A Family Legacy Of Product Innovation

Implementing ultrasonic technologies at your plant

June 9, 2023
"We like to work most with customers who have an immediate need that are willing to test the product and work with us to develop that product for their needs, and then we produce it for them and then for the general market space, "

Massa Product Corporation engineers and manufactures sonar and ultrasonic products for use in ocean, air, and fluids. Founded by the man who pioneered the field of electroacoustics 75 years ago, Frank Massa, the company specializes in solving problems in various fields and environments.

Massa transducers and sensors have been operating in air for industrial non-contact distance measurement applications for over sixty years. The company has designed hundreds of devices for use in many applications including liquid and bulk level monitoring, vehicle collision avoidance, distance measurement, web break detection, and tensioning. Massa technologies also function as “the eyes and the ears for naval ships and submarines to protect the US coastline with our undersea technologies.”

Dawn Massa Stancavish recently spoke with Plant Services editor in chief Thomas Wilk about the wide range of applications for ultrasonic technologies.

Listen to Dawn Massa Stancavish on The Tool Belt Podcast

PS: When it comes to Massa's upcoming product roadmap, are there are some products that you can share with us that we can look forward to seeing?

DS: We have the Massa Sonic Gizmo, which is a wireless product. It's blue, it's kind of a family of sensors, and the way we came about it is that we in the past had a wireless sensor that was ahead of its time. The previous wireless product that we had, had components in it that were no longer supported and it became very difficult to maintain that product. So what we did instead was create a more open architecture platform for our new product line, which allows us to have several versions. We're going to have a Wi-Fi version, a cellular version, and eventually a LoRa version. We're on the verge of launching our Wi-Fi version, and our cellular version is about a month behind that. So we're in the near future for a full blown lunch, but we are in the stage where we're working with some of our close customers who validate it and implement it.

PS: You know, Dawn, one thing occurs to me when it comes to product innovation, which is that a lot of times so many ideas will be developed that there may be too many to execute on at one point, and so sometimes ideas or a path forward might get tabled. What is Massa’s approach to when you've got that kind of situation, where there's a promising idea and it may simply be paused for the moment?

DS: That's a great question, and it's something happens all the time and it goes back to my other answer a little bit, of a freeze program that you're developing something, and you have a bunch of different potential developments that spin off. It's hard sometimes for businesses to find the right avenue to sell those ideas because if you don't have that immediate need in front of you, it's just tabled.

Oftentimes, we'll innovate for one design, and other ideas come out, or sometimes we'll start with a program that only gets up to a certain point for whatever reason, gear shift, either what's going on politically or what's going on in in market spaces. But we have so many different designs that aren't ground-up innovations and to get them out into production really aren't that difficult.

And some of the technology that we have and products that we have could do things like monitor the specific gravity within a fluid, whether it's a food or beverage or even oceanographic applications, water and wastewater; if you need to control the chemical changes within a fluid, that's something we can do with our products.

There's other things that that could grow out of that as well. Food safe products, chemical changes within materials, and even other areas that are more aligned with, I call them green and blue initiatives, environmental sensors that could help with the oceans as well as with water and wastewater and quality control of beverages.

PS: Interesting, we've heard more and more applications focus on waterway systems as a hedge against climate change. So you're right, these political, social, and financial concerns or ideas, they may bring ideas that are on the table, back off the table.

DS: Right, or the other way around, things that were off the table back on the table, because sometimes you get to a certain point and funding shifts depending on where you are. And a business like mine, we get funding either from the government for our contracts, the government for grants if we're doing a research thing, but our main bread and butter is manufacturing. We like to work most with customers who have an immediate need that are willing to test the product and work with us to develop that product for their needs, and then we produce it for them and then for the general market space, depending on what the setup is.

PS: As a closing question or two, maybe we could talk about some trends that you see in the wireless sensing market. Wireless sensing technology seems to be applied in a lot of different ways by customers who get inventive and use it to solve their problems. Can you talk about the trends that you're seeing, the versatility of this kind of product in the market, how it's being applied?

DS: That's a really good question, because people often overlook ultrasonics from the concept of they don't necessarily fully understand all the ways it could be used. Now, sound that goes all the way up to the megahertz range all the way down to the infrasound range, and there's very few companies that specialize in the entire spectrum like we do. As far as I'm aware, we're the only company that has that continuity with the design, the advancement, and the manufacturing of such products from the 1930s through today (even though that predates our business, our business was found in 1945, but because my grandfather was there and he created us after the war). It's all of his life lessons that are our cornerstones, so advancement of the technology and understanding sound itself is just as important to us as creating the end products that we're actually selling.

So the reason that bowling alley story is valid and of interest in these trends that you're talking about is that sometimes people dismiss ultrasonics based on what's out there, and that's really the wrong thing to do. If you have a need that either radar or LIDAR, or even other ultrasonics or pressure sensors, you name it, any other type of technology or any other existing similar technology – if it's not working the way you need it to, it doesn't mean that it's a no go. It means you need to talk about how the technology could be adapted.

Some of these trends would be level sensing. Sometimes people dismiss ultrasonics in certain environments because of the vapors going on, or because of humidity or other issues that they view as hindrances to these types of sensors. But there are workarounds if they're working closely with the manufacturer, or with someone that really understands how to adjust for the application. Other things have to do with sometimes just the housing. If it's a large enough market, the housing needs to be changed and then all of a sudden the technology works just fine. Sometimes the speed of sound has to be calibrated. There's all kinds of things that that we can do just through understanding. And we can often get a high-quality product to work in challenging environments where people might have the perception that ultrasonics wouldn't work.

So as far as trends, you know, in fluid, out of fluid, we have a product that could work both underwater as well as above water, or chemicals or what have you. We have some products that can get very close to sensing range and work with turbulent services. There's just a lot of things that we can do, and sometimes it's overlooked just because of perceptions that people have. So I would say challenge your perception of what's possible. Go ahead and reach out and talk to technical people that understand the technology and the products, and go ahead and try it against other things because you might get your cost down just with working closer with the company that understands your need.

PS: The funny thing about technologies like the ones that Massa develops and produces is there's a lot of rollover savings too, beyond the immediate sensor measurement. I'm thinking about a level sensing application I heard of one time, where they not only were able to prevent overflows in the catch basins (it turned out that this was a food service industry and they had to empty the cache basins). It turned out they optimized their fleet better because they saved money on gas by knowing better when the tanks were full, and instead of instead of trucks doing rounds three or four times a week, they only had to do a round once or twice based on need. Once you start measuring with these sensors, you can start figuring out what other operational improvements are going to follow.

DS: Right, and with the Internet of Things, you could save yourself a lot of time and energy as well because it all connects together and you can get the information remotely. To that example, we have stuff that works in strange places that you just wouldn't even think of, like we do everything from collision avoidance type stuff to robotics type stuff to automation to liquid level. We can even sense solids if we understand the environment that's going to go in and we can calibrate things to work that way. Then you're talking about gas, we've done things with diesel, there's just so many it's limitless where things could go and how they could be useful.

PS: Dawn, thank you for being with us on the podcast today. If somebody wants to find out more information about Massa, where would you direct them?

DS: You can find us at www.massa.com or LinkedIn or Facebook. There's a Massa page on all three, and we're happy to discuss your sensing requirements and needs and applications.

One of the things that's really great also, people sometimes think working with a company that that does business with the military might not be affordable, but that total value really helps and our understanding and the quality of the product really helps. And sometimes that can help us get into more challenging environments quicker where if you're just buying stuff off the shelf, it might not fit what you're looking for, you might have to replace it a lot, so just having that open communication and being clear with what types of certifications you might require either now or in the future is a helpful path forward. Sometimes if a company like mine or anyone else’s, they sometimes it might offer a certain amount of stuff that's readily available, but that doesn't mean it's the end of where something could end up. So don't sell yourself or the company short, go ahead and reach out,we're always happy to talk to you.

Tom Wilk: That's great, and I'll put a plug in too, for those who want to know more about the legacy of Massa, under the About Us section of www.massa.com there's information about Frank and the history of the company, and the legacy work with the Navy during World War II. So Dawn, thank you so much for your time today and for sharing not only your family and company history, but information about your product roadmap.

About the Author

Thomas Wilk | editor in chief

Thomas Wilk joined Plant Services as editor in chief in 2014. Previously, Wilk was content strategist / mobile media manager at Panduit. Prior to Panduit, Tom was lead editor for Battelle Memorial Institute's Environmental Restoration team, and taught business and technical writing at Ohio State University for eight years. Tom holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Ohio State University

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