Case-Study: Selecting Sensors For Efficient Food & Beverage Production

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Intelligent sensor solutions for level, temperature, flow, and pressure measurement are needed to meet the stringent requirements for safety and hygiene in the beverage and food industry. By Michele Savino, product manager for fluid sensors, Alexander Schumacher, product manager for level sensors, and Ralf Kühnemund, product manager for pressure and temperature measurement technology, Sick AG

Imagine a manufacturing process without sensors. It would be a complete disaster. In the food and beverage industry, a solution for manufacturers is to use a flow sensor that uses ultrasonic technology to determine the flow volume of conductive and non-conductive liquids in hygienic and highly demanding environments.

Selecting the right method and appropriate device for flow measurement generally involves a time-consuming and resource-intensive consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of the different systems and measuring methods. This is particularly so in the food and beverage industry—which relies on high process reliability and perfect hygiene standards—this means that there are often a large number of different measuring devices for the respective production areas.

Monitoring And Measuring The Flow Of Fluids

Manufacturers should use instruments that reliably monitor the flow of fluids such as chocolate, beer, olive oil, demineralised water, or milk, and which can also precisely measure the flow of cleaning agents in clean-in-place and steam-in-place (SIP) plants or cooling water in cooling circuits; this also enables an increase in productivity. This variety of applications is possible due to ultrasonic technology.

The Dosic ultrasonic sensor by Sick AG for example is a flexible measurement system and operates according to the concept of time-of-flight difference: if the ultrasonic signal is sent against the flow direction, it requires a longer transit time than the signal sent in the direction of the flow. The transit-time difference between the two ultrasonic signals is directly proportional to the mean flow velocity. The flow volume per unit of time is the result of the mean flow velocity multiplied by the pipe cross-section.

With regard to reliability and precision in transit-time difference measurements, the sensor provides an alternative to Coriolis mass flowmeters (measurement of force resulting from acceleration) which usually entail high investment costs. The sensor can detect a wide range of challenging liquids and media for beverage and food production irrespective of their properties.

Choosing The Right Sensor For Your Desired Function

  • Hygiene: A hygienic sensor design enables highly reliable measurement results. The absence of moving parts in a sensor eliminates potential contamination risks in the demanding hygienic environments of the food industry.
  • Stability: A sensor with high-quality stainless-steel housing provides the necessary resistance to ensure accuracy, repeatability, and stability.
  • Heat Resistant: It is important to pick the right fluid sensor to ensure it can withstand high temperatures, especially in SIP processes where repeated steaming is required for areas of product contact.
  • Industry 4.0 Ready: In Industry 4.0 environments, the sensor system should have an IO-Link (worldwide standardisation for point-to-point serial communication protocol used to communicate with sensors) interface. The IO-Link reduces cabling, and also enables complete control and monitoring of the sensor in Industry 4.0 machine environments.

Smart manufacturing relies ultimately on the data picked up on field devices being sent back to the controller within milliseconds, but this data is only as good as the sensor can allow. Choosing the right fluid sensor is essential in ensuring reliable quality and productivity assurance in the demanding hygienic environments of food and beverage production.