Participants in a workshop

A major automation solutions provider wanted to update the valve control system it was using in two products in order to get more information and to gain better control. Analysis of the problem during a WIKA Value Innovation Workshop helped develop a proprietary valve control system.

A major manufacturer of industrial valves, regulators, and actuators wanted to replace the outdated mechanical technology of its digital valve control (DVC) units and digital process controllers (DPCs). The DVCs were using an external sensor to measure the process pressure in order to identify the valve’s position and then – if necessary – to correct it. The DPCs, in contact with the media, used 1) media pressure to control the flow of material and 2) a Bourdon tube internal sensor to measure process pressure and correct the valve’s position.

The Client’s Specific Goals

The client wanted to update its legacy mechanical control system to an electric/digital one to improve performance and increase efficiency. Going into the project, the automation solutions provider had identified a few target areas that needed improvement:

  1. Switch from a mechanical system to an electronic one, which would allow users to use real-time data to better control processes.
  2. Embed conditioning of the raw signal into the system, which would avoid a separate step.
  3. Improve resistance to sour gases in order to minimize corrosion, which could lead to failures.

The Process

Any parts provider can take a spec sheet and reconfigure an existing product to prescribed specifications. That doesn’t take ingenuity or creativity. The beauty of a WIKA Value Innovation Workshop (VIW) is that it leads to the development of solutions that do not currently exist – and wouldn’t even be thought of during a standard R&D process.

A few different groups within the company were already in talks with WIKA, looking for similar solutions for different applications. WIKA suggested that all groups come together to analyze the different scenarios. During the VIW, participants identified shared requirements and limitations, and came up with a list of pros and cons. Using that information and WIKA experts’ decades of experience, we developed a customized solution that went beyond what the client thought was possible.

The Challenges in Detail

Six WIKA experts sat down with nine design and lead engineers, product development specialists, and product managers from the automation solutions manufacturer. A lively brainstorming session brought to light a series of challenges – but also the possibility of using a single-source embedded sensor to replace existing PBC (printed board circuit)-mounted sensors used in the different applications. The challenges included:

  • How to upgrade the units’ mechanical design to integrate the electronic control needed to enable quick identification of issues, allowing operators to take corrective actions remotely.
  • How to increase the resolution of the system to improve valve control, instead of the current indirect control via process or emergency cut-over.
  • How to increase the temperature range to −60°C…+85°C (−76°F…+185°F) for extended sensor life in a variety of locations and environmental conditions.
  • How to increase resistance to aggressive media, such as H2S, to improve reliability and prevent failures due to corrosion.
  • How to integrate signal conditioning into the system to avoid a separate step.
  • How to reduce the sensor’s footprint in order to reduce the system’s overall size, especially for DVCs.

The Customized Solutions

This full-day meeting was the perfect way to interactively approach the current problems and anticipate future complications. After extensive discussions, WIKA’s experts felt that one valve control system might be feasible for all applications. However, cost and time constraints would not allow for a quick long-term solution. Therefore, WIKA proposed a product development map with short- and long-term goals.

In the short term, experts decided to work on an external system for four different scenarios:

  1. DVC with single-acting valve for non-corrosive gases
  2. DVC with single-acting valve for corrosive gases
  3. DVC with double-acting valve for both corrosive and non-corrosive gases
  4. DPC

In the long term, WIKA would apply the same core technology used for the short-term solutions to develop an embedded solution for all four applications.

WIKA’s model TI-1pressure transducer has the accuracy, measuring range, and temperature range that the manufacturer requires. After testing the TI-1 in the DPC application, WIKA developed a proprietary system that worked in all four scenarios. Not only did the pressure solution integrate seamlessly into the new valve design, it was also affordable – exceeding the client’s expectations.

WIKA’s experts specialize in collaborating with customers, diagnosing problems, and creating custom yet affordable solutions. For more information about how a VIW can help you improve your process and improve the bottom line, contact WIKA today.

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