Siemens Industry SIMATIC PCS 7 process control technology is helping an innovative UK business enhance its market offering and support the next stage of its development.
Plaxica is a process engineering and technology licensing company which develops, demonstrates and designs process technology for the production of the key intermediates for stereocomplex polylactic acid (PLA) – a biopolymer made from renewable materials.
Keen to be able to demonstrate its technology to potential customers, Plaxica built an industrially relevant, scalable pilot plant to showcase its Optipure technology.
The pilot plant – essentially a small industrial plant – is located in The Wilton Centre, Teesside and utilises a small scale distributed control system (DCS) design with Siemens SIMATIC PCS 7 at its core. It offers Plaxica many benefits, as Andy Langton, Senior Process Engineer for Plaxica, explains: “As a relatively young company it is imperative we are able to demonstrate to our potential customers that our process designs are exactly what they are seeking. While it is possible to do this to some extent at a laboratory level, we wanted to move to having a DCS-based pilot process plant that could accurately portray the robustness of our technology in an industrially relevant context to customers. In essence, we wanted to create a facility that was a step down from industry, not a step up from the lab. We now have this with the pilot plant.
“Of particular importance was a key objective to secure an enhanced data collection capability to gather the necessary process intelligence to further develop and prove our process technology. For example, we can now look at trends and how our processes react to change. The DCS pilot plant with PCS 7 at its heart gives us this capability.
“Working with Siemens Industry technology and Solution Partner, QSI, we have generated a cost-effective and commercially scalable pilot plant allowing us to test our processes without the need to build at an intermediate scale prior to a first commercial scale facility. The PCS 7 system also enables us to look at plant scalability, which is very important. Many of our potential customers want to be confident in the ability to scale up our process systems and our pilot plant is able to satisfy this requirement. Potential customers have been very impressed with the facility.”
Steve Watson, Engineering Director at QSI Group says that adopting the small scale DCS approach delivers many operational efficiency benefits for Plaxica. He comments: “Through the DCS approach we were able to use standard PCS 7 library functionality and thereby reduce the timescales required for the bespoke pilot process plant Plaxica was seeking. The inherent high level of diagnostics, good alarm management and easily and quickly configurable points for archiving, reduce both the overall cost and risk for Plaxica.”
Through the specification of Siemens Industry process technology and the creation of the pilot process plant, Plaxica’s engineering team now has a bespoke test and demonstration facility aiding the development of its process technologies, with essential data collection tools and scalability adding intelligence, insight and enhanced capabilities to support strategic management decisions.
It is also providing access to a tangible asset conveying a professional and committed approach when partnering with the company’s perspective clients – one that strongly reinforces Plaxica’s market offering as a leader in the successful design, build and operation of innovative process plants for its global client base.
Andy Langton summarises: “The project to create the small scale DCS process plant was undertaken to move the company’s development to the next level and since its launch the results have been encouraging for us. We are seeing significant commercial opportunities as a result of our ability to practically demonstrate our technology via the pilot plant.”