Process control equipment for the food and beverage industry has to operate effectively with a wide variety of fluids, granules and powders of varying viscosities.
Add to this the requirements for a hygienic environment and keeping process lines clean and sterile, and the scale of challenge in managing effective flow and level control in a food processing line becomes apparent.
Three factors need to be considered carefully to maintain effective, efficient and hygienic level and flow control.
Level sensors provide vital information for level monitoring, either in the form of an alarm point or as a continuous signal. Depending on the application, a number of different technologies are available to meet the challenges of all types of process environment.
Direct contact sensors, such as float switches and tuning fork sensors offer simple and reliable point level detection solutions. These discrete sensors are often used in conjunction with continuous level detection sensors to provide alarm signals to prevent over-filling or dry pumping situations.
Non-contact sensors use a variety of technologies, such as ultrasonics, radar, laser, differential pressures and capacitance. Each application may require a combination of these sensors for different processes in order to deliver the most effective solution. Making the most appropriate selection can have a significant effect on the performance and reliability of the manufacturing process.
Selecting the most appropriate level sensor requires a number of variables to be considered, as well as additional factors including increasingly stringent regulations requiring more precise and reliable level measurement and safety redundancy.
The advantages in getting it right are that improvements to the accuracy of process control enables product quality to be increased while also reducing costs and waste.
In contrast to level detection, flow control devices must be in direct contact with the process media and this means that all aspects of the design must enable effective and efficient cleaning as well as reliable flow control.
With hygiene of the utmost importance within the food industry, being able to implement an effective and efficient cleaning process is essential to meet required standards. Clean-in-Place (CIP) and Steam-in-Place (SIP) systems are designed for automatic cleaning and disinfecting without major disassembly of the process line.
The base material is normally 316L stainless steel which requires an excellent surface finish in order to maximise the efficiency of the CIP process that is used to sterilise the process pipework. Coupled with excellent thermal properties, the design of process valves has become a complex process; some of the latest products use technologies such as hydroforming to deliver a number of process advantages.
By reducing the overall weight of a valve housing, the energy and time required to complete the cleaning process can be reduced, improving efficiency and maximising productivity. The reduced volume of material means that the energy requirement for both heating and cooling during cleaning processes is greatly reduced.
Similar attention to detail should also be paid to the valve actuator, which should also meet prescribed standards for both hygiene and energy efficiency. The use of stainless steel in the general construction of the actuator goes a long way to avoid issues such as rust, corrosion and flaking paint in a hygienic environment.
With many valves using pneumatic control, the internal design of the actuator can have a significant effect on overall air consumption and consequently the energy required to operate a series of control valves. Coupled with intelligent valve controllers and a decentralised control arrangement, it is possible to use a common air supply to a number a valves, reducing the overall air consumption.
Ultimately, the key to implementing the most appropriate valves and sensing equipment in a food manufacturing process is to make use of expert advice and advances in modern design. As energy efficiency and productivity become even more important, so the use of bespoke solutions enables these goals to be met.
Burkert Fluid Control Systems has the products and expertise to deliver optimum level and flow control solutions for industrial food and drink production processes.
If you'd like to discuss a project, please call us on 01285 648720 or email firstname.lastname@example.org