“The Solaris was launched 2003 for industrial use [and] MSHA approval was obtained in 2004,” said MSA product line manager Keshwar Anroedh of the intrinsically safe and permissible device, adding that it is the first release of its type since its predecessor, the Five Star, 10 years ago. The unit, which he says is the next generation in the company’s Stellar series of gas detection units, weighs in at approximately 8oz – ideal for easy portability by workers – and has been designed with user ergonomics in mind.
Also improved upon with the new instrument is battery life, which now allows for 14 hours of use on its lithium ion battery before recharging. While its ancestors were also constructed in heavy-duty fashion, the Solaris body is cased in a rubberized material to resist even more damage when dropped and its sealed casing resists water and dust.
Because the harsh environment of underground coal is also consistently loud, the Solaris is equipped with a triple-alarm system: a 100 decibel-plus alarm, multiple visual alerts in the form of bright lights that can be seen by others in the proximity, both while the unit emits a vibration.
The Solaris, also featuring a rapid start-up and calibration process, provides readouts in real-time; additionally, PEAK readings and 15-minute and 8-hour averages (STEL and TWA) of each toxic gas concentration can be easily delivered on demand. The device, Anroedh notes, self-checks its circuits every 15 seconds and can interface directly and wirelessly to a PC equipped with MSA’s readout system to import readings following a shift via infra-red short-term communication.
Each ordered device is pre-programmed, but there is an available option for users to adjust the set-points at which alarms for each of the four gases will sound. This is especially helpful, MSA says, for state-by-state variances in allowable concentrations as well as for operations that consistently operate well below regulatory maximums.
The company says it does have several options that individuals or companies can choose to add to each of their units, including choices for datalog capacities, because each is assembled to the specifications of the customer. However, a two-year warranty is standard, Anroedh says.
A complement to the Solaris is the Galaxy system, introduced in early 2005, that can simultaneously calibrate and charge up to 10 Solaris devices – which Anroedh admits is a more efficient solution than current processes of one at a time. If mines also have one of MSA’s other detectors, such as the Orion or the Sirius, those modules can also be connected alongside the expandable test stand.
When any Solaris unit is placed into the calibration system, the process begins automatically and an LED display reflects the status, including its pass/fail status, calibration completion and when the Solaris is charged and ready for use. One disposable calibration cylinder can service all of the ten bays the Galaxy can be expanded to.
Equipped with a memory card to hold up to 1000 calibration records, the Galaxy is also available with a car charger, printer, and can be mounted on a desk or the wall, Anroedh said.
According to MSA, the US mine inspector community is very pleased with the costs, ease of use and performance of both. As the inspectors begin touting the unit as their detector of choice, Anroedh says he expects mines across the country to follow suit.