Package unit integration: how do you assemble a modular system? — Package units, modular system design and process skids are hot topics at the moment. Thinking in systems is becoming a familiar soundbite in the component manufacturing and chemical industries, but the building block approach is not making as much headway as had been expected. Interfaces to existing automation and control systems are lacking. An overview.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everything were as easy as Lego? Anyone who has to deal with a multiplicity of technologies, pipe networks, connections and special tools would certainly agree. The idea of assembling an entire production facility out of pre-fabricated modules is not new. Yet, an increasing number of component manufacturers are now jumping on the bandwagon.
They are delivering subsystems featuring varying degrees of complexity as package units (often known simply as skids because they are mounted on a common base frame) which can then be integrated into the customer’s production process.
Skids Already Commonplace in Oil and Gas
Pump and compressor manufacturers in particular sense new opportunities for selling system solutions instead of individual components. The magic word is plug-and-play. In addition, tight schedules and parallel activity make the option of outsourcing portions of the overall design an attractive proposition.
This approach has become common practice in the oil & gas industry. Production sites are often located in the wilderness far from civilization, making the advantages of autonomous, complete turnkey solutions particularly obvious. Space is at a premium on oil rigs, and this is another situation where pre-assembled modular units help minimize the effort needed for installation and test. Companies such as the pump manufacturer Sulzer are proud to have delivered hundreds of skids and frame-mounted systems around the world.
Mega–Trend Modular Systems
Now the sights are set on the chemical industry. The list of solutions on offer ranges from micro-liter range dosing equipment all the way up to large container modules for complete production lines. The vision of the chemical park as a huge container complex remains something for the future, but projects like the modular F3 Factory or Evonik’s Evotrainer already provide a glimpse of things to come.
Modular systems will also play a key role in Industry 4.0. In a study published in 2014, VDI (Association of German Engineers) came to the conclusion that modularization will be one of the defining trends in the chemical industry over the next five years. The Association is convinced that in future, production and finishing of end products will be fully distributed, with production modules being installed at the customer site.
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