Auma’s ready for the new era

Actuators have come a long way in the past few decades - thanks in no small part to the work and designs of Auma. Now a new phase in the evolution of actuation is on the horizon - and the company's products are set to triumph.

By the 1960s, actuators had evolved to a solution based on a motor, gearbox and some form of limit and torque switching. The move to compact, electric actuation resulted in modern actuators becoming widely installed in applications including potable treatment plants, filtration plants and wastewater treatment works.

Capitalising on the new era of actuation, in 1964 Auma’s founders developed the company’s first range of actuators.

Water and sewage treatment plants were pioneers in the adoption of the actuators. The water supply from Lake Constance to the city of Stuttgart was one of the first orders and further projects followed including water treatment plants in Hamburg and the Oldenburg-East Friesland Water Association.

In the 1980s, it was recognised that to achieve complete adaptability, actuator components should dove-tail together to provide a mix and match solution: this ensures that the actuators can be expanded, enhanced and refined on-site without removing the product for a factory upgrade. Auma addressed the requirement for actuator modularity.

Microprocessor technology was incorporated in the 1990s, which meant that intelligence was now achieved in the actuator itself. Fieldbus was also introduced that provided a simpler solution than hard wiring technology.

Diagnostic capabilities were improved which provided more accurate error information that enhanced the performance of actuation solutions. Smart actuators followed which further increased feedback to the control room and enabled the user to monitor torque trending.

Auma reports a significant new phase in the evolution of actuation is on the horizon that addresses requirements for plant asset management. In response to this, and in line with continual product development, the new Generation .2 multi-turn actuator range SA 07.2 – 16.2 and new actuator controls AC 01.2 have been launched. The products are designed to cater for existing market needs and next generation requirements including integrating field devices into asset management systems.

Commenting on incorporating adaptability as a fundamental principle of the new products Peter Malus, Auma product manager for the actuators, says: “The new Generation .2 devices, both actuators and controls, are modular in design and fully compatible with our previous products: this ensures low-risk investment and guarantees that we will always be at the forefront of technological development.

“Mechanical enhancements improve positioning accuracy, the output speed range of modulating actuators and the extension of the expected actuator lifetime. These advancements are backed by improved corrosion protection.”

He continues: “One focus of development was to improve device handling. As a result, the handwheel is now activated with one hand by simply pressing a button; valve connection is more flexible and a newly designed electrical connection facilitates the linking of cables with large cross sections. Operation is made easier by a new, enlarged and illuminated graphic display.

“The display texts are shown in plain text, available in a wide range of languages. Graphic display features are provided e.g. torque curves. Operation, setting, diagnostics and the recording of all actuator data is facilitated wirelessly via the AUMA PC ToolSuite.”

It was recognised that standards should be followed as closely as possible for all developments outside of the products’ new intelligent functions. For example, the
status signals of the AC 01.2 are classified in compliance with NAMUR recommendation NE 107. Consequently, the plant operator receives clearly interpretable signals from the actuators and all other field devices and new diagnostic features of the actuators are supported.

Supporting the growing trend toward asset management, temperature / vibration sensors and applied torque recording are used to continuously monitor all parameters which contribute positively to the actuator’s life. If an actuator is operated outside the specified operation conditions, with an impermissible high number of starts, the plant operator receives advance information enabling appropriate action to avoid malfunction. In line with previous products, the controls are available with different fieldbus interfaces, including the Profibus DP interface with V2 services.

Key benefits for the water industry of the new actuation technology include the ability to download an event log which means that the utility can monitor and track status, actions and who was responsible without going on site. Due to the decision to retain the modular design principle, devices installed since the late 1980s can be upgraded without replacement and an increase in the frequency of starts leads to improved flow control possibilities.

Auma says that the future for its actuation designs are set to maintain modularity as the backbone of development while increased diagnostic functionality is predicted to grow within the supplier industry to support the requirement for plant asset management.

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