Endress+Hauser has invested $34 million in a modern corporate campus near Pearland, Texas, in the greater Houston area. A large new training center, office space for 110 employees, a calibration laboratory and a repair shop have been built on 112,000 square meters. The new building strengthens the Group’s presence in the Gulf region.
Located in Pearland, Texas, the building is in the heart of the economically strong Gulf of Mexico region. “The expansion reflects our strong roots in the USA. It demonstrates our proximity to our customers and helps us to serve them even better in the future,” said Matthias Altendorf, Group CEO during the dedication ceremony on October 26, 2021.
Training facility for customer training
The new campus features the largest process training unit in the U.S., with 200 pieces of equipment and seven tanks, as well as a laboratory for metrology and process analytics. Local customers and partners can learn how to use modern measurement and automation technology here in customized training courses.
In addition, the campus is equipped for the accredited calibration of instruments for flow, temperature and pressure measurement. These can be carried out both in the laboratory and with a mobile calibration system at the customer’s site. A service workshop completes the range of services.
Sustainable construction in regional style
When planning the campus, the company placed great emphasis on sustainability. The building is already the fifth in the U.S. to be certified according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for environmentally friendly construction. In addition, regional materials were used in the interior and exterior to reflect Texas architecture.
The campus provides space for 110 employees. In addition to Endress+Hauser teams, the new building also houses the gas analysis business unit, the laboratory analysis specialists of subsidiary Analytik Jena, and regional sales and service partner Vector Controls & Automation Group.
Seven-figure investment for VR startup
In a second round of financing, startup Innerspace receives a seven-figure euro investment from its two existing investors MAD Ventures and High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF), as well as a new partner, aws Gründerfonds. The company develops virtual reality simulators for critical production areas in the life science industry, including clean rooms. The startup will use the investment to further expand its market presence and use the funds to increase its sales and consulting team. Product and market expansion into other areas of the pharmaceutical and chemical industries are also on the agenda.
Virtual reality simulators from Innerspace are used by big players in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, North America and Japan. Employees in cleanrooms use Innerspace technology to train correct behavior, recognize reasons for mistakes, learn to avoid misconduct and train “experience through repetition” in a risk-free, virtual environment.
The principle of the flight simulator translated into the cleanroom
Innerspace’s simulators enable critical skills training with VR goggles and are accordingly handier than flight simulators. Nevertheless, they serve the same purpose: they minimize risks from cleanroom contamination and make errors visible, measurable and reproducible as critical events. Because of their strong connection to real-world challenges, training with virtual reality simulators is significantly more effective than existing training and learning methods. “Essentially, we are transferring the flight simulator success story to the qualification of production personnel in the life science industry: train faster, better and hazard-free experience,” illustrates Walter Ischia, Managing Director Sales and Finance at Innerspace.
“Innerspace delivers a complete solution consisting of analysis and consulting by experienced industry and training experts, a modular VR simulator solution that enables customer-specific adaptations, as well as roll-out and implementation support,” adds Alexander Wild, who is responsible for production and operations as managing director.
Targeted growth in the life science industry
“We are receiving a lot of interest from the industry for our VR simulators,” reports Ischia, ranking the potential of his solution: “In Europe alone, there are nearly 100,000 cleanroom employees, and worldwide there are about four times as many.”
“The principles behind our simulator are not only applicable to the cleanroom. The requirement to train correct behavior in critical production areas in an effective, measurable and reproducible way exists in many other areas besides the pharmaceutical and chemical industries with far higher numbers than just cleanrooms, for example in laboratories.”
– Sebastian Scheler, Co-Founder
Success in the seed phase made investors take notice
Innerspace has managed to grow successfully even during the crisis. As a result, the company has now been able to bring aws Gründerfonds on board, in addition to its existing investors, the German High Tech Gründer Fonds and the Austrian investor MAD Ventures.
Christoph Haimberger, Managing Director of aws Gründerfonds, says: “I consider virtual reality to be a great innovation that is increasingly changing industries and services. Thanks to the Innerspace team, training in the life science sector can now be rethought from the ground up. And this is just the beginning for further applications.”
Markus Jandrinitsch, the responsible investment manager at aws Gründerfonds about Innerspace: “In recent years, virtual reality has been able to develop from a mere gimmick for early adopters to established use cases in various verticals. In one of the most exciting of these use cases, namely training in critical production environments, Innerspace managed to build impressive traction in a short period of time, which we believe is due to both the high quality of the product and the team. We are therefore convinced that the investment will enable them to exploit the enormous market potential even faster than before and that there are great opportunities for future growth.”
Safe solution to process a wide range of products
Treatment of products with high vacuum
A very important Germany fine-chemical company has chosen a 3000 liters Bi-Evolution Dryer (model RB 3000) fully equipped with vacuum pump, condensing unit, H/C unit and control-system by Italvacuum. The Bi-Evolution Dryer is Italvacuum’s double cone rotary vacuum dryer that provides high level performances to fulfill the production needs of modern-day firms in the chemical, fine chemical and pharmaceutical industry, amongst many others. It keeps up with today’s increasingly stringent safety regulations, such as Atex, FDA, Asme, cGMP, Ehedg, CE, Ex.
Italvacuum can provide turnkey installation; the company offers every necessary component for a flawless production process, from vacuum pumps and H/C units together with the control-system. Furthermore the company is also able to serve and support costumers on an international scale in different stages of projects: before the choice thanks to high skilled engineer and the possibility of pilot test in house or off site and during the phase of installation/ after sales thanks to highly specialized staff that can provide scheduled preventive maintenance or prompt technical assistance.
For more information about Italvacuum:
Biotechnology Measurement, Instrumentation, Control & Automation Safety & Security Water & Waste Water
Method for determination of legionella in a water
New method for fully automated determination of the concentration of legionella in a water sample within a few hours
The hygienic necessity to control the concentration of legionella in technical water systems from which aerosols can be discharged leads to the problem that the cultivation method (ISO 11731-2017) used for this purpose only provides reliable results after a delay of 7-12 days. On this basis, necessary measures can only be taken and controlled with a considerable time delay. Rapid tests currently available on the market either do not correlate reliably with the accredited cultivation method or require (time-) consuming preparation steps. Some rapid tests provide highly specific detection for single Legionella species, but not for all Legionella species in a water sample (Legionella spp. = species pluralis). The newly developed measuring device INWATROL L.nella+ from Inwatec is based on the method of measuring the metabolic activity of living cells and reliably determines the parameter Legionella spp. from a water sample within a few hours. The measuring device is directly connected to the technical water system with automatic and self-disinfecting sample feed, including self-disinfection of the water contained in the measuring cell after the measurement is completed. This enables the plant operator to determine the hygienic water quality continuously and safely. In addition to the direct control of the success of the measures carried out, it is also possible to control e.g. biocides according to requirements.
The hygienic relevance of the spread of pathogenic Legionella via aerosols from technical water systems such as evaporative cooling systems and cooling towers has led to the creation of technical hygiene guidelines in many countries. In Germany, VDI 2047 part 2 and 3, generally accepted technical rules for ensuring the hygienic operation of evaporative cooling systems and cooling towers came into force for the first time in 2015. In addition, in many countries the tolerable concentration of legionella in the circulation water of the respective plants is limited by the legislator. In Germany, the forty-second ordinance for the implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act (Ordinance on Evaporative Cooling Systems, Cooling Towers and Wet Separators – 42nd BImSchV) came into force on 19.08.2017, which also includes wet separators. So far, the basis for hygiene control has always been the determination of the concentration of legionella in the water by cultivation according to ISO 11731:2017 with system-dependent threshold values. In this cultivation method, cell division produces visible and therefore countable colonies. In comparison to other bacterial species, Legionella bacteria divide relatively slowly, so that the results of the measurement are only available after 7-12 days, whereby in some cases further investigations to confirm suspicious colonies follow.
For the operator of a plant with monitoring obligation, this means a strongly delayed control of the hygiene status. Furthermore, the efficiency of any necessary measures can only be determined with a long delay. Additional rapid tests for estimating the contamination of water with Legionella are available, e.g. based on immunological reactions (antibody reaction), detection of genetic material (PCR) or by means of color fluorescence microscopy. The limitations of these rapid tests are the live/dead quantification, the comparability to the culture method or the complex sample preparation.
The newly developed and patented automatic measuring device INWATROL L.nella+ allows the reliable and continuous determination of the parameter Legionella species pluralis with high correlation to the cultivation method according to ISO 11731:2017 within a few hours without further preparation steps by the user.
2. Rapid test for the fully automated determination of Legionella species pluralis
2.1 Measuring principle
The detection of metabolically active Legionella bacteria is based on a non-specific enzymatic conversion of a non-polar fluorescein acid ester, which only passes through the cell membrane of living cells into the cell interior where it is converted into color-active fluorescein. The increase in fluorescence as a function of time is directly proportional to the number of living cells and is converted into colony forming units per 100 ml. Due to a combined heat and pH pretreatment and the high measuring temperature compared to the cultivation method, the accompanying flora is killed. The measurement is performed undiluted in a sample volume of approx. 350 ml. In comparison to the cultivation method, the measurement is not significantly influenced by accompanying flora and a high measuring inaccuracy due to a high dilution.
2.2 Continuous, automated measurement
For continuous measurements, the measuring device is directly connected to a water system. A thermally self-disinfecting sampling line ensures that no reproduction of legionella in the supply line affects the measurement result. Ideally, the sampling tap is in continuous operation to exclude stagnation of water between two measurements. The measuring cell in the device is rinsed several times during filling. After the rinsing process is completed, the combined heat and pH pretreatment starts. When the pre-treatment is completed, the measuring cell cools down to the measuring temperature and the measurement begins. The measuring cell is thermally disinfected before the device is filled again for the follow-up examination. The measuring cell is ready for the next measurement. Usually, a sampling tap is installed directly at the sampling point before the sampling line. This tap can be used to take microbiological samples at the time of filling the measuring cell or at any other times, e.g. for further validation measurements.
2.3 Automated measurement of manually loaded samples
The continuous measuring operation can be interrupted for manual feeding of further water samples via the filling funnel. For cleaning, rinsing and filling the measuring cell, only the valve position on the device has to be changed. When the filling is completed, the valve position is returned to its original position and the measuring device switches back to automatic mode when the measurement is completed. The measuring procedure itself does not differ from the automatic mode.
2.4 Cultivation according to ISO 11731:2017/ UBA1
The cultivation method uses several approaches with different dilution and pretreatment stages (heat or acid). The aim is to obtain evaluable results for both low and high levels of Legionella. For the result, the preparation with the highest number of confirmed Legionella colonies is used (if the measurement accuracy/number of colonies is sufficiently high). The limits of the accuracy of the cultivation method are mainly due to the possible influence of the accompanying flora, i.e. other microorganisms which can suppress the growth of the legionella or overgrow their colonies. Furthermore, bacteria are particles in a water sample and are not homogeneously distributed. Therefore, when taking small volumes from the sample bottle, inaccuracies may occur due to the sometimes high dilution factors. During cultivation, living but non-cultivable cells in the so-called VBNC2 status are not detected. Many Legionella from a coherent agglomerate, e.g. by propagation within an amoeba, are only visible and evaluated as one colony during cultivation (see Lindner, Hahn: Microbiological analyses of the cooling water according to the 42nd BImSchV, p. 74, VGB PowerTech 9, 2018).
3. Examples of application and correlation to the culture method
The INWATROL L.nella+ is being used in various practical applications. Case studies include the operation in the following plants:
3.1 Monitoring of the circulation water in the cooling tower of a coal-fired power plant
Challenges for the measuring mode:
Changing operating conditions due to load changes between full load, partial load and operation without load at varying flow rates (automatic sampling directly from the line behind the main cooling water pump) and circuit water temperatures.
Increased influence of VBNC cells especially at low circuit water temperatures.
A stable measuring operation has been achieved over several months. The interim influence of VBNC cells can be successfully suppressed in the instrument by changing the automated pretreatment adapted to the main cooling water.
3.2 Monitoring of the circulating water in the evaporative cooling system of a starch factory
Challenges for the measuring operation:
Outdoor location of the instrument (wall mounting) with strongly changing ambient temperatures
Partially strong solid matter input into the circulation water with high organic load
A stable measuring operation over several months was achieved. In particular, the influence of the biocide treatment on the concentration of legionella could be proven directly. When changing from a non-oxidizing to an oxidizing biocide, a directly measurable effect on both the concentration of the legionella and the reaction speed could be observed.
3.3 Monitoring the circulation water of a metal cast house
Challenge for the measuring operation:
Heavy contamination of the water with inorganic and organic impurities (casting oil)
With strong fluctuations in the water quality, reliable measurements have been achieved over a period of several months. Casting plants are often equipped with a hot water storage tank. Depending on the requirements of the casting plant(s), the temperature and hydraulic retention time (stagnation), as well as the load of organic and inorganic contamination fluctuates strongly with a significant influence on the reproduction rate of legionella.
3.4 Monitoring the drinking water network of a beverage manufacturer
Challenge for the measuring operation:
Reliable detection of low and increasing concentration of legionella at changing drinking water temperature in the pipeline network
Suppression of the influence of VBNC cells on measurement results, especially at low water temperatures
With this characteristically low-nutrient and solid-free water, fluctuating Legionella contamination could be reliably detected over several months, depending on the consumption structure and temperatures in the pipeline network.
3.5 Hygienic monitoring of different cooling systems of a food producing company using a laboratory device
Challenge for the measuring operation:
Manual sample application of cooling water samples different in quality
Disinfection of the feed funnel before sample preparation
Guarantee of low work effort for manual samples including result evaluation
A reliable, automated adjustment of the parameters for the pre-treatment in the device could be ensured over several months even with differently buffered and preloaded water samples. Both drinking water samples (monitoring of the make-up water for the cooling systems) and the cooling water samples showed a good correlation to the cultivation method according to UBA with clearly different results.
3.6 Correlation of the rapid test INWATROL L.nella+ with the cultivation method
The correlation of the rapid test was carried out over a high number of measurements with the cultivation method according to ISO 11731:2017. Sampling, sample transport as well as preparation and evaluation of the measurement results were carried out in accordance with the current recommendation of the Federal Environmental Agency for sampling and detection of Legionella in evaporative cooling systems, cooling towers and wet separators (UBA). Validation measurements were made with different accredited laboratories. In order to obtain a reliable qualitative comparison between the rapid test and the cultivation method, the following measurements were carried out in only one accredited laboratory (IWW Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wasser Beratungs- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH, D-45476 Mülheim an der Ruhr).
The correlation to the cultural preparations carried out in the laboratory can be rated as very high overall. Two devices showed significant short-term deviations from the laboratory results in the form of additional findings. Here the influence of VBNC cells on the measurement result of the INWATROL L.nella+ rapid test was investigated. Metabolic activity measurements using fluorescein diacetate are used in microbiological tests in addition to other methods (membrane integrity, protein synthesis (FISH), intact polar membrane lipid analysis, cell extension (“direct viable count”)) for the detection of VBNC bacteria. This can be an additional benefit for the operator, because recontamination of water systems with Legionella can also be a “revival” of VBNC organisms (see Hans-Curt Flemming, Jost Wingender – IWW Zentrum Wasser, Biofilm Centre, University Duisburg-Essen). Often, however, the aim of the operator is to achieve the highest possible correlation to the legally required examination by means of cultivation in the laboratory. By adjusting the pre-treatment conditions (mainly by increasing the temperature and lengthening the pre-treatment time), the correlation to the cultivation method can be successfully restored in case of multiple findings with VBNC cells.
Holger Ohme, Jennifer Becker, Pascal Jahn, Dirk Heinecke