Versatile collection device streamlines monitoring system

Several years ago, the biotechnology firm Genentech Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.) experienced many difficulties with sensor inputs and complex wiring installation for data acquisition devices. The company used numerous data collection tools, all with different sensor inputs and communication hookups, which made configuring sensors for lab experiments a mind-boggling task.

09/01/1999


Several years ago, the biotechnology firm Genentech Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.) experienced many difficulties with sensor inputs and complex wiring installation for data acquisition devices. The company used numerous data collection tools, all with different sensor inputs and communication hookups, which made configuring sensors for lab experiments a mind-boggling task.

Genentech's manufacturing, research, and development processes are monitored around the clock by its Facilities Monitoring System (FMS) to detect fluctuations in temperature or other environmental conditions in steam boilers, chillers, cold and warm rooms, incubators, and laboratories. These changes are detected by data acquisition devices, which trigger alarms in the control room. Data acquisition devices are an important link in the system. To lessen configuration headaches and coordinate its processes, Genentech needed one piece of equipment to efficiently and cost-effectively handle all environmental control data collection needs.

Addressing the problem

"A major problem was each device could only handle certain electrical sensor inputs, so we needed a variety of devices to handle all the different inputs we deal with," says Karl Scherer, a Genentech senior automation engineer. "Also, many of the devices were hard to wire, connect, and install, and so costs to rewire a room were always prohibitive."

Technicians also found existing machines were too large and cumbersome to transport when setting up a new installation. Moreover, many data acquisition devices had no PC interface, such as RS-232 serial cable ports, so data connections to PC networks could not be completed.

To help solve these installation challenges, Genentech eventually chose the DC-100, a data acquisition device from Yokogawa Corp. of America (Newnan, Ga.). DC-100 offered data acquisition and recording in a single device with digital memory. The company uses 10 expandable models that can be configured to handle up to 300 channels of measured points, with 30 channels per unit.

DC-100 handles most sensor inputs, including 4-20 mA, 50 mV to 50 V dc, strain, ac voltage/current, thermocouples, and RTDs. This versatility allows the biotech company to easily program each data acquisition device to trigger five different alarms. By comparison, 30 signals generated by Genentech's other data acquisition devices would have required 30 pairs of signal wires to be installed.

"The new equipment gives us greater flexibility during installations," says Mr. Scherer. "We save thousands of dollars per year on wiring costs because we don't need to extensively prewire the building. The technicians say connecting them to remote interfaces is very easy. We also have the capability to connect this device to our corporate network via RS-232, RS-485, or Ethernet.

"The new devices make it easier to react to our changing lab environment. Technicians can easily upgrade from 30 to 60 channels in one location without help."

In addition, Genentech's old acquisition devices use paper chart recorders that must be maintained and occasionally repaired. These are still used for some applications, but the new Yokogawa devices have an internal memory to handle data recording.

Genentech's financial savings from using DC-100 have been significant. "We've saved up to 67% per channel on hardware costs each time we purchase new equipment," says Mr. Scherer. "Overall, approximately $50,000 has been saved on new hardware alone during the past 18 months. With no mechanical parts to break down, we've eliminated a lot of repair work and saved thousands of dollars per year. We can access more channels with the subunits than with other devices, so we will be adding more DC-100 to our system as soon as possible."

For more information, visit www.controlemng.com/freeinfo



Genentech's needs in a data acquisition system

Sophisticated digital memory

Portable, lightweight design

Handles almost any sensor input

Requires only one communication wire

Offers greater flexibility during installations



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