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Detection system improves factory safety

10 September 2010

With one eye on the export market and the other on future developments, ATEX Explosionsschutz, based in Möhnesee in Germany, realised it had to change its control supplier for its ACOM Detection System; due to the incumbent controller's inability to keep pace with market demands.

Detection system improves factory safety
Detection system improves factory safety

With 80% of its customers standardising on Allen-Bradley, Rockwell Automation was the obvious choice for the new generation of ACOM machines. Sourced and specified via S&D a Rockwell Automation distributor in Germany, the controllers and associated hardware play an important role in ATEX's ACOM System, which itself is vital to customer factory safety.

Any manufacturing procedure that incorporates the processing or use of fine powder – such as those found in the dairy and pharmaceutical industries – can be at risk from explosions if the powder-laden air ignites. In order to address this risk processing companies use advanced monitoring systems to keep a close eye on atmospheric variables; with one of the most common variables measured being Carbon Monoxide (CO).

As product is being dried, a build up can occur and these masses can quickly heat up to 800°C. If they open or break off and fall they can expose an ignition source to a dust cloud waiting to ignite. Luckily CO is relatively easy to detect and CO smouldering detection is the only effective preventive protection system available.

ATEX's ACOM detection system monitors process air for the presence of volatile pyrolysis components, indicating the potential presence of thermal decomposition or smoulder spot development. Capable of detecting levels of under one part-per-million (ppm), self-ignition processes are effectively detected as soon as they start and can be stopped by controlling process operations and advanced fire-fighting systems before a deflagration starts.

Sitting at the heart of the latest generation of ACOM detection systems is an Allen-Bradley L32E CompactLogix Programmable Automation Controller (PAC). Additional I/O cards are used to connect the PAC to a CO analyser and a PanelView Plus 600 HMI displays the necessary operator information. Programming is via RSLogix 5000 software backed up by FactoryTalk View ME, a machine-level HMI software that supports both open and embedded operator interface solutions for monitoring and controlling individual machines or small processes.

"The reason for our initial choice of supplier was that the machine was originally developed in 1995," explained Walter Kaars, department manager fire & explosion prevention, "for a customer who was, at that time, using this particular automation supplier. In 2008, however, we changed over to an Allen-Bradley based architecture for a number of reasons. First, our original supplier could not offer a safety-capable PAC; second, Rockwell Automation has a global presence, which is vital to our export potential from both a sales and service perspective; and finally, as the Allen-Bradley equipment runs on standard Ethernet, we are able to offer a number of value-added capabilities without complicating the installation with extra protocols, programming languages and training.

"Many of our customers are asking for remote support, which is far simpler using Ethernet than it is using Ethernet-based protocols from other suppliers." Kaars explained: "This capability is an important selling point, which is also being driven by our customers... with every second customer asking for it."

Rockwell Automation and S&D also helped ATEX in the early product development stages. "We are not a software company," Kaars elaborated: "The S&D helped us a great deal in the early stages with the programming and the subsequent support from both them and Rockwell Automation has been excellent and very professional.

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