With assistance from the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP, www.spacetechsolutions.com), Process Level Technology (PLT, www.mag-gage.com) designed the CFLOW-360, a magnetically operated sight-flow indicator that addresses the need in industrial applications for an alternative to less reliable glass sight flows.

“I basically took the magnetic level gauge and applied it to the flow industry,” says Donehue, whose background is in the level gauge manufacturing industry. “With CFLOW, I”ve applied the magnetic circuit to flow measurement, creating a sight-flow indicator that is completely sealed.” The CFLOW-360 incorporates a turbine with a magnetic assembly that couples through a flow chamber to an exterior visual indicator. The device allows for 360 degrees of visibility from up to 200 feet of distance, whereas previous designs were difficult to see from any distance and only could be viewed from two different angles.

The ability to view critical flow lines from greater distances minimizes operator errors in determining flow, as well as operator exposure to hazardous processes. Many petrochemical companies have banned conventional glass sight-flow indicators because of the hazard they represent in such environments. By eliminating contact between glass and processes, the CFLOW-360 diminishes chemical leaks or spills and the added cost of protective gear; allows for use with clear liquids, gas, and substances that have a tendency to coat; and reduces falling or tripping hazards when viewing critical flow lines.

“I had the concept, but needed assistance with the turbine design, specifically the size, pitch, and overall design of the blades,” says Donehue. He worked on the design for nearly five years before meeting with members of the League City Economic Development Corporation, who referred him to David Braun, SATOP Texas project engineer. Braun facilitated a meeting between Donehue and Johnnie Engelhardt, senior payload integration engineer at Muniz Engineering Inc. (MEI, www.meitechinc.com). MEI provides technical services to the U.S. government and commercial customers in the areas of engineering services, safety, and product assurance and management.

“Donehue was in need of a turbine design that could handle the flowrate, as well as a method to capture and hold the magnets,” explained Engelhardt. Engelhardt fashioned the turbine after a standard air foil, and provided Donehue all the required dimensions and specifications. The completed CFLOW-360 design uses magnetic fields between magnets on the pipe”s interior and exterior that trigger movement of a black and yellow magnetic flow indicator ring.

Donehue couldn”t be more pleased with the results. “SATOP introduced me to expertise and engineering that I could never have afforded,” said Donehue. “Product development was at a total standstill for nearly two years, and in far less time than that the CFLOW-360 is ready to go to production.”

— Flow Control Staff