Fluke Releases Thermalert Series of Sensors with ATEX and IECEx Certifications
What are the capabilities of this latest sensor, and what challenges do ATEX and IECEx certification aim to address?
When working in an industrial environment, it's very crucial to have the right components. Many industrial environments are considered hazardous and can operate in extremely cold or hot environments. Fluke is joining many other companies in this space to develop smart sensors with ATEX and IECx certifications.
Fluke Process Instruments
Fluke is an American corporation that develops and manufactures test equipment, measurement systems, and diagnostic equipment. The company was founded in 1948, has grown to more than 2,500 employees. They develop products for a wide range of environments, including commercial and industrial sectors.
A photo showing some of Fluke's process instruments. Image used courtesy Fluke Process Instruments
Fluke is arguably most well known for its multimeters, which typically integrate voltage, current, resistance, capacitance, and component testing. Some of their multimeters also integrate wireless displays detached from the main base to allow engineers to mount the multimeter while observing readings remotely.
Fluke Adds ATEX and IECEx Certification to Thermalert 4.0 Series
Fluke will now allow customers who use this product to request ATEX and IECEx certification model variants for explosive environments. IECEx stands for the International Electrotechnical Commission System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres (IECEx).
The Thermalert 4.0 Series are pyrometers that allow for non-invasive temperature reading using infrared radiation from hot objects (i.e., black-body radiation). Pyrometers are typically designed for applications where extremely high temperatures are found. For example, blast furnaces are required to maintain a controlled but high temperature, and there is no thermometer in existence that can withstand that kind of temperature. Instead, engineers can mount a pyrometer far away and read the IR light given off by the furnace to determine its temperature.
The Thermalert 4.0 series are fully rated for industrial use with an operating temperature range from -20°C to +85°C (-4°F to 185°F) and can be used to monitor temperatures from -40°C to +2,300°C (-40°F to 572°F).
Fluke's Thermalert 4.0 series. Image used courtesy Fluke Process Instruments
These pyrometers also integrate a laser sighting system to enable accurate positioning and offer a plastic lens option for sensors used in hygienic environments. Since pyrometers can be affected by their ambient environment, an external analog input allows for ambient compensation and adjusting the emissivity of the sensor.
The sensor integrates multiple communication options depending on the application. These could include the following:
- 2-wire powered analog communication
- 2-wire loop for HART protocols
- 4-wire for Fieldbus (and other Ethernet-driven industrial protocols)
- 12-wire M16 for digital communication
The Importance of ATEX and IECEx Certification
While it may be obvious that not all environments are the same, some can be exceptionally dangerous if not handled correctly. In the case of explosive atmospheres, any electrical system must be kept isolated from an explosive environment, as any spark can result in ignition. Sparks generally come from relays and switches as they use mechanical contacts, but any electrical system can generate a spark during component failure.
The IECx logo. Image used courtesy of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)
Specific design features can be integrated into ATEX or IECEx rated devices that prevent ignition of explosive atmospheres. These components often complete vigorous testing to ensure their safe operation in explosive environments. Some of these design features include gaskets to prevent the explosive environment from entering the internals of a device, silicon fill to prevent electronic components from sparking, and circuit protection methods to detect current spikes.
It’s important to note that ATEX and IECEx have varying levels of protection against industrial environments. Just because a device carries an ATEX certification does not mean it can be used in all explosive environments.
Fluke is just one of many companies in this space creating sensors and specifically pyrometers for these kinds of harsh industrial environments. What other companies are creating products with these certifications? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.