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Novatec highlights technology for preventing processing problems

Baltimore — At NPE2018, Novatec Inc. will display a real NovaWheel dryer and its digital twin, projected onto big monitors, to show off the company's sensor technology that can predict failures before they happen.

The company calls it the DigiTwin.

"It's like you're showing a full-time X-ray or MRI of your machine," Novatec President and CEO Conrad Bessemer said.

Novatec (Booth W3729) also is rolling out two technologies aimed at nylon and other sensitive materials in Orlando, Fla.: Thermal+ on its portable NovaWheels, and a process to self-generate nitrogen called NitroDry.

Another new product, DryTemp+, brings the mold temperature controller inside a NovaWheel to save space on the factory floor.

Bessemer and other Novatec leaders premiered the auxiliary equipment manufacturer's NPE2018 introductions during a presentation at the Baltimore headquarters in mid-February.

Novatec is a licensee of a company called Prophecy Sensorlytics LLC, and the auxiliary maker offers sensors that, when placed in key areas of a machine, measure variables such as vibrations, sound, pressure and temperature. Novatec debuted the sensors at NPE2015 on a pump and a central dyer.

This time around, at NPE2018, the MachineSense sensors are outfitted on a NovaWheel and will coordinate with machine controller data and feed information to the DigiTwin.

Bessemer contrasted MachineSense with a traditional machine controller that just reports process conditions. On a dryer, say the desired dewpoint goes awry.

"We and everybody else will program something in there, that at a certain preset, if you're not reaching that preset, the machine alarms. It flashes red instead of flashing green," he said.

But it's too easy to ignore the problem, or in a noisy plant, to not even hear the alarm.

"You're at a plastics plant that's making thousands of parts. And most people do what we do in the morning with our alarm clocks, [hit] snooze, snooze, snooze. And they ignore it. Because they have to make parts," he said.

Mark Haynie, Novatec's product manager for dryers, said companies also sometimes go to the other extreme, setting maintenance schedules more frequently than necessary. For example, they may direct employees to clean filters every set-number of weeks, even on dryers that don't run very often.

"These people aren't 'dryer experts.' They're a packaging company. They're a medical company. Their specialty isn't dryers," Haynie said. "This [sensor technology] allows the system to tell you what you ought to know."

Typically, if it's not a catastrophic failure where the machine just stops running and the plant will keep the molding going and figure it out during the next scheduled shutdown, Novatec officials said. But in the meantime, it could be molding bad parts.

It can take time to get a service technician or maintenance person to look into it.

"And typically," Bessemer said, "it takes longer to diagnose the problem then it does to actually fix the problem.

Bessemer thinks it's only going to get worse because of the shortage of skilled technicians, combined with the reshoring trend bringing work back to the United States. MachineSense can make them much more efficient.

"Here you have a digital, a virtual twin of your operating machine, that as a plant manager or a plant engineer or a maintenance manager you can constantly monitor and see what's going on with your particular machine," he said.

Machine controllers report process conditions on a dryer, like temperature, dewpoint, power consumption and airflow. He compares it to a thermostat at your house: It tells you it's too hot or cold, but doesn't say what could be going wrong or suggest how to fix it.

MachineSense, which can be retrofitted or installed on new Novatec machinery, uses sensors billed as "wearable" sensors for industrial machinery. Novatec will put 14 total sensors on one of its dryers — eight regular sensors for its controller and six MachineSense sensors.

The sensors, tied through the cloud to powerful analytical software, diagnoses the data and predicts failure.

"It really looks at the components that make up that machine, rather than the process machine itself. So MachineSense is agnostic to the machine. It's looking at components," Bessemer said.

On a Novatec dryer, the company is calling the sensor technology DryerSense. Information is displayed, dashboard fashion — red/yellow/green — which can be viewed on a notebook computer, the desktop or a smartphone. It measures things like filter performance, the mechanics involved in rotation of the desiccant wheel, and does several checks on blowers, both process blower and blowers for the regeneration process. Vibration and power monitoring are key indications of potential problems with blowers, the wheel rotation and other functions.

"The MachineSense sensors send an email or a text telling you, 'there is a problem,' Novatec spokesman John Kraft said.

"So when you bring up this dryer, you'll be able to see all of these conditions at a glance," said James Zinski, MachineSense president and chief operating officer. "And you understand if there are any issues that need to be investigated."

For example, Zinski said, the DigiTwin can show future problems with the desiccant wheel caused by misalignment of the chain used to turn it, or the sprocket, or the drive motor. The diagnostic system recommends corrective action before the problem actually happens. On the dewpoint, it will notify you if air at too high of temperatures is entering the wheel and suggest checking the cooling water supply.

Another example is the heating unit, made up of three heater elements. Once one element goes out, the other two have to work harder, and they can deteriorate more quickly — and DigiTwin lets you know right away, Zinski said. Normally, he said, process technicians won't know there's a problem until total failure — when all three heating elements fail.

Bessemer said: "Our goal is help people make sure their equipment is running, on a highest-percentage basis. Everybody gets paid on productivity. This is a process industry. You get paid on pounds per hour. Or parts per hour. And if your machines aren't running, you don't get paid. It's pretty simple."

Novatec Inc. A closer look at the NitroDry. Drying sensitive materials

At NPE2018, Novatec also is introducing its Thermal+ for its press-side dryers — aimed at correctly drying sensitive materials like nylons, polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polylactic acid (PLA) and thermoplastic polyurethanes.

These materials can have problems if they are both overdried or dried too little. Over-drying nylon can make brittle parts, a major problem for key underhood automotive and medical parts.

But nylon that comes straight out of a new gaylord sometimes does not have to be dried at all, Haynie said.

So Novatec has adapted its Thermal+ drying technology and OverDry Protection to its line of NovaWheel portable dryers — so the dryer automatically responds to changes in resin moisture and ambient conditions, like summertime humidity, that can lead to improperly dried resins.

"It'll determine whether or not it sees the need for more dry air," Hayne said.

The technology also controls the drying temperature that can limit or eliminate discoloration or polymer breakdown in other sensitive resins like polycarbonate, PET and ABS, and other translucent and colored resins.

Thermal+ addresses over-drying that can happen because the dewpoint of the drying air leads to drying beyond the recommended levels. Hayne said very low dewpoint air can dry resins even without the addition of heat. And even then, when the temperature is reduced, low-moisture drying air can continue to dry resins too much, and lead to brittle parts.

The system uses valves in the dryer and a dewpoint measurement out of the drying hopper to find out if moisture is still getting pulled from the resin, or if the resin is properly dried. Once the monitor indicates that no additional drying is required, the dryer will automatically bypass the desiccant wheel and adjusts to using air at a higher dewpoint. However, if the moisture monitor in the hopper outlet senses that the resin needs more drying, the system introduces dry air.

The system continuously monitors the process and makes changes. Each resin can have its own recipe that ensures proper moisture, Novatec officials said.

"This system will automatically figure out whether or not this material needs to be dried aggressively or whether it does not to be dried aggressively," Hayne said. That's a big improvement on running the dryer at a fixed dewpoint of other than -40 F/C, where operators have to first figure out that they need to start the dewpoint change and then figure out — mostly through trial and error — what change is required, he said.

Haynie said the Thermal+ also gives a big drop in power consumption.

Sensitive materials will get another new Novatec product at NPE — the NitroDry, which generates its own nitrogen using standard factory compressed air.

Nylons, polyurethanes and PLA, in particular, are highly susceptible to oxygen degradation from prolonged exposure to heat in the presence of oxygen. The degradation can impact strength, ductility, color, viscosity, chemical ​ resistance, stiffness and stability. Nitrogen displaces oxygen in the drying hopper.

"There are three things that we do as dryer companies that can affect the polymer: We can expose it to too much heat. We can expose it to too dry of an air. And we can expose it to oxygen," Haynie said.

But traditional nitrogen dryers require an external source for the nitrogen, usually bulky tanks of the gas.

NitroDry uses a factory's normal compressed air as a feedstock, and it vents air to the drying room, avoiding the hazards of venting pure nitrogen in a closed area.

In the self-generating system, a special internal membrane allows water and oxygen to pass through, and what's left is the nitrogen. Company officials said the membrane technology is exclusive to Novatec and falls under the umbrella of the NovaDrier compressed air/membrane system patent.

Initially, Novatec is making it available in capacities of 7, 25 and 50 pounds an hour.

DryTemp+ team

Novatec and Advantage Engineering Inc. are teaming up on Novatec's DryTemp+. It combines a Novetec press-side NovaWheel dryer with Advantage Engineering's single- or dual-zone Sentra mold temperature controller in a single unit.

The goal is saving floor space next to the injection molding machine, said Mark Hayne, Novatec's dryer product manager.

"The space is at a real premium around there. Fork trucks going in and out all the time. It's an area with a lot of chaos," he said.

Haynie said DryTemp+ gives a processor more space to put more molding machines in the plant, and have a simpler layout next to the machines.

Everything is controlled through a single, icon-driven color touchscreen: all drying, conveying, mold temperature settings and alarms. Novatec officials said this is an industry first. A patent is pending.

DryTemp+ is fully USB bar code compatible. Scanning the mold and the resin container gives a mistake-proof setup. Once the mold/material match is confirmed, the drying and the mold temperature parameters, which are preset into the controller, are automatically applied to the dryer and mold temperature units.

DryTemp+ is available with NovaWheel dryers that can run 25-150 pounds an hour.

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» Publication Date: 16/04/2018

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This project has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [605658].

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