Short overview of the case
Consumer products are increasingly becoming highly complex. In the segment of detergents new products are emerging which combine formulation of highly complex and concentrated liquids, with the formation of assembling or casting approaches. The complex fluids contain at least 30 mostly organic ingredients at different levels with low levels of water. This is developed in typical formulation mixing approaches. The reliability and variation of this process is high and complex as we combine the making of liquids (formulation process) with a physical making process (assembled products). In addition these products are made in a continuous operation.
Integrated process control innovation is required on products which contain both formulated and assembled product components produced at high speeds in industrial setting. This requires the development and integration of smart sensors which can measure the properties of the product in-line, at the speed at which the product is made, and the development of integrated process control to keep the production always at the quality. In addition, these sensors need to be low cost, otherwise it all becomes non affordable.
Which technologies will be validated
- Novel Rheology sensor based on ultrasound technologies
- Novel integrated process control based on predictive models
- Demonstration of the overall system using real production scenarios
Expected achievements of the case
- Establish an in-line integrated process control based on in-line measurements, in order to keep the product always at the right properties, on a continuous process.
- Increase the robustness of the continuous production and keep always the desired quality level
First year achievements
Case Study 3 is focused on the continuous mixing of ingredients to make a complex fluid with a clear non-Newtonian rheological profile. By use of a novel in-line rheology sensor device and control system, the main goal is to guarantee a constant quality of the product being made at industrial scale whilst also preventing waste and losses, and therefore reducing the consumption of raw materials and energy. The demonstration of the performance and validation of the rheology device will be carried out in the facilities shown in figure 1.
The sensor device specifications for Case Study 3 were very well defined after month 1 in the project.
The liquids relevant for this Case Study have been fully characterized in terms of their ultrasound velocity and ultrasound attenuation, for a large range of frequencies and amplitudes. This has enabled the choice of the right ultrasound emitters and receivers, optimizing therefore the accuracy and sensitivity of the ultrasound sensors with respect to these liquids. In addition to this, also the sensor device has been designed. This includes the design of the layout and relative position of the different ultrasound emitters and receivers in the pipe where they have to be installed. The pipe dimensions have also been determined and fixed.
The different ultrasound emitters and receivers have already been ordered, as well as the amplifiers and the electronics needed to build the first sensor device prototype.
The pressure drop across the sensor device has also been determined, which enables the choice of the right differential pressure transducer, needed for the sensor device.
Different simulations have been carried out, in order to optimize the performance of the future sensor device, and several scenarios have been analyzed.
A set of multiple runs has been carried out in the pilot plant, in order to determine the dynamics and time response of the real continuous mixing process, in the place where the future sensor device will have to be installed. The result of one of the many runs is shown in figure 2. The dynamics and time response of the system have been analyzed in order to design the right Process Control Strategy. Everything is ready for early 2016 to put all the above pieces together and build the first sensor device prototype.