Trigas FI, our Alicat distributor based in Münich, Germany, is now Alicat’s first authorized Calibration Center. Trigas calibrates all manner of gas and liquid flow instruments and has a well-equipped lab with one of the best calibration standards in Europe. With lead times as short as 48 hours, Alicat customers in Europe may save time and cost versus shipping the units to America.
DAkkS accredited to ISO 17025 for all their calibrations
20 years of experience in calibration business
certified in best practices for Alicat instruments
Trigas distributes Alicat instruments for automation and process control applications in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. Contact tfinfo@TrigasFI.com for more information or see their representative listing for further contact information.
Alicat mass flow meters and pressure controllers are precisely engineered and rigorously tested. These devices are designed to maintain high accuracy calibrations while mitigating the effects of environmental factors. Because we believe it is important that our devices maintain performance after purchase, we have a team of Application Engineers to help customers get the most out of their instruments. In the event an Alicat device isn’t working as expected, we’re here to help identify and resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
If it ain’t broke… troubleshoot!
Many problems can be fixed without having to return the device to the factory. We’ve outlined some common issues and their solutions below:
Alicat’s Gas Select™ menu
Incorrect Gas Selected
Alicat devices can flow over 98 gases and gas mixes, but it is important to verify that the gas selected on the device matches the gas used with the device. Flowing a different gas than selected usually won’t have any negative effect on the device itself. However, the measured flow readings will be off by approximately the ratio of the viscosities of the two gases. The data can be brought to near correct readings by multiplying each reading by the ratio of the selected gas’s viscosity to the desired gas’s viscosity.
To prevent the problem from occurring again, update the gas selection in the Gas Select™ menu as soon as possible.
Negative Flow Readings
A negative reading when there is no flow usually means the meter was flowing when it was last tared. To fix the problem, make sure there is no flow and give the instrument a fresh tare by selecting MENU > TARE from the home screen to correct the problem.
When an Alicat unit leaves the factory, the valve is configured to operate at certain standard conditions. Sometimes these valve characterization conditions do not match the actual operating conditions. When this happens, it is possible the device won’t control with the speed or stability typical to an Alicat controller. Don’t panic! With Alicat devices, it is possible to change gains in the control algorithm from the front panel and via serial communication. More often than not what seems to be a non-functional unit is just a controller configured for a different specific application.
Find complete FAQs and troubleshooting documents in the Alicat Knowledge Base.
Having trouble troubleshooting?
We have a growing knowledge base online to make operating the instrument easier. However, some problems require more in depth knowledge on how the Alicat is (or isn’t) working. If that is the case, Applications Engineers are available to help by chat (in the bottom right corner of the page) or by phone +1.888.290.6060.
Get assistance from an Application Engineer to get the most out of your Alicat device.
When it is broke… We’ll fix it.
Sometimes troubleshooting can’t fix the problem. For a variety of reasons, Alicat devices must be returned to the factory for repairs. To speed up a repair, include as much information about the failure or error and any troubleshooting that has already been performed so our team can focus on finding and resolving the issue.
The most frequently seen failures, how to spot them and how to avoid them in the first place are outlined below:
The most common service issue we see is contamination in the flow path. Without the proper precautions, foreign particles and debris collect in the valve and flow body and can cause the unit to clog or read erroneous flow rates.
Contamination can be as severe as a spiderweb inside the device.
To help prevent this, always clean fittings before installation and make sure to flow the appropriate gases from clean sources. We also recommend that appropriately-sized filters be installed throughout the process to protect against contamination.
Running the device at pressures beyond its specifications may damage the sensors. If the Alicat is reading strange values when no pressure is applied, it is possible that the sensor has been over-pressurized and is no longer functional.
To avoid damaging the sensor, always remember to use your Alicat device within the stated operating conditions. Refer to the device’s manual for these conditions. Exceeding them puts the Alicat device at risk of catastrophic failure
Electrical Issues or a Blown Transient Voltage Suppressor (TVS)
Failure to follow the correct power and communication specifications can result in catastrophic failure to the electronics in your device. Alicat devices contain TVSs to help protect the unit from power issues. Signs of blown TVS include anomalous voltage input/output readings to total loss of communication. If the device expresses one of these symptoms or seems to be pulling excessive current do not continue to operate the device.
To prevent electrical issues be mindful of what power source is being used to operate an Alicat device and take extra care to ensure wiring from the power source match the correct specifications.
Drifting Sensor Readings
All Alicat device readings will drift a little, well within specified accuracy. Drift is due to limitations of the sensor and is not cause for concern. To ensure accuracy of readings, always tare the Alicat device before use when the sensor is depressurized (and not in flow conditions).
If the device seems to be drifting more than the allowable specification, take note of flow and pressure readings at power up of the device and log these readings every five minutes for an hour. Deviation greater than 0.2% of the full scale range may mean that the sensor is defective.
Fill out a service request for repairs and recalibrations of your device.
To ensure that every device maintains specified performance and within warranty, we recommend annual recalibration of every Alicat device. By recalibrating annually, slight changes in flow readings that are within specification but are showing signs of drift can be corrected. It is also an opportunity to reconfigure the device to a new experiment or process, upgrade features and catch potential issues before they become problems.
Recently we worked with a customer that needed to control the pressure in a reaction chamber between -200 to +200 cmH2O. However, though the customer’s building had an ample supply of compressed air, they had no vacuum source. Without suction, they were unable to reach negative gauge pressures. We went to work finding a solution that not only met the customer’s needs but could be added directly to the product they were purchasing. By installing a Venturi vacuum generator on an Alicat Dual Valve Pressure Controller (PCD), the customer was able to use their compressed air source on the system to create the necessary suction for controlling to sub-atmospheric test pressures.
Use an Alicat PCD to maintain pressure in a system with almost no waste from off-gassing.
Alicat PCD-Series dual-valve pressure controller
What is the Venturi effect?
When fluid flow moves from a less restrictive to a more restrictive environment, its velocity must increase – such as spraying water from a garden hose by placing your thumb over the open end. According to Bernoulli’s Principle, this increase in velocity is associated with a drop in pressure. Thus, fluid flow passing through a restriction will have a resultant pressure drop – this is the Venturi effect.
How to use the Venturi effect to create a vacuum
For our customer above, we added a third party Venturi vacuum generator on the exhaust valve of a Dual Valve Pressure Controller. This turned out to be a size-conscious and cost-effective way to create a vacuum without adding a vacuum pump into the system.
It works like this: The Dual Valve Pressure Controller is designed to allow flow to easily escape through the second valve as needed to maintain constant or near constant pressure in the system. In this case, the Venturi vacuum generator accepts a compressed air inlet and flows this through a restriction to create an induced vacuum of about one PSIA, which is plumbed to the exhaust valve of the Dual Valve Pressure Controller, utilizing the compressed air flow to create a vacuum.
Connect with an expert Applications Engineer to find your ideal solution.
The Alicat team works tirelessly to not only engineer and produce the fastest flow and pressure controllers in the world but to find solutions to problems for specific experiments or process set ups and do what makes the most sense for every customer.
See just how fast the fastest mass flow meters are, in person, at Pittcon 2018®. We can’t wait to share our mass flow and pressure controllers with visitors, scientists and customers. Stop by Booth 1830 to see demos of Alicat products and chat with our flow and pressure experts about your applications and how to make them more accurate and efficient.
Pittcon, or the Pittsburg Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, is an annual conference for analytical and laboratory scientists. As science and technology progress, Pittcon is where scientists, researchers and manufacturers can stay up to date with discoveries and advances in instrumentation. Alicat instruments are used in analytical and laboratory instruments, including aroma mixers, chromatographs and spectrographs—and for calibrating them as well.
The Expo will run for three days, Tuesday, February 27 through Thursday, March 1, from 9 am to 5 pm daily at the Orange County Convention Center – West in Orlando, Florida. And it wouldn’t be Florida without the opportunity to meet and greet with an American Alligator between product demos.
If you are attending Pittcon 2018, stop by and say hello to us and check out our newest and coolest products. Or get in touch with one of our Application Engineers online or on the phone at +1.888.290.6060 to learn how the fastest mass flow controllers in the world can make experiments, regulatory instrumentation and other fluid and gas control applications faster and more accurate while saving time and operational expense.
When exact measurements and highly accurate data is critical to the success of an experiment, test, calibration or other application, maintaining a precisely calibrated device is key. To meet the demands put on them, we recommend that all Alicat meters and controllers are recalibrated annually.
When a device is sent in for recalibration it is an opportunity not only to maintain the quality and precision of the device, but also an opportunity to update firmware or, if your application needs have changed, the perfect time to work with our Application Engineers to find a solution that allows your Alicat to be adjusted or upgraded to meet your evolving needs without the hassle and expense of buying a whole new instrument.
Over time, minor physical changes to the laminar flow elements and pressure sensors inside the device, such as particulate deposits or damaged flow elements, can alter the flow characteristics of the device’s flow path. These altered flow characteristics can affect the pressures transmitted to the absolute and differential pressure sensors in the device’s flow body, causing the calibrated flow curve to inaccurately represent the actual flow rate. With an annual recalibration, out-of-calibration instruments are brought back to their optimal and exact calibration specifications and, if need be, can be cleaned.
Even if the device arrives at our factory or a service center within its prescribed flow tolerance, our service technicians recalibrate the device to be truer to the actual flow rates read by the calibration standard at the necessary calibration points. Alicat can also provide additional or replacement calibration points, if something other than the standard five calibration points is required. Additional calibration points or upgrade of accuracy to ‘high accuracy’ specification can be requested for instruments.
A calibration procedure is demonstrated in this video about accuracy:
Standard calibration typically takes fifteen business days to complete once the device arrives at one of our facilities. With such a quick turnaround time, you can be back to fully operational with a highly calibrated instrument with minimum interruption. For around the clock use of an Alicat, our Application Engineers will work with you to find a suitable and cost effective solution and the right back up device to keep the process running and the instruments in peak calibration.
If ISO-17025 calibration is required by your organization, Alicat can provide this kind of calibration through trusted third party calibration services. ISO-17025 calibration can add about 10 business days to the standard calibration lead time.
Sending your instrument back for recalibration every year keeps the lifetime warranty of your Alicat in place.
Where can Alicat instruments be calibrated?
We recommend that all devices come back to one of Alicat’s approved facilities for recalibration. Most devices will be recalibrated in our Tucson, Arizona headquarters and factory. However, if you are not located in North or South America, there may be a closer location you can send instruments for faster shipping. Alicat currently has service centers in China and India and has a factory authorized service center in Europe.
Getting recalibration started
More information about the costs and benefits of recalibration can be found on the Alicat website or by contacting one of our expert Applications Engineers. To send your instrument in for calibration to Alicat, fill out the service request form. The form lets us assign a Return of Materials Authorization (RMA) number, which is needed for us to receive and process your instruments at the factory. After sending in the form, we can send you instructions for packing and shipping your instruments.
From nitrogen purging or filter characterization, through vessel pressure control and leak testing applications, Alicat instruments are versatile and easy to use, while still providing excellent process control. This is because they operate with very fast control response (50-100 milliseconds) and high accuracy.
Our products are easy to program through a display interface, a serial connection or an analog connection, and we are dedicated to fast-turn-around on customized products to meet unique and variable specifications and requirements across industries. Pressure control applications can be enhanced by multivariate, rapid control, as demonstrated with these four examples.
An Alicat Pressure Controller can be used to set the pressure drop across the filter by measuring pressure before and after the filter while an Alicat mass flow meter can be used to measure the flow rate required to generate the needed pressure drop. Because mass in equals mass out, the flow meter can be placed upstream of the pressure controller as well.
Diagram 1 illustrates a filter test using a differential pressure controller to regulate pressures before and after the filter while a mass flow meter measures flow-through at that pressure combination.
Manufactured Component Leak Characterization
Using an Alicat Mass Flow Meter and an Alicat Pressure Control Device, the user has a fast, accurate and reliable method for leak checking components. Our mass flow meters have full scale ranges as small as 0.5 sccm with 200:1 turndown ratio, meaning that flows as low as 0.0025 sccm (2.5 sμlm) can be resolved. If plumbed as shown in Diagram 2, the pressure is controlled at the entrance to the Device Under Test (DUT). A constant bleed though the needle valve allows the pressure controller to precisely hold the pressure at the DUT, ensuring that any flow through the meter after the bypass valve is closed is caused either by a leak or due to a cooling of the volume of the DUT. As long as the temperature of the DUT is constant, the flow reported at the meter will be the leak rate of the DUT.
High-Efficiency Helium Leak Testing
Alicat’s Dual Valve Pressure Controller is designed to prevent inefficient off gassing and to save costly gases like helium in closed-volume applications. In one kind of test, the pressure controller first removes all the air out of the test chamber then refills the chamber with helium to the desired test pressure. The gas analyzer records any helium that passes through the test device. The integrated exhaust valve of the pressure controller opens only when needed, so it maintains test pressures without continuously wasting gas through a bleed valve. See Diagram 3.
Backpressure Control with Flow Monitoring
Instead of using a dedicated pressure controller and a separate mass flow meter, Alicat’s mass flow controllers (MFC) reduce equipment needs to a single instrument. This can be accomplished by setting the MFC to control for absolute pressure. The instrument will now control pressure while simultaneously displaying flow rates. As illustrated in Diagram 4, the mass flow controller allows pressure inside the system to build, simulating the internal pressure of a tire versus the air compressor that is attempting to fill it.
Specialized application engineering knowledge acquired by Alicat, for measuring and control techniques used in a wide spectrum of pressure and flow control processes, ensures that Alicat can quickly provide the optimum solution to your specific need and application, helping you create the most cost- and time-efficient system.
The new Alicat Electronic Pressure Controller (EPC) packs all the analytical stability and accuracy of our standard pressure controller, but in a compact form ideal for installing in high volume original equipment manufacturing (OEM) applications, ensuring that the end product is outfitted with the best components available.
From bioreactors to chemical analysis, quality control to metrology and beyond, Alicat customers are building pressure based OEM systems that require greater and greater levels of accuracy and control stability.
Dual valve pressure control for OEM applications.
Sold in batches of 25 units or more, the fully customizable EPC is an economical solution to pressure control in OEM applications. Three varieties of EPC—single proportional valve, dual proportional valve and back-pressure—allow for customized pressure control in embedded systems.
A single valve device is ideal for regulating straightforward applications, like using a pressure regulator to knock down inlet pressure off a gas bottle, or providing volumetric flow control against a calibrated orifice. With control times faster than 100 milliseconds, it adds control stability and responsiveness to any desktop analyzer, lab in a box, reactor or sample preparer for chemical separation processes like gas chromatographs or mass spectrometers.
A dual valve system adds a second valve directly into the component, allowing for real time pressure control of flows into and out of a process, without the waste found in using a single valve pressure controller and a continuous bleed. Dual valve controllers are used to precisely control dome-loaded industrial processes involving high volumes at high pressure—as well as in tiny capillary tubes for cancer cell analysis, where miniscule amounts of fluids are moved around.
A back-pressure controller operates proportionally to increase frictional resistance on the outlet of a fluid control system. By taking advantage of a wide range of orifice sizes, EPC back-pressure solutions vent-down systems with many different flow requirements, while maintaining speed, accuracy and a full range of pressure and vacuum controls. No matter what back-pressure process users are controlling, the Alicat EPC can provide deep resolution and granularity improvements while maintaining speed, accuracy and a full range of back-pressure and vacuum back-pressure control.
The number of applications for pressure control in the scientific and industrial world are staggering and the EPC allows companies to integrate the fastest pressure control meter into products. As the world of technology continues to miniaturize and pack more and more performance into smaller packages, Alicat EPC’s are an invaluable tool for pressure control needs in OEM technologies.
Reducing fluid control cost, complexity and inventory with Alicat MFCs
Posted by: Ryan Barner
Controlling multiple pressures and managing differing gases can be critical to getting the data you need but multiple variables often means multiple instruments, adding complication and cost to your system. With one Alicat mass flow controller, you have the ability to simplify process controls—limiting error points—while increasing parameters monitored, and therefore saving you money on your next MFC installation.
Fewer Controllers for Large Flow Ranges
Let’s say you have to control flow over a large range, like 10 SLPM to 1000 SLPM. Most flow control solutions require two or more units to achieve accurate control over this range. Standard Alicat mass flow meters and controllers have a 200:1 turndown ratio. That means that where you normally deploy two MFCs to accomplish high and low range control in a system you might be able to replace those two MFCs with one Alicat MFC. With the turndown ratio of 200:1, a 1000SLPM Alicat MFC can control a range of 1000SLPM down to 5 SLPM. By eliminating a second controller, you reduce programming, and plumbing complexity—and most likely, you save money in the purchase.
Repurpose and Save Costs
With Alicat MFCs, each unit comes preprogrammed with 98 standard gases and gas mixtures, meaning if you need to service a controller, you don’t need an inventory of MFCs for each gas type, you can just keep one Alicat on hand. All you have to do is select the correct gas from the list and you’re good to go. No K factors to deploy, and no extra units to accommodate different viscosity gases—your mass flow rate stays accurate.
Process Insights from Multivariate Data
Alicat MFCs measure and report pressure, temperature, volumetric flow and mass flow. Having all of this information may allow you to eliminate one or two other instruments in your process and thereby reduce your overall instrumentation purchase costs even further. A side benefit to eliminating additional instruments is fewer leak points. And because Alicat MFCs use differential pressure measurement to obtain a mass flow rate, our MFCs can be set to control on pressure and still read mass flow. A single Alicat MFC can replace instrument duplication, providing you with a simpler, cost effective way to meet all your MFC needs.
All the ways
Alicat mass flow controllers simplify your setup while reducing overall instrumentation costs in your system because:
The 200:1 turndown ratio gives you a wider measurable control range.
One instrument can be repurposed to many gases.
Multivariate parameter measurements to obtain temperature, volumetric, mass, and pressure data.
Fewer instruments mean a lower cost of ownership cost over the life of the process.
Contact Alicat to build your simple, most effective and cost-saving fluid control process.
Alicat Mass, Flow and Pressure Instruments Now Offer EtherCAT Protocol
Posted by: Edgar Schrock
Alicat Scientific’s line of mass flow, pressure and liquid instruments can now be ordered with the EtherCAT protocol. Users of Beckhoff PLCs for industrial automation can now connect Alicat devices with the high-speed and robust EtherCAT protocol.
In the chemical, medical, manufacturing and power industries, Alicat instruments rapidly and precisely monitor and control critical process parameters. The speed and reliability of Alicat devices are particularly well suited to vacuum coating processes, such as Atomic Layer Deposition and Chemical Vapor Deposition. All of the mass flow or pressure controller’s data, including: mass flow, volumetric flow, pressure, temperature, selected gas calibration, setpoint, and totalized flow can be output to a central PLC running a compatible automation protocol. Users may also change setpoint or gas selection, and issue other commands remotely.
EtherCAT joins Alicat’s wide offering of industrial automation protocols, which also includes Modbus TCP/IP, Modbus-RTU, EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet and PROFIBUS communication options to fit new or existing systems. For easy drop-in replacement of older industrial units, Alicat instruments are made to fit the same space as common industry mass flow controllers. All Alicat instruments are backed by NIST-traceable calibration, comprehensive technical support and the flow industry’s only lifetime warranty.
Manufacturers of Vacuum Deposition systems are increasingly turning to software-based industrial PLCs. These PLCs offer a variety of benefits, including greater productivity, precision performance, cost savings, speed-to-market and the ability to add processes like motion control and machine vision in the future.
Because there are so many different Ethernet fieldbus standards available, it’s difficult to choose one. Adopting the wrong standard can mean unnecessary cost and sacrificing competitive advantage due to slower performance.
For the control and regulation of vacuum coating processes, data speed and integrity are crucial. EtherCAT has been designed especially for these kinds of applications and meets all demands for fast controls. EtherCAT is a high-performance, low-cost, easy to use Industrial Ethernet technology with a flexible topology. The EtherCAT Technology Group promotes EtherCAT and is responsible for its continued development. EtherCAT is also an open technology, so anyone is allowed to implement it.
EtherCAT is the fastest Industrial Ethernet technology, but it also synchronizes with nanosecond accuracy. This is a huge benefit in applications where the process is controlled via the bus system. The rapid reaction times work to reduce transition times between process steps. In this way, EtherCAT’s performance leads to improved efficiency, greater throughput and lowered costs.
EtherCAT delivers the features of Industrial Ethernet at a price similar to that of a traditional fieldbus system. The only hardware required by the master device is an Ethernet port, eliminating the need for expensive interface cards or co-processors. EtherCAT slave controllers are available from various manufacturers in several formats.
EtherCAT P is a new addition to the EtherCAT protocol standard. It enables not only the transmission of communication data, but also the peripheral voltage via a single, standard four-wire Ethernet cable. EtherCAT and EtherCAT P are identical in terms of the protocol technology, only the Physical Layer differs. By providing the power supply via the communication cable, EtherCAT P offers additional cost benefits and enhances numerous applications.
Alicat now offers EtherCAT compliant Mass Flow and Vacuum Controllers. We have taken the extremely fast response time of the Alicats and paired it with the speed of EtherCAT. The EtherCAT technology has been seamlessly integrated into the product family, along with other Profibus, Modbus and DeviceNet.