Keeping An Eye On Food
Friday, January 25th, 2019
Less machine downtime, detection and prevention of leaks in compressed air systems are crucial to food manufacturers, and are increasingly possible with the help of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) technology, says Festo.
Culinary control is something all chefs aspire to have over their food, as do manufacturers over their food products. The production process itself involves many different activities: mixing and stirring, sterilisation, pasteurisation, homogenisation, filtration, dosing, weighing, filling and storage. Automation ensures the reliability of manufacturing processes, and control warrants quality as well as cost efficiency.
Unfortunately, constructing and building production plants to attain such high levels of controlled automation is often a complicated process, with many sub-contractors having a hand in the mix. This should not be the case.
All In One Cabinet
To make it easier for the manufacturer, Festo designed a control cabinet solution so that manufacturers can be freed up to focus on their core business without having to worry about the maintenance and overview of often more than 200 component parts. The flexibility in the control cabinet also allows compact variants of components to be optimised for applications in the process industry.
The made-to-measure control cabinets offer protection for all pneumatic, electric and electronic system components, and its design takes into consideration local conditions such as weather and climate. Manufacturers also have the option to integrate third-party components into the control cabinets as required.
With a compact design for a large number of valve functions, the control cabinet can be customised to support a host of different application requirements—from receiving and processing raw materials to actual food production process and the associated secondary processes, for example: media supply process of liquid or gases. Integration of pneumatic and electrical signals additionally saves space and costs since only one fieldbus interface is required.
Understandably, stringent food hygiene standards must be upheld in the food production area as well, and hygiene certificates from the US Food and Drug Association are often required for parts that come into contact with food products. The materials used in the control cabinet are hence resistant to both cleaning agents and food components, such as fruit acids, and are easy to clean.
A Question Of Requirements
Manufacturers that must fulfil maximum safety requirements, as is usually the case in continuous processes in the chemical industry, often prefer to use centralised control cabinet concepts. For them, explosion protection, hardware and systematic safety integrity and other safety-relevant aspects such as access to all the hardware from one location are paramount. Fast venting of the actuator during switch-off is also possible in a centralised design.
However, in most cases, a decentralised concept is more appropriate, and also safe. It is usually faster to implement and commission and saves on resources at the same time.
The advantages of decentralised control cabinets are abundant. Manufacturers will have minimised cable runs and quantity of copper used as well as reduced installation time due to fewer cable connections. The pneumatic installation is also simplified: compressed air network only has to be routed to the control cabinets in the field, and process valves are connected to valve terminals by means of flexible, robust tubing.
Intelligence is also distributed in a decentralised concept—control systems can be integrated into valve terminals. If needed, manufacturers can integrate additional functions into the valve terminal directly without any additional installation or wiring time: e.g. pressure zones, proportional valves or pressure sensors.
Ultimately, the decision depends on what is required and what works best for users. Manufacturers may even opt for a hybrid concept, with both centralised and decentralised control cabinets to suit their plant processes.
Less machine downtime, detection and prevention of leaks in compressed air systems are crucial to food manufacturers, and are increasingly possible with the help of Industry 4.0 (I4.0) technology. For example, the CPX Terminal is getting more popular in control cabinet solutions due to its expanded capabilities to integrate functions such as diagnostics, condition monitoring, safety and electrical and pneumatic automation technology.
The use of IO link devices that could be part of valve terminals is also gaining in popularity, as they are used to transfer complex diagnostics to a dashboard. This enables manufacturers to perform condition monitoring remotely through media flow rates and other important data that are transmitted to the dashboard.
The customisability of the control cabinet to include I4.0 components is helpful as smart data analytics increases cost efficiency. It also enhances the user experience in plant processes, as digitalisation of data allows manufacturers to have more real time information at hand.
The control cabinet solution from Festo establishes the perfect link between the pneumatically actuated process valves and the limit switches, the measuring equipment and the process control level. Regardless of the solution required, manufacturers can be assured of the combination of the highest level of reliability provided by a harmonised control sequence with optimised interfaces and integrated service.
Automation ensures the reliability of manufacturing processes, and control warrants quality as well as cost efficiency.
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