Intelligence for machine and process control

How separation processes profit from IIoT solutions

IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technologies have found their way into solid/liquid separation plants and processes of all shapes and sizes. Automation solutions using the IIoT have not only been launched but are already up and running – e. g. the Metris addIQ control systems. Over the past few years, solutions from the Metris addIQ portfolio have been tailored and installed in all kinds of solid/liquid separation applications and are showing promising results.

Not only higher plant efficiency and increased profitability but also proactive measures to prevent shutdowns and improve monitoring can become reality by applying new technologies such as Smart Sensors, Big Data Analytics and visualisation using both virtual and augmented reality. Particularly in the fields of operator training and on-time support, technical information and guidance are provided by virtual and augmented reality technologies exactly where and when they are needed – at the machine, during the process or in the plant.

Andritz took this approach when pioneering its IIoT solutions for solid/liquid separation equipment and systems featuring advanced digital control systems, all combined under the brand name Metris addIQ. (addIQ control systems are part of Metris, the Andritz brand for digital solutions). Metris technologies include state-of-the-art Industrial IoT solutions as well as any kind of smart service. These can be fully tailored to individual requirements, uniting physical and digital worlds. Metris technologies form the basis for the digital separation solution portfolio by connecting plant operator specialists to one another as well as to Andritz experts. This value-adding interrelation not only results in professional preparation of the collected data, hence improving the plant’s performance, but moreover enables plant operators to practice successfully applied business intelligence.

Communication with the machine

The sharing of knowledge is one of the central pillars of both the human and the technology world. In fact, Industry 4.0 is highly communicative: not only do operators communicate with each other or with their machines but the individual machines within a plant also communicate both with one another and with their operators and the World Wide Web. Communication is thus key in the world of IIoT – and humans are not alone in causing errors due to misunderstandings. Operating errors sometimes occur because the machine operator has problems entering the correct commands into their machine or plant. Andritz was aware of this and developed an optimised HMI design, leading to better usability, for example by incorporating factors such as eyesight or whether the user is left-handed or right-handed, and by improving communication between the machine and the user. Other features of the HMI are operating concepts for handling workforce diversity and cultural requirements, one-look analysis, mobile connectivity, structured user access levels for personnel and a multilingual user-interface, all of which enable enhanced usability and smoother operation.

Communication with the cloud

If the concept of communication in the world of IIoT is taken a step further, one encounters even more opportunities – for example, the equipment uses the facilities offered by the World Wide Web to communicate with its operator irrespective of
its current location. Metris addIQ Monitoring adopts this approach by displaying the most important process parameters, as pre-defined by the plant operator, for either a single machine or an entire plant and links them to a secure data cloud when used together with Metris addIQ Connect. The monitoring module not only enables these parameters to be uploaded online, making it easy for the operator to access 24/7 from anywhere in the world; it also includes an automatic e-mail notifier for the most critical process alarms. As being notified about a problematic situation does not actually solve the problem, the Metris addIQ Monitoring and Metris addIQ Connect solutions additionally permit remote support in any situation where fast action is needed. Metaphorically speaking, this solution is a combination of an observation security system for the operator and an emergency online chat facility from the plant’s point of view.

Metris addIQ Optimizing boosts the plant’s performance based on the data collected as well as human expertise. The analysing tool identifies opportunities to improve the equipment’s performance and increase production by combining long-term data trending with analytical software, collecting and analysing information about every control loop, control valve, motor and variables in the process. Process parameters with the potential to boost performance are identified and their economic impact predicted before the specialists take over, working together with the operations and maintenance team to prioritise the opportunities for improvement and correct the process where needed.

Processes operating by themselves

The driving force behind IIoT is the fact that modern machines are more accurate and more consistent when it comes to capturing, processing and communicating real-time data. Andritz decided to include this claim in the name of its automation line – the Metris addIQ control systems promise to “add IQ” to machines, giving them a brain to function and making them smarter. This has great potential for quality control, sustainable practices and overall supply chain efficiency. As the terms connected with IIoT have been circulating for a few years now, more and more systems are fully developed and more and more practical examples proving the benefits of this technology keep appearing. One typical instance is a wastewater plant in Southern Europe that installed Metris addIQ Rheoscan, an automated polymer measurement and dosage system.

Prior to installing this new system, there were numerous requirements to be met, the most important being reduced polymer consumption at the belt thickener (to achieve at least 5 % dry solids at the thickener discharge). This criterion had to be fulfilled despite the challenging process entailing highly dynamic incoming sludge consistency. The results after using the Rheoscan module were annual polymer savings of 33.8 % in the belt thickening stage plus 16 % less polymer in the dewatering stage, while producing 11.7 % more biogas. The fully automated system moreover reduced the need for operator supervision and increased performance while at the same time reducing polymer dosage in the digester, increasing biogas production and lowering polymer consumption in centrifuge dewatering.

The plant as a clairvoyant

As machine and plant shutdowns are the scenario every production company fears the most, a prognosis of when production-threatening errors could occur represents a real blessing. IIoT solutions target precisely this goal, making use of existing experience and data, which they connect and analyse as a starting point for predicting future events. Smart Sensors are one element in this predictive solution. In addition to conventional sensors, there are micro and wireless sensors that can be used to collect even more detailed machine and plant data from predefined areas relevant for optimising operation. It is not enough simply for Metris addIQ Monitoring to collect data: important information must be analysed and interpreted, especially if there is a lot of it to be processed. This is where big data analysis comes into play: deviations are predicted based on the material collected. This provides the basis for Metris addIQ Optimizing, allowing predictive maintenance by drawing on the sensor equipment and the data analysis. As a result, servicing needs can be identified at an early stage without running the risk of plant downtime.

Intelligent filter presses

One specific project to be mentioned in connection with IIoT is an intelligent filter press, a machine uniting most of the automation solutions already mentioned. This filter press operates fully automatically thanks to a Metris addIQ control system. In many processes, the filter cake needs to reach a certain target moisture content, and this is where the intelligence of the filter press and its control system is a huge advantage. The intelligent filter plate in the press measures the residual moisture content inside the cake and allows online monitoring. In this way, filtration can be stopped at the ideal moment, saving valuable cycle time and increasing production capacity. As a result, the plant provides a more consistent residual moisture content in the filter cake, leading to more uniform energy consumption in the thermal dewatering process.

Smart Sensors around the filter press collect all relevant operating data. A sophisticated data analytics tool turns this into information that is relevant during operation. The Metris addIQ control system monitors the degree of contamination of the filter press package, measuring and controlling the hydraulic and feed pressure as well as the feed temperature, and makes adjustments where needed. Other measured values are supplied by Metris addIQ Monitoring. The plant operator is kept informed about the status of the filter press 24/7 around the globe.

Online search: cpp0219andritz

Author: Jürgen Kern

Head of Global Separation Automation,


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