IMKO Micromodultechnik GmbH has been founded in 1984 in Ettlingen, Germany to develop, produce and distribute state-of-the art measurement technology and sensors for material moisture detection based on Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR). The company, a leader in technology form today is part of the Endress+Hauser Group since 2017 in the role of technology incubation.

IMKO’s devices capture reliably and precisely different physical parameters for material moisture determination for both, online and offline applications as well as for environmental measurement technology. Starting with TDR probes designed to investigate soil moisture conditions only, the product portfolio has quickly broadened to online sensors for material moisture determination in corn dryers, cereal handling and storage control throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Further changes in the design and geometry of the sensors as well as the extension of application knowledge across the globe and throughout different industries opened the doors to new businesses and novel applications in mining, construction and recycling. Further on sophisticated online sensors have been launched in the 2010’s to be specifically installed inline in pipes, screw-conveyors and other industrial transport lines as conveyor belts or under silo hatches.

Easy Engineering: What are the ranges of products?

IMKO: Today the product portfolio shows three main segments in agricultural technology, hydrology and irrigation, bulk material handling and food, construction & concrete. The measurement principle used is the proprietary TRIME technology which is based on the TDR principle.

Moisture measurement in agricultural technology, hydrology and irrigation

Water is the base of all life. No living beings manage without water. Reason enough to consciously deal with water. IMKO guarantees an economical use of water with its measuring instruments.

Our TRIME soil moisture probes based on radar guarantee unlike older technologies a long-time stability:

  • The probes enable measurements up to the area of soil saturation of hundred percent.
  • Depending on the soil you adjust the calibration curves in the probe for sandy or clayey soils up to pure clay.
  • You measure precisely more than ten years without maintenance: As there is no galvanic contact from the probe to the soil no oxide layers are built up. With this no measurement deviation occurs.
  • You measure exactly the moisture and the mineral content.
  • You decide the TRIME rod and pipe probes variably according to your measuring task.

Our modern soil moisture probes with TRIME technology control the water content in following applications:

  • Agricultural technology and irrigation
  • Hydrology for water balance models, for early warnings regarding landslide, for dam safety as well as for stability controlling of the subsoil of buildings and streets
  • Geology for monitoring landfill sites
  • Meteorology: climate, weather forecasts, water balance measurements, flood control
  • Science and research

Moisture measurement in bulk solid processes and food manufacturing

All foodstuff and bulk solids contain water. Moisture defines quality, the capability to store it and with the weight also the price of products. Legal requirements put the frame.

With material moisture measurement you determine the content of water in your food products and bulk solids exactly if you use latest technology. Since more than 20 years IMKO sets standards with TRIME and SONO TDR technology based on radar, especially in applications where capacitive sensors and microwave technologies came to their limits.

Using TRIME and SONO moisture sensors in process applications means quality improvements and cost savings:

  • You measure corn moisture directly in the dryer with temperatures up to 130° C
  • For controlling mash in malting plants
  • In plants with sludge drying
  • With different materials in fluid bed dryers
  • For bulk solids like wooden pellets in screw conveyors

Moisture sensors for the construction and concrete industry

The quality of fresh concrete decides over the life time of buildings. Only the optimal composition of water, cement, sand and gravel guarantee stability. The sensor technology of the moisture measurement takes over a central role for the correct mixture.

Moisture sensors with capacitive and microwave technology mostly provide less precise or stable measuring values in case of abrasion of the tube and of high conductivity or if bulk heights and grain size vary. The radar technology of our SONO moisture sensors open up new opportunities.

You improve your material and save costs and time if you use SONO process moisture devices in concrete plants and mobile SONO moisture sensors to control sand, gravel and fresh concrete on site. All sensors are developed for online as well as offline applications.

The technology is the answer to increasing demands for concrete used for buildings, bridges and tunnel. Only precise sensor technology guarantees product quality on a long term basis.

The advantages of SONO radar sensors for the construction industry:

  • Simply connect and measure: you avoid laborious calibration with the sensors.
  • The SONO sensors are extremely robust and longlasting even under extreme conditions. Thanks to the patented sensor head you extend the service life significantly.
  • All at a glance: in difference to other moisture probes you do not need an expensive evaluation unit.
  • Even for networked operation configuration and interface setting is very easy to handle.
  • The SONO probe series is characterized by an attractive price-performance ratio.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

IMKO: The product portfolio has been completed with the SONO-WZ, winning the BAUMA innovation award in 2016. It is designed to be used as a mean for quality control determining the water – cement ratio in fresh concrete, which replaces state of the art kiln drying method to determine moisture. Quality control and automation are the catchphrases, displaying the most prominent market trend throughout all industries. Specialists are rare and there is a great requirement for solutions in determining quality measures.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

IMKO: The most innovative product of IMKO had already significantly improved accuracy from 2019 by employing a more advanced assembly unit in the probe. This new semiconductor chip led to a better coupling and decoupling of the high-frequency measurement signal, which immediately generated sharper measurement results in marginal areas. In a further improvement measure, factory calibration for fresh concrete probes has been refined over the past few months. So-called “basic balancing” is now carried out individually for each probe as standard. The user additionally has the possibility of configuring the device for the measuring task at hand by adjusting the measuring parameters for each specific job. This would correspond to everyday demands on the technology’s accuracy. Accuracies of up to ±5l/m³ can be achieved with specific recipe adjustment. It means that the sample sharpness from a kiln can be surpassed but with considerable savings on time of around 90%. The speed and reliability of the methods employed are of utmost importance particularly when monitoring roadways or flight operation areas made of concrete. Determining the w/c ratio for fresh concrete typically comes down to a large expenditure of time in the daily activities of construction laboratories and monitoring personnel.

Seven reference measuring points distributed over the complete range of dielectric constants will be used in future instead of the previous two with the 2nd generation of the measuring device. The compensation line has been replaced by a 5th degree polynomial curve. This is possible because the IMKO proprietary TRIME measuring principle allows measurements over the full range of permittivity (air = 1 to water = 81) and is a unique selling point in the IMKO product portfolio. The result is very convincing and, in addition to synchronization and general suitability, enables accuracies of up to ±2-3l/m³ (after specific recipe adjustment) in the typical measuring range.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2021?

IMKO: On top of this, a very great deal of time can be saved in comparison to the kiln method, especially in tunnel construction where the classic kiln pan is excluded. Great device – thermal reference methods take a lot of time; the SONO-WZ provides the same readings in a fraction of the time,” says Dirk Ohlemann, Manager Heide Baulabor GmbH. The devices can be checked very easily and quickly for correct functioning on a construction site by taking measurements in the media of air and water.

Since the beginning of April 2021, IMKO has been issuing reference certificates that allow the user to check the device against objective measuring points and have them certified on site. In this way, the measuring device is validated as in-house measuring equipment within the scope of an audit and used thereafter.

The guiding principle leads the way through business 2021:

  • Simplicity of use
  • Accuracy of measurement
  • Deep application understanding

Quality measures determination at highest accuracy is essential for countless applications. Customer satisfaction and service accumulates to a positive trend in 2021 for IMKO solutions. ATEX approved probes are available since early summer 2021, too.