Title
Fermentation Control Equipment Using Microcontroller Technology
Microcontroller Enables Custom Feature Enhancement and Cost Reduction
Technologies used

    Microcontroller

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    29 Companies Involved in Designing Specialised Machinery
    24 Companies Involved in the Pharmaceutical Industry
    332 Companies Involved in Designing and Manufacturing Analogue/Digital Instrumentation
    333 Process Control Industries
Abstract

Electrolab Ltd is a small independent company, founded in 1988, employing seven people and with annual sales revenue of approximately 800 KEURO. The company designs, manufactures and markets fermentation control equipment for biotechnology applications. These products are marketed for application in commercial laboratories and research organisations, mainly in the UK and Europe.

The company's existing Electrolab P350 product utilises discrete device printed circuit board technology and purchased proprietary control modules to allow the equipment to control the rate of growth of micro-organism cultures in the monitored vessels. The cost of the controller modules used in the company's fermentation controller equipment is high, and the proprietary nature of the controller limits the flexibility of the product in terms of providing additional features and functions in the product.

The objectives of this application experiment were to introduce microcontroller device technology into the unit so as to introduce additional product features and to reduce the manufacturing costs of the fermentation controller equipment. These improvements provided a significant improvement in market competitiveness for the company's products, and widen the range of applications for the product to include industrial cell culture applications.

The microcontroller enhancement allowed the implementation of the following product enhancements:

¨ to increase the number of parameters that can be sampled and controlled.
¨ to improve the flexibility of the product by providing air flow control features.
¨ to allow the control of fermentation processes requiring other gas supplies, such as CO2.
¨ to dramatically reduce the cost of the improved Electrolab P350 and enable the control of two fermenters at once.
¨ to improve operator interfaces and reduce calibration times by the use of automated initialisation routines.
¨ to improve reliability and improve recorder facilities directly on to a PC.

These improvements by the use of an integrated microcontroller will result in a significant increase in profits, company growth and future product developments. Sales levels are expected to increase by more than 100% over 3 years without sacrificing margins. The improved equipment will also allow the company to expand its export sales for the equipment.

The duration of the application experiment was 7 months, and the development of the prototype equipment cost a total of 56 kEURO. The anticipated payback period for this investment is approximately 2 years. The return on investment (ROI) is estimated to be 250% over the product's five year life.

Beyond the direct economic benefits, the adoption of microcontroller technology will improve the company's image and enables the prospect of further generations of microcontroller based equipment in future years.

Company

    Electrolab Ltd
    Unit 2 Northway Trading Estate
    Tewkesbury
    Glos, GL20 8JH
    United Kingdom.


Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Microcontroller technology provided Electrolab 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
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United Kingdom