Posts Tagged 'industrial processes'

Animation in PowerPoint – Process Flows

My posts on animating liquids and creating various “flows” have been pretty popular. One reader shared a project involving animating a chemical “process flow” that seemed a good application for some of these techniques. Inspired by her project, I have created my own version.

However, I don’t know much about this subject matter (surprise) and may have made mistakes. Please don’t judge the animations on technical accuracy. My purpose is only to demonstrate animations that may be useful in describing these processes or using them metaphorically to describe other kinds of processes.

I don’t think I would use these techniques for a technical audience. I do suggest that they may be useful for education, training or marketing.

Here’s the animation:

The process involves six steps:

  1. Quantities of two liquids (yellow and blue) are drained into two holding tanks.
  2. The contents of the two tanks are pumped into a larger vessel.
  3. The contents of the larger vessel are agitated resulting in a reaction indicated by a color change (dark green).
  4. The resulting liquid is pumped into vessel containing a filter.
  5. A vacuum pump draws the liquid through the filter, leaving unwanted material (black) behind.
  6. The filtered liquid (bright green) is drained into a tank.

This example demonstrates some of the techniques used in this project; the animated parts are outlined in red and labeled:

Here’s the annotated animation pane for this example:

Note: I use Stretch and Collapse in this project to avoid the soft edge Wipe; this works because I use rectangular tanks and pipes and thus can use uniformly filled Rectangles for the liquid elements. See this post for more on this subject.

The first effect applies a Collapse/To Bottom to the portion of the supply tank to be drained (“D” in the figure). Starting at the same time, the first “slug” of liquid (S1) Stretches/To Bottom, followed by the second slug (S2).  When S2 reaches the bottom of the tank, the fill portion (F) begins to Stretch/From Bottom.

When the Collapse of D ends (the draining is stopped), S1 begins to Collapse. The Stretch of F and the Collapse of S1 end simultaneously. The disappearance of S2 is for housekeeping purposes; it is not visible at the end of the animation.

This is easier than it appears – the order of events is logical. The timing is a matter of trial and error taking into account the relative sizes (volume) of the elements.

Here’s an example with a valve:

Here’s how the valve is drawn:

The handle is a Flowchart/Collate symbol (does anyone actually use these any more?). A Basic Swivel effect is used to turn the handle with a Stretch of the gate. Here’s an annotated Animation Pane for the example:

The animation is the same as before with the addition of the valve animations and a static slug just above the valve.

Here’s an example with a pump:

The impeller is a series of Arcs arranged around a circle; I used a couple of equilateral Hexagons (blue) to help align the Arcs:

Here’s the annotated Animation Pane:

Here’s the mixing step:

The paddle (P) is made from two Teardrop shapes; here’s the animation pane:

The filling process is as before. After the fill, the paddle (P) swivels while a dark rectangle Dissolves In representing the reaction and its product.

The Appear of the paddle is necessary because I used the Basic Swivel  Exit effect.

Here’s the filter step and the animation pane:


This animation is basically a number of things happening simultaneously: the vacuum pump rotor spins, the liquid level in the top part of the tank drops, individual drops (Ovals) fall (repeated motion paths) from the filter, the residue builds up on top of the filter and the liquid level rises in the bottom.  The Ovals are behind the filter object in the animation; the motion paths are staggered slightly to improve the appearance of the animation.

Here are some additional notes:

  • I assembled the animation using six separate slides – I do this often to simplify the construction of complex animations.
  • The static “infrastructure” elements (pipes, tanks, etc) are grouped together and appear on each slide – this also simplifies the animation.
  • Try other effects: bubbles, heating, cooling, explosions (!), meters, etc.
  • You may want to try other shapes to create more realistic elements or standard engineering symbols. This will require that you use the soft-edge wipe or other techniques to animate the liquids rather than the Stretch/Collapse effects that I used in my project. This shows what I’m getting at:
  • The first “draining” animation uses the Wipe effect; since PowerPoint 2007 this effect has a soft edge which may not be desirable in this project (see this post for more details on this). The second animation shows why Stretch/Collapse won’t work. The last two examples show how a Background-filled Rectangle (white) can be used as a “mask” produce the desired effect (the mask is between the tank outline and the shape representing the liquid).
  • You may want to use more realistic piping; here’s a technique for animating the flow through an elbow:
  • Here the “mask” consists of a background-filled Block Arc grouped with a circle (red outline); the object Spins 90 degrees to reveal the Block Arc representing the liquid. The circle assures that the masking object spins about the appropriate center.
  • You may want to add transparency, gradient fills and/or 3d to create more interesting equipment; since the applicable PowerPoint tools are clumsy, prepare to spend some time and effort on this (see my post on piping for tips). Here’s a simple example:

If you want to see more details, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file containing these animations:

Powerpointy Blog – Animating Processes

See this page for more on downloading files.

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