Title
An Improved Chromatography Temperature Controller
Microcontroller Technology Improves Competitiveness and Feature Count
Technologies used

    Microcontroller

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    24 Pharmaceuticals
    29 Specialised Machinery Manufacturers
    332 Instruments and Appliances for Measuring, Checking, Testing etc
Abstract

Jones Chromatography is a small privately owned company formed in 1967 and now employing 62 employees and achieving a turnover of 6.7 MEUR in 1999. The company specialises in the design, development, manufacture and distribution of a wide range of instruments, accessories and consumables for use with High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Gas Chromatography systems. It also distributes related instruments.

The company's products are applied in the medical, pharmaceutical, and research and development markets world-wide. Approximately 25% of the company's sales of chromatography equipment are from exports. The company has sales offices in both the USA and Malaysia.

Jones Chromatography's main expertise prior to the application experiment was in the area of formulating chemicals and reagents for the chromatography process. The company's existing products applied electronics in the form of purchased controller units, and the company developed low complexity, typically up to 10 discrete devices, interfaces to provide power supplies or driver interfaces for these purchased controller units.

The company manufactures a wide range of bench top temperature control instruments for use with High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) systems. Temperature control of a HPLC column is critical in obtaining chromatographic reproducibility and allows greater separation efficiencies for many applications. As the market for HPLC instruments is becoming competitive and price dominated, a market opportunity existed to provide a product with reduced cost, enhanced flexibility over temperature control, and feature enhancements to provide the product differentiation.

The rationale of the FUSE application experiment was to improve the product's temperature regulation / cost performance and to provide extra functionality to meet this identified market need. The improved product provides enhanced user benefits in a number of areas and a available at reduced cost.
The introduction of a microcontroller device in the improved product has enabled product features to be delivered:

  • Improved temperature control performance by providing:
    • The ability to provide temperature profiling over a time period extending from a few minutes to many hours, with over and under temperature audible alarms.
    • The ability to link the temperature control system into a central network to improve the process and enable greater automation. This allows continuous monitoring and would improve the long term process quality.
  • Enhanced communication facilities enabling:
    • Data logging of actual process parameters for quality control and experimental analysis purposes.
    • A remote communication option via a PC modem to permit problem solving by Jones Chromatography scientists linking into the client's system. This will provide a much higher level of customer care.
    • The ability to customise the process cycle from a remote computer.

The microcontroller performance enhancements will provide enhanced user benefits, and these have been realised whilst reducing the costs of the temperature controller by approximately 15%.

The duration of the AE was scheduled as 9 months. The application experiment was on schedule to complete within this period, but due to the impact of an unrelated business problem with the original subcontractor, this period was extended to 18 months to allow a second subcontractor to deliver the final prototype. This factor resulted in a total application experiment duration of 18 months. The total cost of the application experiment was 49 k Euro.

The increased sales expected as a result of providing the enhanced product performance will payback these development costs within 15 months. The return on investment (ROI) is estimated at 380% over three years. Including industrialisation costs, which are estimated to be of the order of 20 k Euro, this becomes 23 months and 270% respectively.

Company

    Jones Chromatography Ltd.
    New Road
    Hengoed
    CF82 8AU
    United Kingdom.


Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Microcontroller technology provided Jones Chromatography Ltd. with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.


Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
Univercity of Glamorgan
Mid Glamorgan
Pontypridd CF37 1DL
United Kingdom