Our sensor solutions are indispensable for both: industrial automation would be impossible without them. And Industry 4.0 would also not function without them. They are the interface between the virtual reality of the intelligent factory and the physical machine environment.We use the SICK Sensor Blog to gather together the topics that move us.
Compliance and user responsibility are a lot of work and not much fun. If you can’t afford failures or problems with authorities or inspectors, you should take extensive precautions. SICK LifeTime Services (LTS) considerably reduce the workload for system operators in this area. No other sensor manufacturer offers such extensive services from a single source. In particular, the “Smart Services” through the Internet are gaining in popularity: Hazards are detected early on, maintenance and calibration are much faster, availability and service life increase. Even old devices can often be digitally retrofitted.
Whether you’re dealing with cars or intelligent measurement systems – both last longer and work trouble-free when they are monitored, maintained and corrected with an eye to prevention. Many system operators must also prove that their emission measurement technology is reliable according to DIN 14181 and that all requirements on environmental and health protection are fulfilled. For some, however, the constant effort required for trainings, preventative and maintenance routines, recording and documentation is simply too much. Others are overwhelmed by the technical requirements. “Smaller operations in particular often make mistakes with the mandatory reports for emission measurements. That can get expensive,” explains Jan Gläser, Product Manager for Services at SICK. That is why more and more operators are falling back on the manufacturers themselves or certified service providers. SICK is perfectly situated for this with modular service concepts which can be tailored to any system. The customer can also select from layered consultation, organizational and remote services. The offer ranges from consulting and complete supervision and optimization of the measurement system to spare part management. The measures aim to prevent failures as well as achieve maximum availability and quality assurance from the beginning of the planning phase.
This integrated offer emerged as SICK grew from a product supplier into the service provider it is today, as customers become more international. “We realized that we could achieve even more added value for our customers concerning the life cycle of their systems with our service expertise,” says Daniel Schmitz, National Product Manager for LifeTime Services from SICK. “That is why we are expanding our previous LTS offer to include consulting services and project business. This also includes retrofit work which leads to system replacement. In addition, the topic of training and education was incorporated as an international product.”
Trouble-free operation at predictable costs
More and more systems are now equipped with the Meeting Point Router from SICK for remote diagnosis and maintenance. Although direct help was originally provided through point-to-point connections, telephone and modem, it is now given through state-of-the-art https and SSH-secure Internet or LTE cellular connections. After customer approval, SICK specialists in Germany directly access the controls of the analysis devices. This is how they can put analyzers and systems into operation as well as monitor, debug, correct, adjust and calibrate them – anywhere, and at any time. This ensures trouble-free operation at predicable costs. It also saves time, customer resources and, last but not least, considerable costs for service technicians. “Multi-day assistance during on-site commissioning already costs five to ten percent of the device purchase price,” explains Jan Gläser.
No problem with dispatching regulations
The use of Smart Services of course also has special charm abroad and in remote areas. Without remote diagnosis and remote debugging, it often takes days until the system is up and running again. “For example, the nearest available service technician for a system in the Congo might be in South Africa. And when he finally gets to the site, he might notice that he is lacking certain spare parts or certain expertise,” says Jan Gläser. Even in neighboring European countries, technicians often cannot help fast enough since dispatching regulations require time and effort. “Smart Services don’t have this problem.”
Can customers also operate their systems without Smart Services? “Of course, but then they have to find other ways to optimize their productivity and availability. We are naturally also happy to help here, for instance with service level agreements which guarantee the quickest possible response time of our technicians – even 24/7, if requested,” explains Daniel Schmitz. “However, Smart Services give our customers a sustainable competitive edge.”
The world’s population is growing but the space available for agricultural land is limited. As a result, huge quantities of fertilizer are used all over the world in order to increase yields. Producing fertilizer, however, is an energy-intensive process which requires monitoring. One of the world’s largest fertilizer manufacturers has chosen to use gas and dust measuring technology from SICK. With the MCS300P HW process gas analyzer, the GM series of in-situ gas analyzers, the DUSTHUNTER dust measuring devices, and an extensive range of services from a single source, SICK proved to be the best choice. In total, over 100 analyzers will be installed in the existing plants. As a special solution, SICK developed a self-cleaning in-situ measuring probe for reliable gas measurement in environments with wet dusts.
The customer is a leading global manufacturer of phosphoric acid, various phosphate fertilizers, special fertilizers, and feed additives. Phosphate is one of the main nutrients for plants and one of the key components of most chemical fertilizers. It is generally obtained from phosphate ore, which is converted into phosphoric acid with the aid of sulfuric acid. The phosphoric acid is then turned into phosphate fertilizer using ammonia. The customer possesses large deposits of phosphate rock and produces some of the starting products, such as sulfuric acid, in-house.
However, the measuring technology used until recently was not always able to live up to expectations. As new production lines were added and local regulations demanded additional measurements, the partially internal Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) realized it needed a new supplier. Specifically, the company needed a solution for monitoring gas and dust emissions during the processing of phosphate rock and the production of sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid. Furthermore, it also had to be capable of monitoring processes during the manufacture of mono- and diammonium phosphate (MAP/DAP).The customer’s key requirements were greater plant safety, fewer failures, lower operating costs, and access to real-time production data. The order was divided into four sub-projects.
In most cases, SICK already had tried and tested products available that were ideal for the task at hand. With regard to the processing of phosphate rock, the company needed a product to monitor SO2, NOx, CO, and CO2 as well as dust loads at the outlet of the rotary kilns. In this particular case, the solution had to be able to provide reliable and accurate measurements even in the presence of fine dusts. SICK provided the GM32 in-situ gas analyzers for SO2 and NOx, the GM35 for CO and CO2, and the DUSTHUNTER SP100. The chosen solution provides a number of benefits, not least reliable in-situ measuring technology and excellent value for money.
In the case of sulfuric acid production, the solution had to be able to monitor SO2 and O2 emissions from the stack. In this case, the best choice was the MCS300P HW multi-component analyzer system, as it requires significantly less maintenance due to its hot/wet extractive measuring technology and it eliminates the complicated process of sample preparation.
As phosphate rock contains fluoride, HF is released during the production of phosphoric acid and is washed out in the wet scrubber. In order to monitor the performance of the scrubber, HF levels need to be measured on the stack. This task was taken on by the GM700 laser gas analyzer, which has a proven track record in the measurement of aggressive and corrosive HF.
Low NH3 concentrations also need to be measured during the production of mono- and diammonium phosphate (MAP/ DAP) from phosphoric acid and ammonia in order to monitor the efficiency of the wet scrubbers. At the same time, the HF emissions from the stack need to be monitored as well, as they provide information about the fluoride content and, hence, the quality of the final fertilizer product. And last but not least, the dust emissions also have to be measured.
These tasks proved to be a major challenge, as the humid, aggressive, and dusty process media made it very difficult to take continuous measurements. The chosen solution in this case was the GM700 in-situ gas analyzer combined with the FWE200 extractive dust measuring device. SICK developed a special measuring probe for the GM700 which cleans itself periodically. The solution can withstand the high levels of salt formation in the stack without any problems and significantly reduces the amount of maintenance work required. As a result of the continuous monitoring, the excess ammonia in the process can also be cut considerably. The final step was to install eight FWE200 dust measuring devices at one of the sites. Preparations are already under way for the installation of further devices at a second site.
The future is now. In the production of chemicals, modern sensors are increasingly used to improve and elaborate automation, even outside the core processes. Besides efficiency gains, a heightened awareness of safety and steady reduction of human resources play a role in this context. The main area of focus is on the coordination of material flows, with real-time adjustment to current requirements, in the areas of supply, packaging, storage and disposal. Intelligent and highly interlinked sensors provide the framework for successful business operations. SICK regards this as another area in which intelligent sensors can be used to great advantage.
Process efficiency begins with the logistics: Whereas the focus in the past has mostly been on the core processes used to manufacture a product, today it is recognized that there is a significant degree of automation potential across the entire logistics chain. This is where SICK, as an established industry partner, can help, because sensor solutions for factory and logistics automation can also be applied to the process world.
Intelligent sensors provide the framework
From the detection and registration of delivery vehicles and materials through to packaging, the intelligent SICK sensors deliver the necessary data for perfect synchronization of the production process. SICK sensors can also protect hazardous zones or monitor restricted access areas. The range of possible applications relating to the delivery or dispatch of raw materials and finished products are supplemented by a wide variety of sensor applications in the area of truck and train positioning, or maneuvering safety in general. Collision awareness is an important issue not only in loading stations, but also for all maneuvering activities within the factory gates.
Mobile platforms and automated guided vehicles of various sizes can work together safely and without accidents thanks to the 2D and 3D line guidance and collision protection solutions from SICK. Manned forklift trucks, too, can be equipped with driver assistance systems such as safety laser scanners or vision cameras to prevent accidents.
An additional goal is to reduce the workload on staff by providing information that they can use directly. Intelligent sensors are thus becoming important sources of assistance for those employees who find themselves taking on more and more responsibility due to the increasing complexity of the technologies used in the field.
The range of possible applications outside the production area includes the packaging of the finished products, for which SICK offers a variety of optical sensors, along with camera-based and RFID solutions for track and trace purposes. SICK sensors can therefore also be employed at the end of the local value chain, thereby providing a complete overview of the process.
Link to Industry 4.0
Since the company was founded over 70 years ago, SICK has specialized in the optimization of automated processes by means of increasingly intelligent sensors. Interconnected automation is at the heart of, and a prerequisite for, Industry 4.0 production processes. To enable communication and cooperation, the sensors need to deliver a wide range of data or information. An important aspect is predictive maintenance, because unplanned downtime due to a defect usually results in high costs.
Automation solutions from SICK provide many opportunities to effectively support customers on their path to meet the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution.
Material transport on conveyor belts: non-contact volume flow measurement
The Bulkscan® LMS511 accurately measures the volume flow of bulk materials regardless of weather conditions, and delivers information for the precise control of raw material quantities in production.
Over half of the around 80 biomethane plants in the UK measure the gas volume upstream of the infeed using FLOWSIC500 units from SICK. British system integrator Thyson in particular values the trouble-free ultrasonic compact gas meter, which was designed especially for custody transfer applications in natural gas distribution.
In essence, a biogas plant consists of the fermenter or digestion tower, cleaning stages, the gas preparation, and the infeed. Organic waste such as straw, food scraps, or waste water are decomposed by bacteria into raw gas. The raw gas is then dried, sulfur is separated out, and the gas is enriched with liquid petroleum gas if necessary in order to process it into synthetic methane.
Custody transfer measurement is needed
Here, the changing levels of methane, oxygen, and hydrogen sulfide need to be monitored to ensure the efficiency and safety of the processes. Upstream of the infeed, the pressure also needs to be reduced, the gas composition needs to be redetermined, the energy content needs to be determined, and the accrued gas amount needs to be accurately converted to standard cubic meters. Otherwise suppliers run the risk of failing to meet the specific requirements of the gas distribution networks or of suffering significant billing losses.
As a subgroup of the natural gases, biomethane is subject to a range of standard regulations in the UK, including in relation to custody transfer. In many cases, British infeed stations still use turbine flow meters. By contrast, engineering service provider Thyson Technology has been designing and building all of its gas transfer modules with the compact ultrasonic gas meter FLOWSIC500 from SICK since 2014. Here, the key factor is the high accuracy of the device, coupled with its reliably fault-free operation.
Each of the around 50 Thyson gas transfer modules that have been installed to date consists of a pressure regulator, an analyzer cabinet, an odorizing system and communication telemetry modules, combined with a FLOWSIC500. The gas meter is calibrated at 8 bar on an accredited test bench prior to installation. This qualifies it for gas billing in accordance with the British ME2 standard. The meter is connected to a Flow-X flow computer from SICK, which converts the gas quantities, logs events and parameters and generates reports. Gas meters with a nominal width of DN50 are used primarily to measure flow rates between 50 and 80 m³/h.
Despite the fact that production costs are still high, biomethane is gaining popularity worldwide. This is being driven not only by climate protection targets, but also by the desire for independence from oil and gas imports. Organic raw materials and waste potentially offer huge energy potential.