In need of data – paving the way for industry 4.0

Imaginative image with a portable computer and a round network hologram.

What lies behind the data shown on a LCD screen? What do the numbers express and moreover, can we trust them? Is the value displayed correct and can we deduct the right conclusion to set a responsive course of action? By transforming more and more data, machines are getting smarter, helping the industry to improve manufacturing processes, material usage and life cycle management. All this enhances efficiency and accelerates production, enabling better quality and groundbreaking new products. But first of all, these data have to be gained.

Knowledge is power

One out of many businesses already using the advantages of Industry 4.0 is the Life Science Sector. Like in different fields, common questions we need to ask refer to how a lot of, sometimes unstructured, data can be used in an understandable way, creating results and real business value: What lies behind the data shown on a LCD screen in a lab? What do the numbers express and moreover, can we trust them? Is the value displayed correctly and can we deduct the right conclusion to set a responsive course of action? To be able to answer those questions, we need to comprehend, how we can translate knowledge into valuable data – vice versa. But how could this major challenge be achievable?

Commonly, knowledge exists as the base to nearly everything we know and rely on in everyday life. But how do we obtain it beyond the range of our human capabilities, speaking in terms of assessment? The basic principle in industrial processes is always to express physical effects in terms of universal quantities using various types of sensors, many not unalike our human ones. These industrial sensors allow us to expand our knowledge to things we can no longer see or feel, e.g. reactions on a microscopic scale, offering many new possibilities on how to use this information to our benefit. Even in real time.

Real time monitoring – really saves time

Why is this so important? In chemical processes, the status of a medium during its manufacturing process can be determined by measuring its distinctive quantities such as density, concentration, pressure and composition. Process analytical probes use physical effects to acquire the necessary data of interest and display it for humans to see. It is often the case that samples have to be taken from the industrial process and brought to a laboratory in order to be analyzed. This procedure takes time – time in which the process continues to run without knowledge of its status. If the sample analysis were to yield that something had gone wrong somewhere during the production, this would have then happened hours ago. During the laboratory analysis the process continues to operate, producing unwanted results, which can lead to serious safety risks for both man and machine.

Losing a batch in terms of resources such as expensive raw material, work time and revenue is an inconvenient, costly incident. But even if the process is constantly monitored, these incidents cannot be ruled out entirely. Effects such as media inhomogeneities, adhesive contaminations blocking the sensitive probe lenses or simply too low particle concentrations influence the measured data. In the end, everything depends on the accuracy of the gained process information.

Why reinvent the wheel? Use usePAT!

To prevent incidents and guarantee and maintain high-quality standards, manufacturing industries already use various – and already state-of-the-art – sensing and measurement technologies to monitor and measure their production processes of daily goods. It’s more a matter of improving their performance in order to make them Industry 4.0-ready.

One of these technologies comes from usePAT. usePAT uses ultrasound technology in the add-ons “soniccatch” and “sonicwipe” for various PAT sensors to enhance measurements in industrial liquids by improving the signal intensity and keeping them clean. With the sensor add-on “soniccatch” small suspended particles like solids or living cells but also emulsified oil droplets and dispersed bubbles are agglomerated and presented to the probe, thereby making them accessible for measurements. As well, the technology “sonicwipe” keeps particles from settling on the probe tip. Optical in-line measurement techniques such as Raman-spectroscopy, Process-microscopy, ATR IR absorption- spectroscopy and FocusBeamReflectanceMeasurement have been successfully applied with the add-ons. The accurate real-time data generated due to these new possibilities allows better control over the process and enables its optimization in various industrial areas, such as pharmaceutical and biotech, food and beverage, water and wastewater, chemical and petrochemical industries, as well as R&D facilities.

Daring new possibilities in data acquisition will enable yet unexpected applications and pave the way for the fourth industrial revolution in many fields of life sciences.

Picture credits: usePAT