Features

LK Metrology chooses Sempre as new partner

Industrial metrology specialist The Sempre Group and coordinate measuring machine (CMM) pioneer LK Metrology have announced a new partnership. The collaboration will enable the companies to bring productivity-enhancing digital quality solutions to the British and Irish automotive, aerospace, power generation, medical and precision engineering markets. The Sempre Group will now distribute LK Metrology’s full product range throughout the UK and will also launch the brand to the market in Ireland.

LK Metrology is a Derbyshire based CMM manufacturer with a long and pioneering history that includes many industry firsts. It supplies a complete range of premium bridge, gantry and horizontal arm CMMs for highly accurate and repeatable measurement, alongside multi-sensor CMM software to help automate inspection processes. Its products are used all over the world to control and improve component quality from design to quality assurance. After becoming an independent CMM manufacturer in 2018, LK Metrology was looking to expand its reach by partnering with a strong UK business. 

The Sempre Group was established to help British and Irish manufacturers improve productivity, reduce human error and demonstrate compliance in quality control. From its Gloucestershire facility, it offers a comprehensive suite of technology from a range of partners to enable it to suggest the best combination of systems and software for each individual measurement application. It also provides tailored solutions to help customers achieve specific outcomes. The company recently established a physical base in Ireland to help further serve its Irish customers and become Ireland’s leading supplier for metrology equipment, bespoke solutions and services.

“Sempre is a likeminded business, based on providing the right solution for each customer and we saw great synergy between our two companies,” explained Steve Shickell, sales, marketing and service director at LK Metrology. “We share the same goal to introduce the market to Quality 4.0 solutions that provide actionable information to enable manufacturers to improve their processes and performance. For example, providing true traceability through tiered supply chains to provide visibility, control and efficiency.”

“LK Metrology offers market-leading products, backed by its history as a true industry pioneer,” explained Jim Mangan, chief operating officer of The Sempre Group. “While the products do fill a gap in our product range, working together is about much more than shipping boxes. This partnership means we can provide the highest level of technical support and service to help customers meet their specific business objectives, be it reducing waste, improving yield or driving productivity. It is a pleasure to collaborate with such an esteemed British manufacturer.”

Air quality instrument manufacturer shortlisted for Collaborate to Innovate Awards 2020

South Coast Science has been shortlisted in the Information, Data and Connectivity category for its partnership with Ricardo Energy & Environment. 

South Coast Science operates on the principle that air quality data must be validated in the field, not in the lab. Validation in the field requires more research time and expertise than a lab-based exercise, therefore it’s tempting to sidestep extensive field testing. Which begs the question – is it really such a big deal how the data is validated?

In short, yes! Consumer confidence and the future of the industry depends on it. Low-cost air quality monitoring is a nascent industry and to really gain confidence in the market and therefore traction, the quality of the data output must be assured. Instruments must produce data proven to be accurate, repeatable and reliable across a wide range of environmental conditions.

Air quality can be a contentious issue, therefore confidence in the data must be high and (crucially!) visible to all stakeholders to engage a local community, drive behaviour change and support effective decision making in a commercial environment.

The clear need for validation with field data doesn’t, however, reduce the scale of such an undertaking. This is where partnership with global engineering and environmental consultancy Ricardo has played a key role in developing robust data.

South Coast Science has always followed an open approach to product development. It’s a pragmatic response to the need for transparency to build trust in the market. It also makes sense to collaborate with an independent expert to test and validate (relatively) new technology and it pays dividends in understanding customer requirements, dividing the effort and sharing the rewards.

The rewards of the collaboration so far? A repeatable and field-tested validation algorithm. Customers using Praxis devices have access to raw sensor values, as well as the corrected data. They can be confident of the results returned by using an error correction model tested in locations worldwide and verified by experts in their field.

This ongoing validation work puts South Coast Science’s devices in an excellent position to lead the way in preparation for upcoming air quality standards. This would have been impossible to achieve without an ongoing collaboration with Ricardo, Alphasense and others like the United Nations Environment Programme.

Responding to the market need for quality

The current situation means that manufacturers in all industry sectors are modifying their manufacturing processes. Here Yonatan Hyatt, CTO and co-founder of Inspekto, the company that developed Autonomous Machine Vision (AMV), explains how this technology is pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence (AI) to respond to market needs.

The success of machine vision in industrial manufacturing is due to the fact that it provides faster, more accurate and more cost-effective QA than manual visual inspection. However, traditional machine vision solutions also come with numerous disadvantages, such as cost, complexity and long periods of downtime for installation and training.

Autonomous Machine Vision (AMV)

To overcome these challenges, Inspekto developed Autonomous Machine Vision (AMV), a new category of machine vision for quality inspection.

Autonomous Machine Vision is a hybrid technology that merges computer vision, deep learning and real-time software optimisation technologies. Unlike traditional machine vision projects, systems in the AMV category are plug & play, self-contained products that any user can simply install on the production line without relying on a machine vision expert.

During set up, the user simply switches on the controller and ensures that the field of view (FOV) covers the location to be inspected. The user then places a good sample item in the FOV and uses a mouse to mark a region of interest for the system to detect defects in.

Unlike traditional QA solutions, which require hundreds or even thousands of good and defective sample products to be trained, Autonomous Machine Vision systems only require an average of 20 to 30 good samples, and no defective ones.

Autonomous Machine Vision flips the parameters of traditional QA. Instead of memorising what a defective item looks like, systems learn — much like a human being would — what a good one is supposed to look like.

Once in operation, an AMV system compares each image with the ones memorised during set up, verifying both the shape tolerances and surface variations to identify any defects. The system will then communicate the location of a defect to a human operator or to a programmable logic controller (PLC).

The image acquisition process

The autonomy in Autonomous Machine Vision is the result of several AI engines working in tandem. The algorithms developed by Inspekto make AMV systems self-setting, self-learning and self-adjusting.

A Video-Sensor-Optimisation AI engine automatically adjusts the illumination and camera parameters to the product being inspected and the environmental conditions, so the system can obtain the best possible image, with perfect focus, depth-of-field, exposure level and dynamic-range settings.

A Detection-and-Alignment AI engine automatically locates products in the 3D space. This means that the system will recognise products even if they appear in a different location or orientation then the ones it memorised.

While in operation, AMV systems keep learning — if a system flags an abnormality that the manufacturer deems as non-defective, the system will learn and not flag the same defect again in the future.

Maximum flexibility

Systems in the AMV category are not product-specific and can be used to inspect items produced in every industry, with any handling method.

AMV systems can communicate with the manufacturer’s PLCs via all common industrial protocols including PROFINET, Ethercat and Modbus and can be installed in every position along a Bosch profile, present in most manufacturing lines.

Leading manufacturers like Bosch, Pepsico, BSH, Mahle, Geberit, and Dailer are already using Autonomous Machine Vision, and Inspekto’s products now have a global footprint. In the post pandemic scene, more manufacturers across the world may choose to join these global players in embracing Autonomous Machine Vision.

Animal Husbandry: Sensors for monitoring emissions

Stunning methods are used to cause unconsciousness in animals prior to slaughter. Ideally, stunning will leave an animal insensible to pain and distress during the slaughtering process, while causing minimal distress in itself.

Of the available stunning methods, percussive or electrical methods are the most widely used but gas stunning may also offer an effective alternative compatible with maintaining high standards of animal welfare.

Gas stunning, otherwise known as Controlled Atmosphere Stunning (CAS), offers several animal welfare advantages over other stunning techniques as it means animals do not need to be shackled, separated from herds, or placed on conveyors for slaughter. There are several different approaches to gas stunning that use several mixtures of gas to render the animals unconscious, including gases such as nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide. Gas mixtures can be used not just for the stunning process, but for slaughtering the animals as well, which can be combined with CAS methods.

Regardless of the types of gases used, there are strict European regulations that have been in force in 2013 about measuring and monitoring the exact concentrations used to minimise animal distress.

Controlling Carbon Dioxide Levels

While insufficient carbon dioxide concentrations may leave animals still conscious at the time of slaughter, too rapidly increasing carbon dioxide concentrations have been shown to cause distress to animals including both pigs and poultry. This means to achieve the high carbon dioxide concentrations needed to render animals unconscious, many gas stunning schemes involve several phases of changing carbon dioxide concentrations to avoid any unnecessary distress. The UK also has the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 (WASK 95) that dictate that the carbon dioxide concentration must not exceed 30 %, and external devices must be used to measure by volume the maximum concentration with audible warning systems should concentrations deviate from the legislated limits.

While a great deal of care and attention is required for the control of gas stunning practices, when properly executed, humane stunning practices have a positive effect on final meat quality. Gas stunning methods can be very efficient as it minimises transport of livestock and herds can be stunned at a time, rather than requiring an individual operator to prepare and stun individual animals. The key to good practice, compliant with UK and EU legislation, is to have areas fitted with rapid-response online gas monitoring devices integrated into feedback and control systems for the stunning process.

Robust Gas Monitoring Solutions

Edinburgh Sensors have extensive expertise in field-deployable non-dispersive infra-red (NDIR) gas sensors. They have developed a range of real-time gas monitors, with several well-suited to carbon dioxide sensing for livestock stunning and slaughter for meat processing. These include the Guardian and GasCard NG.

Both the Guardian and GasCard NG offer highly accurate, online sensing capability for carbon dioxide with real-time data logging and the possibility to integrate the sensors with alarm features or other gas-monitoring sensors as required. The use of alarms with gas monitors is a key part of UK legislation for gas stunning processes and it is essential that any gas monitors used are extremely accurate, as small deviations in gas concentrations can cause issues with the stunning process and compliance with legislation.

Both sensors are based on the latest patented NDIR technologies with the Guardian NG offering a carbon dioxide detection range of 0 – 3,000 ppm and 0 – 100 % volume. There are a range of GasCard NG options that offer either similar specifications or larger ranges, including 0 – 5000 ppm.

Both devices are designed to be robust and accurate even with challenging, changing environmental conditions. The sensor readout is temperature, pressure, and humidity compensated, capable of ±2% accuracy across the full measurement range, even in 0 – 95 % humidity conditions. The NDIR sensors are designed with ease of use and installation in mind, and only require connection to a reference gas to be up and running.

The Guardian NG comes with its own onboard display and controls, including built-in programmable alarms and the capability for the graphical display of historical readings onboard the device. It boasts a rapid T­90 response time of less than 30 s from the inlet, so even when using complex programmed multistep stunning processes, the sensor can provide near-instantaneous input on changing concentration levels. The sensor enclosure is IP54 rated to prevent dust and environmental protection and ensure a robust and long-lived sensing device.

The GasCard NG is designed for integration into gas sensing systems, coming with two potential communications channels including true RS232 communications or the option of TCP/IP communications protocol. Accuracy of readings benefits from onboard barometric pressure correction in the range 800mbar to 1150mbar and the GasCard NG also has an operating temperature range of 0 – 45ºC compatible with all animal processing conditions.

Both devices come with commercial software solutions for data logging to minimise installation and start-up time and custom solutions in collaboration with Edinburgh Sensors for more complex needs are also possible. Edinburgh Sensor’s products can help you ensure the best welfare for your animals with precise and easy monitoring of carbon dioxide concentrations.

NI announces strategic collaboration with SET and Tech180

NI, SET and Tech180, experts in aerospace and defence test systems, announced a strategic collaboration to disrupt how test systems are designed, developed, and maintained. Together, the companies will deliver an innovative approach to test systems, including new products, hardware and software frameworks, an open systems reference architecture, and a paradigm-shifting System-on-Demand methodology.

“Conventional approaches for aerospace and defence test are badly outdated and in need of disruption. Engineers and enterprises are looking for new ways to leverage test as a competitive advantage, using it to reduce costs and accelerate product introductions while maintaining agility and equipment utilisation,” said Luke Schreier, Vice President and General Manager of NI’s Aerospace, Defence and Government Business Unit and new board member for SET. “We are confident that NI’s collaboration with SET and Tech180 will deliver the right approach and system-level capability necessary for our customers to meet test requirements at an accelerated rate.”

Aerospace and defence companies are challenged with soaring development costs and complexities due to the amount of embedded software, design, and integration challenges required in manned/unmanned aircraft, space launch vehicles, and new approaches for urban air mobility. At the same time, the pressure to develop faster continues to rise. Dated test approaches and equipment further exacerbate these challenges, making it difficult to adapt quickly to changing requirements and test earlier in the product life cycle. The Systems-on-Demand and model-based test approach delivered through this new collaboration will help customers shorten time-to-market schedules, reduce operational expenses, integrate labs, and optimise data and assets. As a result, more time can be spent ensuring the quality and safety of future products and less on building test systems.

“As both a developer and manufacturer for flight certified electronics and a specialist in aerospace electronics test systems, SET brings a deep understanding of the full development process,” explains Frank Heidemann, founder and CEO of SET. “Customers can no longer afford long processes as they strive for a faster time to market. By working together, this collaboration is expected to develop these new answers and fill a critical gap in the industry.”

“Incremental improvements to the status quo are not good enough,” adds Chris Bakker, CEO of Tech180. “Currently, there’s an enormous amount of duplicate engineering spent on test, consuming resources that can be put to better use in research and development. Achieving the velocity of innovation companies need requires a fundamentally different approach to test. A streamlined test strategy is the key to a better product strategy, and this collaboration provides the path to this evolution at scale.”

PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency selects ABB to automate world’s largest membrane bioreactor

PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency has awarded ABB a contract worth around $30 million to deliver a complete site-wide plant monitoring and control system for the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (WRP).

With a 30 percent more compact footprint than conventional plants, the Tuas WRP is a key component of the second phase of Singapore’s Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS), which is estimated to cost about $4.8 billion (S$6.5 billion). Tuas WRP will receive used water flows from the western part of Singapore via two separate deep tunnels and apply membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology to treat and purify 650,000m3/day of domestic used water to generate NEWater, with a further 150,000m3/day of used industrial water treated and sent back to industries for reuse. MBR is a filtration process where membranes are used to separate different substances.

Considered one of the world’s most water-stressed nations that has no natural water sources, Singapore is investing heavily in technology that will help it provide its growing population of 5.69 million and businesses with high-quality water in the future.

Peter Terwiesch, President ABB Industrial Automation, said: “Water demand in Singapore is currently about 430 million gallons a day, with homes consuming 45 percent and industry taking up the rest. By 2060, the need for water is expected to almost double. To meet this demand, it is essential to close the water loop and ensure every drop is collected, treated, and reused. We are happy to support this quest to treat and purify water at the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant, and simultaneously help to manage and save energy needed in the process.”

Leveraging its ABB Ability 800xA control platform and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), ABB will deploy process control systems across multiple facilities at the site. The overall system will integrate over 100,000 input/output signals from different assets including pumping stations, a wet weather facility, biosolids, domestic liquid and industrial liquid modules and product water storage, into one unified control platform, providing complete visibility of operations across the plant network. ABB will also deliver advance process control solutions to improve plant performance and efficiency.

Brandon Spencer, President of ABB Energy Industries commented: “The Tuas Water Reclamation Plant has been conceived as a compact and energy self-sufficient installation. Our solution will enable a small team of operators on site to gain complete visibility of operations and access to all process data to take decisions that optimise performance in real time.”

Integrating a power monitoring system alongside a building management system, operators will be able to monitor ventilation and air conditioning systems and, critically, manage energy utilisation across the site.

Alarm monitoring and security systems will also be deployed to help ensure industrial control, including cyber security solutions that assess threats and test vulnerability, meeting Singapore’s stringent cyber security requirements.  To support successful implementation and delivery of all systems, operators will be provided operator simulator training. ABB service teams will provide continuous asset, system monitoring and preventative maintenance for a further eight years after construction is completed.

Singapore is internationally recognised as a model city for integrated water management.  Its NEWater is a high-grade reclaimed water produced from treated used water that is further purified using advanced membrane technologies and ultra-violet disinfection, making it ultra-clean and safe to drink. It is a core pillar of water sustainability in Singapore. The Tuas Water Reclamation Plant is part of an integrated development known as the Tuas Nexus. The Tuas Nexus is a world-first greenfield development, which integrates two complex facilities that bring water and solid waste treatment processes together to harness synergies of the water-energy-waste nexus.

FLIR machine vision cameras are headed to Mars!

On 30 July 2020, NASA successfully launched their Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission, scheduled to land on the Red Planet on 18 February 2021. The primary mission is to search for signs of ancient microscopic life and collect the first ever Martian soil samples to bring back to Earth. But the NASA team is also preparing this trip for another first: footage of a spacecraft landing on another planet. For the first-ever filming of a spacecraft landing, the engineers included six FLIR RGB machine vision cameras.

Previous Mars missions have taken still photos of the planetary descent, but no landing has ever been filmed. While everything about a space mission takes expert engineering, landing the rover is an especially high-stakes endeavour. The entire process of entry, descent, and landing takes only seven minutes, during which a wrong move can leave the whole mission in flames.

Six FLIR CMOS cameras will be taking high-definition video of the spacecraft during entry, descent, and landing activity (EDL, i.e. the “seven minutes of terror”). The cameras used for the Mars mission are from the FLIR Chameleon3 family, and include five 1.3-megapixel CMOS cameras and one 3.2-megapixel USB camera. Most people know FLIR for thermal imaging, but the Chameleon3 cameras are examples of our range of leading edge non-thermal industrial machine vision cameras.

Render of the spacecraft demonstrating the location of the 6 FLIR CMOS cameras. Image by NASA Jet Propulsion Labratory California Institute of Technology.

Before entering the Martian atmosphere, the Perseverance will disconnect from the rocket stage, protected by a two-piece shell containing a parachute and a heat shield.

About seven miles from the surface, the parachute will deploy. Just before this point, three parachute up-looking cameras will begin recording, capturing footage of the parachute inflating supersonically.

Five miles off the ground, the heat shield will drop off and expose the rover down-look camera, which will start recording the rover’s progress as it’s lowered from the descent stage.

Then the rover will drop away from the back shell (and parachute). From there its descent will be managed by a rocket-powered descent stage called the “SkyCrane.” Another down-looking camera as well as an up-looking camera will start recording, and capture the moment the rover touches down on the surface and begins its historic mission.

The four parachute and descent stage cameras will be jettisoned with the back shell and descent stage. The up and down-looking cameras on the rover will remain attached, but engineers don’t expect them to survive too long in the harsh temperature extremes of Mars (they were designed for life on Earth, sorry NASA). But by that time, the unprecedented footage of spacecraft landing will have already been captured.

Though the cameras may not have been designed for operations in space, FLIR’s dedication to quality on both camera manufacturing and process control gave NASA confidence that any samples they evaluated would be representative of the units which were actually flown. FLIR machine vision cameras are designed and tested to work 24/7 in challenging industrial situations, but we have never had the opportunity to test in scenarios with no gravity and temperatures of absolute zero. Thanks to NASA for providing the extraterrestrial test!

Getting the landing footage back to Earth might take several weeks. NASA expects to record about 25,000 images in total at frame rates ranging from 12 to 75 images per second, in a format similar to cell phone footage. Once it arrives, we will be able to watch the very first real footage of a spacecraft landing on Mars.

Contrinex smart inductive sensors improve metal recycling yields

The global recycling industry relies upon advances in technology to automate waste-recovery operations. These make it economic to recover an ever larger proportion of domestic and industrial waste. Waste-management companies are always looking for more affordable alternatives for sorting and separating mixed-metal scrap as some of the existing processes, while effective, are inflexible and expensive.

Advances in sensor technology and capabilities have seen the introduction of induction sorting, a process that identifies and separates different types of metallic material. A fast-moving conveyor carries pre-sized waste over a bank of inductive sensors mounted below the belt; the sensors detect and identify any non-ferrous material, which is subsequently ejected and separated by a targeted air-knife.

To take full advantage of the process, OEM equipment builders require robust sensors that differentiate accurately and at high speed between ferrous and non-ferrous material, allowing a single bank of sensors to process mixed-metal waste in a single pass. As the sensors may operate independently or in combination with other sensing technologies, an industry-standard communication interface is highly desirable.

Designers specified rugged inductive sensors from the Contrinex Smart Sensor portfolio; an array of 50 metal-cased sensors, embedded in a grid pattern immediately below the belt, provides continuous detection across the full width of the conveyor. Best-practice electronic design ensures that Smart Sensors are individually shielded and EMC immune, eliminating interference when multiple devices operate in close proximity.

Mounted only a few millimetres from the target as it passes overhead, these M18 devices, which have a nominal sensing distance of 10 mm for carbon steel, generate analogue output signals that vary according to the material type. The Smart Sensors are easily able to accommodate the required range of conveyor speeds.IO-Link connectivity, standard across the range, provides an industry-standard interface to the machine control system, triggering the appropriate air-knives as pieces of non-ferrous material reach the separator. During initial calibration, each sensor’s configuration is stored automatically on the local IO-Link Master; this allows plug-and-play replacement of sensors should the need arise, without any loss of functionality and without any need for recalibration.

Contrinex inductive Smart Sensors are designed with the needs of OEMs and system integrators in mind and provide an unobtrusive fit-and-forget solution. On-board data storage holds cumulative operating data for user-specified purposes, including predictive maintenance. These highly versatile sensors meet designers’ needs for a robust and cost-effective solution that delivers exceptional accuracy and reliability in a particularly challenging environment.

Find more information and read other application examples go to www.PLUSAx.co.uk

Vaisala wins Finnish Innovation Award with novel biogas measurement instrument

The groundbreaking Vaisala MGP261 biogas instrument has today been announced as a winner in the Finnish Quality Innovation competition, where it won the Circular economy and carbon neutrality innovations category. After being recognised as an outstanding example of innovation in the field of sustainable technologies, the instrument now advances to the finals of the global Quality Innovation Award competition.

“This is a great recognition for a product as revolutionary as the MGP261. The Vaisala CARBOCAP MGP261 Multigas Instrument for Methane, Carbon Dioxide, and Humidity was first introduced in early 2019, with instant benefits for the biogas industry. The Vaisala MGP261 transforms waste into value: The better the entire process is monitored and optimised by reacting to changes in gas composition and humidity, the more efficient the biogas plant becomes. This translates directly into improved profitably for customers and is also good for the planet,” says Vaisala Project Manager Otto Tierto.

A sustainable solution for a greener tomorrow

Industrial and municipal waste and wastewater treatment plants, landfills, and even farms can produce electricity and heat from biowaste by using a combined heat and power engine. But running one profitably means improving the quality of the produced biogas; this has been a tough goal to achieve, until now.

The Vaisala MGP261 is the world’s first in situ three-in-one biogas measurement instrument. It works directly in the biogas stream and is Ex certified up to zone 0.

“We all need to do everything we can to halt the climate change by transitioning to a circular economy and turning waste into energy,” says Jutta Hakkarainen, Vaisala’s Industrial Measurements business’ Strategy and Business Development Director. “In a resource-efficient business, raw materials are used in an economical and sustainable manner instead of letting them go to waste. Vaisala’s MGP261 multigas instrument helps the biogas production processes become more efficient and improves the biogas quality.”

ifm has encoders that work in the wet

With an IP67 ingress protection rating, the new Rx3000-series incremental shaft encoders from ifm electronic can be used even in the wet environments that are often encountered in the process, pharmaceutical and food manufacturing sectors. In addition, they offer a superb price/performance ratio and feature a design based on advanced magnetic sensing technology which means that they are exceptionally robust yet easily able to match the accuracy of photoelectric encoders.

Rx3000 encoders have been designed with versatility, ease of selection and ease of use in mind. They can be readily programmed with resolutions from 2 to 10,000 pulses per revolution and can provide outputs at either TTL or HTL logic levels. They also incorporate an IO-Link interface which allows efficient capture of data and diagnostic information as well as straightforward and intuitive parameterisation.

To ensure suitability for the widest possible range of applications, the encoders use standard fittings and are available in both solid- and hollow-shaft versions. A choice of standard M12 connector, which can be positioned radially or axially, or a pre-wired connection is also offered. Operating voltage range is from 4.75 to 30 V DC, and the maximum switching frequency is 1,000 kHz.

Accessories available to complement and further extend the versatility of Rx3000 series encoders include spring-disc and flexible couplings, synchro flange fastening clamps, measuring wheels and mounting brackets.