Crossing the river – and how!

30/05/2017
This one of those stories which we wonder should we post or not as it is hardly strictly process automation or test & measurement. We have decided to include it because it is technologically interesting as well as an innovative application.

Since 19 November urban mobility in the Breton city of Brest (F) has been boosted by two cable cars carrying up to 60 people who travel more than 400 meters above the River Penfeld, with a power consumption that is potentially close to zero. Supported by Leroy-Somer (now part of Nidec Corporation) , the companies Bartholet France and Seirel are behind this achievement which is a world first in terms of technology.

Brest Métropole wants to refocus the city over the banks of the River Penfeld. The cable car system is aimed at strengthening the trade links between both sides of the river. With a range of 420 meters it links the city center with the new Capucins district, which has been built on 16 hectares of former military grounds. The structure designed in accordance with original and innovative technology where the two lines cross over each other via a “flyover” system is a first internationally. The two cable cars cross over each other instead of passing each other at the same level as traditional cable cars do, and they then arrive at the same platform. The scale of the system and the stations, including the ground required, are reduced as a result, thereby also resulting in a reduction in overall civil engineering costs. This is a particular benefit in an urban environment where space is limited. This innovative approach enabled preservation of the Capucins station building, which is protected as a national historical monument. As such the cable cars cross one single steel pylon which integrates into the surrounding environment of dockyards and their cranes. Each car is attached to two carrying cables 50mm in diameter stretched to 88 tones. The counterweight effect generally observed on mountain installations is avoided as the cable cars move simultaneously over most of the route.

Low power consumption
One of the challenges posed by Brest Métropole involved implementing a solution with low power consumption. The idea was therefore to recover the braking energy, but the energy operators have not yet systematically developed the full potential for reinjection of current into their network. The legislative framework provides for this, for solar energy production for instance, but certainly does not do this when the system consumes and reinjects current over very short cycles, as is the case in Brest. The solution therefore consisted in storing energy in super capacity batteries when the cable cars are descending, in order to then reuse this energy for the subsequent ascent.

The project was awarded to Bartholet France for the cable car system, and to Seirel, an expert in electrical equipment and safety automation, for the transportation via cable. “We made contact with several suppliers, and only Leroy-Somer had the experience with this type of application, and was also able to provide all of the electromechanical components”, explains Thomas Savin, project manager for Seirel Automatismes.

The IMfinity LC motor from Leroy-Somer drives the traction cables.

The heart of the system, i.e. the drive for the traction cables, is driven by two latest generation Leroy-Somer IMfinity LC 315 asynchronous motors (300kW, 1500rpm, 460V) with liquid cooling, assembled as master-slave on the same shaft. This installation provides the additional option of double redundancy since just one of the two motors is enough to continue operations in degraded mode (low speed). The motors are controlled by two Leroy-Somer Powerdrive MD2S inverters, which are in turn supplied by Powerdrive MD2R active front-end rectifiers connected to the power network. A DC converter, also from the Leroy-Somer range, enables management of the operations for the M65V385F supercapacitors developed by Blue Solutions (Bolloré Group). The supercapacitors have been specially designed to meet the needs of industrial applications requiring high power ratings. Meeting the most demanding functional specifications, they charge and discharge in just a few seconds and provide service lives of several hundred thousand cycles.

“This achievement would not have been possible without Leroy-Somer’s expertise in project engineering”, says Guillaume Bourgoint, marketing applications manager for Leroy-Somer. “Through relying on a huge range of motors and variable speed drives based on different technologies, we are able to offer our clients custom solutions in terms of drive and automation systems. As such, linking the IMfinity LC motor, characterized by silent power, with the Powerdrive MD2 inverter, with custom power, seemed like the obvious solution to us given the specifications and constraints of the application”.

“We appreciated Leroy-Somer sharing its expertise and helping us during the project design phase with its solution-based approach and experience. What’s more, having just one single point of contact responsible for all of the moving components was the perfect guarantee for us in a project as groundbreaking as this one. We specifically wanted one single supplier for the motors and their controls. We have traditionally used a different brand of converter, but configuring the Powerdrive MD2 from Leroy-Somer turned out to be child’s play”, adds Thomas Savin.

In the event of network loss, an emergency mode using an electric generator with a LSA 44.3 low voltage alternator, also manufactured by Leroy-Somer, enables the cable cars to be returned to the stations. Safety has been reviewed right down to the last detail in order to ensure protection against any eventualities.

“This is the first time a cable car system has included an energy recovery solution with batteries. This achievement is a direct reflection of our company, which is able to position itself on more complex engineering projects, and will no doubt be an inspiration for other projects around the globe”, explains Nicolas Chapuis, Managing Director at Bartholet France.

Silent and compact
“Another challenge in the project was that the area available for installing the motors was in the immediate proximity of the passengers. The project’s groundbreaking industrial design meant that the motors are just a few centimeters behind a glass cabinet visible to users. The equipment therefore had to be silent and compact for the purposes of the site ergonomics and for passenger comfort. Once again Leroy-Somer stood out against the competitors in this area too with its IMfinity LC motor solutions”, adds Nicolas Chapuis.

With liquid cooling, the IMfinity LC asynchronous motors are up to 25% more compact than a motor cooled using air with equivalent power. Their sound level is also reduced by 10 to 20 dB, thereby enabling optimum acoustic discretion. This benefit is explained by the efficiency of the cooling circuit which surrounds the motor system entirely. Its dependable design and Premium IE3 energy efficiency make it one of the most accomplished motors in the IMfinity range. “The LC series, available from 150kW to 1.5MW, is ideal for all cases where the motor is close to the operators or users of the application. It meets the increasingly urgent need for acoustic comfort related to working equipment for teams in workshops or for users located nearby”, explains Guillaume Bourgoint.

Significant benefits
The route for this cable car system is particularly suitable for an energy recovery system, as it is implemented initially during ascent and then during descent, with the departure and arrival points both being at an equivalent altitude. Energy is consumed in order to arrive at the line’s summit point. Once this point has been crossed, the descent phase constitutes a source of braking energy that can be reinjected into the system in order to supply the ascent once again, thereby resulting in a very significant reduction in energy costs.

“This achievement could potentially be used as an example for other industrial applications, such as for lifting”, explains Thomas Savin. “The theoretical energy savings amount to more than 90%, but the main obstacle today relates to the supercapacitors. Here we sized them in order to store around half of the energy required, and this itself represents an investment of 200,000 euros. This cost will probably fall rapidly in the near future”.

A porthole provides the braver passengers with a vertical view of the cable car’s route!

@Leroy_Somer #PAuto #France #Transport


Treating wastewater as a resource.

27/09/2016
A number of British landfill operators are turning wastewater into a resource by utilising OTT monitoring and control systems to manage the irrigation of Willow crops (for renewable energy generation) with pre-treated effluent.

Background
Leachate from landfill sites represents a significant potential environmental liability, extending long into the future after a landfill site has closed. Conventional treatment and disposal options involve biological treatment and consented discharge to either the wastewater treatment network or to the environment. Alternatively, effluent may be collected by tanker for treatment and disposal off-site. However, to improve sustainability and broaden the treatment options, work initiated in the 1990s developed an approach that sought to use effluent as a source of nutrients and water for a Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) crop planted upon the restored landfill.

Willows fed on wastewater!

Willows fed on wastewater!

Following the success of early trials, the Environment Agency published a Regulatory Position Statement in 2008, which said: ‘SRC as part of a landfill leachate treatment process… is a technique (that) can be an environmentally acceptable option if managed appropriately.’

Early systems were operated and managed manually but with the addition of OTT sensors, telemetry and control systems, the process was automated to optimise irrigation and maximise both the disposal of effluent and biomass yield.

Willow SRC has become increasingly popular in environmental restoration work, providing a cost-effective material for stabilisation and reclamation of disturbed landscapes, bioremediation and biomass production.

SRC involves the planting of high yielding varieties of willow at a high density, typically 15,000 plants per hectare. The crop can be expected to last for around 30 years, with harvesting taking place every 3-5 years, and yields varying from 8 to 18 tonnes of dry woodchip per hectare per year. Willow grows quickly and has a particularly high demand for water, so it is ideal for the disposal of large volumes of treated effluent. In addition, the high planting density results in the development of a dense root hair system; effectively creating a biological filter for the treatment of organic compounds and the absorption of nutrients and some heavy metals. Soil fauna help to break down the effluents applied to the crop and soil particles control the availability of nutrients to the willow.

Monitoring and control
In early schemes, irrigation was managed manually on a timed basis with irrigation quantities based on external estimates of evapotranspiration. However, increased levels of monitoring and control are now possible. OTT’s Matthew Ellison explains: “The key objective is to supply the crop with an optimised amount of water, whilst minimising the requirement for staff on site. Too much irrigation would cause run-off and too little would under-utilise the treated effluent and result in poor growth conditions which would affect yield and potentially threaten the crop.

Soil moisture sensors

Soil moisture sensors

“An on-site weather station feeds local weather data to the system which uses crop data to predict evapotranspiration that is used to determine irrigation rates. Soil moisture sensors then check that soil moisture status is correct. Other sensors monitor the performance of the system; checking irrigation feed reservoir level, in-pipe pressure and there are sensors to check flow rates from the drip-feed irrigation. This communication capability is made possible with OTT’s Adcon Telemetry radio network.

“Our latest monitoring and control equipment automates the management of the system for unattended operation and staff are only required by exception. This means that the system is able to operate autonomously, delivering regular data reports, and staff are notified by email or text if alarm conditions occur.”

Emphasising the advantages of controlling the entire network, Matthew adds: “This system facilitates the ability to control and synchronise the main pump, and to open and close the valves at each irrigation zone.”

The latest OTT monitoring and control systems include:

  1. Soil moisture sensors
  2. Irrigation tank level sensors
  3. Irrigation function check sensors
  4. Pipe valves and pressure sensors
  5. Automatic weather station (to calculate local evapotranspiration)
  6. Radio telemetry
  7. ADCON Gateway and PC running addVANTAGE software
  8. Internet connectivity for remote log in

Summary
Looking back over a number of SRC projects, Stephen Farrow one of the instigators of this approach in the UK, and now an Independent Consultant says: “When viewed practically, environmentally and commercially, experience has demonstrated the viability of the overall approach.

“It is also clear that process optimisation with relatively low cost investment in OTT’s monitoring and control equipment has significantly added to the support functionality in terms of both operation and regulatory management.’’

OTT’s Matthew Ellison agrees, adding: “SRC clearly offers a sustainable option for effluent treatment, with highly positive effects on carbon footprint and biodiversity.

“In addition to the environmental benefits, process automation has significantly reduced labour requirements and helped to demonstrate compliance with the site-specific requirements of the Environment Agency.”


Creating 1000 times more power with submersible load measuring pins.

22/07/2016
“Our DBEP load measuring pins and DSCC pancake load cells were ideal to use in this marine application, as both can be readily customised, including dimensions and IP ratings, to make them fully submersible” says Ollie Morcom, Sales Director of Applied Measurements Ltd.

Ocean and tidal currents are a sustainable and reliable energy system. Minesto’s award winning product Deep Green converts tidal and ocean currents into electricity with minimal visual and environmental impact. Minesto’s Deep Green power plant is the only marine power plant that operates cost efficiently in areas with low velocity currents.

DBEP

Pre-assembly of DBEP pin on Deep Green

DBEP Load Pin
• Fully Customisable
• IP68 to Depths of 6500 Metres Available!
• Stainless Steel – Ideal for Marine Applications
Minesto needed to measure the strut force in Deep Green’s kite assembly. The measuring device needed to withstand permanent underwater submersion. “Our load measuring pin’s stainless steel construction and ability to be customised to IP68 submersion rating made this the ideal choice for use in Deep Green’s control system”, explains Ollie Morcom, Applied Measurements’ Sales Director. Their 17-4 PH stainless steel construction makes them perfect for marine and seawater applications. The DBEP load measuring pin was modified to have an IP68 protection rating to a depth of 30 metres and was fitted with a polyurethane (PUR) submersible cable and cable gland, ensuring the entire measuring system was suitable for this underwater marine application.

Deep-Green-cu-219x300The load measuring pin needed to fit within Deep Green’s control measuring system. The load measuring pin’s dimensions can be customised to suit a specific design. As Deep Green needed to retain its small and lightweight construction, the DBEP load measuring pin was manufactured to their exact dimensions, ensuring that it fitted within the control assembly without adding unnecessary additional weight to the structure, thus maintaining the efficiency of the Deep Green kite.

What is Deep Green?
Deep Green is an underwater kite assembly with a wing and a turbine, attached by a tether to a fixed point on the ocean bed. As the water flows over the kite’s wing, the lift force from the water current pushes the kite forward. The rudder steers the kite in a figure of 8 trajectory enabling Deep Green to reach a velocity 10 times faster than the water current, generating 1000 times more power. As the water flows through the turbine, electricity is produced in the gearless generator. The electricity is transmitted through the cable in the tether and along subsea cables on the seabed to the shore. Customised versions of our DBEP load measuring pins and DSCC pancake load cells are used within the control system of the kite.

DSCC_Pancake_Cell

DSCC Pancake Cell

DSCC Pancake Load Cell
• Fully Customisable
• Low Physical Height
•Optional: IP67, IP68 and Fatigue Rated Versions Available
• High Accuracy: <±0.05%/RC
Minesto also needed to monitor the varying tension load of the tether created by the wing. Using our high accuracy DSCC pancake load cells we were again able to make a custom design to fit into their existing assembly. Our pancake load cells are also manufactured from stainless steel and can be modified with alternative threads, custom dimensions, mounting holes, higher capacities and higher protection ratings. The DSCC pancake load cell used in Minesto’s marine power plant was IP68 rated for permanent submersion in seawater to 50 metres depth. The pancake load cells design delivers excellent resistance to bending, side and torsional forces and its low profile makes it ideal where a low physical height is required.

ICA2H Miniature Load Cell Amplifier
Within the pancake load cell we fitted a high performance ICA2H miniature load cell amplifier. The ICA2H miniature amplifier is only Ø19.5mm and 7.6mm high and is designed to fit inside a broad range of strain gauge load cells where a larger amplifier cannot. It has a low current consumption and delivers a 0.1 to 5Vdc high stability output. Using an integrated miniature amplifier kept Deep Green’s control assembly small and lightweight. The ICA2H miniature amplifier was chosen because of its high stability and fast response which is essential for the safe and efficient operation of Deep Green.

“We really enjoyed working with Minesto on this fantastic marine project.”

@AppMeas #PAuto #Power

Energy efficient obsolete technology has a new name.

15/11/2015

You may already be familiar with the phrase ‘Eco Obsolete Technology’ (EOT), but you may not be aware of what it refers to or how it came about. The phrase was created by obsolete automation components supplier, European Automation as a way of referring to obsolete technology that is energy efficient and therefore compliant with the latest energy efficiency standards.

EPA272The lion’s share of European Automation’s sales comes from obsolete industrial automation parts that can be several decades old. In recent years, European Automation’s sales team noticed an increase in the energy efficiency requirements of its clients, as a result of tightening energy regulations for industry. The concept of Eco Obsolete Technology was born out of the need to make conversations with clients easier.

“With international standards such as ISO 50001 and programmes like the Ecodesign Directive and the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme, being energy efficient is as important as being cost efficient to many plant managers,” explains Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director of European Automation. “Implementing Eco Obsolete Technology fulfils both objectives, reducing your carbon footprint whilst avoiding a costly system upgrade.

“Over specification is a historic issue in the world of industrial automation, especially when it comes to motors. It is not until the equipment is tested by a lead assessor that energy efficiency questions start being asked.”

“Many business owners think that cutting their carbon footprint will prove costly. In fact, by implementing Eco Obsolete Technology in your facility, you can significantly improve your efficiency for a considerably smaller cost,” explains Jeremy Lefroy, current MP for Stafford constituency. “Across the UK, many manufacturers are already using Eco Obsolete Technology without knowing it. By giving this type of technology a name, European Automation is reaching out to the industry as a whole and encouraging the conversation on energy efficiency.”


European Automation can provide almost any spare EOT part to be retrofitted into a system. With a vast network of authorised suppliers, European Automation sources and delivers energy efficient obsolete parts anywhere in the world in record time. European Automation also publishes online magazine, AUTOMATED, which focuses on industry specific content such as special reports and useful guides. The magazine is published in print every three months.

@EUAuto #EOT #Environment #PAuto


High-Fidelity battery modeling.

26/05/2015
The use of virtual battery technology in the design of test systems can facilitate the development of better products, reduce project risks, and get products to market faster.

The use of rechargeable batteries in consumer products, business applications and industrial systems continues to grow substantially. The global market for all batteries will reach almost €68 billion (US$74b) this year, and rechargeable batteries will account for nearly 82% of that, or €55 billion (US$60b), according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan.

Figure 1: Simulation of thermal runaway using the Li-Ion model from the MapleSim Battery Library

Growth like this means several things. First, large companies have moved or are moving into the market, designing and offering products ranging from hand-held devices to large power back-up systems. Second, as the systems get larger, battery technologies have to match the technical challenges of increasing cell capacity, thermal stability, life extension and disposal.

Meeting the Technical Challenges

Monitoring and controlling larger cell arrays through Battery Management Systems (BMS) helps to minimize charge times and maximize efficiency and battery life. Design and testing of a sophisticated BMS can pose challenges, however, as was discovered by one of the largest producers of electronic products in the world. That’s why they recently relied upon Maplesoft and ControlWorks Inc., a real-time testing systems integrator with deep experience developing BMS test stands, to develop a Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) test system for the BMS in one of their large  Energy Storage System (ESS) products.

An attractive solution to these testing challenges is to use virtual batteries – mathematical models of battery cells that are capable of displaying the same dynamic behavior as real ones – for early-stage testing of the BMS. Not only have these models proven to be highly accurate, they are computationally efficient and are able to achieve the execution required to deliver real-time performance for batteries containing hundreds of cells on real-time platforms.

The battery modeling technique employed by Maplesoft uses a partial differential equation (PDE) discretization technique to streamline the model to a set of ordinary differential equations (ODE) that can be readily solved by system-level tools like MapleSim. The advanced model optimization features of MapleSim also allow the resulting code to be very fast and capable of running in real-time.

The resulting battery models can also be employed in the prediction of charge/discharge rates, state of charge (SoC), heat generation and state of health (SoH) through a wide range of loading cycles within complex, multi-domain system models. This approach provides the performance needed for system-level studies with minimal loss in model fidelity. The user can also allow for energy loss through heat, making these models useful for performing thermal studies to determine component sizes in cooling systems to manage battery temperature. Not carefully controlling the temperature can lead to reduced operational life or, in extreme cases, destruction or even explosion due to thermal runaway, a common problem in many battery-powered systems.

Model Structure for this Application
For the purpose of this ESS test system development project, the key requirements for the battery model were:

-Up to 144 Li-Ion polymer cells for testing the BMS of the client’s ESS products
-Ease of configuration for different requirements (parallel/series networks)
-Several sensors per cell (current, voltage, SoC, SoH)
-Variation of chemistry make-up due to manufacturing tolerances
-Fault-insertion on each cell (open-circuit, shorting)
-Capacity to run in real-time (target execution-time budget of 1 ms)
-In the case of energy storage systems, like this example, each ESS battery is made of several “stacks” that, in turn, contain several cells. The MapleSim model follows this structure with each cell being a shared, fully parameterized subsystem. Each cell can also be switched to open circuit using logical parameters.

Figure 2: Cell stack model

The stack model is made of 18 cell subsystems connected either in parallel or series, depending on the requirement. Input signals are provided for charge balancing from the BMS. Output signals are provided back to the BMS to monitor the condition of the stack (supply voltage, SoC and SoH). Finally, the full ESS is made of several stacks with IO signals fed to and from the BMS.

Figure 3: ESS Battery model

Model Calibration and Validation
Much of the accuracy of this model is dependent on experimentally derived parameters, determined from charge/discharge test results. Project engineers determined that any deviation in performance due to manufacturing variations needed to be included in order to test the charge-balancing capability of the BMS. Instead of testing every cell, engineers relied on random variants generated from the statistical distribution determined by the charge/discharge test results on 48 cells. This was applied to all 144 cells and then compared with the real test results. The maximum variance of the voltage from the experimental data was 14mV, while from the simulation it was 13mV, acceptable for the purpose of this project.
Maplesoft and ControlWorks Inc. engineers also determined the average cell response using the parameter-estimation tool supplied with the MapleSim Battery Library. This uses optimization techniques to determine the values of cell-response parameters that provide the closest “fit” to the experimental results. This response was then validated against response data from other cells to ensure close estimation of the resulting model.

SoH behavior was implemented as a look-up table based on experimental results. The model determines the capacity and internal resistance based on the number of charge/discharge cycles and depth of discharge (DOD) from the lookup.

Figure 4: SoH simulation showing effect on battery voltage

Finally, the model was converted to ANSI-C through the MapleSim Connector, producing an S-Function of the battery model that can be tested for performance and accuracy with a fixed-step solver on a desktop computer in MATLAB/Simulink® before moving it to a real-time platform. The simplest solver was used and the performance bench showed that the average execution time was approximately 20 times faster than real-time, occupying 5.5% of the real-time system time budget. This shows that the battery model can be easily scaled up, if required.

The end result was a battery model capable of being configured to represent a stack of up to 144 cells that can be connected in any combination of parallel and series networks. Fault modes were also built-in, such as individual cells shorting or opening, as well as incorporating variations in charge capacity from cell to cell, and degradation of capacity over the life of the cells.

The final BMS test station provides the client’s engineers with the ability to configure the battery model (number of cells, series/parallel, etc.) and apply a range of tests to it. The engineer can go back to the MapleSim™ model at any time to make any necessary changes to the model configuration, and then generate the model for use on the real-time platform. In this system, the real-time software is National Instruments’ VeriStand™, driving a PXI real-time system. The MapleSim Connector for NI VeriStand™ automates the model integration process, allowing the engineer to produce the real-time model quickly and reliably.

The ControlWorks Inc. system also integrates real-time platform, signal processing, fault-insertion tools and standard communications protocols (CANbus for automotive, Modbus for industrial applications), allowing the engineer to run the BMS through a range of tests on the battery model, including Constant Current (CC) and Constant Voltage (CC/CV) charge/discharge cycles, as well as Constant Power (CP) and Constant Resistance (CR) discharge cycles.

“We were pleased to be able to partner with Maplesoft on this project,” said Kenny Lee, PhD, Director of Research Center of Automotive Electronics, ControlWorks Inc. “The use of battery models in this case proved to be an effective alternative to the use of real batteries,” he added.

Summary
Test automation and simulation is critical in system-level testing, allowing time and cost of failure analysis, constant development pressure, expense of repeated tests, and lengthy set-up times all to be addressed.

“The use of high-fidelity, ready-made battery models allows the engineer to avoid the risks of damage to batteries, along with subsequent costs, while testing and optimizing the BMS design in a close-to-reality loading environment,” said Paul Goossens, Maplesoft VP of Engineering Solutions.
The use of virtual battery technology in the design of test systems can facilitate the development of better products, reduce project risks, and get products to market faster.

“The MapleSim model of the Li-Ion battery was selected because of its proven ability to achieve real-time performance. The code-generation and compilation tools are very easy to use, making the integration of the model into the HIL system very fast and cost-effective. That, plus the excellent development support we received from Maplesoft’s Engineering Solutions team made this a very smooth project.”  Kenny Lee, PhD, Director of Research Center of Automotive Electronics, ControlWorks Inc.


ABB Process instrumentation, analytical technology and gas detection in Ireland

19/01/2015

Hanley Measurement & Control has built a reputation for the supply of specialist solutions and expertise in process instrumentation, process analytical technology and gas detection. Founded in 1981 it has long been considered as a leading automation in Ireland. The company has recently been appointed as channel partner in Ireland by ABB, to expand its instrument and analyser offering into the Irish process market

Left to Right: Chris Kennedy, Gavin O’Driscoll & Eoin O’Neill of Hanley Measurement & Control together with Aidan Edwards of ABB stand next to a representation of a 3 meter magnetic flowmeter (the largest every supplied!) during a recent visit to the ABB flow meter manufacturing facility in Stonehouse, GB.

Left to Right: Chris Kennedy, Gavin O’Driscoll & Eoin O’Neill of Hanley Measurement & Control together with Aidan Edwards of ABB stand next to a representation of a 2.4 meter magnetic flowmeter (the largest every supplied!) during a recent visit to the ABB flow meter manufacturing facility in Stonehouse, GB.

The partnership will see the company acting as the official sales agent for ABB’s complete portfolio of instrumentation and analyser products for applications in the pharmaceutical, chemical, food and beverage and other related industries.

Chris Kennedy, Managing Director of Hanley Measurement & Control commented that “partnering with ABB enables the company to provide its customers with an enhance product range specifically in relation to flow measurement and analytical solutions.”

Commenting on the partnership, Tim Door, General Manager for ABB’s Measurement and Analytics business in the Britain and Ireland says: “The partnership with Hanley Measurement and Control marks a positive move forward that underlines our intent to grow our presence in the Irish process market. The company is a great fit for our growing range of measurement and control products for improving process performance and efficiency.”

“Utilising a well-known and respected partner such as Hanley Measurement & Control will allow our customers in Ireland to get full access to support and service going forward into 2015 and beyond.”

• Following the completion of a management buyout Hanley Measurement & Control is no longer part of the Hanley group of companies. Hanley Measurement & Control is now a subsidiary of Eolas Scientific which also has an operating company in the UK called Eolas Technology. The management team of Chris Kennedy, Gavin O’Driscoll and Eoin O’Neill are committed to ensuring our customers receive exceptional service and a world class range of products.

Increased yields can help drive emobility uptake!

24/07/2013
The benefits of renewable energy sources such as water, wind and solar power are well known, and electric cars are not a new concept.  However, to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which will be exhausted in just one century, efficient ways of mass producing the cells need to be established.

The electric motor can be up to four times more efficient than the combustion engine.  Given the finite nature of fossil fuels, the uptake of electric cars or emobility as it is now called is inevitable.  However, what does this mean for automation technology?  Steve Sands, Product Manager at Festo GB, reviews the current situation.

eleccarFossil fuels are expected to be depleted by 2112 and a report by WWF says that in Great Britain one in 17 cars by 2020, and one in six by 2030, must be electric if they are  to meet emission targets and bring an end to a dependence on oil.  This means that 1.7 million electric vehicles  will need to be put on the road by 2020 and then treble take-up of the technology in the following decade if it is to meet its climate change targets.

However, there were only 1,052 claims on the British government electric car subsidy in 2011 and one of the barriers to the adoption of electric vehicles is their cost.  Despite government grants the vehicles are still expensive, constrained in supply and there are too many good conventional alternatives.

For electric cars to compete against Britain’s fleet of 31m fossil fuel cars they need to be more affordable.  Consumers will only accept emobility suitable for daily use when the batteries allow a sufficient distance to be travelled and their cost does not increase the vehicle price compared with an equivalent petrol or diesel model.

Expensive batteries
Currently between 30 and 40 per cent of the cost of electric vehicles is down to the battery.  Battery production manufacturing costs are high and there is a lot of research into alternative materials and processes.  For now, one way to reduce cell costs is through increasing efficiency in automation.

The problem is that battery lithium-ion production is still predominately a manual process with a large number of individual steps.   During the battery manufacturing process, two battery cells are bonded by a foil.  Each cell is bonded to a copper plate and several double cells are combined to form a battery pack.  With conventional automation processes the cells can only be gripped in certain places using vacuum generators. This means that reliable holding of the cell is not guaranteed.

The handling of sensitive lithium-ion cells is a major challenge for battery manufacturers as the cells can be easily damaged or contaminated during the manufacturing process.  If we are to eventually have efficient mass production, we need to set up technologically flexible electrode and cell production for the manufacture of battery prototypes with a high degree of standardisation and automation.  Mechatronic solutions which integrate expertise from different areas of process and factory automation and transfer it to the latest technologies in battery production look promising.

Air bearings as a solution
ads-tec, a company which develops automated production systems for high performance lithium energy storage devices first developed a production method for automating the bonding, feeding and handling of cells on a laboratory scale.  The aim was to provide production facilities that would allow the fast, low cost production of cells and battery systems.

festoemobilityEngineers worked with Festo to develop a new front-end solution for handling lithium-ion cells, with an air bearing.  The ATBT air bearing was initially designed for use in the solar or electrical manufacturing industry.  It produces an evenly distributed layer of air on its fine surface, which allows delicate objects to glide smoothly, enabling the reliable contactless transport of sheets of glass and delicate film.

Festo’s experts have now applied the technology to battery production, by making use of a reverse effect.  Instead of ‘blowing’ air, the air bearing draws a vacuum which is distributed over the large surface.  Their ATBT suction pad has been used in a battery bonding prototype machine, where it is ideal for handling, clamping and holding the delicate cell packs during production

FT01354As the new air bearing grips the entire surface of the battery plate, the bonding process is no longer prone to stress fractures caused during production.  It is proving to be an effective solution for efficient automation processes and increasing productivity.

Despite their higher costs the level of acceptance for electric cars is growing worldwide.  This applies in particular to the emerging markets of China and India, where mobility is also rising.  92% of people in India and 88% in China are willing to consider an electric car if buying a new car within the next five years.  In Britain and France this figure is only 57%, but the number is rising and production innovation will help reduce costs and bring forward the emobility revolution!