Cyth was approached by a biotech company that is one of the largest users of overnight shipping in the world. This company creates delicate reagents; cartridges of liquid and gels containing chemical compounds. The cartridges needed to be kept cold and at precise conditions in order to be shipped at the optimal temperature. When Cyth’s project manager and engineers traveled to meet with the client, they were taken to a massive warehouse filled with refrigerators and freezers containing dual power cables and wires connected to the ceiling. The client gestured to endless rows of National Instrument Compact FieldPoint (cFP, or FieldPoint) systems mounted to the walls and freezers and stated everything needed to be replaced – without taking the entire system down.
Client Request & Cyth Solution
The client needed to replace about forty FieldPoint units one-by-one, and it had to be FDA approved and quality validated. Each system contained a cFP with about 4 modules, designed to control the various functions of 16 freezers per system. The goal was to replace these FieldPoint units with National Instrument’s Compact RIO (cRIO). One of the reasons for this platform change is because each cRIO has its own reliable and fully deterministic operating system. In the original application the system only monitored the temperature and verified the doors weren’t left open, and could set an alarm signal if there was an issue. The upgraded system would need to monitor the temperature, cooling system, door sensor, and door lock. It would also allow for the ability to set up access to the door through a series of rules, unlocking the door and keeping track of the user and setting off an alarm if the door was open for longer than five minutes, ensuring security and keeping all contents at their optimal temperature.
Transitioning the software to the new hardware platform was the easy part; planning and testing the full system was far more important. The system had to be fully validated before it was installed, as well as be FDA authorized.
The biggest challenge Cyth’s engineers faced was designing, developing, and testing the upgraded system without taking the hardware down. To ensure the system was fully operational, Cyth simulated the freezers by hooking up an additional cRIO with the opposing sensors and signals, such as simulating a door lock for the door lock output or simulating a door sensor for the door sensor input. Essentially, this required creating a separate application that simulated every function of the current system. An increase in temperature could be simulated to watch the signal for the temperature control change as it attempted to cool the chamber. When the temperature reverted to the correct setpoint, the control signal would adjust back to zero and stop cooling. The engineers could also simulate opening the door and leaving it open, triggering the correct alarm and sending the alert messages.
Another potential challenge was receiving FDA validation. To test the client’s system, a detailed set of test activities were performed on the new and old system simultaneously. The systems performed identical tests, and results were logged for comparison. This made it easy to show compliance officers both the test plan as well as the results of the test to receive FDA approval.
Once the system was successfully finished and FDA validation was granted, Cyth developed an installation kit for the client, making it easy for them to order and upgrade their systems as needed using only their existing maintenance staff with minimal training. Engineers configured and set up the software onsite, and the old systems were completely replaced. Once the freezers were installed and running, they could then store DNA cartridges or microbiological reagents used in clinics and research labs. Ensuring that these products are stored and shipped under optimal conditions also ensures technical accuracy in the medical science industry, and Cyth’s engineers were up for the challenge.
The old system was a Compact FieldPoint 2020 with:
16 x Thermocouple for monitoring temperature
16 x 24V Industrial Digital Input for monitoring the door open sensor
16 x 24V Industrial Digital Outputs for controlling the door locks
16 x 24V Industrial Digital Outputs (sinking) for operating the traffic light and alarm
16 x Analog Output as a setpoint for a temperature controller
It was replaced with the same I/O for the Compact RIO:
±10 V, 500 S/s, 16-Channel C Series Voltage Input Module (NI-9209)
4-Channel, 14 S/s Aggregate, ±80 mV C Series Temperature Input Module (NI-9211)
4-Channel C Series Current Output Module (NI- 9265)
25 kS/s/ch Simultaneous, ±10 V, 16-Channel C Series Voltage Output Module (NI-9264)