06.11.2009 | Editor: Dr. Jörg Kempf
“Radar sensors were, are and will remain our flagship product!” With this clear statement, Vega is getting ready for the future. The market leader has proven with its plicsplus instruments Vegapuls 60 that even good things can be improved.
There’s an opportunity in every crisis — and Vega is really making use of the current one. The instrumentation expert from the Black Forest is now bringing plicsplus, the next development stage of its modular instrument concept, to market. According to information provided by the company, the next instrument generation is even simpler to use, makes system operation easier for users and offers more advantages throughout the entire product life cycle. The trailblazers are, as always with Vega, the radar sensors. With numerous intelligent features, clever details, even more powerful hardware and software as well as different new versions, the instruments are taking over more and more areas of application.
Advanced components have allowed the company to raise the performance of the radar level gauges to a level nobody would have dared to dream of a couple of years ago. For the user this means greater measurement certainty and reliability. And the real nice part about it: the downward compatibility of the new electronics modules ensures that users of existing equipment can profit from these developments, too.
New electronic components make considerably higher speeds possible while simultaneously lowering energy consumption. A faster measuring rate and a lower operating voltage result from this. Through faster signal processing and shortened cycle times, the instruments are also able to handle applications in small vessels or applications with quick filling and emptying cycles. Even measurement of dynamic surfaces like waves or conveyor belts has become considerably easier. Latest state-of-the-art microprocessors increase the echo sampling rate by a factor of five. The signals can thus be separated more easily during processing: the resolution of the raw data increases. In turn, improved echo analysis in combination with efficient components increases the accuracy: down to 2 mm, which represents a deviation of just 0.005 percent in a maximum measuring range of 35 m.
Another big plus of the next instrument generation is its higher sensitivity (factor five). Thanks to it, radar sensors deliver considerably better results in critical applications, such as those dealing with very poorly reflective media or surface foam. The efficiency of the instruments has also increased because Vega intentionally forgoes the use of cables between microwave module and antenna system, which can cause additional signal damping and disturbing reflections.
A real highlight of Vegapuls 60 is its echo signal movement detection. This software feature is the result of ideas and suggestions the service and development departments collected over years of work with practical applications. An ingenious algorithm enables the instruments to distinguish even better between useful signals and interfering signals that arise e.g. from soiling or buildup.
In spite of, or maybe exactly because of, the vast amount of hi-tech packed into the instruments, Vega stays faithful to its principle of simplicity and tries to make setup and commissioning in contrast as easy as possible for the user. One measure it undertook was the optimization of the indicating and adjustment module Plicscom. The module is now much easier to operate, the parameter display is far more clearly arranged and modifying settings is simpler.
And speaking of „simple“: the extended application parameters should also be mentioned here. With the help of the 15 built-in application examples, the new radar sensors can be quickly adapted to any measurement task. To put an instrument into operation, the user only has to define his process via a selection menu and enter medium type, medium, application, shape of vessel floor and ceiling as well as vessel height. Without any special knowledge about the instrument or the measuring principle, the user can carry out setup and commissioning himself, saving time and costs. And greater measurement certainty is included free of charge.
The topics of diagnosis, servicing and maintenance didn’t fare badly in the revision, either. All asset management information provided by the plicsplus radar sensors for preventive maintenance fulfills the requirements of Namur NE 107, which defines four standardized status messages. Error messages in clear text make possible a detailed, target-oriented diagnosis. But needless to say, the radar specialists were not content with only that: they also installed a special memory area for diagnosis data that can archive up to 100,000 measurements, events and echo curves with date and time. The built-in real time clock stores the data, inclusive of time stamp. This information makes servicing considerably easier.
And last but not least, Vega has been working meticulously on new sensor versions for quite some time. High temperature variants, special materials and higher chemical resistances have contributed to markedly extending the application range of radar technology. Three short examples:
Jürgen Skowaisa, product manager for radar and ultrasonics, is convinced that, with its modular instrument concept plicsplus and newest generation of radar sensors, Vega has succeeded once again in landing a real coup (see interview in the box). The Schiltach company has realized its leitmotif “simplicity” just as well in setup and commissioning as in operation. Through the use of modern electronic components and special software, the performance of the intelligent instruments as regards accuracy, sensitivity and measurement certainty could be improved still further. A lower supply voltage, additional housing versions, temperature ranges up to 450 °C and higher chemical resistances allow an ever more universal use of the Vegapuls 60 instruments. According to Skowaisa, the new hardware base of the tried-and-true instrument concept has set the course in the direction “future” – in defiance of the economic crisis!
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