Process analyzer sampling systems, commonly used in refineries and chemical plants, will now be easier to build, thanks to the development of a new modular platform for fluid handling components.
The platform—which serves as a backbone for attachment of metering valves, needle valves, and other components—enables engineers to build sampling systems merely by locking standard, off-the-shelf components into a modular substrate. Moreover, the modular system is easier to service than competing designs and employs fewer seals, so it's less prone to leakage.
Engineers at Swagelok Company (http://rbi.ims.ca/3846-562), makers of the new modular system, foresee its use in a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, chemical, petrochemical, power generation, and pharmaceutical. "With the advent of this technology, the user doesn't have to be proficient in bending tubes or doing any of the functions needed to build a conventional system," notes Bill Menz, instrumentation market specialist for Swagelok.
Known as Modular Platform Components (MPC), the new system consists of three layers: a surface-mount layer made up of flow components, such as valves, filters, and adaptors; a substrate layer that provides a flow path between the surface-mount components; and a manifold layer that allows flow of fluid or gas between separate substrates.
While other manufacturers have built similar products—there's even a New Sampling/Sensor Initiative (NeSSI) specification that standardizes such modular designs—the Swagelok approach is unique in its use of fewer seals and a surface-mount assembly approach. Because all components attach through the top layer of the device, users who want to change a flow component or a seal need merely expose the flow channel from the top and make the change.
Swagelok engineers enable that accessibility by designing flow components consisting of a piece of tubing with stainless steel blocks welded onto each end with a precise orbital welding process. The orbital welding process is considered a key, engineers say, because it allows sealing surfaces between components to align on the same plane. Moreover, the 90-degree turns in each flow component are machined with a spherical mill that creates a clean radius on the turn, thus eliminating sharp corners where contaminants could get trapped.
The result is that the vertically oriented, surface-mount components are bridged together through a clean interface that requires a single set of seals per component.
Swagelok engineers also say that the design is far easier to maintain. "Other designs place all the flow components on the under side, so that the user has to physically disconnect everything, unbolt it from the wall, and flip it over," Menz adds.
Snug Fit: The modular platform bridges
together vertically oriented, surface-mount components through a clean
Swagelok says the MPC can improve the performance of process analyzer sampling systems, while lowering the costs to design, build, and maintain them. The company claims that the device reduces traditional design-and-build costs of a 20-position system from about 50 percent of first-year costs to about 10 percent.
Dave Hasak and Tim Maruna have more than eight years of experience with the Swagelok Company. Hasak holds a BSME from Gannon University, and Maruna holds a BSME from the University of Rochester.