Ultrasonic Measuring System for Solids Level Detection
Microcontrollers, Fuzzy & DSP Technologies provide a flexible & accurate solution
Technologies used

Multiple Microprocessors, Fuzzy Logic, DSP

Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    332 Instruments & Appliances for measuring, checking and testing etc.
Pulsonic technologies Ltd, a young SME company based in Bradford, West Yorkshire was established in 1993. They grew out of the university sector and as a result its founders have expert knowledge in the company's core technology of ultrasonic sensing and have reasonable PCB experience. The company designs and manufactures ultrasonic level and flow instrumentation systems for use in general process control industries and in particular for the water treatment markets. The company turnover is 510k Eur with the majority of the business currently being related to flow measuring equipment.

The current products use an 8-bit microprocessor, which had its design and all its development subcontracted out. It controls an ultrasonic head and calculates timings between the head firing signal and receiving its echo. A wide range of measuring depths regularly produce numerous echo returns and combining often weak return signals with background noise, leaves the system prone to frequent system error readings. This situation is much more pronounced in solids surface detection systems using ultrasonic measurement than in liquid level or flow measuring systems. This has resulted in costly bills to 'patch up' individual system inaccuracies, which were of major concern to the company, and they had to understand their product, take control of its development and improve the return signal pattern recognition. Without having: in-house knowledge to enhance and develop our products and without solving the problems inherent in weak signals, and coping with solids, the company would succumb to competition. The new prototype development enables a more accurate determination of the correct surface level within silos and hoppers etc for solids (i.e. powders, beads or granules).

The current system had a reasonable performance level for liquid-level detection but inherent return echo definition problems made solids-level detection unreliable. The new development would open up the solids market for the company. The project objective was to enable the company to achieve full technical control over its product range by transferring the knowledge into the company to establish an in-house microelectronic hardware and software design capability. This was achieved with the development of a new ultrasonic level measurement product, which uses a multiple processorconfiguration utilising embedded DSP techniques to produce a product with enhanced operational performance, primarily for the measurement in the solids industry.

The new product uses a dual 16-bit processor architecture (one for the embedded signal processing functions, the other for the user interfacing) to maximise the performance, functionality and accuracy of the product over that of the company's established products and that of its competitors. The new product can accurately measure the level of the solids in the silo's and tanks up to a distance of 25metres. The company now employs 9 people including a firmware engineer who was recruited at the project start to complement their hardware expertise.

The development work up to the prototype stage took 17 months at a cost of 104KEur. As a result of the added value in-house microelectronics skills acquired during this project, the return on investment is conservatively estimated at 620% but realistically may be as high as 1000%. The payback period is calculated to be 18 months.

The Fuse project has:
· Broadened the skills of its present staff using microelectronic hardware and software technologies.
· Given the company the know-how to enable itself to improve its present product range.
· Removed the company dependency on sub-contractors for existing product support & new product development.
· Enabled the company to be more competitive, achieve faster growth and enter more diverse markets now that the prototype has the potential to distinguish various solids surface profiles.
· Given the company the skills to manage & control new technologies for future replication work.

Pulsonic Technologies Ltd
Campus House, 10 Hey St
Bradford, BD7 1DQ
United Kingdom

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Multiple Microprocessors, Fuzzy Logic, DSP technology provided Pulsonic Technologies 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
Bolton Institute of Higher Education
Technology Development Unit
Deane Road
BL3 5AB Bolton
United Kingdom