Ten years ago Vega introduced the plics concept, a platform strategy that makes measurement easy and cost effective and allows for automatic adjustment for any generation of field instruments.
The plics technology has eliminated the need for different housings, electronics and software for almost every measuring principle. It has also done away with the need for a diversity of instrument types, which was leading to increased manufacturing costs. Vega Germany’s managing director explains, “We wanted to make planning, commissioning and operating of the instruments as simple as possible for the user, throughout the entire instrument lifecycle.”
The birth of this development took place in the early 2000s in the form of the vibrating fork level switch, VegaSwing. With its small, round housing in the characteristic yellow of the company, the level switch still enjoys popularity today. “At that time, our development manager came to me and said, ‘If you want, we can also accommodate a radar instrument in this housing,’” recounts the MD. “One housing platform for all instruments with a unified electronics and operating concept – that seemed like a very demanding goal.”
But the advantages of a compact design speak for themselves: operators and planners benefit from the small installation space required and from its robustness against moisture problems. This is because the air volume in the device is small, and the smaller, round housings are more easily sealed than large, square ones. The compact design saves casting resin and other materials used in PCBs while reducing mechanical stresses such as plant vibration that occur during manufacture and subsequent operation. A smaller size also means better quality.
The company also places great importance on backward compatibility. To keep the operation as simple as possible, the latest version of adjustment software must be able to serve all generations of instruments. When an instrument is connected, the software has to recognise this and automatically provide the interface required for configuring the instrument. Vega’s designers know that when they develop new instruments or features, they always have to support the legacy devices. This means users, who implement several generations of instruments during the life cycle of their plant, avoid having to work with a variety of different software versions.
For the manufacturer, the plics platform is also important to achieve short delivery times. The goal is to deliver 80% of instruments within a week of order placement. This requires the instruments to be modular in design. Then, to complete the customisation of an order, the electronics only have to be parameterised and the fittings welded.
Looking ahead, the company sees further potential for making measurement simpler. Radar instruments will become easier to install as they adapt themselves through self-learning to the conditions at the measuring site. This will include, for example, auto-mapping echoes from built-in fixtures in a silo. “You will always need the know-how to select the right measuring system and the correct location for the instrument. However, this is the expertise and knowledge that users are increasingly expecting from us manufacturers,” concludes Vega’s MD. “Plant engineers really appreciate that these instruments for pressure and level measurement all look the same, have common connection routines and behave similarly during set-up and operation.”
The vision for the future is a world of self-learning instruments that adapt themselves automatically to application conditions.
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