Processing’s Breakthrough Products awards recognize products, technologies and services that made significant contributions in the process industries in the last year and are expected to impact the industry for years to come.
Many of the winners are mid-sized, U.S.-headquartered makers of equipment and instrumentation that increasingly distribute their solutions worldwide.
Too often the incremental contributions these companies make to innovation and increased productivity are overlooked. Moreover, a myriad of individuals in these companies exhibit the exemplary attention to detail that makes the world work. We hereby salute you!
Paddle-wheel indicator differentiates between faults
Developers of a paddle-wheel level indicator in the bulk-solids industry have forged a product that performs self-diagnostics and differentiates between faults both in and out of material. This capability can reduce downtime, product spills and maintenance costs.
This simple device monitors material level and indicates when there has been a change. The indicator comes standard with functional diagnostics that detect a unit fault even when the paddle is buried in material, a quality that the developers say is unlike any other industrial paddlewheel device.
The indicator not only detects faults while its paddle is buried in material, but it is also able to differentiate between faults with flashing LED sequences.
The indicator ensures reliability by employing redundant methods of detection. These methods monitor shaft rotation and motor behavior, making it more reliable by eliminating missed signals.
The indicator’s developers say they used patent-pending technology, dubbed "Back Electromotive Force (BEMF)," to determine if the motor has stalled or the gear train has failed.
It employs a stepper motor to allow for simple torque and speed adjustment. A major competitive advantage is a slip clutch that allows the motor shaft to turn even when the paddle is held in material and unable to turn.
Product from Bindicator Co.
An emerging generation of process controllers
Universal Control System
Process industries are under increasing assault from malicious code and unwelcome intrusion, yet the SCADA RTUs, DCSs and PLCs that control production are based on technology developed before cyber threats became common. This universal control system was designed from the silicon up to be simple, scalable and secure. As such, it replaces SCADA, RTU, PLC or DCS with a single system that reduces Stuxnet type intrusion threats.
Instead of connecting I/O modules with pins, an electromagnetic backplane removes key points of vulnerability while also improving performance. Instead of relying on external firewalls and other add-ons, the pinless architecture also enables its patented cyber-defense strategy, which embeds authentication keys with true-random number generators (TRNGs) deep into the hardware. This makes it extremely difficult for a virus, malware or unauthorized programs to penetrate the system.
Other controller differentiators include:
- I/O cards are secured in a fully sealed anti-tamper metal case.
- The controller scales cost effectively without significant performance degradation.
- Ten secure I/O channels per module are provided. All of them can be programmed for analog, discrete, pulse and Ethernet communications.
The controller’s developers believe they have made automation history, not only for its cyber protection but also by demonstrating how rethinking system design improves performance, scalability and economy. They say the result is more powerful and easier to use than conventional DCS, and it costs less to own and operate.
Product from Bedrock Automation
Bulk-bag conditioner with 6 feet of vertical travel
BLOCK-BUSTER Hydraulic Bulk Bag Conditioner
A bulk-bag conditioner loosens the bulk materials that solidify during their storage and shipment. It conditions material found using hydraulically actuated rams that adjust in height during conditioning cycles. It delivers 6 feet of vertical travel, double the range of most conditioners, by employing scissor lifts to raise the bag, while the fixed-height turntable reduces loading-deck height by half.
Users can program a single height or multiple heights for a ram to condition the bag. They can also enter the amount of pressure applied by the ram’s contoured end plates, the frequency of actuations and the number of 90-degree rotations. This loosens solidified materials throughout the bag for discharge through the bag spout.
The conditioners are recommended for use with hygroscopic chemicals, spice blends, heat-sensitive products and other materials prone to solidifying to the point where pneumatically actuated flow promotion accessories integral to bulk bag dischargers are inefficient or ineffective.
Unlike bulk-bag conditioners that rely on scissor lifts to condition the bag at various heights, this conditioner employs hydraulically actuated rams that automatically adjust in height during conditioning cycles. Because the rams provide approximately 6 feet of vertical travel, a single conditioner accommodates bulk bags from short to extra tall, and as noted, the loading deck height can be reduced by about half.
Product from Flexicon Corp.
No mechanical seals mean no product leakage
EcoPure Centrifugal Pump
A magnetically driven centrifugal pump addresses product-sealing challenges experienced in hygienic processing in the food and beverage, dairy, and pharmaceutical industries.
The pump is engineered to provide increased efficiency, reliability and safety in traditional hygienic centrifugal-pump applications. Combining high-powered drive magnets and efficient impellers without mechanical seals is key to the pump’s performance. The features increase process safety so that no product leakage is allowed and no flush water enters the product zone. The pump uses heavy-duty forged and machined wetted components to ensure durability in demanding process environments.
A one-piece flow manufacturing process allows the pump to be sized for the customer’s process, so parts provide strength without wasted material. Tailored part thickness and tight clearances allow the pump to withstand pressure fluctuations without sacrificing efficiency.
The design exploits a magnetic drive system that effectively creates a virtually leak-free pump solution by removing the need for mechanical seals. Unlike traditional industrial magnetic drives, however, the system is engineered to provide hygienic operation by incorporating the magnets directly into the impeller. This not only ensures a sanitary solution but also ensures smooth product flow and a simpler, reliable pump configuration.
Product from SPX FLOW
Cross-industry loading spout made food-friendly
Vortex Loading Spout
Loading spouts attached to the bottom of a silo or hopper or located at the end of an air conveying system helps distribute dry-bulk materials in open trucks, stockpiles, railcars, tank vehicles, barges and ships. They are mostly used in grain elevators, ship ports and cement plants to convey materials for production, storage or transportation.
To make loading spouts more food-friendly, the spout’s metal support rings were altered. Now an exterior clamping method eliminates the need for mechanical fasteners, which could contaminate the organic load. This sleeve design is now standard on all the supplier’s loading spouts, regardless of whether it is intended for a food-grade application or not.
Developers also redesigned the cable harness for the inner stacking cones. The design incorporates a custom-machined steel peg that has a precision-drilled hole for the cable to pass through. This replaces the industry standard U-bolts, which can fail and contaminate a load. A set screw that is treated with Locktite holds the cable in place. This new design feature is available on all food-grade loading spouts.
Product from Vortex
Threaded-bonnet pressure relief valve has no exposed bolts
Pressure Regulating Valve (PRV) Family
The threaded-bonnet design of this pressure relief valve eliminates exterior metal parts and re-torqueing while providing easy maintenance and flexibility. A high-purity version features a patent-pending piston that makes elastomers unnecessary in the valve and greatly reduces particle shedding. This is important in demanding applications that require only minimal amounts of particles in the flow stream.
In addition to its elastomer-free capability, its high-purity operation is enhanced with the valve’s threaded bonnet, which has no exposed metal bolts. The central housing nut does away with re-torqueing for easier operation, and the valve’s compact design enables installation in limited space. In addition, its modular system allows the user to easily adjust the set pressure range and quickly go from reducing to retaining (or vice versa) by simply switching the cartridge.
The pressure-relief valve is suited for markets including water treatment, chemical processing, microelectronics, pharmaceutical, life sciences and solar.
As one user said,"Recently, we took over service on a central 50 millimeter recirculating purified water system for a life science company. One issue that needed to be addressed on the system was a leaking back-pressure retaining valve. We installed one of the first of these valves produced, and it has been operational with great success and performance."
Product from GF Piping Systems
Compact dust collector sits indoors for installation ease
Quad Pulse Package PX dust collector
Given the reality of limited floor space, positioning a dust-collection system is challenging in pharmaceutical, chemical and other processing facilities. This dust collector offers high performance in a compact unit for removing hazardous dusts in high concentrations. The collector has a cleanable filter system that facilitates continuous manufacturing processes and eliminates frequent filter replacements.
Measuring 49 inches wide by 42 inches deep by 87 inches high, the space-saving unit is conveniently positioned on a production floor. Its construction provides the highest explosion protection in accordance with National Fire Protection Association standards. No additional explosion-safety devices are needed, and its indoor location reduces installation time and cost by simplifying ducting requirements. It also allows easy access for all maintenance functions.
An integrated fan provides the required suction and is insulated within the unit for quiet operation.
Its makers say the compact dust collector can satisfy cost, floor space, air quality and explosion protection requirements for a range of uses. It is for use in new installations as well as replacing inefficient, non-NFPA or non-containment compliant dust collection equipment.
Pharmaceutical applications for the collector include tableting, mixing, blending, granulation, drying, coating, filling and packaging. Non-pharmaceutical uses include a range of chemical, cosmetic, medical and other applications characterized by low airflow requirements for combustible dusts.
Product from Camfil Air Pollution Control
The way to the Internet of Things made smooth
IoT Gateway for KEPServerEX
This gateway supports Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) deployments. By leveraging the more than 150 communication protocols supported by the provider’s platform, it is able to stream data from thousands of industrial sensors and machines to cloud-based big-data and analytics applications.
Its customizable data format supports most MQTT and REST applications—enabling users to choose vendors and communication methodologies based on their unique organizational needs. With a plug-in architecture, it is a cost-effective, intuitive and highly scalable solution that facilitates significant cost savings, improved customer service, smarter automation and increased visibility across global operations.
The gateway’s ability to stream real-time machine and sensor data to cloud-based platforms helps organizations extract business insights and create new service-based revenue streams from previously untapped machine data.
As one user says, using the supplier solution,"as a hub for real-time machine communication, we are able to connect the shop floor to the data center and see the full potential of the Industrial Internet of Things."
Product from Kepware Technologies
Equipment condition monitor knows Bluetooth
i-ALERT2 Equipment Health Monitor
A Bluetooth smart-enabled equipment health monitor identifies potential machine problems before an equipment issue becomes a costly processing failure. It allows tracking of vibration, temperature and run-time hours while using the data on a smartphone or tablet mobile app.
With 24/7 monitoring of a wireless range of up to 100 feet and the ability to scan multiple alert devices at once, users can quickly and safely inspect multiple pieces of equipment with access to real-time and historical data, diagnostic information and machine records. This provides them with the data necessary to make informed decisions.
The condition monitor combines Bluetooth low-energy and sensor technologies found in the latest consumer-health and fitness trackers and smart watches. Its makers say the device is the first condition monitor to successfully integrate these technologies into an industrial package in a small footprint, 2.24 by 1.54 by 1.04 inches, which is half the size of a credit card.
Product from ITT Goulds Pumps
Gas selection for thermal mass meter delivers precision
Model FT1 Thermal Mass Flow Meter
A direct digitally controlled sensor on a thermal gas mass flowmeter allows measuring the flow of more than 10 pure gases and a multitude of gas mixtures. The mixed-gas feature allows the user to choose any three gases available in the selection menu and determine each gas proportion in 1 percent increments (totaling 100 percent) to achieve a precise application mixture. Operators in process industries can use this to measure both air and natural gas to a burner for the right air-to-fuel ratio, different gases for leak detection in multiple systems, and changing gas concentrations in a biogas or other gas mixture.
Its makers say the only digitally controlled sensor provides the platform to make the gas selection feature a reality.
The meter is accurate while offering a faster response time and repeatable measurement over the range of interest. It operates reliably in a variety of industrial and commercial applications.
As one user says, "I was looking for accuracy and an economical meter that allowed me to adjust the settings to compensate for gas quality or composition. Now I can take off the cover and within 2 to 3 minutes I have changed the methane concentration, the CO2 concentration and the nitrogen concentration. This meter can be changed or calibrated on the fly. I was concerned about thermal mass meters not being accurate because of the gas-quality changes and temperature changes, and that was taken out of the equation with this meter."
Product from Fox Thermal Instruments
Save energy by exploiting passive cooling
Blue e+ Cooling Unit Series
Its makers say this cooling unit contributes to energy efficiency and conservation. With hybrid, patented technology never before incorporated into an air conditioning system, this series of air conditioners can save up to 75 percent of energy costs normally associated with cooling electronic equipment within enclosures. This is made possible through use of a heat pipe that exploits cold ambient air for passive cooling, as well as a compressor-based cooling circuit for demand-based cooling.
The developer says it is the only maker of climate-control or thermal-management solutions for enclosures used in industrial or information technology settings that uses this heat pipe for passive cooling using ambient air within enclosures. The company says the goal is to protect electronics from overheating while reducing energy costs and usage.
Also, to improve cost-effectiveness, all units can be operated flexibly, thanks to the multi-voltage capability for all standard grids worldwide. Possible input voltages range from 110 Volts (V) (single phase) to 480 V (three-phase) at grid frequencies of 50 or 60 Hertz. The lower logistics costs represent one major advantage that will benefit global mechanical engineers in particular.
Product from Rittal