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Non-contacting radar: Emerging opportunities in new markets

May 19, 2023
A Control Amplified podcast with Christoffer Widahl, director of solutions management for radar new markets at Emerson.

Fifty years ago, Emerson began utilizing a new method for measuring tank levels: non-contacting radar technology. Taking a technology originally designed for military aircraft, the company became a leader in using radar technology for maritime and land-based tank level applications. Technology has evolved over those five decades and, these days, new opportunities are emerging for several industries to use the non-contacting radar thanks to the continual evolution of the products available on the market.

Christoffer Widahl, director of solutions management for radar new markets at Emerson, talks with Control’s editor in chief, Len Vermillion, about the transformation, benefits and emerging opportunities for non-contacting radar level measurement.


Len Vermillion: So lever level measurement technology as specifically when we're talking about non contacting radar technology, it seems that that field is kind of expanding their footprint right now more broadly across the application landscape. So what has changed?

Christoffer Widahl: Well, I mean, when we started this 50 years ago, the products were very big and bulky and expensive. But over the years, the technology has evolved to going from large, I mean, discrete components on large boards that are very power hungry, and driven by, for instance, the automotive industry with all the radar third use, therefore adaptive driving systems, the technology, I mean, everything has become so much smaller, less power hungry, and also the cost has gone down a bit. So we're now with our sixth generation of frequency modulated continuous wave radar transmitters, we're able to make them really small, very compact, and very power efficient.

Len Vermillion: I know Emerson is actually in celebrating their 50th anniversary of him radar measurement, fascinating the trans transformation that's gone through the years. One of the things we want to talk about is why is radar technology, a superior to other technology, specifically things like ultrasonic level measurement. And what are what are the advantages? Non-contacting offers?

Christoffer Widahl: Yeah, with legacy technologies, such as ultrasonic, ultrasonic technologies somewhat sensitive to its temperature dependent. So unless you have an external temperature reference, you will get inaccuracies. It's also sensitive to moisture or condensation on the antenna. dots between it could be more or less, it's very sensitive to environmental changes. That typically happens when a device is installed, installed, especially outdoors.

Len Vermillion: So what are some of the applications we're seeing? You know, we have applications and water and wastewater, obviously, metals, mining, food and beverage life sciences, chemicals. They're all particularly good fits for non-contacting radar transmitters, relative to other level measurement technologies. Can you explain why that is?

Christoffer Widahl: So yeah, I definitely can in in many of these applications, looking at for instance, chemical industry, the media, in some cases are very aggressive, the corrosive and non-contacting radar technology, as the name stipulates is, is a non-contacting technology. So nothing of the radar sensor is in contact with the liquid or the fluid we're measuring on, which makes it then very, very good because you don't have to worry about corrosion or anything like that. Same goes in metals and mining, where you have well in for instance, you're using a lot of chemicals there as well, but it's also quite rough. You have solids, applications, with rocks or cement or other things that are also very abrasive.

So having a non-contacting top-down technology, it's far away from the media is definitely an advantage as you mean the life time of the product will increase it will not break down as easily in food and beverage. Similar, I mean, the radar is always mounted on top of the tank measuring top down in food and beverage applications and also then life science where we have hygienic requirements, then it's much easier You're never in contact with it. Of course we are still complying with all the hygienic requirements and hygienic certifications. But it's kind of easier to put it on top. It's easier to clean and everything you don't have to dismount The entire system to do that cleaning. So, from that perspective, it's very good. The last but not least, in water and wastewater industry, it's about the same and there one thing that is very good in water and wastewater industry that we I mean, with non-contacting radar also with ultrasonic would have the same advantage there, even though it has some other deficiencies, is that or disadvantages is that you can do also flow open channel flow measurement with a non-contacting radar by measuring the level which is very, very good them, especially in open channels, open pits, etc.

Len Vermillion: So, let's talk about the nitty gritty, some of the technologies Emerson has certainly brought in its portfolio lately, when it comes to non-contacting technology. So why don't you talk a little bit about some of the different non contacting radar transmitters that are in the level portfolio for the company? Let's start there.

Christoffer Widahl: Sure, definitely. We, I mean, we can start with our Rosemount 5408 radar level transmitter, it's kind of our premium product, or hero product, it's very versatile, it's designed to cope with more or less any application or any condition. Here, this product we developed in, we launched it in 2017. So it has five, six years on the market. Now, it has proven to be very efficient in tough chemical applications. Also petrochemical and oil and gas applications. They are rated for safety instrumented applications, it's certified for that. And I mean, here I this was the first product where we started to use our in this case, we developed our own radar front end to get better signal output better efficiency, and more power that we could use them to do our level of measurement. And that was kind of the starting point for going forward with that was our first two wire FMC W transmitter. We've done others in the past, but they were four wires.

And then moving forward with that we the next one out was the 1408, where we saw a need for hygienic, cost-effective transmitters for the food and beverage industry. And here we identified Well, it seems like there are the legacy products or technologies that they feel, feel some fulfill some customer needs. While we also have the transmitters that were originally developed for other industries, such as oil and gas or chemical that were adapted a bit with hygienic approvals, and then used in food and beverage or, or life science. But none of these really were developed specifically for these industries. That's what we identified with that, that Well, here we have a possibility to make something that really addresses our customers’ needs, what they're really asking for in these industries. So one thing that we did with the 1408 is that we, when we did our first trials we developed, we realized that there's an issue could be an issue when you're doing the cleaning of the tanks, the SAP cleaning or the CIP cleaning of the tanks. So, we developed a specific algorithm that actually detects when the spray ball is starting to move, and so that the transmitter would not go into any alarms or anything for that. So, that was one of the how we addressed those specific needs, the 3408 then it was also when we started that development specifically towards the chemical industry here. Again, I mean 5408 in very good in oil and gas and petrochemical but we lacked something that would address our customers’ needs for somewhat simpler applications. Not in terms of not dangerous or anything but from our measurement, performance perspective that it might not be that challenging. The 3408 has almost as good as performance as the 5408. But it's also tailored towards the chemical industry. So, and with 3408 that was a product that we identified the that we needed to develop specialists specifically for chemical industries. Something that we discovered here was that well, the 5408 as we had fulfilled the needs of our customers in in oil and gas, petrochemical industries, etc. While the 3408 Well, those customers in the chemical industry, they needed something that was more adapted to their needs, that would fulfill the standards and the requirements in the chemical industry such as no more compliance, also with CS certification, of course, and also more compact packaging that would be more suitable for the chemical industry.

And last but not least, is the 1208. Also, a new addition to our portfolio. Here we have tailored the product specifically for water and wastewater utilities, like EC or base chemicals, industries, that fall weight, what we did there was really focused on making it even more compact, smaller, more efficient in terms of power management, etc. And also, we develop the plastic housing since that is most common in those industries. One thing that differentiates the 1208 from many of the competitors, especially in the water and wastewater industries is where many of the products that you have cables that are molded into the plastics, which means that if you would have a problem with a cable, you have to replace your entire instrument. Or if you would have a problem with your instrument you have to read put have to rerun the entire cable that to us is not really a sustainable way. So for the 1208 we have also added weld connectors, that makes it more modular whenever the transmitter if it would have any issues, it's easy to replace the hardware as it is on the transmitter side. Or if the cable would break down, then it's easy to replace the cable as well. So without having to replace the entire unit. So one thing that we what we did with the 3408 as well was that we add our smart meter verification, diagnostics, diagnostics that has been leveraged through other Amazon product lines, this is now also available within our radar portfolio. And that helps our customers to verify the performance and the health of their radar transmitter in situ. So you don't have to do anything to take it out of process or service can just do that while it's still operating. And you can get a good verification that everything is still according to certification or standards. And in combination with the remote proof testing for our SS transmitters, it provides a very easy to use and versatile transmitter that I mean, doing a proof test with those transmitters with that have that is kind of a dream compared to what it used to be maybe 5, 10 years ago where everything was very manual.

Len Vermillion: Well, that's a great look at the products and how they've developed and what's out there and available. I wonder if we could just kind of wrap this up with sort of talking about, is there a generalization we can make I know every industry has different values, different things about non-contact and radar base, there's a generate kind of sort of a generalization of what features are really just valued in measurement that non contacting radar just brings to the table that you don't see from anybody else. And I would assume that's non contacting, obviously, but I just wonder what else might be there?

Christoffer Widahl: Yeah, good question. I mean, as you say, non-contacting, of course, and as we have with all other most other technologies, that the trend is that you would add more and more diagnostics. But in order to have reliable diagnostics, you have to have reliable data. And you have to have a lot of data. Otherwise, it's difficult to build those diagnostics and have that data reliable. And they're I would say that that's one thing that differentiates our transmitters and our approach acts a bit because we have something that we call fast sweep technology, which in just to put it simple, we do more sweeps. So every time you do a measurement with a radar or you send a signal down, that's called a sweep. And with our fast sweep technology, we can do much more sweeps than any legacy technology or anything, which means that we get more data, we get more reliability, and we get better diagnostics. And we have that in our products now, in data and diagnostics.

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