Sensors designed for rugged food and beverage environments

With its new compact series of VEGABAR pressure sensors and VEGAPOINT level switches, VEGA has now advanced to full-range supplier for all applications in food production. These instruments are aimed at standard applications in automation – and designed to meet the latest requirements of the industry.

The quality demands on food are higher today than ever before with it becoming a matter of course to be able to choose freely from a variety of foods every day. Products are being manufactured more according to individual tastes, which makes faster batch changes necessary. Consumers trust that everything is safe and hygienic at all times – and rarely think about the extensive network of safety measures that make it possible. Intelligent system design is one of them. It supports the reliability, efficiency and hygiene of manufacturing processes – with the help of hi-tech sensors and their reliable measured values.

On the basis of the modular plics instrument series, level and pressure instrumentation from VEGA has been making a contribution to safety and efficiency in the food industry for many decades. The compatible design and standardised adjustment concept create flexible application possibilities and allow individual configuration − from selection of the right measuring principle, to installation and setup, to service. Operators benefit from fast product changes, continuous plant availability and process reliability.

New standard sensors with a focus on hygiene
Just like other sectors, the food industry does not seek extreme solutions, but, in many areas, just simple optimisation and efficiency improvement. Here, less is usually more. VEGA has expanded its product range to include a compact instrument series. It proves that automation can be both simple and highly efficient without sacrificing dependability, hygiene or accuracy.

Standard applications, in particular, can be automated economically with the new compact pressure sensors and level switches. Integration into the system, as well as adjustment, are easy to carry out. In this performance class, multi-device connection options are also available, which supports the continuous improvement of production facilities. The focus here is on compactness, flexibility, safety and optimised hygiene.

The new VEGABAR and VEGAPOINT instrument series are the answer to the growing demand for simple sensors with optimised variants that support increasingly efficient food production. This requires more standardised products that are as easy as possible to use but still cover all the basic hygiene requirements. It also calls for better networked products with easy connectivity to existing control systems and mobile devices.

Standardisation gives birth to efficiency
A uniform standard extends through all areas of application. This applies especially to the fully hygienic adapter system, which is designed to be compatible with the new sensors and capacitive level switches as well as the existing VEGASWING vibrating level switches.

Not only can it be flexibly selected according to individual needs, but also adapted to local requirements and – if necessary – quickly exchanged. All the new instruments are built to withstand intense clean in place(CIP) processes. And not least due to their hygienic design and surface finish, they comply with all standards and approvals of the industry.

The acid test of CIP cleaning
Time is becoming an increasingly important factor in food production processes, and hygienic production in particular requires a lot of it. CIP cleaning is one of the most necessary but time-consuming process steps. The potential for savings here lies in cleaning and sterilising systems more quickly, through consistent hygiene standards and system design. However, this assumes that the cleaning process can be fully relied upon once completed. And this in turn requires components whose geometry does not allow microorganisms to collect in dead spaces and which are also capable of withstanding the cleaning and sterilisation processes themselves.

Processes and media that demand a lot from the materials of the measuring instruments are, for example, substances with a high fat content as well as aromatics. The consequential aggressive cleaning agents required also make correspondingly high chemical resistance necessary. The VEGABAR and VEGAPOINT instruments are resistant to both demands. The pressure sensors and level switches can tolerate high temperatures without loss of function, and even cope with the combination of both high temperature and long exposure times.

Hygienic design down to the last detail
What does “Hygienic by Design” mean? In real terms it can be seen even in the smallest components of the new sensor series. All surfaces of VEGABAR 29 and 39 sensors that come into contact with the product are made of stainless steel and feature optimal surface roughness values. What is more, VEGABAR 28 and 38 are available with high-strength ceramic versions and VEGAPOINT sensors in high-resistant PEEK material.

All materials are approved and tested according to FDA and EC 1935/2004. The design of the instruments is certified according to the European EHEDG Directive and the North American 3-A Sanitary Standards. Both standards prescribe the use of corrosion-resistant materials only and the components are also designed in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices regulations so that all micro-organisms are reliably removed by cleaning and cannot multiply on surfaces or in gaps.

Visible all around: illuminated 360-degree switching status display
Sensors are often used in very large spacious areas or in tight spaces. The effort involved in reading a sensor quickly becomes considerable when a hygiene barrier has to be overcome. However, it is crucial to be able to see sensor readings quickly and easily, so that operators can react as quickly as possible, especially in the event of a fault.

To ensure that the status of a process can be recognised at a glance from as far away as possible and from any direction, the development of the new sensors focused on simple handling – and the fast and easy readability that comes along with it. Thanks to the round, 360-degree display, all switching states can be visually detected from any direction. The colour of the illuminated ring, which can be freely selected from 256 different colours, remains visible even in daylight. This allows the operator to choose the colour that is best visible in that particular environment, and it is up to the operator to choose the colour that best suits their needs and offers maximum additional safety and distinguishability in critical situations. It immediately shows the user if measurement is taking place, if the sensor is switching, or if there is a possible malfunction in the process.

Fit for the future with IO-Link
In their maintenance decisions, plant operators rely on status data, which forms the basis for optimal planning of shutdown times. Almost all system builders now implement intelligent sensors with IO technology for this, as it offers universal advantages when it comes to data availability. Not only can these be quickly and cost-effectively installed using standard three-core cable, but, with IO-Link, sensors can also be replaced without the risk of errors. The system can be put into operation faster with the standard protocol, which reduces production downtime.

The option of having all sensor parameters written automatically into the new instrument by the IO-Link master, or the controller during a replacement, also makes for additional efficiency. Fast format or recipe changes, which are typical in the food industry, can be carried out quickly and centrally in this way. The bottom line is that using IO-Link saves time while reducing the potential for errors to zero. This ensures higher product quality, more optimal utilisation of the machines and increased process speed.

Wireless transmission of measured values
Both the VEGABAR and VEGAPOINT instrument series can be easily read out and configured with a smartphone or tablet. Especially in environments such as clean rooms, where physical access involves a lot of effort, it means setup and operation become faster and easier. In combination with the VEGA Tools app, which has already won an App Award, the sensor data enquiry over shorter distances in these areas also becomes convenient.

Future-oriented automation from a single source
Hygienic design, system availability, modularisation and networking are the decisive factors for greater efficiency in food processes and for standing out in the face of growing competition. With its decades of experience, VEGA offers level and pressure measurement technology for the automation and monitoring of future-oriented production systems. It has sensors optimised for operating under extreme conditions and meeting strict requirements on system safety and flexibility.

Because of the increasing requirement for standard applications and open control platforms, VEGA has added these compact pressure sensors and level switches into its portfolio to help meet this. The new instruments are tailored to these standard applications that nevertheless involve high quality.

The universal adapter system of these compact devices provides the flexibility needed to keep inputs and costs at a minimum level through optimised spare parts stock-keeping. This provides process fittings that can be selected “off the shelf” and adapted directly to individual requirements.

There is also a great deal of sensor intelligence on board – the standard IO-Link protocol ensures especially simple, intelligent communication. The wireless communication provides easy and fast access and setup.

This means that the instruments have a multi-layer communication platform that enables seamless data transfer and simple integration into control systems. They are prepared for the production processes of the future – and are already making their contribution to the implementation of Industry 4.0.