Customer needs translate to improved products

Andy Mangell

A guest blog from Andy Mangell. Andy is the sales director at Premier Control Technologies, a UK based process control technologies and products distributor which represents Alicat products. Andy has over 30 years of experience with pressure and flow control instrumentation. He can be reached at andymangell@pctflow.com.

Alicat Scientific’s standard product line is fast, versatile and tough. Their instruments make our customers’ jobs easier and more accurate, while reducing the number of instruments required. People love how easy they are to use and the short lead time between ordering and receiving the instrument. For both OEM producers and small research operations, Alicat’s ability to refine and customize instruments for their specific process is key to getting the best instrument to the customer. Listening to what customers need and anticipating improvements is how Alicat has been able to innovate and be the fastest mass flow controller company.

Since its foundation some 27 years ago, the concept of constant innovation and product development has been pivotal to the company’s remarkable success. Specifically, areas such as bi-directional mass flow measurement, precision pressure control within dead-ended non-flowing applications, multi-parameter measurement and control, true multi-gas capability and high turn-down have all benefited from the dedication to innovation. 

Bi-directional mass flow measurement

By the application of either a positive or negative set-point signal, Alicat has enabled the possibility to control flows into a process in one direction first and then to switch into the opposite direction. Alternatively, flows can be controlled into a closed process and then vented without the need for additional bleed valves. Due to the inherently bidirectional nature of the Alicat sensor, the flow is measured in both directions and a net total provided if required.

Dual-valve precision pressure control

Precise control of pressure reduction and pressure relief valves from a single setpoint signal ensures process pressure remains stable, independent of other variables. Such processes as head space pressure control, glass reactor protection and the elimination of costly out-gassing through continuous bleed valves all benefit from this innovation. Alicat electronic pressure controllers provide responsive, stable control of absolute, gauge or differential pressures in dead-ended processes.

Multi-parameter measurement and control

Measurement of multiple parameters on the one instrument (mass flow, volumetric flow, temperature and pressure) enables the user to eliminate additional components within a system and the pipework/fittings required to install them, in addition to cables and electronic signal conditioning. All parameters are displayed on a single screen for easy monitoring of process gases or liquids. Any of the measurement parameters can be enlarged in the centre position for reading at further distances from the instrument. All of the displayed parameters are measured in real time, which allows you to look at the device display and quickly get an idea of how your process is operating. When a process begins to falter, this information can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to diagnose and repair the failure. All Alicat mass flow controllers can be changed to pressure controllers or volumetric controllers via digital interface or via the display. The user can monitor mass flow while controlling pressure or vice versa.

True multi-gas capability

COMPOSER ™ gas mix composition software, available with color display

COMPOSER ™ gas mix composition firmware, shown on a color display

Following continuous innovation and development over the years, Alicat instruments are now preloaded with up to 130 full gas calibrations, thereby eliminating the additional measurement uncertainty introduced by conversion factors. Complete NIST REFPROP gas properties data has been loaded for each of the gases, ensuring that both the standard accuracy and optional high accuracy statements remain valid, regardless of the gas. The benefits to the user are significant. Instruments are no longer limited to just one application; once a certain project has been fulfilled, the MFC can be used again for a different project with different gases. Similarly, even within a single project, fewer instruments are required to meet the needs of multiple gases or multiple flow rates.

Wide turn-down range

Turn-down ratio is a measure of the usable range of an instrument, expressed as the full-scale range divided by the minimum point of measure. It indicates how much of the instrument range can produce accurate readings, which is very important when you want to measure or control a very wide flow range without having to change instruments. Most Alicat instruments have a turn-down of 200:1 as standard (i.e. as low down as 1/200th of the full scale), although with engineering collaboration and PD²I tuning this could be extended even further. As with multi-gas capability, the benefits are again significant: fewer instruments are required to cover a wide measured flow regime, and this results in cost savings for the user.

 

As a result of over two decades of development and innovation, a range of useful flow and pressure measurement and control devices has been established that, at their very core, have been designed to help the user make their life and work easier. This innovation will never stand still, and Alicat would welcome the opportunity to assist with any challenges you face and attempt to solve the impossible!

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