Monday 22nd Oct, 2018

Local innovation in weighing technology

Flow Force’s improved range of inline weighers has better accuracy, reliability and ease of operation. Photo: Flow Force

More companies are realising the benefits of precision weighing and quality control of inline blending with the help of a local expertise, writes Paula Wallace.

Back in 1988, Brian Lewis founded a company Flow Force Technologies (FFT), in order to commercialise his invention to improve the accuracy of solids flow meters, with the support of the Australian Research and Development Board and the Australian Grains Research and Development Board.

In 2016, FFT was taken over by GJC Engineers, a South Australian engineering consultancy with expertise in mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering, process control and instrumentation.

A culture of innovation has stayed with FFT. Its latest range of inline weighers is testament, with improvements in accuracy, reliability and ease of operation of the system while standardising the products to reduce their cost.

Impact weighers provide a dust-tight reliable, low maintenance weighing solution for free flowing dry powders and dry bulk materials in applications where there is a continuous flow of particulate material.

There are two basic product configurations. The first is an in-line weigher for insertion in a pipe or chute with no horizontal offset between the inlet and outlet. The second (the MAGNE//FLO unit patented by Brian Lewis) is for hazardous or food grade materials which are subjected to clean-in place procedures where the system electronics must be protected from both the product being measured and the cleaning solutions.

“The sales have improved considerably and the feedback is that everybody can see the improvements in the quality,” explained engineering director at GJC, Glenn Jobling. “There are a couple of competitors but they only offer the standard inlet and outlet nozzle and dimensions, whereas we can customise ours to suit the customer’s size and configuration.”

Mr Jobling said the ability to customise is an essential point of difference as many customers can’t change the configuration of their plants.

Flow Force’s improvement program began with the development of a new controller based on FFT software in certified Rinstrum electronics. At the same time the mechanical arrangements of both weighers were redesigned for improved installation flexibility and ease of manufacture.

The in-line weigher is now readily changed from right-hand to left-hand configuration by simply rearranging the standard side panels and can also be purchased with an integral cross-cut sampler, if required. The load cell of the MAGNE//FLO unit has been removed from the process path to allow for cleaning-in-place. Both units incorporate new controllers incorporating FFT software in certified Rinstrum electronics and simple means for recalibration.

The next stage of the continuous improvement program will be to obtain trade certification for the weighers and this process is already under way.

“We’ve been working on it for quite a while and we think it will be another 12 months to get through the testing and certification,” said Mr Jobling.

With trade certification, Flow Force’s products could make the process of transferring materials for transport much easier and more efficient.

“You could weigh directly from a hopper into a truck or bulk transporter without having to use a weighbridge,” said Mr Jobling. “It’s really about customers that want to improve the quality control of their business and inline blending.

“In the past, companies would sell over quality cement and lose the profits, just put in the bag or bulk mix. But now, everyone is much more conscious of the quality.”