Flow measurement of liquids is essential to controlling manufacturing processes and accuracy is vital in achieving high quality end products and minimising waste. In addition, one of the over-riding concerns for the food, biotech and pharmaceutical industries is hygiene and maintaining the cleanliness of the process lines. This, and applications involving low conductivity fluids, will often rule out many designs of flowmeter, and until recently, many have felt the only choice is the Coriolis flowmeter. However, there is now an alternative that has many more advantages.
“Bürkert has developed a compact, non-contact measurement device, known as FLOWave that is accurate, irrespective of media characteristics, flow direction and flow conditions,” Damien Moran, account manager, Ireland, for Bürkert Fluid Control Systems, said. “Using Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) technology, the company has developed a flowmeter in which none of the components are in direct contact with the fluid and which causes no restriction to flow.
“Furthermore, the internal surface of the tube can be manufactured to the same surface finish as the rest of the pipeline, meaning that in terms of hygiene, cleaning and flow conditions, there is no difference to any other piece of straight pipe within the process and there is also no pressure drop. The compact size and lightweight design of FLOWave make it ideal for a wide range of flow measurement tasks.”
One of the first sectors to recognise the advantages of this technology was the biotechnology industry, which has a requirement for measuring flows of purified water, water for injection (WFI), reverse osmosis (RO) water and clean-in-place (CIP) fluids. Due to the nature of their business, many processes are skid based, especially filtration, and these make an excellent basis for trialling new technology.
“In trials over two months, one biotech company used a FLOWave flowmeter as part of a skid installation and employed it in a number of different applications to assess its suitability to their operations,” Moran added. “One of the first observations centred on the compact size, lightweight construction and ease of installation, compared to a Coriolis equivalent.
“This can have an impact on the time required to remove and reinstall the flowmeter, for example when it needs to be recalibrated against the reference flowmeter. Furthermore, the process for calibrating the FLOWave and commissioning it can be achieved in under 60 seconds using an intuitive menu process. By making these processes easier, Bürkert aims to maximise productivity.
In addition, the on-board software can be used to adjust the K-factor of the FLOWave and take account of shorter pipe lengths upstream of the flowmeter, making it ideal for skid applications and locations with limited space.”
Aside from highlighting advantages for several manufacturing processes, the trial also showed a number of benefits for CIP processes, enabling these to be carefully controlled and monitored. “In this application, which is not directly involved in product manufacturing and hence does not require a mass flow output, FLOWave can deliver considerable savings for the food and beverage sector,” Moran continued. “For a significant number of applications, the Coriolis flowmeter is over-qualified for the task it is assigned. In many cases the ability to measure mass flow is not required, merely the ability to provide accurate and reliable flow data for more difficult fluids, such as those with low or non-conductive properties. In situations where a volumetric measurement is required, FLOWave is a perfect fit.
“For those with a forward-thinking approach to process design, it makes sense to evaluate new technologies that have the potential to improve productivity and reduce costs.”