Data Acquisition and Logging Gets on Track

Modern Data Acquisition Equipment Is Useful, Friendly and Inexpensive. You Can Use It Anywhere--Even in a Race Car

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DAQ Attacks Steam Leaks

Genentech determined that leaking steam traps were costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Chris Stubbs, senior director of corporate facility services, says Genentech performs manual audits of traps about once a year, and replaces traps that the audit discovers to be leaking. "Steam cost is about $15 per 1,000 lb, and a typical small 1/8-in. leaking trap would cost $5,000 or more per year," she says. "Larger traps would waste much more."

The manual audits were time-consuming and expensive, and—because they were done only once a year—it was impossible to detect steam traps that were just starting to leak and beginning to waste steam. Genentech wanted to install steam trap monitors in its plant, so it could detect traps that were leaking or starting to leak. They were faced with the choice of using wired or wireless devices.

Genentech did an analysis and discovered that using traditional hardwired monitors was expensive and disruptive to the process. Projected costs were about $3,000 to $5,000 per point. Wireless, on the other hand, was non-invasive, required no interruption to the process and cost $750 to $1,500 per point.

So Genentech installed 56 wireless steam trap monitors from Cypress Envirosystems as a trial. The monitors transmit data once every 10 minutes to a central "blue box" receiver, which displays the health of the different steam traps, provides notification alarms via email and text messages, and trends historical values. The blue box is connected to the plant's central local area network (LAN), allowing access from any PC on the LAN. "Looking at the past five months of data, we could actually sample just four times a day," says Stubbs.

Stubbs says the steam trap monitoring DAQ is part of an overall wireless plant monitoring scheme involving wireless monitors and DAQs on 20 freezers, four air handling units, one reverse-osmosis water treatment system and five other utility systems. Genentech has 100 wireless monitors installed and estimates that annual savings so far are more than $75,000. So far, the wireless DAQ systems have paid for themselves in the first year.


DAQ in the Stack

Measuring coal particle size helps utilities and large energy users tune their boilers for optimum performance. But the efficiency depends on the speed of analysis. "Taking coal particle samples to the lab for analysis makes direct correlations between operational mill and boiler settings impossible," says EUtech's Max Starke. "Furthermore, inherent variability in coal properties and measurements requires multiple analyses on the same sample to obtain accurate results."

In response to the industry's need for a mobile data acquisition and control system, EUtech developed EUcoalsizer, which uses laser-based online technology, as well as National Instruments' USB-5133 digitizer, a USB-6009 DAQ and LabVIEW software to measure coal pipe particle size, velocity distribution, mass flow, as well as the temperature inside the coal pipe.

The measuring probe is inserted into the coal pipe, and data is processed on the spot with a laptop loaded with LabVIEW software. "The PC uses LabVIEW for data processing and user interfacing, data analysis, evaluation and data storage," says Starke. "The system setup also includes automatic reporting that we can calibrate according to user-defined requirements. NI hardware and software formed a flexible, environmentally beneficial and cost-saving system that provides high sampling rates, accurate measurements and advanced processing capability." 

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