Premier Control Technologies Logo
Premier Control Technologies Fluid Solutions

A Users' Viewpoint On The Buying Decision For Mass Flow Controllers

Tuesday, 28th November 2023

With a combined experience in excess of 50 years our team here at Premier Control Technologies is widely applauded for both its technical expertise and its straight-forward, friendly approach to doing business. Our ethos is to work ever closer with our customers and this engenders open-ness and trust in both directions. From our many discussions with users of mass flow controllers we have found that there are four, very human, reasons why people make the decisions they do when looking to make a new purchase.

  1. Brand loyalty
  2. How easy is it to use
  3. What are the technical considerations
  4. What is the level of support/service demonstrated by the supplier
Customer experience icon

Brand loyalty

There are some very good suppliers of MFC's across Europe/the UK and they each have their place (an analogy would be that Formula 1, Rally Cross and 24 Hour Endurance Race cars are all at the peak of their sport but each would struggle in an alternative setting. Imagine a Formula 1 car racing through the forest tracks of Wales!). Brand loyalty is a very positive feeling and should be respected. After all, why should a user change their opinion just because a new supplier wants them to do so? It is the duty of the supplier to investigate all of the appropriate topics – the application, the technical differences, the lead time, the warranty support and of course the pricing – and then make their recommendation. More often than not, the risks and costs associated with change outweigh any small gains elsewhere so quite rightly the user remains with their current supplier. Sometimes it is indeed better to stay with the devil you know. At other times, however, the overall value of a new proposition cannot be ignored and change does happen. This can only be based on meticulous assessment of those facts that are important to the individual user.

How easy is it to use?

Alicat MFC's come with a multi-parameter screen (for mass flow, volumetric flow, pressure, temperature, barometric pressure) and push-buttons for engineering unit configuration and set-point. Simply plug in the power and away you go. How simple is that?

If push-button control does not suit (for example if wearing gloves) then a potentiometer knob can be fitted to the top of the device to make changing setpoint even easier.

Separate power supplies or read-out units are not required nor indeed is a lap-top – unless of course you want to. For digital communications and multi-device networks Alicat mass flow controllers are celebrated for their user-friendly interface, simplified setup, and clear-as-day software. Complex manuals (no matter how well written) and nodes for this and that are a thing of the past.

One other small consideration is that when switched on they are immediately ready for measurement and control. There is no waiting around for thermal equilibrium so no time lost each morning or no waste of energy keeping them switched on.

What are the technical considerations?

Within the intricate world of flow control, precision is paramount. Industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to semiconductors heavily rely on accurate measurement and control of gas flow rates for their processes. The consequences of inaccurate control just cannot be accepted. Amidst the plethora of mass flow controllers available, Alicat stands out as a frontrunner, offering a range of unique benefits that set it apart from the competition. As can be seen following, we can demonstrate the distinctive features and advantages that make Alicat mass flow controllers an indispensable tool across so many applications.

Alicat flow controller
  • Rapid response time:

    A key feature that distinguishes Alicat mass flow controllers is their exceptional response time. Traditional controllers may struggle to keep pace with dynamic changes in flow rates, leading to “fuzzy” step-changes, inefficiency and compromised precision.
  • High Accuracy:

    Alicat mass flow controllers employ a laminar flow differential pressure measurement technique that offers accuracy levels as low as ±0.6% of reading.
  • Multi-Gas capability with no conversion factors:

    Another standout feature of an Alicat is its ability to handle a huge range of gases with no change to stated accuracy nor impact upon the full scale range. This versatility often reduces the quantity of instruments that need to be purchased.
  • Extremely wide measurement range:

    With measurement down to 1/10,000th of full scale there is no need to purchase multiple instruments to cover all desired flow rates.
  • Extremely low measurement capability:

    No other MFC can control as low as 0.00005 ml/min
  • Pressure insensitivity:

    In real-world applications, variations in pressure can pose a challenge for consistent flow control. Alicat mass flow controllers, however, are designed to be pressure insensitive, meaning they maintain accurate flow control regardless of fluctuations in the inlet or outlet pressure. The pressure insensitivity of Alicat controllers is achieved through advanced sensor technology and control algorithms. By measuring the pressure and compensating for changes, these devices ensure stable and reliable performance, making them well-suited for applications where maintaining a consistent flow under varying pressure conditions is crucial.
  • Copy exact on pin-outs:

    When an old MFC from an obscure previous supplier comes to the end of its life there no need to change wiring looms or use adapters. Alicat provide a copy-exact service so that the particular pin-out configuration and electrical connection type is exactly the same, for any supplier. This is intended to simply make the users life that much easier.

What is the level of support/service provided by the supplier?

This is very much based on the perception of the user upon their particular supplier and it is certainly not our place to comment. From our side, the level of support that we commit to is rapid quoting (minutes), immediate re-calibration within our UK facility if required (minutes), rapid design of bespoke solutions (days), rapid delivery (days to just a few weeks), an excellent standard Warranty (three years) and a unique Lifetime Warranty to name just a few. Essentially, we commit to good old-fashioned dedication to our customers before, during and after installation.

There is an important consideration missing

Price. At this point sales companies would try to talk more about “cost” than about price. That is fine if that is their style. We, however, focus on the value of any proposition we might make. With Alicat we know that we can eliminate the need for additional components (four instruments in one); we can reduce the number of MFC’s required by a system due to the wide measurement range and the multi-gas (up to 130) capability; we know that as fewer instruments are required we can simplify the pipework required and reduce the installation time plus we know that the number of spares required is drastically reduced. All of these facts combine towards saving the customer money. Despite this the customer will still make a value judgement on whether, in their particular case, they want to continue what they have always done or whether now is the time to change. Our job as a responsible supplier is to help with the process whilst knowing that sometimes supplier loyalty makes complete sense.

Premier Control Technologies

As technology continues to advance and industries evolve, the demands for precise and reliable flow control solutions will continue to expand. Alicat mass flow controllers, with their innovative design and array of customer benefits, are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of flow control across diverse sectors. PCT will continue to be at the forefront of the industry working collaboratively on old and new projects alike. As a company we have grown some 500% over the last 4 years and this is based solely on how we look after our customers and their experience of us. We want to continue to grow and to continue to learn so any feed-back at all would be extremely useful. Please do let us know how we can help.

Related article

Unrivalled Liquid Flow Control from CODA Coriolis Meters