Alicat Whisper Mass Flow Meters Lend Precision to Fiber Optic Process

by Ryan Barner

Fiber optic cables are highly desired for their speed of transmission and are growing as an industry. However, the industrial furnaces used for glass manufacturing require stable and repeatable control of gas for melt and annealing processes.

Preforms are the layered cylinders of glass, made on lathes using chemical deposition vapor flows, burners for heating and melting glass and pressure control to retain the shape while it is being formed. While the fiber drawing process means heating the end of a glass preform, and shaping the melting end into a cone that creates a continuous stream of molten glass which descends and cools into a fiber, which must then be guided in a way that will not break or alter it, while checking the thickness and adding layers to protect it.

Both require mass flow and pressure controllers that are fast, reliable and have high turndown ratios, all while functioning in potentially high temperature environments and compatibility with corrosive fuel gasses.

Industrial furnaces utilizing fuel gases for their burners exhibit low pressures.  Alicat Whisper series mass flow controllers offer a controllable range up to 1000 SLPM.  These flow rates can be achieved with a pressure drop across the Alicat MFC of as little as 1.65 PSI on our highest flow rate Whisper series controllers. This means even if the supply pressure is low, as fuel gases typically are, it is possible to control up to a full scale flow rate of 1000 SLPM.Alicat mass flow and pressure control instruments for glass and optical fiber manufacturing.

These low pressure instruments may also be deployed in annealing ovens and lehr ovens during the finishing process.  Using Alicat MFCs allow for control in each zone of the oven with repeatability and precision even if a low supply pressure is a requirement.  Ninety-eight gases and gas mixes are pre-programmed into an Alicat MFC providing options for variability in projects and processes.

Alicat MCW-series whisper mass flow controller, shown with optional backlit color display

In preform manufacturing, fiber drawing or ribbon forming processes – stable and fast mass flow and pressure control instruments not only ensure a better end product, but with Alicat devices, achieving these results is easier with our highly customized instruments and advice from Application Engineers.

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

ThermX

Industries Served
Our diverse temperature sensor product capabilities support a broad range of industries and applications. Several of our products can be applied into a variety of products or processes. Others are uniquely designed for a specific application. 

We can engineer a suitable temperature sensor into the most complex thermal heating and measurement requirement. Our technical expertise and production technologies, provide our design team with the flexibility to devise the most advanced sensing solutions, in the most practical configuration, and at the best value.

In addition to manufacturing temperature sensors, ThermX Southwest also distributes pressure, humidity, CO2 and flow sensors along with process control and data logging instrumentation. We also supply a wide variety of portable calibration equipment traceable to NIST. 
Industries served
Aerospace Pharmaceutical 
Semiconductor
Glass & Ceramics 
Metallurgical
Analytical Sciences
Material Sciences
Telecommunication
Power Generation 
Packaging Food & Beverage
Commercial Heating Medical
General Industrial 
Temperature Sensors
General Purpose Probes
High Temperature Thermocouples
Validation Thermocouples
Industrial Thermocouples
Insulated Wire Thermocouples
Thermocouple Rakes
RTD Probes
Thermistor Probes
Specialized Products
Thermocouple Wire
Calibration Services

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

Acceleration-Compensated Inclinometers Now With New Interface Option

ACCELERATION-COMPENSATED INCLINOMETERS 
NOW WITH NEW INTERFACE OPTION

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POSITAL FRABA has added a new communications interfaces for its innovative Dynamic TILTIX series – making it even easier to use these rugged instruments in mobile machinery and heavy commercial vehicles. Now available with either CANopen or SAE J1939 interfaces , these acceleration-compensated tilt sensors are able to deliver accurate measurement under the harshest operating conditions, including rapid motions, shock and vibration loadings.

  • Compensation of External Accelerations
  • Now Available with CANopen or SAE J1939
  • Clean Measurement During Dynamic Movements
  • Optional Output of Acceleration and Rate of Rotation
  • Well Protected up to IP69K
  • Compact and Robust Die-cast Housing with Integrated T-Coupler 
  • Wide Temperature Range from -40 to +85°C

Innovative Signal Processing Algorithms Reduce Signal Noise

The key to this remarkable dynamic performance is the addition of a second measurement system to the MEMS accelerometers used in conventional tilt sensors. An electromechanical gyroscope system was added to measure rate of rotational in the different axes. This eliminates the central shortcoming of conventional inclination sensors, where sudden accelerations or vibrations cause inertial loads in the accelerometers, adding noise to the output signals – and errors to the tilt angle readings. Signals from the accelerometer and gyroscope are combined by innovative algorithms to filter out the errors caused by acceleration loads so that the actual inclination is reported accurately. “What sounds so simple proved to be very time-consuming and labor-intensive in terms of practical implementation,” emphasizes Tobias Schubert, product manager responsible for POSITAL’s TILTIX inclination sensors. “We invested almost three years in the development of the algorithm alone. We worked extensively with pilot customers to assure ourselves that these instruments would work reliably under the harshest field conditions.”

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

Alicat Python and Python-driven command prompt

 by Bill Nick

Setup

Alicat Python and Python-driven command prompt (Windows Powershell) drivers have been developed principally by Pat Fuller at NuMat Technologies and are available for download from github.com: https://github.com/numat/alicat

In order to run the command prompt/Powershell driver, Python will first have to be installed on the computer. The latest stable Python 3 release is the recommended version to install: https://www.python.org/downloads/

Once Python has been installed, the simplest way to install the python/command prompt drivers is to command the following in the command prompt:

If the Python PIP package manager is installed and enabled, this is a simpler method:

Command Prompt (Powershell) Usage:

A menu of possible arguments and usage information within the command prompt can be accessed by entering “alicat –help” or “alicat -h”:

To poll an Alicat that is the only one connected to your target COM port, commanding only the port name will return data from the Alicat:

To poll a device with unit ID A, your command should look like this:

and the response from either of these commands should look similar to this:

Python Usage:

This command will open a serial connection to an Alicat device on the specified port:

If the Alicat is communicating on the specified port, it will return the same dictionary as when polled via Powershell.

Using this with Windows COM port COM1, for example, would look like this:

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

Universal Transducer Interface (UTI)

The Universal Transducer Interface (UTI) is a sensor-to-time signal converter, based on a self-calibrating period-modulated oscillator. Sensing elements can be directly connected to the UTI without the need for extra electronics. The output is digital and can communicate with any type of micro-controller. The UTI can operate in 16 different modes. To obtain accurate results in any of these modes, a reference element of the same kind as the sensor is required.

The UTI provides interfacing for all kind of resistive and capacitive sensors.

For convenient design-in, there is an evaluation board available. The UTI evaluation board and free down-loadable software ensure that custom applications will be up and running in no time.

Key Features

  • Accurate measurement of various sensors:
  • Capacitance values (2-300 pF, 14 bits)
  • PT100/1000 elements (14 bits 9 mK)
  • Resistive bridges (12 bits, resolution 700 nV)
  • Continues auto-calibration
  • Single power supply2.9-5.5V

Reference: click here.

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

Kits and Modules

We have developed a few modules that make designer’s lives easier and show off the great features of our sensors. Some of these boards are being used in measurement and production environments due to their ease of installation and the high quality of the outputs.

For the temperature sensors we offer the SMTAS04 and SMTAS08 boards. These boards can be connected to any PC using a USB cable – no extra power supply needed! These boards have high accuracy and great resolution (0.01C).

We have also developed a new UTI evaluation board; the UTI Evaluation Kit USB. This board is a real “plug and play” system. Very accurate capacitance and resistance values can be measured. Porting the very low output voltages of infrared sensors to other equipment is very challenging so we have designed an IIC interface module and USB module that make this very easy.

Key Features

  • Easy connect to pc/lt via USB
  • For 4 or 8 SMT172 sensors
  • From SMT172 to I2C
  • From SMT172 to SMT160
  • For UTI applications
  • Infrared modules with I2C (I2C to USB available)
  • Free software in the design notes

Reference: click here.

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

POSITAL AT SPS IPC DRIVES 2018

POSITAL AT SPS IPC DRIVES 2018

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From November 27 to November 29 we will be exhibiting at SPS IPC Drives in Nuremberg, the most important exhibition for the professionals in the Automation world.

You can find us in hall 7A booth 146. Make sure to try out our freshly baked waffles with cherries and cream!

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THIS YEAR’S HIGHLIGHTS ARE

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Kit Encoders for Servo and Stepper Motors

POSITAL’s new family of kit encoders provide the manufacturers of motors and other machinery with rugged, accurate and cost-efficient tools for building rotary position feedback into their products. The new kit encoders are based on POSITAL’s highly successful self-contained magnetic rotary encoders. Now however, the core components of these instruments are available as separate assemblies that can be readily integrated into other products.

POSITAL offfers now also through hollow kit encoders which are designed for installations where there are benefits to having the measurement element fit around a machine’s shaft or axle. The kit portfolio expanded to also include compact incremental optical kit encoders which are optimized for speed control of small drives, low power motors and stepper motors. These devices are simple, robust and easy to install,

  • Absolute Multiturn Without Battery or Gear
  • 17 Bit Resolution
  • Multiple Interfaces: BiSS-C, BiSS Line (One Cable Technology), SSI, Incremental
  • Quick, Simple Assembly and Disassembly
  • Mounting Compatibility with Common Incremental Kit Encoders

Read More

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Wiegand Sensors – Magnetic Pulse Generator

Wiegand sensor products from POSITAL reflect the knowledge from a full decade of experience using Wiegand-effect base revolution counters. The high performace sensors are assembled using SMD mounting technology and can be used for revolution counters in absolute rotary encoders as well as in other applications, e.g. gas or water meters.

  • Production Since 1974 – Started by John R. Wiegand
  • Proven In Encoders & Water Meters Since > 10 Years
  • Used In Access Cards For > 30 Years
  • Power Supply For Future IoT Applications
  • High Energy Output of ~170 nJ

Read More

tiltix_aks
Inclinometers with Dynamic Acceleration Compensation

POSITAL has introduced new versions of its TILTIX inclinometers that can provide reliable tilt measurement for moving equipment. These new devices use a combination of electro-mechanical accelerometers and gyroscopes to provide accurate measurements, even if the instruments are subject to strong accelerations.

  • Compensation of External Accelerations
  • Clean Measurement During Dynamic Movements
  • Optional Output of Acceleration and Rate of Rotation
  • Well Protected up to IP69K
  • Compact and Robust Die-cast Housing with Integrated T-Coupler
  • Wide Temperature Range from -40 to +85°C

Read More

Reference: click here.

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

Customer needs translate to improved products

Andy Mangell

A guest blog from Andy Mangell. Andy is the sales director at Premier Control Technologies, a UK based process control technologies and products distributor which represents Alicat products. Andy has over 30 years of experience with pressure and flow control instrumentation. He can be reached at andymangell@pctflow.com.

Alicat Scientific’s standard product line is fast, versatile and tough. Their instruments make our customers’ jobs easier and more accurate, while reducing the number of instruments required. People love how easy they are to use and the short lead time between ordering and receiving the instrument. For both OEM producers and small research operations, Alicat’s ability to refine and customize instruments for their specific process is key to getting the best instrument to the customer. Listening to what customers need and anticipating improvements is how Alicat has been able to innovate and be the fastest mass flow controller company.

Since its foundation some 27 years ago, the concept of constant innovation and product development has been pivotal to the company’s remarkable success. Specifically, areas such as bi-directional mass flow measurement, precision pressure control within dead-ended non-flowing applications, multi-parameter measurement and control, true multi-gas capability and high turn-down have all benefited from the dedication to innovation.

Bi-directional mass flow measurement

By the application of either a positive or negative set-point signal, Alicat has enabled the possibility to control flows into a process in one direction first and then to switch into the opposite direction. Alternatively, flows can be controlled into a closed process and then vented without the need for additional bleed valves. Due to the inherently bidirectional nature of the Alicat sensor, the flow is measured in both directions and a net total provided if required.

Dual-valve precision pressure control

Precise control of pressure reduction and pressure relief valves from a single setpoint signal ensures process pressure remains stable, independent of other variables. Such processes as head space pressure control, glass reactor protection and the elimination of costly out-gassing through continuous bleed valves all benefit from this innovation. Alicat electronic pressure controllers provide responsive, stable control of absolute, gauge or differential pressures in dead-ended processes.

Multi-parameter measurement and control

Measurement of multiple parameters on the one instrument (mass flow, volumetric flow, temperature and pressure) enables the user to eliminate additional components within a system and the pipework/fittings required to install them, in addition to cables and electronic signal conditioning. All parameters are displayed on a single screen for easy monitoring of process gases or liquids. Any of the measurement parameters can be enlarged in the centre position for reading at further distances from the instrument. All of the displayed parameters are measured in real time, which allows you to look at the device display and quickly get an idea of how your process is operating. When a process begins to falter, this information can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to diagnose and repair the failure. All Alicat mass flow controllers can be changed to pressure controllers or volumetric controllers via digital interface or via the display. The user can monitor mass flow while controlling pressure or vice versa.

True multi-gas capability

COMPOSER ™ gas mix composition software, available with color display

COMPOSER ™ gas mix composition firmware, shown on a color display

Following continuous innovation and development over the years, Alicat instruments are now preloaded with up to 130 full gas calibrations, thereby eliminating the additional measurement uncertainty introduced by conversion factors. Complete NIST REFPROP gas properties data has been loaded for each of the gases, ensuring that both the standard accuracy and optional high accuracy statements remain valid, regardless of the gas. The benefits to the user are significant. Instruments are no longer limited to just one application; once a certain project has been fulfilled, the MFC can be used again for a different project with different gases. Similarly, even within a single project, fewer instruments are required to meet the needs of multiple gases or multiple flow rates.

Wide turn-down range

Turn-down ratio is a measure of the usable range of an instrument, expressed as the full-scale range divided by the minimum point of measure. It indicates how much of the instrument range can produce accurate readings, which is very important when you want to measure or control a very wide flow range without having to change instruments. Most Alicat instruments have a turn-down of 200:1 as standard (i.e. as low down as 1/200th of the full scale), although with engineering collaboration and PD²I tuning this could be extended even further. As with multi-gas capability, the benefits are again significant: fewer instruments are required to cover a wide measured flow regime, and this results in cost savings for the user.

 

As a result of over two decades of development and innovation, a range of useful flow and pressure measurement and control devices has been established that, at their very core, have been designed to help the user make their life and work easier. This innovation will never stand still, and Alicat would welcome the opportunity to assist with any challenges you face and attempt to solve the impossible!

 

Reference: click here.

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

Improving flow data with faster flow measurement

Our world is moving faster and flow processes are not immune to this. Newer industrial communications protocols can deliver flow data from hundreds of flow meters in less than a second. This increased speed of data acquisition can improve your process, but the speed of your flow sensor can improve the data itself. In this post, we’ll take a look at two examples of how Alicat’s sensor speed can make your flow data better.

Fast flow totalization of transient flow events at oil and natural gas wells

When you need to know the total amount of a gas that has flowed, instead of just the live flow rate, the measurement speed of your flow meter becomes much more critical. If your gas or liquid is already flowing, a flow totalizer can start and stop a timed measurement to take a sample of the total amount flowed during that time period. However, when you need to know the entire amount that has flowed from start to finish, significant amounts of your data can be lost as your flow meter comes up to speed. One of the more striking examples of this came through a research application with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Alicat was contacted by an EPA researcher who needed to quantify how much gas was being emitted by pneumatic controllers at oil and natural gas well pads. At these sites, the natural gas that is already present is typically used to drive these controllers, and when they actuate some of the natural gas escapes into the atmosphere. The challenge was that most of these controllers were intermittent pneumatic controllers whose actuation periods lasted just a few seconds. A previous study had used thermal mass flow meters to totalize these emissions. However, the 1-3 second response rate of these meters meant that a significant proportion of the flow data was lost as the thermal flow meter tried to catch up with the transient flow rate.

In order to preserve the greatest amount of flow data, the EPA turned to Alicat’s pressure-based laminar flow meters. These instruments measure flow rates 1000 times each second and have a pneumatic measurement response time of 5 ms. With these flow meters installed, the researcher was able to follow the precise curve of the pneumatic controller’s actuation, from its explosive opening to its sudden shutting. The response speed of the sensor itself recorded much more of the available data compared to the thermal flow meter, making these measurements more accurate and reliable. The Alicat flow meter’s sensor speed was able to improve the quality of the data that the researchers obtained. You can read the resulting paper published in Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Improving the temporal resolution of flow readings for environmental monitoring and beyond

Another example of the benefits of fast flow measurement comes from the realm of ambient air monitoring. The gas analyzers that measure the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the air we breathe must be periodically calibrated to ensure they are measuring these small concentrations accurately. To do this, air monitoring technicians use dynamic dilution calibrators to generate known concentrations of the gas that the analyzer is designed to measure. Because this process is dynamic, the mass flow controllers inside these dilution calibrators must also be calibrated on a regular basis.

As gas analyzers have become more sensitive, the dilution calibrators have added mass flow controllers with lower flow rates, typically 10-20 sccm at the lowest, in order to simulate smaller gas concentrations. In the past, a positive-displacement (PD) flow meter was commonly used to calibrate these mass flow controllers. This type of flow meter provides an averaged flow rate that is calculated by dividing the total amount flowed by the duration of the measurement, but the very low flow rates required hid some critical data. At a flow rate of 20 sccm, such a flow meter takes about 20 seconds to complete a single measurement (see this video). At 1 sccm (the lowest point in the required 20-point calibration), the measurement time is more than 6 minutes.

When a mass flow controller failed its calibration, there was no indication of what was happening to the flow rate during the long measurement, because the only recorded data came at the end of the measurement. Perhaps the flow controller was oscillating on a regular cycle, or perhaps it started out well and then got clogged. Sometimes, the fault was that the PD meter got stuck in the middle of its measurement, but there was no way to diagnose this scenario without continuously observing the meter.

Air monitoring technicians in these situations have turned to Alicat’s fast flow meters to make visible the data that was hidden from the other flow meter. Because an Alicat responds pneumatically to changes in flow rates within 5-10 ms, the technicians are able to diagnose the cause of a failed calibration. When data is captured in real time, recurring oscillations that come from an underperforming mass flow controller are easily distinguished from a clog in the flow path. Indeed, when an Alicat is connected to a positive-displacement flow meter, it can diagnose failures that result when the puck of the PD meter stutters in its cylinder or when the puck takes too long to accelerate to match the speed of the flow.

Reference: click here.

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com

Making distilled spirits better with Persedo and Alicat instruments

Alicat instruments are used in a wide variety of applications. We’re found in vacuum coating applications, food processing and the creation of fiber optics cabling. Alicat instruments test components to verify they are space worthy, provide flow control precise enough for even paint deposition from automated painting machines and precise enough to control propulsion on spacecraft while having no unintended recoil or counter effect from the device. With multidirectional flow control, we can mimic filling a car tire to pressure under test situations or simulate breathing. Alicat devices are built for each customer and with each application in mind making Alicat devices well suited to many diverse industries.

But in distilling and the refining of alcoholic spirits?

Yes, Alicat instruments can even make your mixed drink better. A company called Persedo uses Alicat mass flow controllers in their process that improves the quality of distilled spirits using a combination of ultrasonic energy, vacuum and extractive food grade gases.

The quality of a whiskey, vodka, rum or tequila can be dramatically improved in a matter of minutes by removing components which cannot be removed by distillation alone and by changing others in situ. Persedo uses an Alicat mass flow controller to precisely control flow rates of food-grade gases flow into their distilled spirits processing system. By passing two gases through the Alicat instrument, they are able to selectively strip off-flavors and off-odors from distilled spirits. The system has been used to process as many as 1000 spirit test samples.

“No other device offered us the cost-effective, dynamic process control capability and precise control (better than 0.5% of total volume) of flow rates made possible by a mass flow controller from Alicat,” said Greg George, the senior chemist and technology lead. “Precise measurements of volume flow rate corrected for variations of temperature and input pressure from tank gases is key to the quality control in our process.”

ALICAT MCR Series High Flow Gas Mass Flow Controller

Alicat MCR Series High Flow Gas Mass Flow Controller

Because Alicat devices can be controlled simply from the home screen or through various communication and industrial protocols, it is easy for Persedo and other customers to tie Alicat devices into the rest of the instrumentation and have them communicating through, for example, RS-232 to a computer without any additional modifications. Clear communication means speed and accuracy are increased. It is easy to make adjustments as needed, from flow rates to turndown ratios and even to the percentages of gases flowing into the system.

Challenge us with a new application or process. Alicat instruments are being used to improve outcomes in new and exciting ways on a regular basis. With a team of skilled Applications Engineers working with each customer every step of the way and a cohort of test, electrical and fluid dynamic engineers developing the next generation of our devices, Alicat devices are always evolving and moving science and technology forward.

 

Reference: click here.

D&D Engineering – “W’ere YOUR Sensor Guys”
3835 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Suite 464 Westlake Village, CA 91362  – Voice: (818) 772-8720 Fax: (818) 772-2477 Toll Free: (888) 333-6474
Email: sales@sensorguys.com Website: www.sensorguys.com