pressure simultaneously with the flow.
Exhaust gases of engines also contain evaporated H2O. For this purpose the Bronkhorst ‘Controlled Evaporation Mixer’ (CEM) is used. All digital mass flow controllers, pressure controller and the CEM are connected with a computer that runs a software program to control the instruments.
In the ageing simulation test-bench of Umicore, high-temperature mass flow controllers of Bronkhorst are applied. The Bronkhorst EL-FLOW Select controllers have remote electronics to resist gas temperatures as high as 110° Celsius and still control the gases with high accuracy and excellentrepeatability.
How do you like the support of Bronkhorst products in China?
When asked about Bronkhorst support and service in China, Mr. Yang is very enthusiastic: “All Bronkhorst experts in China are very professional and have quick response. Especially during the start-up phase of our project, when we needed it most, my contacts were determined to support us. The system runs smoothly, but it’s comfortable to know that Bronkhorst is having one of its Global Service Offices in Shanghai if we need calibration or service.”
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
Europe’s Solution Factories by S.E.Chick, A.Huchzermeier and S. Netessine, Havard Business Review, April 2014 issue
Since the day of their introduction Instrumentation devices have always been required to evolve. One of the main reasons for this is to accommodate new, better and more complex communication protocols.
What a lot of people still do, due to ease of use and consistency is specify instruments with analogue or RS-232 serial communication. Analogue communication (4-20mA, 0-5v or 0-10v) and RS-232 which was the original way in which computers communicated was the original, mainly due to cost and available technology.
It is still a very robust and solid way to send and receive information over a small group of instruments however it does have some very practical set-backs. As a point-point communication protocol it requires a port both on the instrument and the controller, this can be very limiting in size affecting both the amount and length of cables needed.
The development of Fieldbus communications meant it became possible to have multiple (100’s) of instruments connected through only one communication port at the controller level. This means that you had a huge reduction in both the number and length of cables needed. This development allowed the complexity to increase and size decrease of instruments containing multiple sensors.
As with VHS and Betamax there will always be competing technologies and ‘bus’ development was no different. Of course everyone hopes for a single unified solution because it makes things simpler, cheaper and more efficient. However the reality is that most ‘buses’ are utilised differently in different industries.
Different industries are described as either; a ‘process fieldbus‘ used in many process automation applications (flow meters, pressure transmitters and other measurement devices) or a ‘device network’ which is a large number of discrete sensors are used, motion, position etc., the best example of this is in automotive manufacturing.
There is an IEC standard that was developed for the European Common Market and interestingly I have learnt that the common goal was not focused on commonality but more the elimination of restraint of trade between nations. This standard is IEC 61158, it is almost 4000 pages long. Issues of commonality are now left to the consortium that supports each of the standard fieldbus types.
What next is always a good question, Ethernet based communication systems are one area that has seen large development over recent years and its definitions are being added into the International standards.
In all of this, what is our involvement in Fieldbus. As you may know, we are mainly involved in Process and control industries. We support almost all of the major bus systems out in the market and also have our own in-house ‘Flow-bus’ system that can be used link multiple instruments together. You run them through a single PC running our Flow-Plot or Flow-View software.
The latest addition to the communication range is the ‘Gateway’ solution. This allows multiple or manifold instruments on a Flow-Bus network to communicate with PROFIBUB or PROFINET DP through a specific fieldbus interface. This can be a very cost effective solution as multiple PROFIBUB or PROFINET DP instrument can become very expensive, very quickly.
Bronkhorst Field-Bus Technology
Chromatography has a long and interesting history. To discuss such a vast subject is a challenge, people are understandably passionate about such a subject. There is huge potential of not charting or discussing an area another person believes to be critical, for example we are discussing here Liquid Chromatography, we didn’t feel there would be room or time to discuss Gas Chromatography (GC) in an appropriate amount of detail.
So before we begin, please do let us know if you have any additions or corrections, we are always open to learning more from experts within any industry as that helps us to grow and learn.
Since the mid-19th century multiple types of chromatography have been developed. To start at the beginning, the word ‘Chromatography’ stands for ‘color writing’ and was initially used for the separation of plant pigments such as chlorophyll (which is green) and carotenoids (orange and yellow). However, it soon became apparent that it could be used for a wide range of separation processes as new forms of chromatography were developed starting in the 1940s.
In the modern analytical solutions discussed here, from HPLC to GC and SCFC we have an instrument that is currently in use, allowing the finished Analytical Instruments to achieve their full potential. We have provided solutions for liquid and gas applications, using thermal mass flow technology allowing manufacturers to achieve their end goals and meet the customer’s expectations.
As solutions providers we have relationships with all of the leading manufacturers around the world, these relationships are based on partnership where we provide the flow expertise. Our goal is to deliver the solutions of the future by listening to and understanding the trends in the market now.
One of those techniques is High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).
Schematic drawing of a typically HPLC instrument
HPLC stands for High Performance Liquid Chromatography and is a technique used to separate and allow the user to quantify different compounds. A high pressure pump is used to push the solvent through a column, due to the interaction between the compounds and the column material a separation of different compounds is possible. From here you can analyse the time taken to elute the compund ot the amount of compound detected.
Schematic of our instruments installed in the HPLC system
UPLC stands for Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography and is a special version of HPLC. Compared to HPLC, UPLC columns contain smaller particles sizes (2 um for UPLC vs 5 um for HPLC), which results in a better separation of compounds. The pump pressure in UPLC can go up to 100MPa in comparison to HPLC where this is 40MPa. UPLC has, in some applications, improved chromatography significantly. The run times are much shorter; therefore very fast analysis is possible.
UPLC is the abbreviation mostly used in writing; however this is a trademark technology of one of the major corporations in this field and is officially called UHPLC (Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography).
SCFC, the last trend we will discuss today is the growth of research into the way that liquid CO2 can be used as a super-solvent. With the ever increasing cost of chemical solvents used in the mobile phase, both purchase and disposal is increasing yearly.
Developing a system that utilizes a solvent, such as CO2, that can elute different compounds and provide a gradient effect purely through adjusting and controlling the system pressure is an incredible potential cost saving development. However as with all things, the cost reduction has to be off-set by the cost of installation of such systems. That day is only getting closer, but we are not yet at the point of wide-spread liquid CO2 solvent usage.
- Working with liquid CO2 can be a real challenge and one that we take seriously, our Coriolis and EL-Press instruments are perfect for this application giving flow and pressure control without the need for a thermal based system that would affect system integrity.
The industry is changing, that’s obvious! We will be on top of this………
As with any inter-dependent parameters there are consequences for changing one parameter if the controller of the other is responsive.
For example; if you installed a mass flow controller and a digital pressure controller in-line, each with their own inputs and outputs, changing the set-point on the digital pressure controller would adjust the valve and therefore the flow. This reaction would be detected by the mass flow controller as either a decrease or increase in flow and the mass flow controller valve would adjust accordingly to achieve its given set-point. This second reaction would then be seen as a change in pressure by the digital pressure controller and you can see how quickly this would become a feedback loop of increasing instability.
One of the most frequent challenges that we come across, and one that people are always surprised we can solve, is the ability to control and meter flow and pressure in-line. Many of the applications we are involved in require control and measurement of the flow and pressure of the fluid. However, as the two parameters are different but inter-dependent it can make it difficult to determine the optimal process conditions in which both parameters are fully supporting each other. Our experience teaches us that each case has its own unique solution.
We learned by experience that it is very beneficial to draw together the process owners of the application under discussion. I/we use this ‘drawing’ skill to help identify which areas are critical and where value could be added through the use of digital instrumentation. This can make it easier to determine what the best course of action is.
Applications for use:
The need to control/meter both pressure and flow can be important in:
• Consumption reactions
• Fuel cell development
• Burner/Ignition lance applications
• AiR Permeability testing
If you need to measure the AiR permeability of medical packaging; you need to set a standard pressure while also metering and controlling the AiR required to maintain the standard pressure. This measure gives you the flow required to achieve stability and therefore the AiR permeability.
In consumption reactions you may want to hold your reaction vessel at a set pressure and control/meter the feed gas to maintain the set pressure. This set-up, with electronic instruments and PC/PLC communication software will give you total consumption, consumption rate and allow you to profile the life cycle of the reaction you are conducting.
Adding digital control can allow you to control maximum flow as you build up to desired pressure levels which can be important in certain applications.
As with all application solution requirements, talking the application aim through with your supplier can be crucial to getting the best result.
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