The myth and truth about multi-input analysers
10/08/2012 - Today's process world is a challenging one. Plant managers, metrology labs, and maintenance workers are constantly asked to improve their process efficiencies and output while at the same time seeing their budgets, manpower, and talent reduced.
Fortunately, companies that serve the process industry see these imposed limitations and have been improving their products to help meet these challenges. You don't have to look very far to see process products that have valuable features such as: fault tolerance, predictive sensor analysis to aid maintenance or self healing in networks so data is not lost.
The online process analyser
One of the products that have seen an accelerated evolution is the online process transmitter/analyser. The online analyser has been a fixture in the process world since there has been a requirement to make a measurement, provide a local display of that measurement and then later transmit that reading to a remote location.
Over the years these instruments have evolved from local visual levels, analogue dials, or audible devices to highly advanced electronic processor based instruments capable of making many measurements easily, accurately, and with high speed all in one device.
Recently, the trend has been to provide analysers with multiple channels in one device. This concept is not a new one by any means. As soon as analysers started to use solid state electronics, the idea of providing an instrument that can make more than one measurement was a natural evolution.
Unfortunately, these first designs were flawed and suffered from two major drawbacks. First, they were very complicated thus making them hard to maintain. And second, they tended to be very expensive.
Make sure that the parameter modules have the option of both analogue and digital signals from the sensors
While you will find that there are many manufacturers that have multi-parameter meters, almost 70% of them will only work with digital sensors. What does that mean? That usually means that the only sensors that will work with the meter are the ones that the analyser manufacturer supplies. Because of proprietary digital protocols, you essentially get locked into using only what the manufacture wants you to. While is some cases this might be ok, there's a risk in losing the flexibility to choose the sensor that works best in your process. Having the choice of analogue modules keeps your options open and allows you to not compromise when it comes to finding the best solution for your application or process.
Choose an analyser that has multi-function module slots
While it's nice to know you have open slots for other sensors, it's even better when those same slots can accept other options, like additional relays and digital communication protocols (i.e. MODBUS, Profibus, Ethernet, etc) which add to the flexibility of the whole platform. While you may not need it now, knowing you have it in your back pocket makes for a very flexible system that can grow with you and your process.
Choose an analyser that has updateable firmware
By having the ability to update the firmware, you can get the latest and greatest features or improvements and usually at no additional cost.
In addition, while most firmware is vetted pretty well, it's always nice to have the peace of mind to know that if there is a bug discovered, you're not stuck with it until you replace the meter.
The Thermo Scientific Aquapro
One analyser that shares all these features and more is the new Thermo Scientific AquaPro Intelligent Multi-Input Analyser. You don't have to dig too far to see that features built into this instrument come directly from customer feedback and industry needs.
The AquaPro has an industry-accepted footprint along with some very unique features like a multi-function front panel USB port, a large full color display and a plug-and-play architecture.
The AquaPro also has the advantage of being part of an international company so you know that no matter where you are, support is not an issue. While this may not be listed on a specification sheet, it is an intangible that must be considered. Especially when you are choosing an analyser that you plan on having around for 5 to 10 years.
A multi-parameter analyser is no longer something to be feared — as long as you make sure to choose the analyser that best fits your needs and the needs of your process.
Today's multi-parameter meters are a great way to reduce cost, increase efficiencies, and to help meet the requirements of our constantly evolving process world.
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