Radar Is the Technology of the Future

VEGA’s German headquarters in the Black Forest opened its doors to show the new products coming in 2020, such as the self-sufficient AuRa sensor. The focus was on radar technology which, according to the company representatives, will replace ultrasonic technology

by Rossana Pasian

On December 10th, VEGA opened the doors of its German headquarters in Schiltach to some representatives of the Italian trade press and associations to describe the spirit of the company, and on the occasion it presented the new products for 2020. We had, therefore, the opportunity to get to know VEGA and its history better, meeting the key players in the place where the company was born. The day was opened by Isabel Grieshaber, VEGA’s Manager Partner, and granddaughter of Bruno Grieshaber, who founded the company in 1959. Isabel Grieshaber emphasized the company’s family vocation, aimed at creating a pleasant environment for its employees. VEGA relies heavily on human capital: a graph presented by Grieshaber showed that the increase in employees corresponded to an increase in turnover.
At the same time, however, employees and subsidiaries must not have a number, but rather an action, as their objective: year by year, what is requested is not a turnover forecast, but the planning of actions aimed at improving business and achieving technological innovation. Values mentioned by Isabel Grieshaber, not surprisingly, include: not going after fast money, therefore not focusing on low quality solutions for the sake of short-term profit; establishing and encouraging partnerships; no pressing control over employees and collaborators, along with a “flat” hierarchy; a solution-driven orientation; trend-setting and innovation; safe and user-friendly devices. What does the future have in store? Isabel Grieshaber talks about persons, speed and ecology – even now at VEGA most of the electricity comes from renewable sources. Thinking about the future, Rainer Waltersbacher, Managing Director, took the stand, pointing out that VEGA is a company renowned especially for its radar technology, on which it has been focusing and concentrating its research work for the past 30 years or so. In this respect, therefore, there are many innovations for 2020; Rainer Waltersbacher spoke about the 80 GHz “radar chip”, capable of reducing costs and expanding the possibilities of developing increasingly compact versions.

Radar beats ultrasound
“Within ten years ultrasound technology will retire, this is VEGA’s intuition” Daniele Romano, Marketing Manager of VEGA Italy, commented, presenting the new compact 80 GHz radar sensors for the water industry with Sandro Di Marco, Internal Salesman, during the second part of the morning. The new compact models VEGAPULS 11, VEGAPULS 21 and VEGAPULS 31 have a lens antenna with high signal sensitivity, are chemically resistant and guarantee a working life of ten years.
80 GHz technology provides a sharper focusing of the emitted signal, and it is therefore possible to distinguish better the actual measurement signal from disturbances, solving problems previously considered impossible. The ultrasonic sensor emits sound waves which travel in the air, and are subject to its variations; whereas the radar sensor launches electromagnetic waves which travel in vacuum, almost completely eliminating disturbances, such as electronic interference. By means of live demonstrations comparing ultrasound and radar, we have seen how the latter is not even affected by the impurities generally present in the waters where the sensors work. Ultrasound “reads” any impurities it comes in contact with, so the measurement is not correct; this does not happen with radar, which keeps the measurement almost unchanged. It has been shown that even in other cases, such as temperature changes, the ultrasonic sensor cannot measure adequately, with measurement oscillations of up to 20%; on the contrary, with the radar sensor such problems do not exist, and oscillations are almost completely eliminated under all conditions. Besides, the radar can be installed outside the tanks, unlike ultrasound.
The new VEGA models presented are integrated with the optional VEGAMET control units, equipped with a large, easily legible graphic display where all values may be read. These units are protected from atmospheric factors by a weather-resistant casing for use on the field. All instruments may also be conveniently gauged via Bluetooth with a smartphone or tablet, simplifying parametrization, visualization and diagnosis in less accessible environments or in presence of explosion risks. Following this presentation, we were taken on a tour of the company and were able to observe VEGA in its actual operation: assembly areas, logistics, administrative offices, etc.

Food and Pharma in colour
In the first part of the a fternoon, Valentina Lombardo, Marketing Specialist, VEGA Italia, and Mario Ruggeri, OEM Sales Specialist, presented the pressure and level threshold measurement solutions dedicated to the food and pharmaceutical industry. The compact product families VEGABAR (series 10, 20 and 30) and VEGAPOINT (series 10, 20/30 and VEGASWING 10) prove that automation can be both simple and efficient, while maintaining high standards of safety, precision and above all hygiene.
The VEGABAR pressure sensor family is available with ceramic or metal membranes: both versions guarantee optimal hygiene. The great innovation of the VEGABAR family is colour: all models are equipped with a LED light which is visible at a distance and in broad daylight. The indication of the intervention status allows visual recognition from any observation point. The colour of the light ring, selectable from 256 shades, is clearly visible in any lighting conditions. At a glance, it is possible to detect whether the measurement is in progress, the sensor intervenes or an anomaly is present.
The standardized hygienic adapter system for VEGABAR and the VEGAPOINT level switches guarantee the flexibility needed for cost containment and to minimize inventory management; they are made of materials compliant with current regulations and eliminate the possibility of bacterial contamination. Another advantage is the unique code for the instrument, which may be coupled with several adapters depending on the application. The process connections may be selected according to specific requirements and adapted to the conditions on site.
Universal and at the same time particularly simple communication is ensured by the standard IO-Link protocol; these tools have a standardized communication platform allowing direct data transfer and simple integration into the plant. The VEGABAR and VEGAPOINT families may be read and configured via smartphone or tablet and are equipped with Bluetooth.

Autarchy in the world of sensors
Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing the industrial world, particularly the logistics segment. IoT is essentially based on data exchanged using an increasingly wide communication network. These data are collected and made available by the sensors which IoT relies on. Often, however, the sensors are located in places where a power supply directly from the mains is not possible.
To address this issue, Daniele Romano and Luciano Tonelli, CEO of VEGA Italia, presented as a preview the second part of the afternoon AuRa, a self-sufficient sensor based on 80 GHz radar technology which will be on the market as from March, 2020. AuRa was designed as a prototype purposely created for one of VEGA’s customers to monitor IBC containers, and now the company plans to turn it into a key product in its catalogue.
The sensor is equipped with a wireless battery and SIM card, and it is easy to install according to the plug & play principle: it just needs to be glued it to the tank requiring measurement and that is all, therefore there are no installation costs. Thanks to radar technology, it is possible to carry out the measurement from the outside of the tank, without having to open or modify the plastic casing; the control may be carried out both inside the company and during the transportation of the tank. Even with stacked containers, AuRa detects the level and position of each individual container and transmits data, on average twice a day, via radio using the cloud. Power management, based on the use of batteries combined with optimised measuring cycles, ensures a working life of up to ten years.
AuRa currently supports the NB-IoT and LoRa standards, but a successive expansion is possible. The sensor is also equipped with various low power radio standards and uses the one currently available. The combination with VEGA Inventory System offers additional potential: based on the data obtained, the logistics and visualization software detects the optimum order quantity and future planning objectives.
The self-sufficient AuRa sensor may be used in various applications, not just industrial ones, but also civil and private uses such as chemical product storage, urban waste tanks, rain water cisterns and many others. The day was brought to a close by Matthias Veith, Head of Marketing, VEGA, who thanked the German and Italian marketing teams for the organization of this exclusive initiative in which we took part, and stressed once again how, according to VEGA, 2020 will be the year when radar technology and the AuRa sensor will have a leading role.