Small chemical processing companies will soon have a new, easy-to-use automation technology option, thanks to August Ninth Analyses of Scarsdale, NY and the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP).
SATOP provides free engineering assistance to small businesses with technical challenges through the expertise of the program’s Alliance Partners, 50 aerospace companies and universities involved in the U.S. Space Program. SATOP’s New York center is located in Syracuse.
Alan Ganz, a Ph.D. physicist who specializes in scientific instruments, and his August Ninth Analyses partner Henry Weber, an engineer, believe that there is an underserved market of smaller chemical processors that could benefit from simplified automation technology. Such businesses could vastly expand their competitiveness by incorporating tools that would allow them to make products overnight and on weekends, as well as simplify labor demands during business hours.
“We saw that smaller operations in the chemical processing industry could save energy and improve costs and efficiency if they had access to automation technology that is simple and affordable,” said Ganz. “Many of our potential customers are not technologically sophisticated and do not have large budgets to invest in new purchases, so any automation technology for that market would need to be user friendly and reasonably priced.”
Ganz and Weber began to create a control box that would, in effect, perform the duties of an analytical lab in real time as well as optimize the use of energy and production flow as done in chemical manufacturing. As they proceeded, Ganz realized that they had the optics and software down pat, but they needed assistance in combining the optical analyzer and controller technologies into a single product.
“We knew what we wanted the box to do, but actually putting the electronics we had in mind into a box, and packaging it in a way that would not be intimidating, were a bit beyond our areas of expertise,” Ganz explained.
When Ganz heard about SATOP through the Hudson Valley Technology Development Center in Fishkill, NY, he decided to submit a Request for Technical Assistance (RTA).
AJ Lucas, SATOP project engineer, matched Ganz’s RTA with Ken Samuelson, senior systems engineer with Sensis Corporation. Sensis, located in East Syracuse, NY, is a SATOP Silver level Alliance Partner. “Ken’s experience with the mechanics of connecting microprocessors to peripheral electronic equipment made him the perfect person to address this RTA,” said Lucas.
Samuelson first took the time to understand the exact nature of the technical challenge.
“The important issue was not, as I first suspected, understanding the light spectrograph that was to be included in the control box, but rather understanding the characteristics and connections of the components and incorporating them into a control box,” Samuelson said.
He provided August Ninth Analyses with three options: a single box containing all of the components; a removable, remote box that could be disconnected from the host computer; and a third alternative that included aspects of the other two options.
“Ken really went above and beyond in the suggestions he gave us. We hadn’t thought of the remote box concept and realized that it would provide for more versatility for our customers who would want a single control box with several remote boxes,” said Ganz.
Samuelson also reviewed the existing components of the control box as well as the new components to find the best combination for the control box. After the components were selected, he designed a preliminary layout and provided wiring diagrams.
Ganz and Weber have since built a prototype of the control box incorporating Samuelson’s electronic component recommendations and plan for the next version to include more of his innovations. They also plan to pursue Samuelson’s suggestion regarding the use of multiple remote boxes.