Monitoring nuclear waste legacy ponds!

22/04/2014

Following a rigorous assessment period, EXO water quality monitoring sondes from Xylem Analytics are being deployed in what is arguably one of the most hostile environments imaginable – nuclear waste legacy storage ponds at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in Cumbriain the North West of England.

Background
One of the major challenges facing Sellafield Ltd is the safe decommissioning of the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP), a nuclear fuel storage facility that was originally built in the 1950s and 1960s as part of Britain’s expanding nuclear programme to receive and store, cool irradiated Magnox fuel prior to reprocessing.

In the 1970s a lengthy shutdown at the Magnox Reprocessing Plant, combined with increased throughput of fuel due to electricity shortages, spent fuel to be stored in the pond for longer than the designed period which led to increased fuel corrosion and radiation levels.

Over the years the pond has accumulated significant quantities of waste materials, sludges from corrosion of fuel cladding, skips of fuel, and fuel fragments and other debris which has blown into the pond. Standing above ground, this 5m deep open pond holding some 14,000 cubic metres of contaminated water (approximately the size of two Olympic swimming pools) is considered a decommissioning priority. To assist with future retrievals, a detailed knowledge of the facility’s inventory through visual inspection of the pond is needed.

Despite high levels of radioactivity, this open pond appears to intermittently bloom with a range of microorganisms that cloud the water, reducing visibility and hampering inspection and retrieval operations.

Sellafield Ltd is the company responsible for safely delivering decommissioning, reprocessing and nuclear waste management activities on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and a project team led by Xavier Poteau has specific responsibility for transferring monitoring technologies to the FGMSP pond.

FGMSP Pond (Image supplied courtesy of Sellafield Ltd)

Water passing through the pond reaches the Sellafield Ion Exchange Effluent Plant (SIXEP) which removes radioactivity from liquid feeds from a number of plants across the Sellafield site. The plant settles out and filters solids using a carbonation process to neutralise the alkaline pond water and then employs ion exchange to remove radionuclides.

Why monitor?
Water samples are routinely collected from the pond for laboratory analysis, and analytical data is reported to the Environment Agency and the NDA. In addition to this regulatory requirement, water quality data is also required to inform efficient operation of SIXEP and to ensure that legacy fuel is stored in optimal conditions. For example, the water is caustic dosed to maintain a pH of around 11.5 which reduces the speed of nuclear fuel degradation.

Water monitoring challenges

Preparing to test the water!

Preparing to test the water! (Image supplied courtesy of Sellafield Ltd)

As a result of physical restrictions, it has only been possible to take water samples from specific locations around the edge of the pond and, being radioactive, routine samples have to be limited to about 100ml to be within laboratories guidelines. Sampling is also an arduous, time-consuming process; two people have to be involved and each sampler has to wear a pvc suit and facemask, two pairs of pvc waterproof gloves and a pair of Kevlar gloves to ensure that the gloves are not accidentally punctured. The samplers are also only allowed to be close to the pond for a limited time.

Instrumentation might appear to be the obvious solution, but again, there are several challenges, not least of which is that gamma spectrum analysis has to be conducted on a sample in a lab. In addition, electrical instruments often fail in a radioactive environment, so the general assumption is that they will do so, unless proven otherwise. Continuous monitoring probes, similar to those employed by the water industry, are not feasible because of the wiring that would be required. However, portable instruments offer the potential to reduce the volume and frequency of water sampling.

Trials with EXO sondes
The EXO2 sondes are multiparameter 6-port water quality monitors that have been developed for remote, long-term monitoring applications. Employed globally by regulatory authorities, researchers, industrial companies and those responsible for the protection of water resources, the EXO sondes are the result of many years’ of development and feedback from thousands of users from all over the world. As a result, these instruments are lightweight and rugged, with internal batteries and datalogging capability for long-term monitoring applications. The EXO sondes operate on extremely low power and incorporate a range of features that minimise maintenance requirements and avoid biofouling. For example: wet-mateable connectors resist corrosion; components are isolated to prevent short-circuits; welded housings and double o-rings prevent leaks, and high-impact plastic and titanium resists impact damage.

The ‘smart’ EXO sensors are easily interchangeable and users are able to select the sensors that best meet their needs. The FGMSP project team, for example, uses sensors for pH, temperature, conductivity, turbidity, fDOM (Fluorescent Dissolved Organic Matter – a surrogate for Coloured DOM), Blue-green Algae and Chlorophyll.

Initially, the FGMSP project team trialled an extended deployment version of the YSI 6600 multiparameter water quality monitoring sonde – a predecessor of the EXO. “This enabled us to assess the quality of the YSI sensors and demonstrate that they were able to operate well in a radioactive environment,” comments Technical Specialist Marcus Coupe, adding: “The launch of the EXO was of great interest to us because, with Bluetooth communications and smart sensors that retain their calibration data, the EXO offered an opportunity to dramatically reduce time spent at the pond.

“The snap-on probes are calibrated in the laboratory and can then be quickly and simply swapped with those that have been deployed on an EXO sonde. This means that the main part of the sonde can be left onsite while the sensors are quickly swapped, and the Bluetooth comms enable us to collect 18,600 sets of data in less than 20 minutes.”

Commenting further on the success of the EXO trials, Xavier Poteau says: “It has been common experience in the nuclear industry to have to apply significant adaptations to electrical equipment, so that it is able to function correctly in a radioactive environment, and this can incur a heavy cost and time penalty. However, the EXO sondes have performed very well ‘off the shelf’ which is a sign of good design.”

ROV with EXO probe

ROV with EXO probe (Image supplied courtesy of Sellafield Ltd)

As part of their work with the EXO sondes, the FGMSP project team has deployed an EXO sonde with a submersible remotely operated vehicle (ROV). This enabled the team to monitor water quality at previously unachievable locations. “Any loss of visibility in the pond can potentially cause a significant risk to operations within the legacy ponds, as well as potentially slowing down future retrievals, so the ability to deploy an EXO with a ROV offers a valuable insight into understanding the challenge, and moves us from single point sampling to a more 3D-like data stream,” adds Marcus Coupe.

Looking forward
Neill Cornwell from Xylem Analytics has been involved with the trials at Sellafield from the start. He says: “A lot of hard work has gone into the process of demonstrating EXO’s suitability for deployment in the nuclear sector; not only has the equipment had to perform well in challenging conditions, but we have also had to demonstrate a high level of technical and service support.

“Naturally, we are very pleased that the sondes have performed so well, and further instruments are now being deployed in other applications at the Sellafield site. For example, a slimmer version of the EXO, the EXO1, is being used to monitor the effluent distribution tanks because the only access is via narrow pipes and the EXO1 is ideal because its outer diameter is just 1.85 inches.”

The data from the FGMSP sondes compare favourably with the results of laboratory analysis, so Xavier Poteau believes “a high level of confidence is being established in the EXO data and this means that we will be able to reduce the amount of sampling that we undertake, which will save a great deal of time, hassle and money.

“I strongly believe that our experience could be beneficial to the wider audience as well as the nuclear industry.”

EXO2_titanium_bulkhead

EXO2 Titanium Bulkhead


Wastewater treatment plant monitors Greenhouse Gas emissions!

15/04/2014

Globally, little attention is paid to gaseous emissions from wastewater treatment processes. This contrasts greatly with the regulatory monitoring that is applied to the quality of water emissions from such facilities. However, in Helsinki (FI), a large municipal wastewater treatment facility continuously monitors its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to help in the city’s efforts to combat climate change and also to help improve the wastewater treatment process.

Employing a multigas FTIR (Fourier Transform InfraRed) analyser from Gasmet, a Helsinki-based manufacturer of analytical instrumentation, the plant’s managers are able to measure the effects of process control on GHG emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. This also provides an insight into the fate of nitrogenous compounds within the wastewater stream.

Background
The Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant was built in 1994 to process wastewater from both domestic (85%) and industrial (15%) sources. However, the average temperature in Helsinki between December and February is around minus 4 DegC, with extremes below minus 20 and even minus 30 DegC, so the plant was built almost entirely underground to avoid the freezing temperatures. Underground construction is common practice in the Nordic countries, providing other advantages such as land availability above the plant and the provision of stable conditions for process control and odour management.

Viikinmäki Wastewater HSY (FI)

Viikinmäki Wastewater HSY (FI) (Photo courtesy of HSY)

The Viikinmäki plant is the largest wastewater treatment facility in Finland, handling approximately 270,000 m³ of wastewater per day, which amounts to about 100 million m³ per year. The wastewater is treated in compliance with the Finnish Wastewater Discharge Permit, which is stricter than the EU Water Framework Directive for parameters such as nitrogen removal, phosphate content, BOD, COD and suspended solids. Following treatment, the purified / treated wastewater is conveyed 8km out to sea and to a depth of over 20m. This might seem superfluous, but the 16 km long discharge pipe was built in the 1980s and was designed to ensure that discharged wastewater did not accumulate on the shallow and scattered shore and nature reserves along the coastline of Helsinki.

The treatment process is based on the activated sludge method and includes three phases: mechanical, biological and chemical treatment. Traditional nitrogen removal has been enhanced with a biological filter that utilises denitrification bacteria.

The organic matter contained in the sludge produced in the wastewater treatment process is exploited by digesting the sludge, and the biogas generated in the digestion process is collected for further use. Thanks to the energy produced from biogas, the treatment plant is self-sufficient in terms of heating and about 70 per cent self-sufficient in terms of electricity. However, the plant aims to be fully energy self-sufficient in the near future, and around 60,000 tonnes of dried waste sludge is sold each year for landscaping purposes.

Gas monitoring
As a result of the size of the plant (E-PRTR reporting) and the commitment of the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) to the protection of the environment, it was necessary to monitor or to model gaseous emissions. At the beginning of the E-PRTR reporting requirements (2007) HSY modelled the annual gaseous emissions based on grab samples. However, monitoring was relatively simple to implement because the plant is enclosed underground and a gas exhaust system was already in place.

Viikinmaki Emissions Monitor

Viikinmaki Emissions Monitor (Photo courtesy of Gasmet Technologies)

Initially, a portable FTIR analyzer from Gasmet was hired for a short period to assess the plant’s emissions and for research purposes. However, as Mari Heinonen, Process Manager at Viikinmäki, reports: “The gas emissions data were very interesting but they were not representative of the annual emissions, and posed more questions than they answered.

“We therefore purchased a continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMS) from Gasmet, which was installed in late 2012 and we now have our first full year’s data for 2013.

“Very little data has been published on the GHG emissions of wastewater treatment and as far as we are aware, Viikinmäki is the only plant in the world conducting this type of monitoring, so our data is likely to be of major significance.”

The Gasmet CEMS employs an FTIR spectrometer to obtain infrared spectra from the waste gas stream by first collecting an ‘interferogram’ of the sample signal with an interferometer, which measures all infrared frequencies simultaneously to produce a spectrum from which qualitative and quantitative data are produced. For example, the CEMS at Viikinmäki continuously displays emissions data for CH4, N2O, CO2, NO, NO2, and NH3.

Over a number of years, Gasmet has established a library of FTIR reference spectra that now extends to simultaneous quantification of 50 gases or identification of unknowns from a collection of 5000+ gases. This means that it is possible to reanalyse produced spectra with the instrument’s PC based software (Calcmet) and thereby to identify unknown gases – a major advantage of FTIR.

Whilst FTIR is able to analyse an enormous number of gases, the technique is not suitable for noble gases, homonuclear diatomic gases (e.g., N2, Cl2, H2, F2, etc) or H2S (detection limit too high).

Gasmet FTIR technology was chosen for the Viikinmäki plant because of its ability to monitor multiple gases simultaneously. However Mari Heinonen says: “The system has performed very well, with very little maintenance required. Zero point calibration with nitrogen (background) just takes a few minutes each day and is fully automated. Water vapour calibration is conducted at least once per year, but under normal circumstances no other calibration is necessary.”

With the benefit of the monitoring data, Mari Heinonen has calculated the annual emissions for methane to be around 350 tonnes, and for nitrous oxide around 134 tonnes. This means that the emissions per cubic meter of wastewater equate to 3.5g of methane and 1.34g of nitrous oxide.

Looking forward, Mari believes that it will be possible to use the gas monitoring data to improve process control: “Traditional monitoring/control systems focus on concentrations of oxygen, nitrate and ammonia in the water, but if we detect high levels of N2O gas for example, this may indicate a problem in the process that we can use as a feedback control.

“The monitoring data for gaseous nitrogen compounds (N2O, NH3, NOx) complements water analysis and provides a more complete picture of the nitrogen cycle in the treatment process.

“Clearly, further research will be required, but this work may indicate a need to consider the fate of nitrogenous compounds beyond just those in the wastewater; the removal of nitrogen from wastewater is a key objective, but if this results in high N2O emissions the process may need to be managed in a different way.”


#EMrex Revving up in Stuttgart!

07/04/2014
The Emerson  Global Users Exchange in Europe was a three-day event for existing and potential users of Emerson Process Management products and services. The event was held from 1-3rd April 2014 in Stuttgart, the capital of the German Land (State) of Baden-Wurtemburg (D).

FSTStuttgartMany memories sprang to mind as the Aer Lingus flight from Dublin touched down gently at Stuttgart Airport. It was over forty years since I had been there on a training course – in pneumatic instrumentation – in a local company which has long since been swallowed up , much like pneumatic controls,  in the advances and takeovers since that time! There on the surrounding hills was the emblematic fernsehturm, the very first television tower in the world and a symbol of a resurgent city recovering from the ravages of total war.

I was travelling to the Emerson Exchange User Group meeting (Tagged #EMrex on twitter) of the European, Middle East & African region along with over 1,200 others anxious to learn of the experience of others as well as learning of any new “goodies” Emerson themselves might have to unveil! This was the second such event in Europe, the last was also in Germany in the city of Duesseldorf, two years ago – see Automation returns to Duesseldorf. Of course the User Conference for the Americas has been held annually for a number of years (see our Reports here!)

The event started with a plenary session where everybody gathered in the main hall to hear the schedule for the three days, a business update on Emerson and a technology update.

Francisco Diaz-Andreu opens the Emerson Global Users Exchange, Stuttgart, April 2014

Francisco Diaz-Andreu opens the Emerson Global Users Exchange, Stuttgart, April 2014

Delegates were welcomed by Francisco Diaz-Andriu, of Repsol, Spain and member of the Board of The Emerson Users Group. He has been active in automation in Spain for many years and was the founding president of the vibrant International Society of Automation (ISA) Spain Section, in which he is still active. He gave a preview of what attendees could expect during the three days. He outlined the work of the user group in the organising of the conference and the composition of the board. Needless to say they are always looking for new members to broaden the application expertese available to future events.

The Porsche factor!

Roel van Doren

Roel van Doren

Emerson’s European President, Roel van Doren, started with the first presentation talking about the company’s philosophy.  A great company is a company that asks the right questions. Instead of, “What can we sell you?” or “What do you want to buy from us?” a great company asks its customers questions like, “What is your vision for the way your plant should operate?” or “How can we work together to solve your problems?”

This kind of collaborative approach to the customer relationship is the essential idea behind the strategic direction Emerson is taking. Taking his cue (excuse the mixed metaphor!) from one of the companies for which Stuttgart is famed far and wide, Porsche, he drew a comparison, “Like the pilot of a high performance race car you face many challenges that come in your direction at an ever increasing speed. And like a pilot, you must be able to react quickly to those challenges. You need to be able to fully trust the team that’s behind you. Our hope is that you will trust us to be the business partner that you can rely on, and that you will trust us to be part of your team. Because when the right people with the right technology come together, magic happens.”

The Plenary Session

The Plenary Session

Pervasive Sensing
The Chief Strategic Officer of Emerson, Peter Zornio, can always be relied upon to give an interesting presentation and this year proved no different. He spoke about the expansion of the Emerson offering from being merely process control towards an all-embracing monitoring of the entire operation, whether in the process area or in the peripheral areas within and without the premises. He introduced us to the iOps concept - Integrated Operations. As technology has developed so has it been possible to see what is happening in all areas of the plant – in real time. It calls for a clear, up-to-date view of what’s happening in all aspects of an operation. This assists in more efficiency, increased staff effectiveness and therefore more productivity. By using what they have named Pervasive Sensing they have adopted a policy based on the axiom “You can’t improve what you don’t know!” With this philosophy it is possible to prevent problems rather than react to them.

The iOps centre during a demonstration.

The iOps centre during a demonstration.

Later we had the opportunity to visit the iOPs facility set up on the Exchange exhibition floor where demonstrations were a big attraction.

Think for change
An entertaining keynote was given by Dave Beckman, a former marketing executive with Emerson and who now spends his “retirement” as a speaker to the process industry. He advocated thinking outside the box,not to be afraid to be on the edge. He also was optimistic for the future as countries suddenly realised that they ought to rely on their own resources.

Emerson Exchange Daily31 Mar {+} 1 Apl {+} 2 Apl {+} 3 AplReleases at the event!

+ Asset management software update reduces fieldbus device commissioning time by up to 80%

+ Pervasive Sensing will more than double the existing measuring market!

+ Wireless condition monitoring and prediction system reduces plant downtime and maintenance costs on Teeside!

+ Wireless improves leak detection maintaining regulatory compliance & enhance safety

+ Air cooled heat exchanger monitoring solution!

+ Cooling tower monitoring ensures cooling water availability, quality reducing chemical costs!

+ Dealing with dull, distant, dirty and dangerous locations!(iOps)


This is a nice 3min video from Nicolas Menet from the event entitled, “Final Control Valve Solution”

He cited the example of the United States which has changed almost beyond recognition. This has largely been the result of the technology which allows the extraction of shale gas. It has changed everything! Suddenly this huge country is again self sufficient in fuel. This is going to happen elsewhere too as the political situation changes due to economic circumstances. And things are changing to make previously unthinkable policies suddenly acceptable. Witness the effect of the Fukashima disaster! All nuclear power stationa are now being closed down in Japan and in Germany. What are these great countries to do for energy?

Keeping up!
In some way it may be said that a person who attends one of these multi-thread conferences has a disadvantage over the person who is sitting at his desk following things on twitter. I did attend one or two of the sessions as well as the afternoon press conference at which details of new products and applications were given. Links to these may be found in the box.

The Exchange daily news was emailed to all who requested it on each evening and these gave an excellent resume of events.

But of course nothing can compare with the networking at these events. Now in the age of social-media, one knows a lot of people without ever meeting them. Conferences like this are an opportunity of meeting people whose tweets or contributions other social networking platforms you have been followed. This was no exception and besides meeting many European and American press people like Keith Larson of Control, Nick Denbow of Industrial Automation Insider and John McKenna of Process Engineering. We also had the chance to meet the very active, possibly the most active in automation, Emerson Twitter cluster including Jim Cahill, Chris Amstutz, Nick Taylor and, for the first time, Mike Boudreaux.

Social aspect
There was a social aspect to this as well and many hostelries in the city benefitted from delegates sampling Schwaebish cuisine. This correspondent and his companions for the evening couldn’t have had more praise for the Stuttgarter Staeffele - (Your restaurant for Swabian specialties!). German food has an ill-deserved reputation for being somewhat stodgy but a visit to this 40 year old restaurant will, without doubt, change any such preconceptions.

There was also a group event which was a visit to the Porsche museum to tittalate the little boy in many as they drooled enviously over these glorious machines made with such precision and care. There are over eighty vehicles on display. We are not sure how many orders were placed as a result of this visit!

• The next Emerson Exchange Users Exchange is scheduled for the Americas. It will be held in Orlando, (FL USA) from 6th to the 10th of October 2014. Maybe you’ll be there.


Smarter phones drive mobile data monitoring!

02/04/2014
Expansive increase of smartphone use creates a need for mobile data monitoring solutions!

Over the next five to ten years, data traffic is expected to increase exponentially due to the growing adoption of smartphones globally. This amplified volume of data will place considerable strain on the networks of communication service providers (SPs)  and their information management systems, thereby stoking demand for mobile data monitoring systems.

smtphnsMobile data monitoring solutions are critical tools to improve overall mobile data performance and customer experience, as these can analyze mobile data and optimize the performance of their networks.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Global Mobile Data Monitoring Market, finds that the market earned revenue of $312.4 million in 2013 and estimates this to more than triple, reaching $1.103 billion in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 19.8 percent.

Due to the rocketing adoption of smart devices, mobile apps and video are expected to be the most consumed types of data. This growth is unlikely to dip, as social networking traffic and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication continues to rise in popularity. Over the next five years, M2M traffic is expected to outstrip even that of social networking traffic, as connected devices and sensors are anticipated to exceed 50 billion units.

Currently, SPs are ill equipped to deal with this demand for data.
“Communications SPs must invest in mobile data monitoring solutions to ensure positive end-user experience and lower customer churn,” stated Frost & Sullivan Communications Test & Measurement Program Manager Olga Yashkova-Shapiro. “Already, many SPs have rolled out Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks and are exploring other data traffic offload strategies to keep pace with demand.”

Adoption of over-the-top applications stimulates market growth
In addition to the adoption of smart phones, over-the-top (OTT) applications are contributing to the mounting demand for mobile data monitoring solutions. The swelling data traffic is forcing telecom companies to invest in more secure and complex testing capabilities to match strides with network expansions as well as upgrades in 3G and LTE.

Consumers are demanding more bandwidth-hungry applications, which require operators to deploy faster transmission links. When mobile users log on to 3G networks, they expect the applications to work seamlessly. Moreover, the information received from these different networks must be correlated.

Although the adoption of LTE has helped achieve the required data rates, there are significant concerns about the quality of voice and data. Companies are hoping to mitigate these issues with the adoption of voice over LTE (VoLTE), an IP-based multimedia system standardized by the third-generation partnership project (3GPP) to maximize international interoperability. VoLTE allows SPs to reduce the cost of delivery, enhance voice service offerings, and combat the service degradation in OTT services such as Skype and Viber.

“Traditional voice monitoring or service assurance solutions were not designed to analyze voice delivered over a data network,” notes Yashkova-Shapiro. “Therefore, the demand for next-generation mobile data monitoring solutions to support VoLTE is expected to increase and more operators are investing in new mobile devices required to support the VoLTE standards.”

Overall, SPs’ keenness to provide the highest levels of quality of service and quality of experience is expected to sustain the demand for comprehensive management solutions and proactive monitoring.


Driving the lightweight helpers of Universal Robots!

29/03/2014
Kollmorgen drives the lightweight helpers of two models with which Universal Robots aim to establish the flexibility of articulated-arm robots in industrial production. 

UR 5 and UR 10 are the names of the two models with which Universal Robots aim to establish the flexibility of articulated-arm robots in industrial production. The focus is on work areas in which conventional robots have thus far been too big, too expensive, and too loud. Due to their low weight they can be used wherever they are needed. A large part of the power density of the six-axis articulated robots comes from specially adapted KBM direct drive motors from Kollmorgen. Universal Robots was able to embed the motors directly into the articulation axes without need for additional housings.

Author: Ian Young, Key Account Manager, Kollmorgen, Ratingen (D)

Author: Ian Young, Key Account Manager, Kollmorgen, Ratingen (D)

The six-axis robots are being used in processing and production facilities for example. The robots are easily programmed to accomplish repetitive tasks

The six-axis robots are being used in processing and production facilities for example. The robots are easily programmed to accomplish repetitive tasks

The KBM motors offer a great deal of freedom to configure the servo axes in a space-optimized way due to their variable, modular design.

The KBM motors offer a great deal of freedom to configure the servo axes in a space-optimized way due to their variable, modular design.

The UR 5 and UR 10 designs use KBM motors from Kollmorgen. They are integrated directly into the axis joint without a housing.

The UR 5 and UR 10 designs use KBM motors from Kollmorgen. They are integrated directly into the axis joint without a housing.

Esben H. Östergaard, technical business manager of Universal Robots, values Kollmorgen's high availability of supply in a constantly growing market.

Esben H. Östergaard, technical business manager of Universal Robots, values Kollmorgen’s high availability of supply in a constantly growing market.

Close partnership with people: the robots from Denmark have been designed for collaborative work in production.

Close partnership with people: the robots from Denmark have been designed for collaborative work in production.

They developed the UR5 and UR10 models for small and medium-sized enterprises in particular. The handling units lift a payload of five and ten kilograms, but only weigh 18 and 25 kilograms themselves respectively. This low weight makes it possible to move the units easily without complex subcomponents. The multi-functional robots are just as flexible in operation given their user-friendly software. This multi functionality supports the Danish company with a user-friendly piece of software. Using this, the six-axis lightweight robots are ready for new tasks in no time. No special knowledge of robotics is necessary for the programming.

Modular Design
The exceptional ratio of dead weight to loading capacity is the result of a sophisticated lightweight construction that does not contain anything it does not need. With the drive technology, this minimalist strategy means integrating Kollmorgen’s frameless kit motors directly into the articulation axes. In so doing the robot takes on the function of the motor housing, while the gear unit simultaneously serves as the primary bearing of the rotor. Viewed as a whole, the components used by UR frequently take on multiple functions, and this ultimately reduces the number of mechanical components such as ball bearings, couplings, or shafts considerably, thus decreasing overall system weight and form factor. In addition, with their high power density, the Kollmorgen motors increase the lifting capacity of the UR5 and UR10 platforms. With their high power density, the KBM motors increase the lifting capacity of the UR 5 and UR 10 at the same time.

The KBM motor series offers advanced electromagnetic designs for optimized torque and minimal cogging and harmonic distortion. These benefits are offered over a large operating speed range. The electromagnetic technology with a high packing density in the stator increases torque and keeps thermal losses low. High strength rare earth magnets are used in the rotor, which allow a continuous torque of 1.45 to 3,445 newton meters along with a peak torque of 4.91 to 12,812 newton meters. “The high quality of these motors was a reason why we opted for Kollmorgen,” explains Esben H. Östergaard, technical business manager of Universal Robots.

Given that the KBM motors are embedded in the robot housing and directly drive the load, the robots are able to achieve high level of precision in movement and force control. Targeted force control is critical in this regard, because the robots constantly have to move different workpieces perfectly with high variability. In practice they recognize the size and elasticity of the objects and adjust the force to be applied accordingly. This force must be stronger than just 25 newtons to do this. With a precision of ± 10 newtons and an accuracy of ± 5 millimeters, the required force and desired position can be programmed and executed for each of the six joints.

Operation without noise but high energy efficiency
Another advantage of the robots is its low-noise and energy-saving operation. From a total-cost-of-ownership perspective, the economical use of resources directly increases the efficiency of the robots overall. The competitiveness of this technology thus increases as a result. An additional benefit of high energy efficiency is closely linked to reduced losses in the motors. As efficiency is high, less heat is produced. This means the motors stay cooler, operate below their maximum ratings, and consequently achieve a longer service life. The improved temperature behavior also prevents the entire construction from heating up. “The motors we used in the past became pretty hot when in continuous operation. Because of the lower losses, the KBM motors from Kollmorgen simply stay colder. We can therefore run our robots in continuous operation without derating,” states Östergaard, and he refers to test procedures with long operation periods and comparatively high loads.

The KBM series is an innovative direct drive frameless motor technology provided by Kollmorgen. The frameless kit motors offer mechanical and plant engineering a wide range of solutions for creating applications with a maximum degree of flexibility, power density, dynamics, and durability. In addition to the technical advantages provided by this product, the KBM platform includes 14 frame designs and many pre-engineered standard options with competitive lead times. “We can basically order as many motors as we want, when and how we want,” emphasizes Östergaard. This aspect is of particular importance because Universal Robots is growing strongly. “We therefore need a partner in drive technology who is a good fit for us.” In this regard, Kollmorgen was able to impress the Danish robot specialists with delivery reliability and has since established a UR-specific production line at the Czech location in Brno.


Invensys acquisition: “Now, it is up to how well we execute.”

24/03/2014
Craig Resnick of Arc says “Schneider Electric acquisition of Invensys creates value for automation market”

Schneider Electric announced the completion of its acquisition of Invensys on January 17, 2014. The acquisition of the €2.18billion ($3 billion) software, automation, and controls company will enhance Schneider Electric’s position as a solutions integrator, especially for automation in the process and power generation industries.

schinvThe merger should create synergies between the two companies’ software for energy automation, industrial automation, and process automation, while also providing a wider service base for its customers as the combined company will be able to reach more market segments throughout the world due to the minimal overlap of markets and customer base. Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and CEO of Schneider Electric, and Clemens Blum, Executive Vice-President of the Industry business unit both commented on the complementary technologies and capabilities of both companies and the potential value to their customers worldwide.

At their recent Orlando Industry Forum in Orlando (FL USA), ARC Advisory Group met jointly with leaders of both firms. Just weeks after beginning to collaborate, both firms talked about their high degree of cultural match, and voiced optimism for the merger as a growth deal, rather than acquisition of an installed base.

While clearly stating that Invensys developments and operations will continue, there are strong areas of shared knowledge that ARC expects to benefit both companies.

  • How will this translate to plant owner/operators, especially those who have been using Invensys products for many years?
  • How well will their investments be protected?
  • How will Schneider Electric position and use these products going forward?

Invensys’ large client base will need to hear specific and unequivocal answers to these questions before moving forward and extending their commitments to the newly merged organization.

The firms have been making joint calls on key customers and, according to company executives; a more detailed integration roadmap will be developed via a “transparent, thoughtful, and deliberate process.” While the merger now elevates Schneider Electric to the top rank of the automation business, as company executives acknowledged, “Now, it is up to how well we execute.”

Strategic Fit to Drive Higher Growth and Value Creation
From Schneider Electric’s perspective, the Invensys acquisition augments its business in industry and infrastructure by boosting its positions in key process segments and strengthening its software for operational efficiency. The company cites that industrial automation is a strategic and attractive business for the firm. As a global specialist in energy management, the solutions of the Schneider Electric Industry business unit are a key part of its portfolio. The Invensys assets help the company better address owner/operators’ challenges relative to productivity, input costs management, workforce scarcity, wage and raw material inflation, complexity of production constraints, and sustainable development.

Integrate Power and Automation
Owner/operators today seek solutions that converge previously separate domains, such as power and automation. This was a prime reason Schneider Electric went forward with this acquisition. Energy management in electro-intensive industries requires deeper architectural integration. Software is critical to converge IT and operational technologies to enable operational efficiency. Convergence involves integrating:

  • Business systems, such as customer management, order management, supply chain management, and document management
  • Operations management, such as production management, quality compliance, asset utilization, process analytics and decision support
  • Control and supervision, such as production automation systems, and interfaces for operators (HMI); and finally
  • Design and simulation, such as supply chain planning, process design, and simulation

What Invensys Brings to the Table
Invensys is a global automation player with large installed base and a major software presence. The company has strong credibility with end users in the refining, chemical, power, pharmaceutical, and food & beverage industries. The company has a strong software business, with particular strengths in HMI/plant intelligence, simulation, optimization, and asset management. It brings major brands in process automation and safety and global reach in process automation, safety, and instrumentation systems via its Foxboro, and Triconex brands. The Eurotherm brand adds temperature and process controllers.

In industrial software, Invensys is a major supplier, including design, simulation, optimization, operations management, and asset management via its Wonderware, SimSci, and Avantis brands. Except for parts of the Wonderware portfolio, these brands will fill obvious gaps in Schneider Electric’s process offering.

Invensys’ Market Position
With Invensys, Schneider Electric becomes a leader in process safety via Triconex process safety and critical control systems. Schneider Electric gets a DCS offering with a large installed base via Foxboro, which has significant brownfield expansion potential. Schneider Electric can expand this potential with its own portfolio of low and medium voltage drives, motor control, and smart infrastructure intelligence. The company also gains domain expertise and execution capabilities in key segments, including refining, petrochemicals and power generation. Schneider Electric will no longer be viewed largely as a strong factory automation company. With Invensys, it clearly becomes a strong process automation company as well.

Even more to the point, the combined software and product portfolio will provide a far more complete suite of converged automation and power solutions.

Conclusion
From ARC’s perspective, Schneider Electric’s acquisition of Invensys will be a positive development for owner/operators. Owner/operators would not have been as well served had Invensys been bought by a direct competitor focused more on its installed base, which would have introduced significant product redundancies and might well require expensive and painful migration.

Also, some owner/operators were uncertain of the long term prospects for Invensys remaining independent. That uncertainty can now go away. Schneider Electric has a strong balance sheet, a long-term commitment to industrial automation, and a very good track record with industrial acquisitions. The joint entity is also in an excellent position to supply the converged solutions in areas such as power and automation that many of today owner/operators seek.

Owner/operators, however, will want to see action and proof points to see how well this acquisition is being executed and how well the firm integrates its platforms to exploit obvious synergies.

ARC recommends that owner/operators should actively participate in the company’s upcoming customer conferences, looking for both continuity and a combined vision showing solutions that leverage both Invensys’ process solutions and Schneider Electric’s power and energy management solutions.


InTech steams into your iPad!

13/03/2014

We don’t usually plug automation publications per sé although we have from time to time publicised articles which we feel might be of interest to our visitors. One of the most respected publications in the Automation world is InTech, the periodical of the International Society of Automation. They have just launched a tablet version of the magazine – initially for the iPad but shortly for other platforms.

InTech Plus is a new mobile app from the ISA, for the Apple iPad that enables automation professionals to rapidly access, scan and digest a diverse range of technical and educational content—and utilize valuable tools and calculators—through a highly interactive and inviting format.  InTech Plus may be downloaded at no cost through the Apple App Store.

InTech Plus_Part One

“The InTech Plus mobile app has great new content delivered in a new and engaging way,” said Peggie W. Koon, Ph.D., ISA President. “Downloadable free of charge, InTech Plus connects automation and control professionals to all things automation. It’s interactive, intuitive, fresh and fun. From the latest technology news and ‘how-to’ videos featuring ISA subject matter experts to Q&As, quizzes and calculators, our new mobile app delivers added value to automation professionals on the go.”

Because InTech Plus provides on-the-go access—whenever and wherever—to an extensive array of automation content and functionality, Dr. Koon says it supports the ISA mission of better connecting automation and control professionals with the information they need and want.

“In addition,” she says, “InTech Plus represents our commitment to innovation, and to pursuing the ongoing development of new tools, products and programs with the “coolest delivery” available to our members and the automation community at large.”

A fresh and engaging format designed for ease of use
As users move through InTech Plus, they will immediately notice they’re engaging in a totally new way to view and digest information. Highly colorful and visual in approach, the pages feature intuitive navigation that will guide you to captivating success stories, to best-practice overviews, and to “quick-read” call-out boxes and sliders—all of which encourage you to learn more and dig deeper.

“ISA is extremely excited to introduce InTech Plus to the automation community,” says Susan Colwell, Manager of ISA Publications Development. “There is so much to discover and explore. Useful information and tools are on display right at your fingertips. Tap on a button to read about a hot topic or view helpful conversion tables, or get a refresher on a specific area of automation fundamentals, such as how to select field instruments. Polish up on wireless devices, HMI, pressure transmitters, level, temperature, batch and so on. Take a quick quiz on CCST® or CAP® certification. A slide of a finger will lead you to the next feature, video, fun fact or news item. Download a calculation or scientific app on the go, when you need it most. You can even learn about the history of automation.”

InTech Plus content, which will be updated on a regular basis, is derived through a variety of authoritative sources, most significantly through the insights and perspectives of ISA’s world-renowned subject matter experts. In addition, the entire spectrum of ISA’s products and services—including its automation standards; education, training and certification programs; technical symposia; publishing resources and leadership development capabilities—is represented.

While InTech Plus is currently only formatted for the iPad, Colwell says additional formats are under development.


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