In our daily life we use plastics or polymers in many different forms whether as a disposable product such as packaging film or as a long-lasting component in the automotive industry, in construction or in sports equipment and toys.
Nowadays, plastics are tailor-made for the respective application, depending on the properties desired. In this way, properties such as hardness, mold ability (or formability), elasticity, tensile strength, temperature, radiation and heat resistance can be adjusted as well as the chemical and physical resistance can be adapted to the desired function.
This large variety can be modified within wide limits by the choice of the basic building blocks (macromolecules), the production process and additives. The respective macromolecules are polymers of regularly repeating molecular units. The type of crosslinking and the used additives determine the final properties of the material. In 2016, the world-wide production of plastics for bulk materials and films was over 300 million tons (source: BMBF) of which almost one third was produced in China. Europe and North America follow with slightly less than 20 percent each.
Precise dosing for operational efficiency and minimization of unnecessary waste
Typical additives in the plastics industry are antistatic agents, dyes, flame retardants, fillers, lubricants, colorants, stabilizers and plasticizers. Many of these additives are liquid.
Precise dosing of the additives leads to operational efficiency and the minimization of unnecessary waste.
Additives are frequently added by use of needle valves, which is inexpensive, but always has a risk on malfunction because of fluctuation within the process (e.g., pressure and temperature). In particular the use of plasticizers is increasingly critical since some of these substances are directly absorbed by human beings or accumulate in the food chain.
With the proven CORI-FILL dosing technology, Bronkhorst offers an easy-to-use setup to ensure the required accuracy and reproducibility. By combining a mini CORI -FLOW with a pump or a suitable valve, fluids can be dosed continuously or as a batch into the reactor with high reproducibility. These systems can be integrated or used as an add-on in already existing processes and production lines.
mini CORI-FLOW flow meter combined with a Tuthill pump
5 Reasons why additive dosing with a Coriolis instrument supports process efficiency for plastic manufacturers
No need for (re)calibration in the field – fluid independent flow measurement and control
Gas and liquid can be measured with the same sensor
Ability to measure undefined or variable mixture
The CORI-FILL™ technology features an integrated batch counter function and enables direct control shut-off valves or pumps
Traditionally, and in most cases we see, dosing- or metering pumps are believed to be accurate because the theory is that a known pump head displacement will move a known volume over a known time giving a known delivered volume. In practice however it will never achieve a high level of accuracy with deviations of 10-15% being normal. Inaccuracies like this are caused by many changing process conditions, such as:
Wear of components
These factors can each be the cause of an inaccuracy in the expected volume of displacement from a pump head movement. If you then multiple each of those factors you can realise quite large measuring errors that create both inaccuracy and inconsistency.
Please refer to our earlier blog about ‘High Accuracy’.
What can be done to improve the accuracy?
Option 1) Add a flow meter between the pump and the process
By adding a flow meter between the pump and the process, you can take information from the flow meter to adjust the speed of the pump. Traditionally, this would be managed with an analogue output signal, 4….20 mA or similar, from the flow meter into a separate PID controller that compares the real flow signal to the desired flow. Subsequently, the electronic controller can then adjust the speed of the pump to achieve the desired dose or flow.
Using this solution will mitigate the issues in the original solution, however it introduces more:
Slow flow signal due to signal filtering in the PID controller
Slow pump response due to extra control relay
Increased complexity with extra components
Time to achieve stable flow can be long
Additional price of meter and PID controller
Option 2) Direct mass flow measurement with a flow meter with built in PID control
Now we need to discuss the next possible solution, using a direct Mass Flow measurement device with built in PID control
that can drive a pump to achieve the desired dose or flow.
With this solution you do not need to include the pump in the control system, just give a set point demand to the mass flow meter and it will drive the pump to achieve the desired dose or flow. This solution will give you several advantages, such as:
Direct mass flow control of the flow
Mass flow dosing is independent of temperature and pressure, in contrast to the volumetric dosing when only a pump is used;
Accurate delivery mitigating normal pump issues
Alarm functionality of low flow
Preventative maintenance based on pump performance over time
Consistent flow measurement based on actual not assumed numbers
Coriolis mass flow meter in modular dosing system
These advantages can be utilised in many different industries:
Anywhere that liquid is dispensed into a container that will require quality assurance, and commonly the quality control test is carried out on a small percentage of the vials to ensure general compliance. If you use a mass flow meter to control the dose you can achieve 100% QC checking of your product with reduced human input.
If you need to dose additives, performance chemicals or mix liquids then the ability to control the flow of the additive and know what that flow is can be a huge advantage to the outcome of the application.
Pump control can offer accurate dosing solutions for house hold chemicals like detergents and cleaning products.
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.
CO2 reduction is one of the major trends worldwide in the energy market. Nowadays alternative clean energy sources are more and more used to reduce the carbon emissions. One of these alternative energy sources is solar.
The global focus on CO2 reductions matches perfectly within the Bronkhorst principles regarding respect for nature and environment. Therefore contributing to the supply chain of a future energy source, in this case solar, is for Bronkhorst an interesting project.
Solar energy panels
Solar panels will convert sunlight into electrical energy and can easily be placed in various locations as a decentral replacement of traditional power plants. A solar panel contains multiple wafers. Manufacturer Tempress Systems is involved in the diffusion doping process of the wafers and apply an anti-reflection coating.
The Tempress equipment contains Bronkhorst technology within the subsystem devolved for the generation of chemical vapour required for the diffusion doping process. Together with Tempress, Bronkhorst designed a custom made solution for this application
Fit for purpose
Due to the intensive collaboration between Tempress’ engineers and Bronkhorst, it was possible to design a ‘fit for purpose’ subsystem that is completely integrated in the Tempress system. The design was extremely compact. Furthermore the fully digital control of the custom made subsystem has been a huge advantage.
The power behind a successful solution
One of the reasons for a successful low flow fluidic handling solutions development is the collaboration between Bronkhorst and her customer.
The win-win situation is a motivation for both parties. Thinking of a compact ‘plug and play’ custom made solution which offers the logistic advantages of less suppliers, reduction in lead times and less inventory.
The new technologies which are developed on the road will help Bronkhorst to keep up with new possibilities for future projects.
I believe the success factor for the Bronkhorst Solutions team is the close cooperation with the customer working towards a joint objective. It’s like a good marriage; the subsystem does not work without the control system in the main system and the main system needs the intelligence from the subsystem in order to continue the innovative equipment status.
These are some thoughts about how a low flow fluidic handling subsystem can be part of a clean – solar based – energy future. I am proud, that I am a member of the team that realized this solution.
In this week’s blog we will have a look at the growing Chocolate Confectionery industry and the trends in using flavors. Who else can do this better than a woman you should think… as 75% of the women against 68% of the men report that they indulge in chocolate.
Chocolate…a growing worldwide market of $100 billion once started with a simple choice between Milk, Dark or White chocolate. Nowadays the choice in variations is tremendous due to flavorings.
Chocolate as a seasonal gift is very popular. Around the holidays we tend to buy more chocolate. The top selling season for chocolate is not Valentine’s Day, as you might think, but Easter.
In addition to treating oneself, mood enhancement is also a popular reason for the rising sales, especially for young adults. The majority of the chocolate buyers (particularly in the US) are looking for options with mix-ins as opposed to the plain/unflavored varieties.
The global chocolate market has seen considerable innovation in flavor and texture. New product development continues to be imaginative, with more exploration of flavors and textures in addition to the traditional sweetness. However the consumer base tends to be rather conservative as the most popular flavors currently are Hazelnut, Caramel, Almond, and Orange.
Older consumers tend to have a lower engagement with chocolate. The lack of interest reflects their desire to eat healthy. To regain this group of adult customers, companies have turned to tactics such as using alcohol flavors, organic ingredients, and premium positioning such as dark chocolate with Limoncello or chocolates filled with sweet liqueur.
It may come as a surprise, but a healthy lifestyle, which is one of the major trends worldwide, is also responsible for a substantial growth of the chocolate market and that’s not without reason. Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate with more than 85% cocoa, offers beneficial health benefits, like:
‘Rich in Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and other minerals’
‘Powerful source of Antioxidants’
‘Protective against cardiovascular disease’
The growing awareness of the health benefits of pure and dark chocolate is why consumption of chocolate is increasing. With the rising popularity of dark chocolate, the sales for other variations are also going up. People are seeking other ‘healthy’ variations, such as sugar-free, Gluten-Free, Kosher, or Fair Trade chocolate. Due to these ethical claims, the industry has seen a tremendous growth in variations. In order to enhance a healthy image for chocolate, functional ingredients such as fibers, protein, micronutrients, quick energy (guarana extracts), green tea extract, or chia seeds are more and more often being added to the chocolate.
The increasing demand for chocolate also has its downside. About 3 million tons of cocoa beans are consumed annually of which more than 70% is produced by four West African countries: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.
Cocoa is a delicate crop and trees planted a quarter century ago have hit their production peak and the land they grown on are not as fertile as it once was. A large rehabilitation of land and trees is necessary to prevent the loss of crop production. Also climate changes are taking their toll.
This results in high costs for raw materials and unstable economic conditions in cocoa-producing nations. To prevent a supply shortage, a number of well-known chocolate producing companies have decided to invest in rehabilitation of the land and trees to make sure that cocoa will be available in the future.
This in a time that developing countries such as China, India, and Russia expect to grow their chocolate sales volume by 30%.
MASS FLOW METERS AND CHOCOLATE
Due to the tremendous growth of chocolate variations, using flavors and functional ingredients, mass flow meters and controllers find their way into the confectionery industry.
Due to their accurate and stable features, especially when they are used in combination with a pump, low flow mass flow meters and controllers using the Coriolis principle are ideal for dosing flavors and functional ingredients.
The Bronkhorst Coriolis instruments will measure direct mass flow and are independent of fluid properties which means a set point change is possible within seconds and there is no need to disassemble the pump and recalibrate the installation. This is a huge advantage which saves a lot of time, and makes the process much more flexible.
Using the Coriolis instruments for additive dosing means less downtime between batches, traceability of ingredients, and higher product consistency and quality.
Having worked in both the Life Sciences and Analytical industries I am sympathetic to the ever increasing demands for small foot prints and faster instruments. It has been a continuing trend for many years that lab real-estate has become more and more expensive; this led to a drive for footprint reduction of instruments. You had to make sure that size didn’t make you expensive in bench space.
One of the drivers behind this process was the NeSSI system initiative (New Sampling/Sensor Initiative), sponsored by the Centre for Process Analysis and Control. The aim was to reduce the overall costs of engineering, installing and maintaining chemical process analytical systems.
In the NeSSI system, mass flow and pressure meters/controllers needed a standard footprint of 1.5’’.
This footprint is perfect for a large number of applications and end users, even for some of the Life Science OEM companies that have room to spare in their systems. However when you are re-designing your system and you have the chance to incorporate new technology, look at the placement of existing technology and maybe add more it helps if you can reduce the footprint of the components that you use even further.
Reducing the footprint of a known, working technology has challenges of its own. The design and function of which will be driven by the physical characteristics of the measurement principle and therefore the sensor that it uses. To change this you need to look at alternative measurement technologies as a way to achieve the end goal of the industry, same functionality, same signal, smaller package.
Working in conjunction with the TNO, the Netherlands organisation for applied scientific research we designed a new range of mass flow and pressure meters/controllers built around MEMS technology. This allowed us to offer solutions with a footprint of 0.75’’, halving the footprint and offering ultra-compact flow controllers.
This has given our customers:
Compact assembly ensuring space efficiency
Analog or digital communication
Top mount modules, easily accessible
Pre-testing ‘’Plug and Play’’ manifold assemblies, reducing customer test requirement
To maintain the usefulness of the new instrument you have to have the same functionality. Along with a sensor on a chip, we need a new, smaller control valve, filter options and a smaller pneumatic shut-off valve. To save even more space and build time, customers requested a down-ported version.
The final addition that makes full use of the space saving created by the addition of new technology was to create a manifold system where a customer can design a number of flow channels into a manifold, all well within the internal space limitations they have for their instrument.
This is one of the key themes of our blogs and it is referred to time and again. The Solutions based approach, ending up with a bespoke solution not a standard product with compromises. Innovation in technology must be driven by the customer. If you do not think that a standard flow or pressure solution will meet your needs then let us know and challenge our team, we will be your low flow fluid handling specialist.