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A batch of analyzers analyzing a process manufacturing batch

Seeing what happened inside the process vessel: combining optical, process and batch card data

I spent several weeks testing my fiber optic coupled Optical Analyzer before bringing it to a factory for real-time data collection. As a specialist in analytical instrumentation, I had been trained to deeply appreciate the need for measurement repeatability, which just means that if you measure the same thing over and over again, you had better get the same answer over and over again. The variation in the answers is a metric of the precision – and I had the fiber optic analyzer really precise!


Or so I thought.

At the very first demo, I placed the optical probe flush against a portal, a window at the side of the tank, and secure all the connections. But my signal fluctuated like crazy. What could it be? After the usual ritual that what we follow when we have no clue what’s wrong (reboot the computer, clean and reset the probe, check the lamp) I was ready to panic. At that very moment a tech came by, removed a few drops of batch from the tank and placed the liquid between two microscope slides. Squeezing the slides together, he raised them to the overhead light and muttered to no one in particular, “Yup, loaded with undissolved stuff.”

That’s when I learned two lessons:

  1. I had the world’s most sensitive particulate meter

  2. My science must always be rooted in the reality of process batch manufacturing.

As the video shows, the “dirt detector” is now a standard feature built into the Optical Analyzer and I the connection to practical manufacturing concerns is tight. But what I also want to point out is that good science lets us see much more detail within the manufacturing realities. Notice how even these few parameters can so clearly reveal the secrets of what is happening to the batch between that opaque steel shell. It’s not so opaque any more.

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