Alicat Pressure Controllers Rocket Into the Atmosphere

Modified PC Series used in sounding rocket payload attitude control systems
Tucson, Arizona (September 21, 2011) – Pressure controllers from Alicat Scientific  have been selected for use in NASA sounding rockets to control payload attitude. Alicat PC Series absolute pressure controllers provide the speed, accuracy and durability required for this mission-critical function.

Alicat controllers modulate the pressure commands to adjust altitude on this NASA sounding rockets' payload section.

Alicat controllers modulate the pressure commands to adjust attitude on this NASA sounding rockets' payload section.

The payload sections of some NASA sounding rockets are required to achieve pointing accuracies of finer than 1 arc second (1/3600 of a degree). Conventional attitude control systems (using solenoid valves) introduce too much shock and vibration, and are imprecise. NASA contractor Northrop Grumman turned to Alicat for a solution that would work with its delicate optical instruments.

The Alicat PC Series absolute pressure controllers are used to directly feed the payload’s attitude control jets. The four pressure controllers are fed from a common gaseous argon manifold at approximately 160 psig, with a stock Alicat mulitdrop RS-232 sending set-point commands to the controllers. As soon as the rocket passes 100 km in altitude, all controllers are brought up to 5 PSIA with both pitch and yaw moments balanced. The spacecraft’s attitude is then modified by modulating the pressure commands sent to the Alicat controllers.

Alicat’s control precision enables commanded pressure changes in increments as small as .00234 psi or as large as 150 psi, with extreme speed. NASA’s testing demonstrated the controllers accurately track a 5 hz sign wave, correlating to a response time faster than 32 milliseconds. As there are no backup systems for altitude control, the Alicat pressure controllers are considered to be mission-critical pieces of equipment.

A top choice for a variety of applications, the Alicat PC Series pressure controllers are available with numerous output options in a modular design that delivers fast, accurate and repeatable results. Low power consumption and a rugged design result in lower cost over the course of its long service life. With an industry-leading Lifetime Warranty against defects in materials and workmanship, users can feel confident that their application needs will be met.

To fit NASA’s requirements, the stock PC Series controllers were modified slightly with a different capacitor and connector hardware. To enhance durability and reduce mass, the main electronics board was potted in plastic and the bodies were fabricated from aluminum, rather than the typical stainless steel. The controllers passed NASA testing for shock, vibration, thermal cycling and exposure to vacuum without difficulty, and have completed several successful missions. Northrop Grumman has ordered 28 controllers over a five year period for this application.

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Alicat Flow Meter Helps Bust Movie Myth

Monitors methane gas flow during “Bourne Magazine” myth testing
Tucson, Arizona (May 24, 2011) – Alicat Scientific (www.alicatscientific.com) recently supplied equipment to the popular TV show Mythbusters for an episode testing the plausibility of a scene from the movie the Bourne Supremacy. An Alicat 250 SLPM mass flow meter was used to monitor methane gas flow as hosts Adam and Jamie recreated the setup for an explosion involving a gas line, toaster and magazine.

Alicat’s 250 SLPM mass flow meter was used to help bust the “Bourne Magazine” myth.

Alicat’s 250 SLPM mass flow meter was used to help bust the “Bourne Magazine” myth.

Mythbusters tests the reality of movie stunts and urban myths when conducted under real-world conditions. The segment in which Alicat’s product was used was entitled “Bourne Magazine.” To escape the bad guys, the Bourne Supremacy’s main character breaks his apartment’s gas line, then inserts a magazine into a toaster, creating a fuse that ignites the gas and causes a massive explosion just seconds after he safely exits the back door.

To test the plausibility of this scene, the cast members recreated the apartment, complete with a magazine and toaster fuse setup and an external methane tank to simulate a residential gas line. The methane tank was rigged with a regulator and flow meter to provide the same kind of gas input as a domestic gas line.

The product supplied by Alicat was its 250 SLPM mass flow meter, with optional TFT color display, calibrated for methane gas with a range of 0-8 standard cubic feet per minute. Equipped with Alicat’s optional totalizer, the unit provided the total methane flow into the simulation apartment. Alicat’s CSA-approved meters and controllers measure mass flow using differential pressure, a unique process resulting in fast response with a rugged design. 

The meter is able to operate simply as a stand-alone device, as it was used by Mythbusters. An integrated digital display enables users to change the configuration of the meter without the need for computers, complicated software or scripts. For more complex operation, the product also interfaces with most process control software without requiring any additional equipment or controllers, a simple to install and cost effective solution.

In the end, the movie scene was deemed “busted” and implausible. Under testing, despite the fact that the toaster fuse actually took a minute and thirty seconds longer to ignite, allowing a greater volume of methane to fill the room, all that resulted was a melted toaster. Even with about 7 cubic feet of methane filling the apartment, the gas did not ignite, let alone explode. Determined not to be robbed of the massive explosion the movie promised, Adam and Jamie unleashed about 20 cubic feet of methane, igniting a neon transmitter fuse only when an exact air to gas mixture was reached, to finally blow out the walls of their simulated apartment.

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CSA Approval for Alicat’s Mass Flow and Pressure Devices

For use in Class 1 Division 2 Hazardous environments in the United States and Canada
Tucson, Arizona (March 25, 2011) – Continuing its mission of providing equipment to fit a wider range of customer requirements, Alicat Scientific, Inc. has attained CSA approval for the use of Alicat Mass Flow Meters, Mass Flow Controllers, and Pressure Equipment, in Class 1 Division 2 Hazardous environments. With the Class 1 Division 2 rating, Alicat’s precision devices are even easier to integrate into a wide range of factory settings or applications. 

Alicat’s Mass Flow Meters, Mass Flow Controllers, and Pressure Equipment are now CSA approved for use in Class 1 Division 2 Hazardous environment

Alicat’s Mass Flow Meters, Mass Flow Controllers, and Pressure Equipment are now CSA approved for use in Class 1 Division 2 Hazardous environment

Alicat devices can be ordered in the CSA approved configuration with no extension of the already fast 7 business day lead times. All Alicat CSA approved devices have group ABCD approval, and all flow devices come pre-calibrated (NIST traceable) for Acetylene, Hydrogen, Ethylene, and Propane, as well as 16 other gasses and 10 gas mixes.

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Alicat Mass Flow Meters and Controllers at Pittcon

Live smash tests demonstrate product durability
Tucson, Arizona (February 16, 2011) – Alicat Scientific, Inc., will display its line of mass flow devices during Pittcon 2011, March 13 to18 at the Georgia World Congress Center (Atlanta, Georgia).  A live demonstration in the company’s booth, number 3020, will give show visitors a first-hand look at product durability and accuracy.

Alicat’s MC series mass flow controller will be taking on the company’s simulated impact device at Pittcon 2011.

Alicat’s MC series mass flow controller will be taking on the company’s simulated impact device at Pittcon 2011.

Alicat meters and controllers measure mass flow using differential pressure, a unique process resulting in fast response with a rugged design. To demonstrate this accuracy and durability at Pittcon, an Alicat MC series unit will be subjected to the company’s simulated impact device. With gas flowing through the device, it will be launched in the air and allowed to slam on to a metal platform.  Visitors will be able to witness that the calibration remains steady, despite the harsh treatment.

Another highlight of Alicat’s exhibit will be the MB portable mass flow meter which measures mass flow, volumetric flow, absolute pressure and temperature for any of 30 user-selected gas calibrations.  Powered by a standard or lithium 9Vdc battery, the color TFT display is visible in both no light and direct sunlight conditions for use in any environment.

Alicat’s PCU portable calibration unit; corrosion-resistant MS and MCS Series gas flow meters and controllers; L and LC series liquid flow meter and controller; PCD dual valve pressure controller; and RDD remote digital display will round out the company’s exhibit.

To learn more about any of these products and to see the simulated impact device in action, visit Alicat at Pittcon booth 3020.

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Alicat Scientific Acquired by Halma

Instrument manufacturer joins fluid technology group of multinational company
Tucson, Arizona (November 3, 2010) – Alicat Scientific, a manufacturer of mass flow and pressure technology, has been acquired by Halma p.l.c., a leading safety, health and sensor technology group based in the United Kingdom.  Alicat will join Halma’s global group of fluid technology businesses.

Alicat, the newest addition to Halma’s group of fluid technology businesses, designs and manufacturers mass flow and pressure technology.

Alicat, the newest addition to Halma’s group of fluid technology businesses, designs and manufacturers mass flow and pressure technology.

Founded in 1991, Alicat (www.alicatscientific.com) pioneered the use of differential pressure measurement in its products, speeding response times by as much as 1000 times over that of competing temperature-based measurement technology.  The company’s mass flow devices are used in medical and scientific instrumentation as well as specialty industrial applications for high-precision measurement of gas and liquid flows.  Its product range includes mass and liquid flow meters and controllers; pressure controllers; digital pressure and vacuum gauges; portable flow meters; calibration standards; software and accessories.

Halma (www.halma.com) is a holding company of 36 worldwide subsidiaries that develop and manufacture products to improve quality of life for people worldwide. The company’s business groups focus on industrial safety, health and analysis and infrastructure sensors.  Alicat joins the fluid technology sector of the health and analysis business group.  These established brands make critical components such as pumps, probes, valves, connectors and tubing used by scientific, environmental and medical diagnostic instrument manufacturers for demanding fluid handling applications.

Halma typically acquires companies in familiar markets or closely allied sectors. Alicat shares a number of key customers and market niches with new sister companies Bio-Chem Fluidics (www.biochemfluidics.com), Diba Industries (www.dibaind.com) and Perma Pure (www.permapure.com). The acquisition of Alicat and its complementary technologies will create opportunities for technical and marketing collaborations as Halma continues to grow this sector.

“Alicat has been competing for market space against much larger organizations with much deeper pockets,” explains Alicat president David Lashbrook. “Joining Halma provides tangible resources to allow us to gain more ground in the marketplace.  Halma’s intellectual resources in terms of organizational experience and corporate governance will help Alicat establish a more streamlined corporate structure. Our commitment to strong customer service has proven to be a good strategy for consistent market exposure; Halma’s global presence will allow Alicat to bring this strategy to new international markets with minimal risk.”

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