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ProPAT Report Summary

Project ID: 637232
Funded under: H2020-EU.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ProPAT (Robust and affordable process control technologies for improving standards and optimising industrial operations)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The European process industry is uniquely positioned and represents the economic roots of the European economy (by transforming raw materials into intermediate and end-user products but also using energy, water, and possibly producing by-products, emissions and wastes). It thus sits at the core of most industrial value chains via discrete manufacturing into a whole host of sectors. The process industry is characterised by having a high dependence on resources (energy, raw materials and water) in production. Optimising the effectiveness of process control systems and strategies is vital to improve quality, reliability and efficiency, as well as the sustainability of operations.

Today, the industry faces major challenges including globalisation, environmental regulation, and shortening product life cycle. Meeting these challenges has required the development of innovative technologies and alternative approaches geared towards reducing costs and improving the environmental and economic profile of processes. Breakthroughs in process operations and process modelling have been necessary for achieving energy and material efficiency gains. These breakthroughs are made possible by the use of process analytical technologies optimally designed for real time in situ process monitoring, characterisation and accurate control that offer benefits such as minimising waste, improving reaction output, increasing energy efficiency, decreasing the formation of by-products, and minimising the potential for accidents.

The ProPAT project aims to develop robust and affordable process control technologies for improving standards and optimising industrial operations. To this end, over the course of the four years of this project, a series of low cost analysers combined with smart sensors that can improve the control and efficiency of the process industry will be tested, optimised and integrated in a Global System Control Platform that will acquire, process and mine the data for closed loop control of the process or for decision support, and will be validated in processing applications to demonstrate the feasibility of ProPAT as an integrated process control solution for future wide European deployment in the process industry. The ProPAT platform is highly scalable for the integration of numerous analysers in the future and its flexible database enables data to be combined with information coming from business systems to guarantee structural consistency with the whole process or compatibility with existing supervision systems. The R&D effort will centre on engineering design, software/algorithm design, data analytics and data management, process engineering and industrial integration and validation.

The project contains five distinct activity phases covering its objectives: 1) Defining the ProPAT specifications; 2) Developing the ProPAT Technologies; 3) Validation and Demonstration; 4) Training and Education; 5) Deployment in the European SPIRE industries (a post-project phase, but which drives a cross-cutting or horizontal series of activities throughout the project, namely ‘Gear up for Deployment’). While it is not necessary for these to be developed sequentially, there will be significant interaction between the phases and partners to acquire any necessary knowledge and inputs between these distinct areas.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The following are the key activities performed during the 1st Reporting Period:
(i) Achieving a consortium wide understanding of the end-users processes and requirements, review of the most relevant standards and regulatory needs and planning of the integration strategy. Several consultations, interviews and questionnaires were held to the end-users to achieve a deep knowledge of their processes structure, quality requirements but most importantly, their expectations on the project developments.
(ii) Developing the new low cost Granulometer and the FPI NIR devices and design the hardware interfaces that allow these innovative cost-effective sensors to sample end-user processes online or at line. A first version of the new particle size analyser (ProG-A) was developed and tested in lab and controlled conditions. Similarly a second version of the instrument (ProG-B) was designed and built. Currently testing and additional improvements are being made in order to achieve the required quality specifications and the instrument will be calibrated and tested against conventional off-line systems.
(iii) Identifying a range of commercially available innovative sensors relevant to the end-users. The specifications of the IR sensors were defined and 3 batches of sensors were produced and characterised using representative samples.
(iv) Initiating the design activity of the PAT platform, and the pilot scale validation of the platform and sensors. A series of different sensors and sensing technologies were evaluated to cover the requirements of the end-users regarding parameter monitoring. Additionally, a bespoke sensor interface was developed in order to provide a single connection port for all sensors to be connecting to the control platform.
(v) Significant work made in terms of dissemination, data management and exploitation tasks. To this end, the project website was created ( and the project leaflet was designed. A data management plan (DMP) was created as part of the Open Research Data Pilot in which ProPAT takes part. Together with several dissemination activities (conference papers, articles, attendance to tradefairs, etc) a communication plan was elaborated. This contained the strategy and activities envisaged to promote and raise awareness about the potential of the project. This plan includes the creation of the Process Industries Promotion Initiative, a joint dissemination effort with 3 SPIRE projects (ProPAT, IbD and Sharebox) to reach as many process industry sectors as possible which includes cooperation partners such as other SPIRE-1 projects (i.e. ConSens).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

"ProPAT is highly ambitious in that it aims to open up a world of process understanding and continuous on-line control for improved product quality and safety, process efficiency, yields, resource and energy efficiency, and ultimately profitability. Indeed, research-based development and implementation of PAT in the European process industry (as a consequence of projects such as ProPAT) is focused on improved control, rapid final product quality evaluation, increased resource and energy efficiency and productivity, will have a knock-on effect in terms of industrial innovation and enhancing competitiveness. The key innovations brought by ProPAT are, on the one hand, the use of novel low cost NIR (MEMS based) and granulometric (imaging scatterometer) sensors in combination with smart sensors capable of measuring traditional parameters in a time/space resolved fashion depending on the individual processes, and on the other hand the calibration and validation of the integrated PAT platforms in a number of process applications including minerals, ceramic, non-ferrous metals, chemistry (plastic and pharmaceuticals, etc.).

The ground breaking integrated process control approach that will be developed during ProPAT embeds a highly novel monitoring system. It will deliver: a) affordable high-end probes for use in several critical points along the same process; b) MEMS-based standard sensors (temperature, flow rate, pressure, etc.) wirelessly connected to the data logging subsystem to allow their use in the actual process (""flow tracker sensors"") to report bulk properties; c) process-oriented development and validation of the ProPAT platform at several subsequent scales for assisting in the production of chemical/polymers, pharmaceutical and mineral products.

An important driver for PAT is the pressing need within the industry to reduce production costs and speeds. In short, ProPAT is an enabler for the extensive usage of all information available will contribute to more sustainable plant operations through measurements of critical quality and performance attributes of raw and processed materials to ensure final product quality, the idea of which is to become more efficient while reducing over-processing, enhancing efficiency and minimising waste.

To this end, ProPAT is working to push three successful business cases within the project (scatterometer, NIR MEMS sensors and Integrated Control Platform) to reach the market and therefore generating an impact in process industries by applying Industry 4.0 concepts. The real-time acquisition of process parameters together with the data treatment and smart analysis of the information will boost production efficiencies in the European industry converting it into a more profitable, sustainable and secure economic driver of the European society."

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