Achema is set to be lit up with a veritable fireworks of innovations, as Vega, the German measurement specialists from the Black Forest, have timed it just right for the biggest event in the processing industry calendar to introduce their plics plus instrument concept, an upgrade on plics which has been simplifying the world of measurement technology since 2003.
All the stops have been pulled out to capture new areas of application and make the day’s work even easier for the user. New measuring principles, new designs for devices, higher performance hardware and software, further simplification of the setup process, better options for diagnostics, service and maintenance: the list of new features goes on and on! The trade press was invited at the end of March to see for itself just how much painstaking development work Vega has invested in refining its plics instrument concept. Now, at Achema, the next stage awaits when plics plus will be introduced to the general public. Underpinning the new developments are ongoing simplification and standardization for the user, with Vega giving absolute priority to all-round operational compatibility of existing and new instruments.
The new measuring principles and new instrument designs will also capture new areas of application for Vega. For example, a microwave barrier for recording the limit level of bulk solids now completes the bulk solids range. Added to this are radiometric level, switching, density and mass flow rate measurement systems as well as differential pressure measurement of level, pressure and flow rate. The addition of stainless steel and plastic housings also introduces new application options, e.g. an electropolished single-chamber 316L stainless steel housing for hygienic applications and a rugged double-chamber 316L precision casting housing with pressure-containing enclosure (Ex d) specially designed for extreme operating conditions. Furthermore, a lightweight double-chamber plastic housing with side-mounted displays is now available, which previously could only be supplied in aluminum.
Instrument operation at the sensor is now even easier with a number of reworkings of the Plicscom module for display and operation, including the improved feel of the keyboard, the faster response speed and the ease with which parameters can now be changed.The new DTMs created according to the FDT style guide improve the operation of the sensors via PC, and— as with the previous generation—the new DTMs are also fully compatible with all the instruments in the Vega product range. The new DTMs can be used for operation with any version of instrument software and provide: user-friendly setup and diagnostics assistants; an asset management message display according to NE 107 (from the next Pactware version up); a safe parameterization concept (SIL). Licensing is no longer required. Together with DTMs—and for the first time in parallel—Vega will also supply EDDs for AMA and PDM instruments and Hart handhelds.
The new sensor electronics are developed to IEC 61508 standards and require no effort at all. A new type of spring-loaded clip connects power supply and signal lines without any need for tools whatsoever. Plug-in terminal blocks and mechanical aids allow the system to be dismantled and the electronics replaced in just a few seconds. Other features of the plics plus sensors include a low 9.6 V power supply, faster signal processing rates and greater measuring accuracy provided by more powerful microprocessors as well as an optional GSM/GPRS module for remote data transfer.
Radar sensors lead the way
Kicking off the new plics plus generation of instruments are the Vegapuls radar sensors. Their ongoing development is based on in-depth market analysis which pointed up a variety of developments in liquid and bulk applications, as well as a universal call from users for easy connection, easy setup and operation. For liquid applications, the trend is toward increasingly smaller sized containers with shorter fill and empty cycles. Conversely, the measuring ranges for bulk solids applications are becoming even bigger, and sensors need to respond to varying amounts of build-up on the container wall and to increasingly faster level changes. Vega’s new, fast microprocessors have these requirements covered, as they provide more computer power for signal analysis and facilitate complex evaluation algorithms. Modern electronics components allow for a quality of signal analysis that just hasn’t been possible before and for better differentiation between the media level and the container fittings. Other features of the new hardware are better echo signal resolution, improved separation of useful and false reflections and greater accuracy in echo analysis.
The actual microwave modules themselves—the nerve center of the radar sensor—have also been reworked. Jürgen Skowaisa, Product Manager for Radar at Vega, is aware of how close they are to the limits of what is theoretically possible in terms of sensitivity, “although we were able to increase sensitivity even further by 6 dB—the equivalent of factor 4,” he adds. This pushes back the limits of application and offers greater measuring reliability especially for media with a very small relative dielectric constant that transmit only very weak signals. And that’s not all, as the modules have a very compact design: the electronics sit directly on the antenna system and do not have a connecting cable, all of which adds to the sensitivity and reduces false reflections. Also a further contributory factor to greater measuring reliability are the extended software algorithms, with the motion detection of the level echo facilitating better differentiation of useful and false signals and reducing the effects of dirt and condensation in the antenna system. The improved facility to blank out false echoes provides a greater echo curve resolution.
By extending the temperature range to 450 °C and introducing double process sealing and greater chemical resistance of the antennae (see table), this new generation of radar sensors has a considerably broader range of application than its predecessors. And, last not least, new application parameters make it easy to set up the radar sensors, as the operator only has to input the application and the sensor then activates the required functions and parameters.
As Skowaisa summarizes, with plics plus everything comes together—the new sensors match with existing operating software and, conversely, the new electronics are compatible with existing housings and antenna systems. He is already looking forward to impressing visitors at Achema as well.
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