Best in flow: Innovation Awards 2016

Oct. 5, 2016
Case studies show the brightest innovations in flow technology this year.

Flow Control has honored the fluid handling industry’s ongoing commitment to manufacturing excellence through our annual Innovation Awards for two decades. Each year, we are proud to present the latest innovations and technology breakthroughs in our industry based on an open nomination and reader voting process.

Congratulations to this year’s winner, Vögtlin’s red-y compact mass flowmeter. For the first time, a thermal mass flow instrument is powered with a single AA battery that will run for up to six months. The gas mass flowmeter can be used as a mobile calibration instrument or in any place where power supply is unavailable. The device offers high accuracy (1 percent) and dynamics (100-to-1), built-in totalizer, multiple gases, optional valve and alarm module.

Honorable mentions include Endress+Hauser’s Micropilot FMR10/FMR20 non-contact radar device that measures the level and open-channel flow measurement of liquids by emitting continuous microwave signals; Sierra Instruments’ InnovaMass 241i iSeries vortex flowmeter that has been specifically designed for precise flow energy management to reduce costs and increase productivity in steam, compressed air, natural gas and water applications; and Siemens Process Instrumentation’s HydroRanger 200 ultrasonic controller for level measurement with an improved Human Machine Interface and graphical Quick Start Wizards that essentially render the need to refer to manuals a thing of the past.

On the following pages, we’ll see how each technology can be applied to real-world fluid handling applications, resulting in increased process efficiency, measurement accuracy and cost savings. Thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s program from nominating products to casting votes.

Photo courtesy of Vögtlin Instruments AG

Gas flowmeter makes sampling simple

Winner: Vögtlin Instruments AG

Gas sampling is the first step in the collection of data that guards our process variables, monitors emissions and verifies that processes are running consistently. We see more and more demand for regular interval sampling that needs to be consistent and reliable. Sample specialists have discovered the simplicity and economics of the Vögtlin red-y compact mass flowmeter with optional integrated alarm module.

Developed in Switzerland, this extraordinary gas measurement instrument offers true portability because of its long life on a single AA battery. All 50-plus variables can be adjusted through a built-in touchscreen. No need exists to connect the unit to a computer unless you want to update the firmware or power the unit through its USB connection.

Available for all kind of gases in ranges from 0 to 10 standard cubic centimeters per unit (sccm) up to 0 to 480 standard liter per minute (slpm) (air equivalent), the compact 2 fits many applications. Sometimes this "fit" is in the small but many details, for instance, OEM users appreciate that if you turn the unit around, the display automatically adjusts its position for the viewer — important if the flow does not go from left to right. Overall, users appreciate the economics, quality and reliability of this device.

Traveling engineers use this portable, battery-powered unit to adjust gas flow settings, test for leaks and verify other flowmeters. Once the battery life reaches its end, batteries can easily be replaced with widely available AA batteries. As an alternative, the unit can be powered through the USB cable by a power bank or a USB port on a laptop or PC.

In the following application, users make use of the alarm module expansion that gives them three alarm points, two I/O inputs and an external power supply. The alarm module replaces the battery compartment and is integrated in the compact 2 at the back with a 3-meter, 12-conduct wire for all the connections.

Making sample-taking simple

In the analytical world, the red-y compact 2 is used as the heart of a reliable automatic, low-cost gas sample-taking device.

Emission or environment measurements often demand periodic samples of a fixed amount of gas, which are collected in a container or sample bag.  For example, every hour a 100 standard cubic centimeter (scc) sample is taken. With its optional smart alarm module, the compact 2 has the complete solution without the need for a programmable logic controller (PLC) to control the process. The system runs on 24 voltage direct current (Vdc).

The Vögtlin compact 2 alarm module has three alarm points that are individually programmable for different alarm functions such as totalizer, window, high and low alarm. We will also make use of the timer functions and the ability to reset the alarms and totalizer with an I/O input on the alarm module.

Alarm 1 is programmed as a totalizer alarm with the sample volume we want to collect in each sample, for example, 100 scc.

In that alarm function, the alarm duration can be programmed between 100 msec and 2.78 hours. This time sets the time between the samples.

Once the process starts, the solenoid will open and a preset amount of gas will flow into the sample bag or container. Once the defined amount is reached, the Alarm 1 will open and close the solenoid, and the gas flow will stop. Because of the programmed Alarm 1 duration setting, the alarm will stay active for the preprogrammed time, in our example, one hour.

Once this hour is over, Alarm 1 is programmed to automatically reset itself and the counter goes back to zero. The solenoid is activated again, the gas will flow and the totalizer starts counting again until the preprogrammed value is reached. The process starts all over again. The process will continue and every hour one sample of 100 scc will flow into the sample container.

Figure 1. Wiring diagram periodic gas sample system.

Alarm 3 is used for diagnostics. The alarm will sound if:

  • The sample bag/container gets full
  • Water enters the sample line
  • The flow during sampling is too low (sample line blockage)
  • The flow is too high (process pressure too high)

In this case, the user can push the reset button to deactivate the alarm and continue the process.

Many other variations are possible. Every system is a bit different; you can find additions like purging, filtering, pressure reduction, gas drying and more out in the field. Figure 1 shows a simplified diagram as an example.

Many users of these systems obtain a battery-powered, high accuracy compact 2 to verify if the flowmeter in the field is working properly or if it needs calibration or cleaning. The red-y compact 2 has a big internal diameter flow channel, has a low pressure drop, is temperature-compensated and measures the mass flow, independent of changes in pressure and temperature.


It is impossible to describe all processes in which these type of flowmeters are used, but if you see a VA meter for gas and you want to improve a process, the experienced Vögtlin engineers can help find a solution. Below are two more applications from users.

Simple gas mixing applications

The compact 2 is available as a meter or with a built-in, high-resolution, positive shut-off needle valve that offers precise control. Several customers switched to a compact 2 with needle valve as an alternative to a VA meter. VA meters have several advantages, but the main con is that they are extremely sensitive to changes in gas pressure and temperature. Pressure change of 14 psi or 100 kilopascal may create an error of 50 percent in the reading, and for many applications this is not acceptable.

The red-y compact 2 does not have these problems. It measures the mass and is independent of pressure and temperature, which means that even if the process gas temperature or pressure changes, the instrument still gives an accurate flow value.

For a simple, low-cost but accurate gas mixer, the compact 2 may be the ideal instrument. With its single AA battery-operation, it is also convenient in the field. Up to three gases can be programmed in every unit.

Manual gas mixing system

Consumption monitoring

The compact 2 has two built-in totalizers and the menu can be protected with a password. This makes the unit suitable for consumption measurements. With the 100-to-1 turndown, it can measure the small and big flows used in your departments. Customer-
specific turndown ratios higher than 100-to-1 can be realized to obtain an indication of very low consumptions.

Monitoring is more than assigning costs to different applications; it is also about safety and economics. By monitoring gas usage, users can detect leaks and solve the problems before they cost a lot of money or, even more important, create an explosive atmosphere in the laboratory.


These are just three of the many and extensive possibilities of the red-y compact 2 by Vögtlin. Customers around the globe make use of its advantages in the analytical field, in research and development, in light industrial applications, in semiconductor segments and other applications. Very often we hear from the users, "The beauty about the Vögtlin thermal mass flow instruments is that you install, set and forget them, as they work so reliable."

Vögtlin’s worldwide network of distribution and sales partners will help select the equipment that best matches specific application needs. Local service centers in the U.S., China and Europe provide after-sales support.

Image courtesy of Endress+Hauser

Find out more about the red-y compact 2, the company and its other products at

Ultrasonic radar transmitter provides reliability in harsh conditions

Honorable mention: Endress+Hauser

A customer was having issues with its existing ultrasonic level transmitters that were installed to monitor the level of water bodies such as rivers, lakes, open basins, etc. for flooding conditions in case of rainstorm events. The transmitters were installed in outdoor applications under bridges and dams. During times of high winds, fluctuating temperatures and other harsh environmental conditions, the existing mechanical ultrasonic signal would be blown away from the transducer. When the signal was lost, operators would have to go out, find the problem and fix it manually. This increased the cost of ownership and downtime.

The customer needed an economical solution. Endress+Hauser replaced the existing ultrasonic transmitters with the cost-effective Micropilot FMR10/FMR20 radar transmitter. The electromechanical signal from the Micropilot radar transmitter is not susceptible to influences of the changing harsh environmental conditions and cross winds, making it suitable for any environment. This provided the customer with a long-term, stable, reliable and accurate measurement. The non-contact radar technology resulted in lower maintenance costs. The operator no longer had to find the problems and fix them when the signal was lost. The customer’s problems were eliminated and applications were performed more efficiently.

Image courtesy of Endress+Hauser

The Micropilot FMR10/FMR20 is designed to fit perfectly in water/wastewater and utilities applications with a compact design thanks to the Endress+Hauser direct-emitting radar chip, full hermetically sealed PVDF body, ingress protection class IP66,68 / NEMA4x, 6P and large variation for process connections. The FMR10/FMR20 allows for remote commissioning and operation from a safe and convenient location via HART or wireless via the SmartBlue Bluetooth app.

The economical, non-contact radar transmitter with Bluetooth commissioning, operations and maintenance app sets new standards in the water/wastewater and utility industry. The FMR10/20 features safe and secure wireless remote access via the free SmartBlue app for iOS and Android devices even in hazardous areas and those difficult to reach, reducing time and costs through fast, simple setup for the end user. SmartBlue provides users with diagnostic and maintenance information via signal curve, increasing customer plant availability because of easy and fast access for commissioning. The FMR10/FMR20 SmartBlue app provides status information of various devices at a glance with a live list to allow efficient maintenance.

Unique to Endress+Hauser, the radar chip design with integrated radio frequency components and direct emission transceiver makes the FMR10/FMR20 the most compact radar transmitter in its class. The compact design allows for simple installation where space is limited and provides an extended application scope for radar technology.

For more information on the Micropilot FMR10/FMR20, visit

Image courtesy of Sierra Instruments

Vortex flowmeter with industry-first apps improves crab processing for large seafood plant

Honorable mention: Sierra Instruments

A large seafood processing plant needed to find a way to better manage its steam and reduce downtime in its crab processing. It chose Sierra’s InnovaMass iSeries to get the job done.

Crab is one of the most delicious and expensive bounties from the sea. Getting the crab from the sea to the plate is a complex process that requires meticulous attention to details. Product quality and health safety is paramount in crab processing. To properly process thousands of pounds of freshly caught crab, the highest grade of steam, clean steam, usually raised from purified water in a dedicated clean steam generator, is used. Crabs are in direct contact with the steam to cook at an exact temperature that assures the crab will be safe to eat when it reaches consumers’ plates. The clean steam is created using a secondary generator with a controlled pumped-in water system. Pipework to handle the clean steam must be stainless steel with components that eliminate the potential for the corrosion of steam traps, valves and pipeline equipment. Effectively measuring the temperature, pressure and flow of the steam in the cooking part of the crab processing is essential to achieving good-tasting crab while maximizing efficiency of the plant’s process.

To optimize process efficiency, reduce steam energy costs, eliminate process shutdowns, and maintain a high-quality food product, a large seafood processing plant chose the InnovaMass iSeries for measuring steam flow to cook their Alaskan king and snow crab. The plant needed flow instrumentation that provided the most accurate steam flow measurement possible. It also wanted a flow device that was easy to configure and troubleshoot since in-the-field technical support would not be readily available because of the remote location of the facility. Previous equipment used in this application — typically orifice plates — while good, were volumetric flow measurement devices.  The orifice plates had three key disadvantages:

  1. They did not measure pressure and temperature at the same point, which led to errors in mass flow measurement.
  2. The need to buy temperature sensors, pressure sensors along with multiple pipe penetrations that are required resulted in high installation costs.
  3. High maintenance costs existed. Pressure-sensing ports are prone to plugging and orifice plates wear out, a major issue in crab processing because the plant needs to run 24/7 to immediately flash-cook thousands of pounds of freshly caught crab daily in clean steam.

By switching to the InnovaMass iSeries, the plant was able to replace the orifice plates with single InnovaMass iSeries devices. Upon installation, the benefits of the InnovaMass iSeries were immediately evident. The InnovaMass iSeries provided the plant with the ability to measure up to five process variables with one process connection: volumetric flow rate, mass flow, density, pressure and temperature, which is ideal for highly accurate steam flow measurement. This allowed the facility to use one meter instead of several devices in the process. Any adjustments that needed to be made didn’t require shutdown or a factory return for calibration since the InnovaMass iSeries unique Meter Tuning feature was used to perfectly adjust the meter to the application. With ValidCal diagnostics used to verify that all meter parameters are working to spec with printable ValidCal certification to meet food industry regulations, the plant was assured it had a reliable and stable steam management system to process the precious crab product, and led to happy customers.

Learn more about the InnovaMass iSeries at

Image courtesy of Siemens Process Instrumentation

Improved ultrasonic controller simplifies commissioning for wastewater plant

Honorable mention: Siemens Process Instrumentation

For water authorities, municipal water and wastewater plants, Siemens Process Instrumentation’s HydroRanger 200 is an economical, low-maintenance level measurement solution that delivers control efficiency and reliability. The enhanced HydroRanger 200 HMI ultrasonic controller with its easy and intuitive quick wizards and graphical display not only makes setup easy to follow for level operation, but volume, flow and pump control functions have also been simplified so that even the novice operator can get it operational in a matter of minutes. This results in savings without compromising reliability, with confidence that the instrument is configured properly since there is little room for personal interpretation about what parameters need to be entered for proper operation. Additionally, even though the enclosure was redesigned to facilitate wiring by providing removal terminal blocks and further protect the electronics, the platform footprint remains the same as its predecessor. This makes it easy to retrofit any of the old controllers that may need replacing. The new Hydroranger 200 HMI also supports diagnostics such as echo profile viewing on the local display to evaluate the
instrument performance.

The HydroRanger 200 is endowed with Sonic Intelligence — field-proven echo processing algorithms that provide the most reliable performance possible. The knowledge gained in more than a million applications makes it possible for Siemens to provide in instruments the best set of algorithms for flow, liquid or solids level applications. The instrument automatically adapts to changing process conditions, thus ensuring a reliable level measurement even when returned or echo signal degradation occurs because of adverse conditions such as material agitation, acoustical or electrical noise.

During the validation phase, a plant supervisor at a municipal water district needed to replace an older style controller measuring the level in a water tower. The supervisor was familiar with the reliability of the HydroRanger 200 since the district uses the product across the cities it serves. The particular site that was chosen is monitored by two cities. Two independent controllers are located in the same cabinet. The plant supervisor could only allow his operator to work on their controller. At first, this would seem problematic since the transducer cables for both controllers are in the same conduit. This condition can produce crosstalk and lead to erroneous level readings. Nevertheless, since they only have ownership of one of the controllers, synchronizing both controllers was not possible. Synchronization allows only one transducer to fire at a time and content ion is prevented. The diagnostic parameter for noise indicated that the condition was creating some occasional noise spikes. The Hydro-Ranger 200 level was stable and its signal strength was more than sufficient to overcome the noise that otherwise could have caused erratic level readings.

During the above commissioning, the supervisor could see how easy the HydroRanger 200 HMI can be set up using the local user interface and wizards. He decided to give it a try and said, "Anybody with the intelligence of an average bear could set it up."

Another customer who set up the enhanced HydroRanger 200 for the first time was asked weeks later how the unit was doing, and she replied, "You set it and forget it." Another one said, "It could not get easier than that. I am glad I don’t have to read the manual."

For more information on the Hydro-Ranger 200, visit

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