Spirit of Innovation Leads to Better Products

Endress+Hauser’s inventors celebrate a record number of new patent applications. Four innovations that improve product flexibility and reliability have been recognised with awards.

Endress+Hauser applied for 230 patents last year. More than 240 innovators from across the Group gathered at the 2013 Innovators’ Meeting held at the ‘Rhypark’ hall in Basel, Switzerland, to introduce their developments and share their experiences with their colleagues. Four highly-successful patented solutions received awards. Three teams were also recognised for significantly improving business processes.

"Our capacity to innovate continues to grow. Since 2000, the number of patent applications has increased fourfold," says Michael Ziesemer, the Group’s COO and deputy CEO. "The 230 filed patents in 2012 send a strong signal to our customers that we are growing with and for them." To recognise granted patents of particular commercial importance, four Patent Rights Incentive Awards, each worth €15,000, were given to innovators from the production centers of Endress+Hauser Wetzer in Nesselwang, Germany, Endress+Hauser Flowtec in Reinach, Switzerland, Endress+Hauser in Maulburg, Germany, and Endress+Hauser Conducta in Waldheim, Germany. CEO Klaus Endress and COO Michael Ziesemer presented the award certificates and trophies.

Global utility

With his innovation, Markus Wöhrle from Endress+Hauser Wetzer (Nesselwang, Germany) has made sure that Endress+Hauser devices can be used anywhere in the world, regardless of the system and type of electrical power. Wöhrle developed a power supply that makes it possible to operate Endress+Hauser devices with 24V systems, as well as 100V systems common in Japan, or with European 230V networks. "Apart from simplifying our own production, this concept makes life easier for our customers who previously had to maintain different devices for their systems, depending on the application," adds the R&D engineer. The power supply is built into the electronics of numerous Endress+Hauser devices that require electrical power, making them highly flexible.

Cleverly compact

Mass flow measurements based on the Coriolis principle determine how a liquid or gas affects the vibrations in the measurement tube. After Endress+Hauser designed its compact devices for larger nominal diameters, engineers uncovered a previously unknown measurement error. The R&D team of Gerhard Eckert and Christian Matt at Endress+Hauser Flowtec (Reinach, Switzerland) pinpointed the culprit: "At a specific tube diameter-to-length ratio, the Reynolds number has an impact," explains Matt. This number specifies the flow state in the measurement tubes. Determining this dependency was the team’s first major accomplishment. The second effort involved determining the Reynolds number in the transmitter electronics without external input, and then compensating for the effect. All of the values needed to determine the Reynolds number were known, except for the viscosity of the material being measured. This value is now derived by measuring the force required to sustain the oscillation of the measurement tube. That makes it possible to design space-saving Coriolis flowmeters even for large diameters.

Plug-and-play

Capacitive level measurement is a robust technology that has been well-established for more than 50 years. Thanks to an innovation developed by Prof Dr Igor Getman, Armin Wernet and Kaj Uppenkamp from Endress+Hauser Maulburg, Germany, the time-consuming commissioning of the measuring probe has been eliminated. In the past, the capacitive sensor first required calibration in the tank, silo etc, which had to be emptied and then re-filled. The probe is now pre-calibrated at the factory so that it can deliver valid measurement results right out of the box. One of the prerequisites was the development of algorithms that calculate the so-called calibration values among others. This development also broadened the utility of the device to make it suitable for a variety of conductive media. Another benefit is that build-up of media on the sensor, which can cause clogging, has considerably less impact on the measurement results. "We discovered there are advantages for us as well," adds Wernet. If the quality assurance test yields values that do not correspond to the calibration calculation, this points to manufacturing or material flaws.

A secure way to stay connected

Nearly a decade ago, Endress+Hauser Conducta brought about a paradigm shift in liquid analysis with the development of inductive signal and power transmission between sensor and transformer. A team of innovators from Waldheim, Germany, that includes Lothar Auerswald, Dr Torsten Pechstein and Ingrid Wunderlich has developed a solution that at first glance appears to be an insignificant detail in the bigger picture of digital communications. But a closer look displays the benefits of their user-friendly bayonet lock for sensor-to-transmitter plug connectors. The dual-purpose lock acts a sheath to protect the sensor electronics while firmly interlocking the plug connector and transmitter cable – "without twisting the cable and without the connector opening by itself," underlines Pechstein. Although technically sophisticated, the solution is cost-effective because it consists of only three plastic components.

Improved business processes

In addition to the innovators’ teams, for the third time Endress+Hauser recognised several employees for making outstanding improvements to the Group’s business processes. The Process Innovation Awards, each valued at €10,000, went to three teams located at various production facilities, sales centres and support organisations. Last year’s top process improvements were chosen from a list of 19 award applications.

One of the teams automated the manufacture of glass components used in pH sensors, leading to more efficient production and consistently high quality. Another group was active for several years in developing a cloud-based system – an online computer network – that provides access to device information. Using an Internet browser or an app for smartphones and tablets, customers can access this data from anywhere at any time. The third team was recognised for optimising the order processing and design of technical special products by means of a Group-wide database that offers more transparency. Access to stored information significantly streamlines the global manufacture of technical special products.

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