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.
In addition to its sanitary temperature gauges, Lumenite Control Technology has expanded its offerings of sanitary (i.e., no threaded gauges, clean-in-place) pressure gauges for pharma applications. The LSPG and LSDPG conform to all 3A sanitary standards with ANSI grade "A" accuracy, and are available in multiple types of sanitary connections. They can withstand an ambient temperature of 300°F.
The Digital Pressure Gauge platform from Anderson Instruments is designed for monitoring critical pressures in sanitary applications. The switch version includes 2 fully adjustable switches with low-voltage relay outputs for simple control or alarming. The gauge has a battery-powered, hi-resolution digital display.
Veriteq Instruments has just released a data recorder for measuring multiple temperature environments simultaneously. The palm-sized 1016/1416 series (photo) is designed to record a group of chambers (up to 4) including -80°C ultra-low temperature freezers, fridges and incubators.
It’s a convenient solution “when there is a close grouping of temperature-sensitive products being held at different set-points,” says VP of Marketing Ken Appel. Using a single logger to do the job of several can reduce equipment and calibration costs, he says. The logger also features automated alarm notification and reporting with a browser-based software.
For lab and plant environmental temperature and humidity monitoring, Hart Scientific (a division of Fluke Corp.) has just released the 1620A paperless temperature and humidity data logger (photo), with wireless and Ethernet capability. The 1620A—aka the “DewK”—is a thermo-hygrometer that accepts inputs from one or two sensors, and can be mounted which may be mounted directly on the base unit or remotely (up to 30 meters). The device’s memory stores up to 400,000 date and time-stamped measurements, though data collected may also be sent in real time to a PC. Hart also offers software for the simultaneous monitoring of many instruments, with alarm triggers included.
Two Dimensional Instruments’ ThermaViewer is a combination data logger and chart recorder that that monitors and documents temperature or temperature/relative humidity. The panel display shows temporature history charts, with scrolling or zoom capability. Each sensor stores up to 80,000 data points—that is, a year’s worth of temperature history if samples are taken every ten minutes. While not wireless, the sensors come with a 20-foot wire for remote monitoring of temperature or temperature/RH. Best of all, it needs no pens or paper.
REOTEMP’s has improved its line of clean-in-place Sanitary RTD’s are designed for temperature sensing in pharmaceutical and biotech applications (photo). Sanitary RTD’s (resistance temperature detectors) are generally used where material contamination and accuracy are paramount. Reotemp’s have polished all 316 Stainless wetted parts, and a tri-clamp design for easy installation.
Data Translation’s new TEMPpoint is a standalone, highly accurate temperature measuring instrument with up to 48 channels (photo). Geared toward bioprocessing, the box allows multiple thermocouple, RTD, or precision voltage measurements to be taken simultaneously (with 24-bit resolution), then viewed, graphed, or exported to Excel. USB and Ethernet versions are available. No programming is necessary, the company says—simply plug and play. On the software side, a variety of PC- and web-based applications (such as those for traceability) are available.
British company Thermal Detection offers temperature sensors for pharmaceutical autoclave operations. The Steriprobe (Sterimaster in the U.S.) load and chamber probe withstands harsh chamber conditions to provide a leak-free chamber entry.
MadgeTech has just released a line of ultra low temperature data recorders, for temperatures to -86°C. The Cryo-Temp uses a USB docking station hooked to a PC. The memory goes to 30,000-plus readings per channel.