The Industry 4.0 world is developing at a furious pace. Especially in the area of wireless sensors, there is a lot going on. Lots of different sensors are now available, but I find that the range of wireless, ATEX-certified sensors is still quite limited. Especially the non-standard technologies used in our industry, such as Bluetooth and LoRa network. I work for Sitech Services at the Chemelot campus in Geleen. A chemical site, where certified ATEX sensors (explosion-proof sensors), in lots of plants, are a requirement. Demand for sensors that meet this requirement is therefore high in our industry. Who has the sensor we are looking for?
Within the chemical industry, measurements are mainly taken with wired sensors. These include pressure, temperature, and vibration sensors, among others. Many of these sensors are ATEX certified, but are often implemented with cabling. To generate data quickly and easily, this method is time-intensive and relatively expensive. At Sitech, we are looking for easily integrated sensors. By using wireless techniques, we can keep the costs for our customers low, scale up quickly and temporarily monitor some installations.
Connection to existing and private networks
In addition to wireless HART or ISA100, where the sensor range usually meets our requirements, we also look at alternative technologies (e.g. Bluetooth and LoRa network), private networks and the use of smart lighting network. A wireless ATEX sensor should also be able to operate on these networks, because in this case we don’t have to install cabling in the plant. Moreover, the use of the existing public infrastructure is accessible and inexpensive. However, it is a requirement that the data will be transported from A to B securely.
When I consider the battery life of smart sensors, I still see lots of room for improvement too. Ideally, we are looking for hardware that are virtually maintenance-free. That way our technicians can be employed more productively elsewhere. Of course, our technicians should not have to spend a lot of time changing batteries either. We should be able to count on a battery life of at least two years (depending on use and location). That sounds simple, but I have not yet come across such a wireless sensor on the market.
A call to the market
I see more and more good developments in the market, with new products appearing all the time – and that is a good thing. The range of wireless, ATEX-certified sensors is gradually expanding. I would like to talk to suppliers who can help us find that perfect sensor for the chemical industry.
David Dieteren has been with Sitech for five years and joined the Sitech Asset Health Center last year. As a process control engineer, he advises clients on the strategy and implementation of smart sensors. With his background in electronics, he knows exactly which hardware is needed for the chemical industry.