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Radar sensor helps with accuracy of tank levels

When Robern Menz decided to upgrade its production facility, it needed an accurate way of measuring the levels of chocolate in their holding tanks. VEGA resolved the issue.

Located just a 15-minute drive from the Adelaide CBD, in the suburb of Glynde, is the production facility of Robern Menz, the producer of such Aussie favourites as Violet Crumble, Crown Mints and FruChocs. Recently, it was decided to do a plant upgrade, which also proved an opportune time to give its chocolate holding tanks new radar sensors.

Robern Menz needed to make an improvement, as previously there was no way to accurately measure the level of chocolate that was in each tank.

“The only way the company could check the levels was to physically look inside the tanks,” said Nick King, South Australian, Northern Territory and Western Australian business development manager for sensor specialist VEGA.

“That volume of chocolate is an expensive piece of inventory worth tens of thousands of dollars. The company wanted to get better inventory control. There was lost time, and there was no way of accurately tracking and accounting with regard to the amount of product used or stock onsite.”

Robern Menz had previous experience using VEGA products, with the VEGASPULS 61 radar devices utilised in its sucrose tanks. This time around, the VEGAPULS 64 radar sensor was the right device for the job.

“It was a bit of a challenge because there was not a lot of clearance in the tanks to put in the sensors. It was a fairly tight-fitting option,” said King. “When they were upgrading the plant, they had a window of opportunity to install them.

“The tanks had existing connections we utilised. These were not in ideal positions, so we had to supply the radars with suitable process connections to fit the existing connections.”

It was decided to use 80GHz radar technology for several reasons – it is more accurate and has higher repeatability than some of the other sensor technologies in the market. Radar is not affected by temperature or pressure, and it can look through most foams. If there is an uneven surface, or a product that causes the tank to pressurise, technology like ultrasonics become reliable.

“Radar, particularly the 80GHz radar, is solving problems that we couldn’t do reliably in the past,” said King. “The VEGAPULS 64 is a narrow beam, 80GHz radar. This made it simple to install in this application where we were restricted for room and mounting position. It has a function called STC, which effectively helps it cope with build-up on the face of the sensor, so when the sensor is splashed with chocolate it still measures reliably. It has a high dynamic gain and the radar copes with an agitated surface.

Even when the agitators pass in front of the radar, the setup procedure of  the radar is able to tune them out. Imagine it’s like a fan running slowly passing through the sensor beam that goes on/off every time an agitator
goes past.

“With functions like focus window and false signal suppression these noise signals are ignored.”

The radar sends the level data back to a PLC controller. The information is displayed locally on large screens via SCADA software package, so any of the production team can see what is going on. VEGAPULS 64 radar level sensors were selected for this project due to their reliability, certainty of measurement and national support in both stock holdings and technical backup, said King.

As well as doing the obvious, such as measuring levels in the tank, there are a plethora of other features that the unit has under its lid.

It can handle temperatures of between -40 to +150 degrees on its base model but can be optioned up to 200°C and 25 bar. Other radars in our range are rated up to 160bar and 400°C, and come with a range of process connections – from simple bracket mount, hygienic, threaded, triclover and flanged mounting options.

VEGA as a company not only prides itself on the build of this range of sensors, but also its reputation. People who tend to invest in these VEGA products don’t think in terms of whether they will fit the bill, there is an expectation and understanding that they will.

“Clients have told us it is how easy to use our sensors, this is made very easy with our app VEGA TOOLS via Bluetooth on your smart device,” said King.

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