Insights from industry

Low-Frequency Acoustic Sensor Technology

Mike Mossage talks to AZoSensors about Low-frequency Acoustic Sensor Technology.

Can you provide me with a brief overview of BinMaster’s technology?  

BinMaster Level Controls designs, distributes, and manufactures products for inventory management and level control, primarily in powders and bulk solids.

Our products range from point-level detection products such as pressure/diaphragm switches, capacitance probes, rotary indicators, and vibrating rod indicators to continuous inventory technologies such as the SmartBob cable based system, non-contact radar, guided-wave radar, ultrasonic, and the 3DLevelScanner acoustic wave technology.

What is the functional principle to the operation of the 3DLevelScanner technology?

The 3DLevelScanner is a low-frequency acoustic sensor that operates in the audible range between 2.5 and 10 kHz. Operating in this frequency range allows the 3DLevelScanner to cast a wide beam over the material surface of nearly 90° in the lowest frequency.

The patented algorithm is able to determine the angle of flight and time of flight of the echoes returning from the material surface. This is similar to the triangulation principle of GPS. The result is multiple-point measurement and mapping that takes into account the peaks and valleys of the material surface.

What measurement information does the 3DLevelScanner provide and what does this tell the end-user about how this technology is performing? 

The 3DLevelScanner will provide the average level, maximum level, minimum level, volume in percentage full, and a visual representation of the material inside of the vessel. The end-user will be able to determine the overall topography of the material through the use of the visual and the level information.

Many manufacturers talk about mass balance which refers to determining the output of a process based on the number and quantity of inputs.

The 3DLevelScanner plays a role in alerting manufacturers and processors when that balance has shifted. This information provides not only a much more accurate estimate of inventory, but can also be used to manage physical aspects of the operation such as determining filling and emptying points as well as the need for maintenance due to build-up.

How does this technology compare and contrast with other non-contact sensors that are used to monitor inventory of bulk solids?

As I mentioned previously, the 3DLevelScanner is low-frequency acoustics-based sensor.  The advantage of the low frequency is its ability to penetrate dust and provide reliable and consistent measurements in dusty environments. It is also the only technology on the market capable of multiple-point measurement.

There are many other non-contact inventory technologies on the market such as laser, nuclear, ultrasonic, and radar. All of them only measure a single point and have other limitations such as dust, moisture, or dielectric properties. More measurement data translates to a more accurate volume estimate and can account for bin conditions such as cone up or cone down and other irregularities in topography.

What are the main benefits of using this technology for the end-user?

The 3DLevelScanner provides the end-user with a true volume estimate of material with its multiple-point mapping technology. This will lead to much more accurate inventory. Also, the visual representation can alert end-users to sidewall build-up, uneven material distribution, and other safety concerns. Last but not least, the 3DLevelScanner’s low-frequency technology works reliably in heavy dust.

Can you discuss the main areas of application for this technology?  

The best applications for the 3DLevelScanner are bins and silos that contain dusty powders and solids that are subject to uneven or unpredictable material topography.

Another area where this technology excels is in very large silos. Multiple 3DLevelScanners can be installed in a single vessel to ensure the entire material surface is measured and mapped and the software synchronizes the measurements to output a highly accurate volume estimate.

What types of materials/markets can the 3DLevelScanner be seen in today? 

The large agricultural and food processing companies are one of the largest markets.  Corn, distiller’s grains, malt, rice, soybeans, and various meals make up the bulk of the materials. The cement industry is another large market. Clinker, finished cement, lime, and coke are the common materials. The rest of the applications reside in the power and industrial markets including such materials as alumina, coal, frac sand, plastics, and wood chips.

From an economical perspective, how will this technology benefit the end-user and the industry?

Again, the accuracy of the device will allow the end-user to have tighter inventory control ultimately leading to better cash and business management. Also, the 3DLevelScanner requires almost no maintenance, eliminating trips to the tops of the bins and silos.

Moreover, the end-user can eliminate the need to take manual tape measurements on top of vessels which lead to inaccuracy and safety concerns.

Can you think of any operational and development challenges for this technology?  

There are no real operational challenges for this technology. However, it is important that the vessel and material parameters loaded into the software are correct. It’s the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out.”

From a developmental standpoint, we are always creating new features like the recent Teflon-coated model or extensions that enable the device to clear structure that maybe present in vessel.

How do you see the application of this technology in bioenergy, cement, aggregates, wood, power and plastics markets evolving over the next decade?  

I see a tremendous opportunity for growth in the future as the price of many commodities continues to increase this increasing the amount of money sitting in bins and silos. Also, vessels are continuing to get larger and larger which makes it nearly impossible to have accurate inventory from a single-point level measurement device.  Lastly, it seems that there is a push in all industries to have real-time information at the fingertips of decision makers to improve operation efficiency.

Where can we find further information?

Readers can visit our website or contact our office at +1 402-434-9102 for further information.

About Mike Mossage

Mike MossageMike Mossage is Product Manager for the 3DLevelScanner at BinMaster Level Controls located in Lincoln, Nebraska USA. As Product Manager at BinMaster, he has consulted with hundreds of the company’s bulk solids customers on their most challenging bin inventory management needs. He is also the 3D product specialist at BinMaster, working closely with the 3D product development and engineering team to bring the latest technology to market.

Mike can be found at about any type of facility that has a bin, tank or silo and travels the country working with ethanol, grain, seed, feed, food processing and fertilizer plants as well as cement, coal, limestone, chemical, pharmaceutical, power and plastics manufacturing plants. Mike works closely with plant personnel to understand the uniqueness of each application and to recommend a solution that best addresses their data, accuracy and budgetary needs.

Mike received his BBA in Marketing from the University of Iowa in Iowa City and has worked as an industrial sales specialist for the plastics and industrial equipment manufacturing industries. Mike has been with BinMaster and its parent company, Garner Industries for almost 10 years.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

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