When we examine the history of thermal mass flow meter manufacturers, what emerges is the story of a relatively new product with steady growth and a strong foothold and roots in California, particularly the Monterey area.
Thermal Mass Flow Meter Market
The thermal mass flow meter market is a relatively young industry, introduced in the mid-1970s. At that time, there were only a couple of companies manufacturing meters. Today, the industry generates roughly $150 million in revenue each year, with nearly 20 manufacturers taking a piece of the pie.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, two employees of Thermo Systems Inc. (TSI), a Minnesota-based company, developed anemometers for research applications in the gas flow, air flow, and turbulence. Those scientists were Jerry Kurz, Ph.D., and John Olin, Ph.D., and based the anemometers on thermal dispersion technology. While they had the desired response time, they were too fragile to use in industrial applications. Both Kurz and Olin recognized the need for measurement instruments in industrial environments. They approached their employer, and when TSI expressed no interest in going in this direction, in 1973, the two scientists formed Sierra Instruments in Minnesota. The company moved to Monterey, California, in 1975.
In 1977, Sierra manufactured both air sampling products and thermal flowmeters. Kurz left Sierra, forming Kurz Instruments, and began manufacturing thermal flow meters while Sierra kept manufacturing the sampling products. In 1983, Sierra returned to the thermal mass flow meter market.
Another company in the field, Fluid Components International (FCI), developed thermal flow switches for the petroleum industry, specifically to detect oil flow at oil wells. These switches evolved into flow meters in 1981.
Sierra, Kurz, and Fluid Components International were the only companies manufacturing thermal mass flow meters in the early 1980s. As time passed, other manufacturers formed in the Monterey area, including Elderidge Products, Inc. (1988), Fox Thermal Instruments (1994), and our company, Sage Metering (2002).
While the Monterey, California thermal mass flow meter companies essentially spawned out of Sierra and Kurz, other manufacturers have entered the field, including Endress+Hauser, ABB, and Magnetrol.