I understand that fully automated machine sensors can get gummed up with oil, causing machines to fail or for readings to be inaccurate. Wouldn't a manual system be a better option, if this is the case?
Great question! There is a lot of misinformation being spread around these days so I appreciate the opportunity to clear this one up!
These kinds of issues are indeed possible due to the high viscosity of cannabis oils and highlight the reason to
seek out an automation platform that has a track record of success. Manufacturers who have never automated a system or have very little automation experience may not be able to identify these issues and will encounter these problems frequently. Manufacturers who have been through several iterations of the software and automation will have identified these types of issues over time and dealt with them through proper probe design (i.e. use of snubbers and diaphragms), proper component placement (i.e. not in a place where oil or resin can accumulate), and proper cleaning/maintenance procedures.
A common misperception is that a manual system is not susceptible to these types of issues - this is not true. Pressure gages and temperature probes can be affected in a manual system the same way pressure transducers and temperature sensors can in an automated system. As described above, proper placement can help avoid these issues, but this is where
redundancy becomes very important. Automated systems will have backup analog or mechanical instruments for safety (i.e. to verify a vessel is depressurized without electrical power) as well as to
double check that an instrument reading is correct. When there is only 1 level of instrumentation, such as in a manual system, there is no way to tell if an instrument is clogged or has failed!