This past summer, process flow and level equipment specialists Endress + Hauser announced a partnership with Issys, Inc., an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company that specializes in MEMS (microelectrical mechanical systems) technology. On the surface it’s a strange marriage: E+H makes heavy steel gauges and meters for the most rugged pharmaceutical and other industrial applications. MEMS technology is anything but heavy and rugged. A teaming of Goliath and David, it would seem.
But the partnership makes sense, says Joerg Herwig, Director of Endress + Hauser Flowtec. The agreement with Issys is a sign that times are changing in the pharmaceutical industry and there is a growing market for micro-scale products.
“There is really a world behind the world we know today,” he says. “Our traditional instrumentation business is one side, but there is another segment. . . . In the pharmaceutical industry, we have a collaboration with Ehrfeld [Ehrfeld Mikrotechnik, a subsidiary of Bayer Technology Services], which has realized the use of microreactors for many processes, but they really have problems getting microinstruments.”
In steps E+H. “We are very familiar with the electromechanical systems, of course,” says Herwig. “From physical principles, it’s possible to scale down the things we are doing today to the micro level.”
“But if you look at our coriolis or magmeter portfolio, we go down to an inner diameter of 1 millimeter, which is the lowest we can do today,” he adds. “Things are made out of steel and there are limitations in manufacturing these devices.” With MEMS, Herwig says, it’s possible to engineer devices with flow diameters 10,000 times below what is currently possible.
“We know there are applications that are served by thermal or other technologies in these dimensions, but the appearance is far different from normal technologies. So there’s a big benefit for us to bring our physics and knowledge that we have and downsize them to these applications.”
Endress + Hauser first began discussions with Issys three years ago, and now that an official partnership is in place, it will be another few years until products are brought to market, Herwig says. And the possibilities are endless, since micro-scale processing not only needs micro-equipment, but also services such as (micro-) maintenance and (micro-) calibration.
In the meantime, E+H and other vendors will continue making process measurement products on the human scale. What follows is a roundup of some of the latest technologies in level, pressure, and temperature measurement:
Endress + Hauser will go about its normal business of making heavy-duty flow products for pharma, such as the Proline Promass 83P, a multivariable coriolis mass flow meter designed specially for pharma. The device has improved accuracy over competitors, says Gene Henry, marketing manager for level products. “You have density accuracy and flow accuracy, but you also have to consider components like temperature,” he says. “We have overall system accuracy.”
E+H has also recently introduced the Levelflex M FMP43 is used for continuous level measurement of liquids in hygienic applications. All components are FDA-listed, and the devices integrate with HART, Profibus, and Foundation Fieldbus devices.
Magnetrol International has recently enhanced its Eclipse Model 705 guided wave radar transmitter for level measurement (photo). The Eclipse is now available with a 304 stainless steel housing designed specifically for use in sanitary/hygienic applications (meeting requirements for wetted and non-wetted materials, process connections, and surface finishes).
The L&J Engineering MCG 1800 for level measurement is a non-contact, low frequency pulse radar based upon infrared technology (photo). The MCG 1800 also features a program “wizard” for simplified calibration in “five easy and interactive steps.” The device, built for the pharmaceuticl market, can withstand caustic, acidic and other harsh environs, with stainless steel construction optional. Temperature inputs and relay outputs are also available.
Earlier this year, Brooks Instrument released a Foundation Fieldbus option on its variable area flow meters for industrial applications, after doing so for its thermal mass flow controllers in 2008. Fieldbus communication allows improved improved device communication and expanded plant diagnostic capabilities.
Hamilton Company has introduced a new sensor family, ARC (photo), for process control that includes pH, dissolved oxygen and conductivity measurements. The sensors are a sort of digital/analog hybrid that send an analytical signal directly to an analog process control system while “delivering . . . the power of digital sensor management.”
“The digital connection plus the on-board processor and memory . . . means they can be pre-calibrated and configured in the lab,” says Bruno Waller, Director of Sales for Laboratory and Sensors.
Turck’s PT4300 stainless steel pressure sensor (photo) includes a MEMS component, a small strain gauge that sits on the back side of the pressure diaphragm. The gauge senses the deflection of the diaphragm and thus produces an output pressure reading, says Melissa Schumann, a specialist in instrumentation products for Turck. The product offers improved accuracy over other technologies, at a lower cost, Schumann says.
The PT4300 sensors are Class I, Division 2 sensors for hazardous areas. For pharma process applications, operators would typically attach the sensor to a sanitary tri-clamp or other fitting, she says.
For bioprocessing, single-use sensors have become an option. SciLog now offers pre-calibrated disposable sensors for measuring conductivity, pressure, and temperature. (They can be used just once or cleaned or sterilized and reused.) The sensors have embedded memory that stores serial and lot numbers, calibration offsets, and can send data to a printer, PLC, or PC. Alarming is also possible. The photo shows the SciPres (yellow) and SciTemp (red) sensors and benchtop monitors.