Reliable automation technology for the food industry

ifm’s process sensor portfolio is vast and has expanded to include analytical measuring sensors. This is highlighted with the newly released temperature calibration check (TCC) sensor that complies with the required standards and directives of 3A, EHEDG and FDA. This means it is suitable for hygienic installations such as those in the food and beverage industry.

Maximum process reliability and constant product quality are maxims in the food industry, whether in the manufacture of beverages, confectionary, dairy, or in meat processing. The slightest impurities cause great damage, such as the product recall of entire production runs, expensive downtime and then there is the damage to the brand’s reputation.

TCC technology is the sensor that checks itself. Temperature is one of the most important measurements used in process control. In the food and beverage industry, accurate and stable temperature measurement is vital for product quality and safety. But, what happens if the process temperature is inaccurate? What if production managers could eliminate product quality risk due to inaccurate process temperature measurement between calibration cycles?

The TCC is specifically designed to combat the challenges of typical temperature products. ifm’s “Calibration Check” technology provides real-time continuous monitoring of instrument accuracy and measurement uncertainty. Leveraging the digital communication also provides better measurement accuracy and reliability than analogue since there are no signal losses.

Smart diagnostic technology monitors accuracy with two measuring elements in the tip of the sensor to react to temperature changes, with the microprocessor monitoring them for any potential decrease in measurement accuracy. The TCC’s repeatability is less than 0.015°C so users are assured the instrument provides repeatable measurements time after time.

The new technology is designed to give users peace of mind that a product is monitored 24 hours a day. It also monitors its own health and accuracy between calibration checks.
Clean-in-place (CIP) processes are among the harshest to which instruments are exposed. The constant cycling between hot and cold temperatures can quickly cause fatigue of the electronic components and therefore lead to drift and failure. Every CIP cycle is a potential source of drift.

Each TCC sensor is “tested beyond standards” to ensure ifm manufactures the most stable, reliable and accurate temperature products. Throughout the development of this product, ifm engineers identified the primary causes of drift and failure.

The company tested these products and those of three other major manufacturers in its X-treme test lab.

They simulated CIP in its thermal shock chamber with instruments being submerged in a bath at -15°C for 10 minutes and then transferred immediately (< 10 seconds) to another bath at 140°C. Drift was tested after every 50 cycles at a measured temperature of 123°C.
ifm took results shown for manufacturers B and C at a point where each unit failed. There is no data shown for Manufacturer A, since its products failed after two thermal cycles. The TCC measurement drifted < 0.2°C and it did not fail even after 1000 cycles, at which point, ifm stopped the test.

Permanent status checking
Due to the calibration check technology, the TCC permanently checks its own drift behaviour. The sensor compares the temperature value to the simultaneously measured reference value. If the deviation is outside the tolerance range, which can be set between 0.5 and 3K, the TCC provides an optical signal and sends a message to the central controller via IO-Link and the diagnostic output. The same applies to cases of serious malfunctions.

Quality assurance due to event-related measurement
Particularly in production processes where exact temperature values are decisive for the product quality, it is important that the measured values are precise. The TCC allows plant operators to take event-related measurements in case of drifts instead of waiting for the next planned calibration interval. This reduces the risk of losing entire production batches due to faulty production temperatures.

Transparent sensor communication with visual and digital indication: The TCC provides the current status in a simple and clear way. If the LED on the sensor is green, the unit operates reliably. Blue indicates a temperature deviation outside the tolerance range. Red indicates a serious malfunction, such as a failure of the main measuring element. The TCC also automatically stores all the data required for consistent documentation via IO-Link – installation date, operating hours, temperature histogram as well as logbooks on event messages (operating hours and event number) and on the calibration check status (operating hours, temperature value, drift value, limit and status).

All of ifm’s process sensors, which include, flow, level, pressure, temperature and conductivity, are made of food-grade materials. They have a hygienic housing designed and distinguished by high ingress and temperature resistance and protection against high-pressure cleaning with aggressive agents. They have stainless steel mounting accessories especially designed for the food industry and come with protection rating IP68/69K.

Remote troubleshooting solving problems

When there are troubled times within an industry, it’s nice to know that help is at hand if things start to go wrong. With an unprecedented lockdown within Australia’s borders, there are still essential services that have to work through the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside emergency services, food and beverage processing and manufacturing is vital in keeping Australians fed and watered.

A key to keeping manufacturing moving is making sure plant and machinery is in tip-top shape, and if there are issues, they are solved quickly and easily.

VEGA is one company that has been supplying German-manufactured, high-quality products to the food and beverage industry for a long time. Like most companies, they are adapting to the new climate pretty quickly and have people on the ground in most states and territories.

“We’ve got three in Western Australia, one that covers South Australia and the Northern Territory, three in Queensland, five – including two service guys – in New South Wales, and two in Victoria,” said VEGA service manager, John Coulton. “I support them by phone and also Zoom video and remote support if need be. Internationally, we have a 24-hour hotline and if a call comes to my mobile during Australian daylight hours, or if there are issues interstate, I will discuss with the BDM and work out an action plan taking into consideration travel restrictions in the present environment.”

VEGA is using a few strategies to help clients when it comes to troubleshooting. While it is ideal to be on the ground, with lockdown laws in place, other methods have been adopted.
“We’ve got everybody on Zoom, so that is our main way to support the industry in terms of our service and sales team to help with any issues remotely,” said Alex Mazor, VEGA’s marketing manager. “We are available to help customers with product settings, adjustments and diagnostics. Also, we’re remotely assisting our customers by being able to access VEGA software platforms such as PACTware using a remote function via IOS, Android and PC devices, so that helps them with any set up, product demo or backend configurations.

“Our service and sales team have a wealth of experience and utilising Zoom for them as been really central, especially when it comes to reassuring our customers that it is business as usual for VEGA.”

Coulton gives a practical example of how this assistance works in for both VEGA and the client.

“We have a bagging company that is a client who bought two new radars from us and they tried to set them up themselves but didn’t have much success,” he said. “So, the client set up the PACTware software package, and sent us some echo curves and that helped tell us what the issue was.”

PACTware is utilised similarly to a depth sounder in a boat. It gives users a graphical representation of what the radar can help them see, said Coulton.

“He was in the Riverina, so we connected to his computer via Team Viewer, and we saw what was happening albeit on a smaller scale. We got drawings of the silo, so we knew what we were looking at. As you would expect the bagging system had a big taper, so it wasn’t a straight forward job. It took us two days to help set up the two different silos – we did one during one morning and the next one after that. We told the client what he needed to do in terms of aiming the radar – which is similar to aiming a torch and seeing where you shine it – and fixed the problem. We were seeing it live even though we were not there. With our experience, we were able to fix it.”

Another example of support with the same software package comes with what VEGA calls a service recording. The customer does not have to understand what the issue is or to look at it. All they have to do is connect it up to the sensor, which starts recording all the data – such as the parameters, echo curves, trends and an event model – and they can email that information to Coulton.

“I’ll take it home and a have a look at it and help them fix the issue,” he said. “If it was something like the bagging issue, it might be that it is playing up where they’re filling it, and they need to do several changes to fix it. While he is doing these changes, I’m looking at it at the same time as him and helping him solve the problem. I treat it like it is a training exercise for them, as well as fixing the problem.”

VEGA Tools App
One piece of technology that the company is utilising is the VEGA tools app, which can be used on either an iPhone/iPad or Android mobile phone.

“In the old days there were two ways of setting up an instrument – either pressing a button on the top or a laptop. Now its Bluetooth, so the customer can pull out their iPhone or iPad or android device, and use the VEGA tools app. They don’t need a laptop anymore,” said Coulton. “I was up at a mine in the Pilbara for a couple of weeks doing a training course.

We did an exercise where the foreman decided to invite some of the young technicians who utilise a device, we call a hockey puck, which is connected to their phones via Bluetooth. They put it the puck on the sensor and put the information onto their iPhone and they sent me a screen shot of the problem. As with this exercise and in real instances, nine times out of ten we can fix the issue if we can see what the issue is. It gives clients another tool to fix a problem.”

With Zoom, VEGA has gone a little bit further. The customer can have their phone on them, start the VEGA tools app, have all the settings ready, and can have a Zoom meeting and can show Coulton the problem that has occurred via mirroring.

“John can mirror his phone with Zoom and diagnose the problem,” said Mazor. “It takes screen shots to the next level. The customer can see what is happening and so can John and can diagnose or change settings that way remotely. The sales team can work in tandem doing the same. It really just takes troubleshooting and support to the whole next level. You can screen share to the service team using any IOS or Android and PC devices. That is going to be really critical and we are utilising the technology as much as we can to reassure customers that we are there for them.”

VEGA is also doing product demonstrations live through Zoom, setting up a scenario where the company can go through the product with clients.

While the circumstances in which they work might have changed, the amount of support the company offers has not.

Powering the future of farming

In times past, farmers were at the mercy of the elements to determine a successful yield of crops. As the global population grows and consumer preferences evolve, today’s modern farmer must also consider the scarcity of natural resources, the threat of climate change and the growing problem of food waste.

The oldest human industry has undergone a transformation like no other. The 1800s saw the use of chemical fertilizers, while farmers began to plan their work using satellites in the late 1900s. Today, the world needs to produce more food against a background of climate change, which is adversely affecting crop yields and encouraging crop diseases. So, how can we produce 70 per cent more food to meet the needs of a growing population, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Smart farming offers a solution.

Using remote sensors to avoid costly manual monitoring, informed decisions can be made using real time data. This allows farmers to manage their inputs, such as water and animal feeds, more effectively to increase yields while maintaining minimal labor costs.

READ MORE: Digitisation makes for more productive and sustainable farming

In the last few decades we’ve seen the rise of indoor urbanised farming, the use of aquaponic farming, and a vast departure from the traditional field cattle farming of old. The Third Agricultural Revolution, which we are arguably in the midst of, is based upon IT solutions, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, sensors, and drones.

The use of robotics for repetitive tasks is a trend across many industries. In farming, farmbots are employed to perform once laborious manual tasks including seeding, planting, watering, weeding and harvesting. Farmdrones are also utilized for monitoring purposes and data on plant health and soil conditions are fed back into the system.

When making significant upgrades to a system, power quality issues must be addressed. Although robotic systems and sensor networks have practical benefits, they often use electrical and electronic components that can introduce harmonic currents into electrical networks. If the harmonic levels in an electrical system are too high, this can cause load failure. To mitigate against power failure and unplanned downtime, ABB’s capacitors and filters product portfolio offers a range of solutions.

In particular, the ABB PQF active filters tackle the problems caused by harmonic currents, load unbalance and reactive power demand, while offering a host of system benefits in low voltage networks. Compliance with the strictest power quality regulations is not something that farmers should overlook. ABB’s solutions are rigorously tested to ensure filtering efficiency and system reliability, so that smart farms can operate with uninterrupted systems for maximum productivity.

Smart farming has the power to increase yield and efficiency, raising overall productivity of the supply chain without requiring significantly more land investment. With this, farmers are able to reliably and sustainably produce yields to maintain the growing global population, without being at the mercy of increasingly unpredictable climates.

To discover ABB’s wide range of high, medium and low voltage capacitors and filters, visit their product area of the website and explore how to address power considerations that arise through smart farming

Centrifuge control by optek

Installation of optek sensors at the inlet and at the outlet of a centrifuge greatly improves separation performance, reduces losses and improves product consistency.

The feed often has high variable solids loading. Separation efficiency can be greatly improved by installing an optek AF16-N or AS16-N prior to the separator. The separator feed rate can then be optimized based on real-time solids concentration measurements.

Flow may be adjusted to meet system requirements for optimized performance and prevent overloading or clogging of the separator.

Outlet (Discharge)
The separator outlet (discharge) is the most common point of installation for process photometers. Monitoring at this point can help to maximize the efficiency of the system. Some systems control discharge based on time parameters set from the previous run, which is only valid with an average constant feed load.

A more efficient approach is to control the discharge based on need, which can be monitored by an optek inline sensor. Using an optek turbidity sensor to control the discharge by need, the number of discharge cycles can be reduced significantly. This increases yield, ensures consistency downstream, reduces mechanical wear, and helps avoid “blinding” of downstream filters.

Typically for cell culture processing, an optek TF16-N scattered light sensor is installed to ensure immediate detection of lowest concentrations. An optek AF16-N absorption sensor is commonly used for higher density fermentation processing.

Solids Discharge
When measuring the absorption in the solids discharge stream of the separator, an optek sensor equipped with a small optical path length will accurately correlate absorption measurements directly to weight-percent. This enables accurate yield measurement and control of product quality.

Innovative drive solutions for the digital revolution

Nord Drivesystems manufacturers drive solutions (hardware and software) and supports customers with its communication and application know-how in the Industry 4.0 realm.

Nord’s intelligent, networked drives enables continuous condition monitoring and  forms the basis of predictive maintenance. In addition, they offer intelligent digitized production, advanced maintenance concepts and new services.

All Nord drives are Industry 4.0 Ready and can be directly integrated as active components in Industry 4.0 environments throughout the world.

According to managing director for Nord Drivesystems Australia, Martin Broglia, the prerequisites for this is the internal PLC as decentralised intelligence and the extensive range of communication options. “The drive units are compatible with all common field buses and Ethernet-based protocols and provide analogue and digital interfaces for sensors and actuators.”

“Drives are prepared for integration into a cloud and can be connected to various external cloud systems,” says Broglia.

Action instead of reaction
“Fast, efficient and comprehensive evaluation of analogue and digital data by the intelligent PLC in the drive electronics forms the basis for modern maintenance and servicing concepts, such as condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.”

Due to continuous monitoring of the field level, linking of communication, sensors, process data and vital parameters of the drive, deviations from the normal state can be quickly detected. “Drive operators therefore have the possibility of responding in good time before damage or breakdowns occur“ says Broglia.

Condition-oriented maintenance replaces time-based maintenance. This results user benefits such as an increase in plant availability, prevention of unscheduled down times, improved planning of service and maintenance as well as a significant reduction in costs.

Virtual sensors
At present, Nord is investigating sensorless monitoring of oil ageing and the condition of geared motors with virtual sensors. The aim is a predictive maintenance concept which determines the optimum oil change and maintenance intervals for each individual geared motor, oriented to the actual condition of the geared motor and the gear oil. “For this, intelligent algorithms evaluate the operating data of the frequency inverter and determines the oil temperature from this information.”

Without the hardware costs for external sensors, oil ageing and the optimum time for replacing the gear unit lubricant can be determined with great reliability.

“Tests have shown that the oil temperature as measured in tests can be reliably calculated,” Broglia concludes.




Self-laminating polyester labels a solution for identifying cabling exposed to high heat

TE Connectivity (TE), a maker of connectivity and sensors, has released the SP self-laminating polyester label as an  labeling solution for applications that can withstand temperatures from minus 40˚C (minus 40˚F) up to 150˚C (302˚F).

TE’s SP is a thermal transfer printable, low-profile translucent polyester film with a permanent acrylic adhesive. It is supplied with a white printable area, which is over-laminated upon application with the translucent portion of the label. This ‘self-laminating” feature better protects the printed area from exposure to oil, solvents, water and abrasion.

SP’s low-profile design provides conformability to wires and cables due to its label thickness of only 45μm (0.0018”). It is conformable to round, irregular or flexible surfaces and is ideal for wire and cable identification, including flat ribbon cables subject to repeated bending. SP is recommended for when maximum temperature resistance is essential.

SP labels are available in a range of sizes 12.7mm to 50.8mm wide and from 25.4mm to 151.0mm high. SP is supplied die-cut, in roll format and is available in white as a standard color.

VEGAPULS 64 delivers best measuring results with 80 GHz

VEGA Grieshaber KG offers the first radar level gauge for liquids that operates at a frequency of 80 GHz. With its amazingly small antenna system, the VEGAPULS 64 is ideal for use in vessels with small process connections, such as those used in the food, pharmaceutical and biotech industry. The new sensor is also particularly suitable for use in these industries due to its hygienic materials and design.

The focusing properties of a radar measuring instrument depends on the transmission frequency and the effective antenna surface. By using a transmission frequency over three times higher (26 GHz was common until now), the antennas can be three times smaller and still achieve nearly the same signal focusing. This allows considerably smaller process fittings with an antenna size of only ¾” – a significant advantage, especially for use in small vessels.

This frequency also considerably reduces interfering signals generated at close range. This is crucial for the industry, because the antenna size and blocking distance (the dead band, i.e. the minimum distance between the antenna and the liquid surface) of radar instruments was far too large for small containers. Now, the medium can be measured with much higher accuracy, both right up to the process fitting and down to the very bottom of the container.

Another plus for this highly regulated industry: since existing process connections can be used, the new sensor can be easily installed without costly equipment modifications. Aseptic process fittings will be available at the market launch – in these, only PTFE serves as the wetted material. These process fittings meet the requirements of 3A, FDA and EHEDG.

Since radar signals pass right through viewing windows and glass containers, the sensor can also be mounted outside the container in some cases. This method, too, has become much easier thanks to the higher transmission frequency – and this solution will be especially interesting for the pharmaceutical and food industry.


A new generation of photoelectric sensors

SICK has streamlined its portfolio of object detection sensors and equipped them with new technologies for improved performance. These new smart devices represent a significant improvement, both in terms of usability and reliability.

By focusing on the essentials, SICK has made its photoelectric sensors fit to face future challenges. The new W16 and W26 product families are the result of a consistent simplification and streamlining of the company’s product portfolio. These devices are technically optimized and equipped with new features, intended to make work easier and processes safer.

In addition, as smart components within networked production and control processes in complex machine environments, the sensors are equipped for the industrial future and Industry 4.0. They are not only consistent in terms of housing size, but also in terms of their equipment. Because all features are consistent across both product families, users can rely on these product families for seamless, reliable production in all situations.

The new technologies

Twineye Technology offers operational safety for high-gloss, reflective, and high-contrast objects, such as food packaging. This technology uses one sender and two receivers. Should the light beam be deflected by an uneven or high-gloss surface, the sensor maintains its status until the second receiver can no longer detect the object either. This prevent switching errors.

Linespot technology ensures that perforated, textured, and uneven objects can be reliably detected. The light spot, which has been extended to form a line, allows optical information to be provided about irregularities, such as gaps or rough surfaces.

Clearsens technology ensures transparent objects such as bottles can be accurately detected. The operating element can rotate to set the required mode depending on the object characteristics, and then pressed to carry out the sensor teach-in for the reflector. Where dirt reduces the light emitted by the reflector, Autoadapt technology compensates by adjusting the switching thresholds. This allows cleaning intervals to be extended and the availability of the sensors to be increased.

Depolarizing objects such as foil-wrapped containers also place high demands on sensors. These devices filter the received signal geometrically and can therefore differentiate between reflectors and depolarizing objects, and thus avoid switching errors.

Importantly, the new sensors also provide the input required on the route toward Industry 4.0. They are all equipped as standard with IO-Link and, as smart sensors, can play an active role in end-to-end automation networks.

Optically and mechanically rugged

Until now, ambient light in the form of direct sunlight, LED illumination, and so on has sometimes led to switching errors. The new product families feature an Optofilter which ensures they only see what is there.

They are also more mechanically rugged than predecessors. Their “Vistal” housing is made from a glass-fibre reinforced plastic and is resistant to extreme loads caused by thermal, chemical, or mechanical influences. Also, the sensors’ laser inscription allows clear identification of the device type, even after years of operation. The printed QR code takes the user directly to more product information.

Usability a priority

The usability of the new sensor ranges is intended to create a “cockpit feeling” in the machine room. BluePilot, a blue LED alignment aid which enables faster alignment of sensors and reflectors as well as senders and receivers, helps ensure this.

No further setup is required. In live operation, the LEDs in these device classes also offer a diagnostic function: should detection quality change as a result of contamination and/or vibration, the LEDs indicate the degree of impairment by slowly increasing or decreasing dimming. In this way, operators can detect faults at a glance early on before they result in production failures.

Setting up the new photoelectric proximity sensors with Bluepilot is just as intuitive. To this end, the advantages of the teach-in button and potentiometer have been combined in one operating element. This allows the sensing distance – which is in turn visualized by the blue LED ring – to be configured in a matter of seconds.

With the help of a new smart production system, SICK has been manufacturing W16 and W26 sensors since July 2017 in Germany. Production cells enable the manufacture of bespoke product variants within the context of a modular system under the same conditions as serial products – in a traceable manner, with a serial number for indexing and cross linking.

Dry, wet or deep-frozen – flexible barcode scanners for use in all areas

Barcode scanners are used for a variety of different purposes in the food processing industry. The track-and-trace requirements are constantly growing, and every individual item of food that is bought by discerning end-consumers must be fully traceable. The more the food is processed, the greater the level of safety required, particularly in the case of high-risk frozen products. At the same time, the technical systems must be highly resilient and meet hygiene standards. The best practice is that all the barcode scanners be provided by one supplier for the entire production process.

Barcode scanners are in use throughout the food industry from the delivery of the raw materials and the production process in the wet area, through to the dry area and the intralogistics system. In the food production sector, the scanners have to be extremely tough. It is essential that their screens do not break, they can withstand cleaning processes using aggressive substances and they can continue operating in freezers at temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius. Since the 1970s barcodes are widely used in the industry and retail sector, particularly in the food industry, the EAN-13 barcode brings benefits for manufacturers, retailers and consumers. This type of barcode is valid all over the world and encodes the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), which is a standardised global part number. Barcodes provide a unique form of identification for every food item and make it possible to achieve high levels of accuracy. This means every step in the complex production processes can be reliably monitored and controlled. Food production processes have to comply with highly stringent legislation, including the HACCP concept and a wide range of national and international hygiene and safety standards.

Protecting consumers and businesses

Traceability is the number one priority, and it enables safe products to be manufactured for consumers. It also protects the production process and in the long term, the business. Companies in the food industry must be able to identify when, where and by whom products were received, processed, stored, transported, consumed and disposed of, and must provide fully documented proof. It would not be possible to meet these requirements without automated identification systems such as barcodes. Labelled products must have their labels read and verified on the production line and then the data must be stored. SICK supplies intelligent sensor solutions for this purpose, ranging from compact devices and standalone systems that are easy to integrate and configure, through to programmable high-speed cameras.

Compatible, standardised, flexible systems

SICK’s permanently installed mobile readers use a variety of technologies to detect barcodes, 2D codes and RFID tags. Its wide-ranging portfolio of products includes a solution for every challenge. Its 4Dpro concept allows the different products to be combined and exchanged with one another because they have a standardised connectivity system, user interface and accessories. This protects users’ investments, and reduces the amount of integration work needed during commissioning and maintenance. It also keeps stock levels and storage costs to a minimum.

Tough products made from stainless steel with an IP69K rating

The laser barcode scanners of the CLV6 series are ideal for use in food production processes where hygiene is crucial. Their tough stainless steel housings have an IP69K rating and can easily withstand harsh conditions. The design and functionality of the scanners have convinced system integrators, machinery manufacturers and production users of their suitability for use in the wet areas of food production. The stainless steel housings are resistant to chemicals and corrosion as well as fully leak-proof.

These are key considerations for one of the leading companies in the European dairy industry, for example. A CLV scanner solution from SICK has been integrated into the company’s production system to identify barcodes on aluminium yoghurt pot lids. Before the pots are filled with yoghurt, and the lids are fitted, both pots and lids must be cleaned in PSDI mode. Once the lids have been fixed in place, the barcodes are read while the machine is stationary. When items of this kind in the wet process are cleaned using a high-pressure cleaner and cleaning agents, the barcode scanners are fully protected by their stainless steel housing. They are also protected by their design, as it includes a low level of surface roughness, smooth, rounded edges and special housing and fastener shapes. As a result, no residues can form on the outside of the scanners. To, guarantee that no broken glass can contaminate the food production process, the optical interfaces of the scanners are made from polycarbonate, which is very strong and hard and also resistant to water, chlorine-based alkaline disinfectants, solvents, oils and greases. When designing the scanners, SICK focused in particular, on avoiding the creation of “escape routes” for moisture and also ensured that the products were resistant to variations in temperature. An additional double sheath protects the cable entry points and plugs and the cables themselves are certified by Ecolab for these applications. Even sudden reductions in temperature do not affect the scanners.

A clear view at low temperatures

Frozen food production processes present barcode scanners with particular challenges, and this area of the food industry is growing rapidly. A look at the sales figures for 2016 shows how much the demand for frozen food has increased in Germany alone. A 2.5 percent growth in volume and a 3.6 percent increase in revenues speak for themselves. The average annual consumption per head of 45.4 kilograms of frozen food is the highest figure ever recorded.

SICK has equipped its barcode scanners, which are already highly reliable and tough, for growth in this area of production. The CLV61x, CLV63x and CLV65x product families are fitted with heaters. The CLV69x models even have a heated front screen. These devices can operate without problems at average temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius. In some cases, the temperatures can even fall as low as minus 35 degrees, because of the use of low-cost off-peak electricity. When a scanner is exposed to constantly changing temperatures, for example, when it travels on a forklift from the freezer warehouse to the loading area, the front screen heater prevents the reading window from misting up.

Their excellent reading performance makes the SICK barcode scanners with integrated heaters ideal for use in frozen food production processes. They have a good depth of field, which is further increased in the CLV65x and CLV69x model ranges by a real-time autofocus function. In the CLV64x product family, the depth of field can be easily modified using a dynamic focus adjustment function. Because of the scanners’ wide aperture angle, one device can cover the majority of conveyor belt width. Excellent reading properties and a fast, reliable reading rate help to ensure that the data is safely captured, even when the print quality of the barcodes is poor, the codes are damaged, or films or other reflective surfaces have been applied over the top. Large reading distances and low-contrast codes, for example when identifying pallets, do not pose any problems for the SICK barcode scanners. Also, their high scanning frequencies of up to 1200 Hz allow for fast processor speeds, for example, in container identification. SICK has responded to the growing demand in the field of package conveyors with its CLV61x Dual Port model, which has a PROFINET connection with an integrated switch to allow line and ring topologies to be installed and implemented easily, making the wiring process simple and cost-effective. Also, the CLV63x and CLV64x product families are also available with oscillating mirrors, enabling them to meet all types of reading requirements.

Safe processes in ice cream production

Companies in the dairy industry, where the logistics processes have to meet strict technical standards relating to temperature-controlled foods, use SICK barcode scanners at the very beginning of the supply chain. The tankers that collect milk from farms are fitted with a CLV6 series barcode scanner with a stainless steel housing that has an IP69K rating. This makes it possible to reliably identify the samples that have to be taken by law from the milk provided by every individual supplier, even when the devices are exposed to low temperatures and high moisture levels in the winter months. If the milk is being made into ice cream, CLV6 series scanners with plastic screens are used during the primary packaging phase because the food must not be contaminated with broken glass when the type of ice cream, container and appropriate lid are being identified. In the warehouse logistics process for ice cream production, scanners from the CLV69x series with front screen heating reliably identify the barcodes in the pallet warehouse, despite the freezing temperatures. In high-bay warehouses, all types of scanners from the CLV6 product family can be used.

The CLV6 series of laser barcode scanners from SICK ensures the safety of the process from beginning to end, regardless of the many challenges presented by food production. These include high availability and fast turnover rates, growing order numbers combined with falling batch sizes and demands for more environment-friendly logistics systems.

Written by Cornel Rombach, Product Manager for Barcode Scanners, SICK AG, Reute


Ultrasonic flow sensors

Sick has introduced non-contact DOSIC ultrasonic flow sensors designed to precisely detect the flow volume of conductive and non-conductive liquids in demanding environments.

Featuring a rugged design, the new DOSIC ultrasonic flow sensors come with a measurement channel and stainless steel housing, making them ideal for measuring tasks in hygienic and highly demanding environments. Combined with a compact and hygienic design, the DOSIC ensures highly reliable flow measurement results, making the sensor suitable for a wide range of application possibilities, especially those involving restricted spaces or aggressive cleaning agents. The flow volume is determined in a non-contact manner since there is no contact between the sensor and the flow.

Key features of DOSIC ultrasonic flow sensors include two configurable digital inputs and outputs, up to two analogue outputs, and an IO-Link interface to an adaptive control unit ensuring effective monitoring; IO-Link reducing cabling and enabling complete control and monitoring of the sensor in Industry 4.0 machine environments; absence of moving parts eliminating potential contamination risks in demanding food industry environments; straight, seal-free, and self-emptying measuring tube made of high quality stainless steel (316L with Ra ≤ 0.8); and high quality stainless steel housing providing required ruggedness and resistance.

DOSIC ultrasonic flow sensors come with EHEDG certification and FDA compliance. These rugged sensors can withstand aggressive cleaning agents in CIP and SIP operations as well as temperatures up to 143 degrees Celsius in SIP processes for up to one hour.

The sensor automatically adjusts its parameters if the liquid is changed. The plug-and-measure solution eliminates the need for initial medium calibration and reduces installation and operating costs.

Enhanced connector portfolio

TE Connectivity, a provider of connectivity and sensor solutions, is adding shielded M8 connectors in three and four positions to its expanding portfolio of M8/M12 connectors for industrial automation and control applications. Technical and commercial support for the entire package is also being enhanced.

The easy-to-install connector system offers design engineers a reliable and complete solution for various applications to decrease downtime in industrial environments. It provides users with an interface that supports increasing bandwidth needs, and meets the requirements for data transmission speeds of up to 10 Gb/s.

The company also offers shielded and unshielded signal and data cable assembly variants. Data cables are available with category performance up to Cat6A. A predefined offering in length of 1, 3, 5 and 10 meters covers a vast range of customer needs on the market, he says. For rewiring on site, a range of field serviceable connectors are provided, allowing versatile systems to be quickly and easily established. Additional styles are available on request, including alternative mounting arrangements for panel mount connectors and double-ended cable assemblies.

To meet the growing needs for sensor connections in industrial machinery and factory automation, the company’s M8/M12 portfolio extends across A-, B-, D-, S-, T- and X-coded versions, all of which can now be ordered direct in quantities as low as 100 units or in smaller volumes through our channel partners.

The solution includes PCB headers, cable assemblies and I/O boxes, which are ideal for many harsh indoor and outdoor environments, including automobile, machine tools, factory automation machines and robotic applications.

The complete range of connectors and assemblies can be reviewed in a new online product catalog that simplifies the task of finding the right part number.

The company is now also providing a full-service solution for customers demanding safe and reliable connections for communication networks in industrial environments.

Sensor alerts people when they don’t drink enough water

A sensor-based device called Ulla has the ability to monitor water consumption and alert the user when they are not drinking enough.

The device (which users strap around their cup or drink bottle) is made with motion sensors that can track tilt and movement. When a person comes near the device, an LED light inside the device will start flashing, indicating that the person should drink. Once it detects the cup or bottle has been tilted, the flashing light will go off. An algorithm restarts a 30-minute timer each time the device is tilted and if the user does not drink again in that time, the light will start flashing again.

In a comment to Allure Media, the product’s founder Cica Gajic said tests have shown Ulla users drink two to three times more water per day than they did before owning the device. The product was developed in an effort to address the issue that most people do not consume the daily recommended amount of water.

Fluid Sensors from Treotham

Wenglor’s range of fluid sensors includes flow, pressure and temperature sensors.

The fluid sensors use a patented measuring process which is unique on the field of flow sensor technology. This allows the products to be mounted without regard to position or flow direction, and deliver precise measurement results with a simple installation.

The uniform design, intuitive operation, large 7-segment display and connection concepts makes the fluid sensors extremely user-friendly. Additionally, a separate LED allows quick recognition of the switching status.

The UniFlow Flow Sensors determine the speed of which media flow within closed systems and measure temperature. They offer a unique, patented measurement method, which is independent from the flow direction. They are suitable for many applications including flow rate monitoring in filling machines, cooling water control, monitoring of cooling water in power generators and cooling of ship electronics.

The UniBar Pressure sensors measure the relative pressure of any media in closed systems in the range of -1 to 600 bar. They are ideal for monitoring processes, pressure in filling systems, filters and compressed air systems. They are also suitable for food and pharmaceutical industries, determining the fill level in tank and silo systems, and pressure regulation of aggregates.

The UniTemp Temperature sensors measure the temperature of liquid and gaseous media, and permit reliable temperature monitoring within processes. They feature a compact design and measure a large range of temperatures from 0 to 200°C. They are used to monitor temperature in brewing processes, monitor flow and return temperatures in solar thermal energy, regulate temperature in cheese production and measure temperature for tempering furnaces.

Three switching outputs are available for each sensor, however depending on requirements the sensors can be equipped with one or two switching outputs, or a switching output in combination with an analogue output.

New sensors helping with our food supply

Industrialisation has left much of the urban environment contaminated with a variety of heavy metals, chemicals and pesticide residue. Now, research by a team from Macquarie University has produced a series of maps that plot the concentrations of metal pollutants across cities like Sydney and Darwin, and towns such as Mount Isa and Port Pirie.

The Director of the Macquarie team is Professor Mark Taylor, an academic and former Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court. Senior researcher, Marek Rouillon, and the rest of the group, investigate environmental pollution and risks to human health from aerosols, dusts, sediments, soil and water. The team works in a range of locations across Australia, including Broken Hill, Mount Isa, Newcastle, Port Pirie, Sydney and Townsville.

Results of the survey indicate the spread of contamination in many ways reflected the growth of major cities, with the highest concentrations in older suburbs. The contaminant of most concern across Sydney backyards is lead. According to Professor Taylor, it would be expected that there would be contamination in a major city. “We live in an industrial environment,” he said, adding that, “We have used lead-based petrol and paint for most of the 20th Century.”

One technique that is key to the work being conducted by the Macquarie team is X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) analysis for measuring levels of contaminant metals. Simple screening for toxic metals is performed by placing an analyser, such as the Delta Premium from Olympus directly onto soil or dust. The analyser provides detection of metals for site characterisation, contamination tracking, remediation, monitoring, and property evaluations.

Andrew Saliba, Regional Sales Specialist with Olympus, said the latest portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) analysers, such as the Delta Premium, have been developed specifically for complete environmental investigations of metal contaminants in a wide range of industrial and domestic materials. The high-power, high-performance, incredibly rugged Delta allows in-situ analysis in a wide range of harsh environments from remote mining and exploration sites to backyards in major urban centres.

According to Saliba, the traditional use of pXRF has been for alloy identification, grading ore, mineral exploration, metallurgy and mine site remediation. “The technology has been refined and is now often used by environmental consultancies specialising in contaminated land remediation and recycling companies needing to determine what materials are in waste products,” he said.

Macquarie researcher Marek Rouillon has been working to evaluate the reliability and repeatability of XRF analysis on environmental samples. Professor Taylor and Rouillon regularly present their findings at seminars, outlining the spread of heavy metal contamination in suburban gardens in addition to explaining the application and relevance of the pXRF instrument for this project.

Typical 'natural' or 'background' concentrations of lead for the Sydney region are in the range 20 – 30 mg/kg or parts per million (ppm). However, due to the intense use of lead containing products, much of Greater Sydney has been contaminated with the metal. Their results indicate Sydney residences have a mean soil lead concentration of 220 mg/kg, which is approximately 10 times the typical natural background for Sydney's soils and rocks.

In conjunction with the contamination mapping, Macquarie researchers also run the community orientated VegeSafe program. This is the largest study of its kind in the country and has provided information about metal contamination levels to more than 500 households across Sydney, and over 1000 households across Australia.

VegeSafe seeks to inform people about metals and metalloids in their garden soils and provides a free sampling program for domestic and community garden soils. Participants submit soil samples from private or community gardens and receive a formal report and links to information and advice about "what to do next" if the soils contain elevated concentrations of metals and metalloids. “The VegeSafe motto is 'Carry on Gardening'," Professor Taylor said, “because this is exactly what we want people to do knowing that their soils are metal free as is the produce from their gardens.”

According to Rouillon, the simplest mitigation technique for householders would be to cover the contaminated soil with either grass or mulch, to effectively reduce the potential generation of dust if the soil is dry and gets picked up by wind.

In contaminated suburbs where vegetables will be grown, the Macquarie team recommends growing produce in above ground Vegetable plots, using fresh clean topsoil. “Typically, undisturbed soil in urban areas accumulates contaminants over long periods of time and should be avoided when growing home produce” Rouillon stated.

“Our recommendations are determined by different scenarios and contaminant concentrations,” Rouillon said. “VegeSafe provides specific recommendations and advice to a gardener for their particular situation.”


IO-Link Master and Sensors

The new IO-Link master for the Allen-Bradley POINT I/O system and IO-Link enabled sensors from Rockwell Automation go beyond detecting machine problems to help enhance machine productivity. These enhanced sensors simplify configuration, monitor machine health, and communicate data and diagnostics in real time via the global IO-Link communication protocol.

Traditional sensors merely send information stating if they are on or off. If a sensor fails, users know only when an operation goes awry downstream. IO-Link-enabled sensors provide a continuous flow of diagnostic information from the production line, helping better predict maintenance needs.

The new sensors featuring embedded IO-Link act the same as standard I/O sensors until connected to a master. Once interfaced with an IO-Link master, users can access advanced data and configuration capabilities while using the same three-wire cables.

Rockwell Automation is the only company that offers controllers, an IO-Link master and IO-Link sensors that, when applied as a complete system, provide simplified integration plus enhanced features and functionality. The IO-Link master streamlines communication from sensors to the controller.

The sensors talk via simple IO-Link protocol to the master and the POINT I/O system communicates with the controller via EtherNet/IP. This allows users to have an Ethernet-like experience in managing their sensors at an affordable cost.

New sensors for roller conveyor systems

The new Wenglor reflex sensors with background suppression for roller conveyor systems are high performance sensors that are quick and easy to mount. 

The new reflex sensors can be used to control and detect objects on roller conveyor systems. They are suitable for warehouse and logistics centres and can reliably detect small packages with widths as small as 150mm, with conveyor widths of up to 900mm. Dark objects can also be reliably detected due to the precision of background suppression.

The sensors offer a fast-clip mounting system that reduces installation and maintenance time and cost by up to 60 per cent compared to conventional screw type mounting systems. With just a single click to mount, they offer a secure, stable mounting system with a long service life.

The quick wiring feature allows the wiring effort to be reduced by 90 per cent, with the M12 plug turning just 180° to securely connect to the sensor. The cables are also compatible with all standard cables.

Switching distances can be detected and adjusted extremely quick and easily due to the new 270° scaled potentiometer, even when the sensor is not operating.

Thanks to the eco mode, the current consumption is reduced by 75 per cent for the solenoid valve and even more in the switched state, to less than 16mA. It can be used in temperatures from -40°C to 60°C.

Hygienic inline measurement and online processing for food makers

The LiquiSonic inline analyzer by SensoTech measures precisely and directly in pipes or vessels the concentration of ingredients in beverages and liquid food. 

The measurement data are transferred online to PCs or process control systems. Measuring the concentration of original gravity (Plato) or alcohol, the analyzer is used in breweries. In the production of mixed and soft drinks or fruit juices, the LiquiSonic sensors determine the Brix content. Moreover, the sensors measure the dry matter content in the production of whey drinks or other liquid dairy products (LDPs).

Monitoring the product quality continuously and in real time, avoids failed batches. Furthermore, the inline concentration measurement enables a resource-efficient process control to save energy and raw materials.

The LiquiSonic technology is based on sonic velocity measurement providing high precision, stable and every second updated concentration values. Compared to other inline measurement techniques sonic velocity meters are extremely robust, maintenance-free and can be integrated without bypass in the process. 

The LiquiSonic sensors are installed directly in main lines of any size, or in vessels. The sensor design meets the high-hygienic requirements of the food industry and some sensor types are 3-A certified.

The LiquiSonic controller displays the measurement values and stores the data. The trend view allows the tracking of the process. If the measurement value exceed or fall below thresholds, a signal will be sent immediately. 

For process automation, the measurement data can be transmitted via 4-20 mA signal, fieldbus (Profibus DP, Modbus), Ethernet or digital outputs.