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How do you maintain uptime in a production line that faces extreme heat, extreme cold, all kinds of oils, fats, liquids and messy ingredients? This is exactly the challenge in the food and beverage processing and packaging industry, and the key to addressing the challenge is to have robust equipment and components to withstand the harsh environment.

This article explores why the food and beverage industry requires robust switch and sensor technology to maintain uptime on the production line and reap the benefits of automation, in addition to the expected hygiene conformance.

The food and beverage industry benefits significantly from automation, just because automation enables better efficiencies, better throughput, better reproducibility, and ultimately better profitability. In order to maintain this productivity, uptime is a big factor: operations cannot afford to have equipment go out of action, even if for a short time.

The challenge to maintain this uptime is the extremes of environmental conditions that the equipment, including the switches and sensors, have to endure. There’s the heat of ovens, the cold refrigeration equipment, the hot oils of fryers, cold and hot liquids of all kinds, plus food ingredients that can be messy, including meat and flours. As an example, at a meat processing plant, if the meat comes into contact with the switch, most conventional mechanical switches could just stop operating with the meat or moisture ingress. Even if the delay is only temporary, it can impact the daily output of the processing line.

The components and the technology used during picking, processing, checking and packaging need to be able to maintain operation under all these conditions. And also withstand washing and cleaning to maintain good hygiene, especially since food preparation and packaging processes must meet safety and regulatory standards.

The CAPTRON CHT1 SENSORswitch series provide an extensive range of vandal resistant switches designed with high resistance to wear and tear, corrosion and harsh use, especially for machine control and access control applications in such hostile environments. There are many features that make them suited to such environments.

One is their IP69K rating, since the sensor is completely sealed in cast resin, making them 100% water and oil-proof; this means the switches are totally protected against washdown, and can be placed in a freezer or in boiling liquid. Secondly, they are completely shock-resistant, so cannot be destroyed even with lighter flames or severe blows. Third, they are operated using touch control, so no mechanical pressure is required.  The fourth key factor is durability, with more than 100 million operation cycles that can be expected from the switch.

Another aspect of the CHT1 series is the hygiene conformance of the stainless-steel versions which meet DIN EN 1672-2 requirements. This standard that specifies common hygiene requirements for machinery used in preparing and processing food for human consumption to eliminate or minimize the risk of contagion, infection, illness or injury arising from the prepared food. The CHT1 series is available in front panel mounted versions with different profile types: flush, low and raised.

In addition to the CHT1 series, CAPTRON has introduced the CANEO series10, a new generation of capacitive sensor switches offering robustness, customizability and communication technology. They integrate new sensor-fusion technology and improved algorithms, offering full programmability over IO-Link to freely configure all function parameters such switch sensitivity, actuation types, minimum actuation time and fluorescent color. The series10 also offers 16 million fluorescent colors and customized symbols to enable a high level of individuality.

The series10 addresses the top priority in the production of food and beverages: the safety and protection of the consumer. The hygienic design guarantees protection against contamination and the switch can be reliably cleaned of viruses and impurities and sterilized; the switch conforms to EU regulation 10/2011, DIN ISO 1672-2, FDA approval of materials, and features a design according to EHEDG (European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group) hygienic design principles.

Another product family addressing the needs of the food and beverage industry is CAPTRON’s capacitive level sensor range. As described in a previous article, these can be used in almost any environment and measure any kind of medium, including very dry materials, extreme or harsh environments. The sensors are provided in rods based on both PTFE (Teflon) as well PEEK (a thermoplastic material). These rods are not subject to corrosion – which can be a requirement for some aspects of the food and beverage industry where both resistance to corrosion plus adherence to safety standards and regulations are necessary.

The CAPTRON capacitive level sensors provide reliable and accurate

fill level readings at extreme temperatures. In addition, a unique feature of these sensors is the ability to customize the probes to the exact length required (up to 3000mm) to the nearest millimeter, which means they can be used for any shape and size of tank. This is unlike other probes that come in standard sizes so may not be useable for all shapes of tank, or exactly meet a specific custom need or requirement.

In summary, The CAPTRON technology is focused on providing completely hygienic, efficiency-boosting and fail-safe sensors. They are developed in collaboration with food and confectionery engineers, production managers and dairy technicians to ensure they meet the specific needs of the food and beverage processing industry with a hygienic and reliable range of products that ensure optimum uptime.

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