World leading fully automatic control of an agglomeration circuit based on 3DPM online, non-contact, 3D particle size measurement
Process Engineer Christopher Heikkilä talks about his implementation of world-leading fully automatic process control of an agglomeration circuit based on 3D particle size measurements in this shortened interview with Associate Professor Matthew Thurley.
Christopher is a Process Engineer at KBR Ecoplanning Oy, a Finnish engineering company specializing in process design and equipment for the chemical, process, and metallurgical industries.
Matthew is Principal Scientist at Innovative Machine Vision Pty Ltd.
Starting with some background, 3DPM is an automated online system for measuring the size distribution of bulk material on conveyor belt using a 3D imaging sensor. It is based on technology that I've (Matthew) developed from pure research to industrial prototype and now commercial product over 15 years. So it is really personally satisfying for me to see your experience Christopher, in using 3DPM in industry to drive efficiencies and really make a difference. So thanks for your time, and due to confidentially we won't mention the end-customer in any way, and simply focus on your experience and aspects relating to the 3DPM technology.
(Matthew) - Were there any reservations about allowing fully automatic control of a heavy industrial process?
(Christopher) - The biggest reservations had to do with making sure that the control system understands its limits, for example if for some reason the belt conveyor would suddenly become empty of product for a while then the system would understand this and not make too radical changes to the process.
(Matthew) - So, how did you go about searching for a suitable particle size measurement technology, and how did you originally find 3DPM?
(Christopher) - First during the work I got frustrated because there was not really a whole lot of information available on on-line particle size measurement systems. The ones that were available were more or less meant for larger particles (cm size) or really small particles (nm size). I stumbled upon 3DPM just by googling and finding a YouTube-video presenting the technology. Before this I had read several articles with no progress.
(Matthew) - and then, why did you choose 3DPM?
(Christopher) - Because it was one of the only measurement equipment’s that was not in contact with the measured product itself. This was most important because the composition of the product was quite harsh and inconsistent, so a probe or something similar would most likely gotten clogged quickly. 3DPM was furthermore a great choice because the need of maintenance and cleaning was really quite low.
(Matthew) - Obviously for automatic control, a stable and reliable measurement is of utmost importance. How did you evaluate 3DPM to get that confidence?
(Christopher) - We made several test runs and during them adjusted process values to produce particles of variable size, from small to large. During these test runs we took samples consistently from the product stream, determined the particle size distribution with sieve analysis and compared these values to the results that 3DPM gave, they were surprisingly good and similar.
(Matthew) - Can you comment, being mindful of the customers confidentially requirements. on how production was improved?
(Christopher) - I can comment indirectly. 3DPM was first rented for a two month test period during which it would be decided if it was of any value to increase production. After the test period the equipment was purchased, so it can be considered as a successful project. This goes without saying, but if you can make an unstable process (like agglomeration) more stable with an automatic control system, production is definitely increased and with a smaller work load.
(Matthew) - Thanks so much for your time Christopher, it has been a pleasure talking with you.
End of Interview