Digitalized Monitoring of Pressure Filters
Numerous chemical manufacturers of all types utilize pressure filtration for solids/liquid separation. In my more than 25 years of experience in pressure filtration, I have witnessed countless pressure filters in operation. I can honestly say that at least 70% of the pressure filters I have witnessed in operation, most have been operating significantly below desired production rates, were producing less than desirable product quality and had extremely high operating expenses.
The world is constantly growing more global and competitive. In many cases companies that manufacture large scale pressure filtration have significantly reduced their customer support and service engineering staff that aid users of their pressure filtration machines. The result is that a customer will get start-up and commissioning service after the sale but after that the user is on their own to maintain and operate this machine. With competition for skilled technicians, the operators that received training for the new machines may have moved on to new companies within 2 – 3 years. Thus, the owner of the pressure filter loses the experienced personnel to run the pressure filter optimally.
Varying conditions affect filter performance
Pressure filters have numerous input that have varying conditions that can and do affect machine performance. For example, as the main slurry feed pump wears it can have drastic reductions to operating performance over time. The feed pump is just one of the many variables. The slurry tank, pressing water tank, air tanks and a lot of other variables can also affect machine dependability and product quality. Many pressure filters are highly automated and managing programming and operating maintenance can be highly challenging to operating staff.
Flowrox has recognized these challenges and has 42 plus years of pressure filter manufacturing, sales and service support of these machines. Flowrox has developed a proprietary pressure filter digitalization monitoring of pressure filter performance and advance warnings of potential or existing component failures that affect machine performance. Flowrox’ s digitalization package can be added to Flowrox pressure filters but also can be added to any type of pressure filtration that has digital or analog instrumentation on the machines that help operate the machines.
Smart Filtration and IIoT
In the following paragraphs I am going to try to explain how we helped one user of three pressure filters to improve their process. The customer was a mine in Northern Finland. Flowrox’ s headquarters are also in Finland. The mine was using three vertical tower pressure filters. Flowrox added one Flowrox Malibu™ Smart Cube to start monitoring and help provide optimization of the machines. Flowrox connected one LAN cable to the PLC of the filters and began to monitor more than 300 data points on those machines. Flowrox worked with the plant owners to set up KPI (key performance indicators) for those machines.
KPI page developed with customer to monitor pressure filters 1, 2 and 3.
When monitoring first began it was assumed that all the machines were highly utilized. But in fact, these filters were severely underutilized. Through digital monitoring, it was noticed that machine 3 was waiting up to 4 hours every day for auxiliary equipment. The manager of the filtration plant also spent 2 – 3 hours every Monday calculating last week’s production from various systems and excel pages for the filter plant. Now with smart monitoring everyone in the plant can see hourly production from the filter plant. Also, if these waiting times and production on machine 1 and 3 can be improved to the performance of machine number 2 then, production could increase by more than 88,000 kilograms per day. With a yield of 25% and zinc at $1.26 per U.S. pounds that could mean more than $18 million more saleable product per year.
Remote monitoring benefits
Flowrox provides digital twin imagery of the process and plant so that all stakeholders can visualize the process right on their smart phones, tablets or PCs. If there are any alarms Flowrox Malibu will send an e-mail or text to pertinent personnel to address issue early before they become more costly damages. Through remote monitoring of this customer’s process Flowrox noticed that the customer from time to time had issues with both the pressing water system and the compressed air systems.
One concerning issue that was recognized was that both systems had high pressure spikes in air and water. These spikes can lead to diaphragm, seals, cloth and worst-case plate damages. If a plate pack is damaged by one of these high-pressure spikes, then the total repair may approach $1M and significant downtime of that machine. Also are seals, diaphragms or the cloth is damaged they may bleed off expensive air and experience poor product quality.
Digital Twin Image of the filter plant with live updates of process variables.
Compressed Air and Pressing Water issues monitored by Flowrox remotely to improve machine efficiency and eliminate cost and machine downtime.
Why use IIoT and Flowrox Digital Services?
Flowrox manufactures pressure filters and ceramic disc filters as well as various valves and pumps. All Flowrox pressure filters are now being offered with Malibu monitoring as part of the standard offering. Most customers need continuous monitoring and help to keep their filters operating at peak performance. Flowrox also has a very significant group of service and support engineers to help with continuous training and service contracts. Pressure filtration properly run and managed can be a fine-tuned machine. But if not managed well the filtration plant can become a significant operating cost and bottleneck to the operation. Digitalization is one means to ensure your valuable plant assets keep running at peak performance, eliminate unwanted operational costs and eliminate unwanted downtime.
Flowrox Digital Services can be added to complete process monitoring or any type of OEM machine with digital or analog outputs. Also, additional instrumentation can be added to provide higher levels of monitoring. DCS or SCADA systems perform well and control the process. What is missing from most DCS or SCADA systems is a higher level of diagnostics utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Instrumentation costs have reduced and virtually any asset can be monitored for enhanced performance and cost savings. Flowrox Malibu will not replace the DCS or SCADA but rather is add on that performs complex analytics to improve results in both the process and operational expenses.
Flowrox Ceramic Disc Filter with Malibu Digital Services monitoring.
Todd Loudin, President North American Operations/V.P. Global Sales, Flowrox