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Robust and affordable process control technologies for improving standards and optimising industrial operations

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ProPAT (Robust and affordable process control technologies for improving standards and optimising industrial operations)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2017-12-31

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 R&D effort will centre on engineering design, software/algorithm design, data analytics and data management, process engineering and industrial integration and validation.
The following are the key activities performed:
(i) Concluded the development of the new low cost Granulometer (ProG-B) with advancements made over 6 versions to reach the current state. Four devices are currently available.
(ii) Concluded the development of the FPI NIR device with the production of version v1.7 and fabrication of 4 units
(iii) Concluded with the purchase of the commercial sensors, the development and fabrication of the bespoke sensor interface, and the integration of the sensors with the kit.
(iv) All sensors (Prog-B, FPI NIR and commercial sensors) are now fully integrated in the Global Control Platform. All the layers and the central database are completed with the exception of the data mining layer that is under development.
(v) Chemometric models were developed and applied no NIR signals from polyester and pharma processes to successfully predict sample properties and process end-point.
(vi) Scaled-down pilots of the industrial processes in MEGARA, GSK, MBN, and GM were successfully developed and installed in UNIVLEEDS
(vi) The whole system including the Global Control Platform, sensors, chemometric models and interfaces was installed in the pilots. All the parts were validated individually and as a working whole.
(vii) Based on feedback and results from validation improvements were applied on FPI NIR, ProG-B, PATBox, while chemometric models were improved and adapted. All the components (with the exception of ProG-B) and the system as a whole have been validated to TRL6 and are now ready for industrial validation.
(viii) An industrial validation plan and timeline have been drafted and the preparations for installation of the system in the end-users' facilities for industrial validation have started. Interfaces for validation in MEGARA are being built, the design of GSK interfaces has started, and the specifications for integration in MBN's and GM's facilities have been gathered. A general framework for the application of data fusion models has been designed and PATBox mining layer is being developed to accommodate these models.
(ix) In terms of dissemination, knowledge transfer and exploitation the project has delivered the following activities: Organisation of 3 joint workshops in collaboration with SPIRE projects (Consens, Recoba, Disire, Icspec), development of a new website adapted to address the dissemination and communication needs of the last phase of the project, organisation of dedicated training sessions in the context of the above menitoned workshops with keynote lectures from ProPAT's igh profile academic and industrial partners, poster presentations based on project outputs, and demonstrations of exploitable results (e.g. ProG-B and PATBox), participation of project parnters in numerous conferences, workshops and dissemination events including H2020 industry days, SPIRE conference, and EU impact days.
"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.).

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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