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More visibility in processes: VEGA extends its sensor portfolio for easy process automation

28 November 2019

Against a backdrop of 60 years of experience in level and pressure measurement, VEGA's sensor portfolio stands for maximum process reliability and plant availability. With its new compact series of VEGABAR pressure sensors and VEGAPOINT level switches, this instrument specialist has now advanced to full-range supplier for all level and pressure in process automation. These lower-priced instruments are aimed at standard automation applications – designed to meet the latest requirements in industry.

Know-how as tradition

In the food and beverage sector as many others, the quality demands are higher today than ever before. It has become a matter of course to be able to choose freely every day from a wider variety. Products are being manufactured more and more according to individual tastes, which makes ever faster batch changes necessary. Consumers trust that everything is safe and hygienic at all times – and rarely think about the extensive network of safety and sanitary measures that make it possible. Intelligent system and component 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 significant contribution to safety and efficiency in the food industry for many decades. The highly compatible design and standardised adjustment concept create very 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 therefore expanded its product range to include a compact instrument series. It proves: Automation can be both simple and highly efficient without sacrificing dependability, hygiene or accuracy.

Standard applications, in particular, can be automated very economically with the new compact pressure sensors and level switches. Integration into the system as well as adjustment are especially 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. For the new sensor concepts, VEGA follows the twin mottos: "As economical  as possible – without compromising on quality". Without forgetting : "As much as necessary – for optimal performance."

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 VEGABAR pressure sensors and VEGAPOINT 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 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 essentially lies in cleaning and sterilizing systems more quickly, through consistent hygiene standards and system design. However, this assumes that the cleaning process can be fully relied upon once completed, to meet the industry's high cleanliness requirements. And this in turn requires components whose geometry does not allow microorganisms to collect in dead spaces, yet also capable of withstanding the cleaning and sterilization 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. These new 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 highly resistant PEEK material.

All materials are approved and tested according to FDA and EC 1935/2004. This is confirmed by independent laboratories and institutes. 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 GMP regulations (Good Manufacturing Practices) so that all microorganisms are reliably removed by cleaning and cannot multiply on surfaces or in gaps.

Visible all around: illuminated 360° switching status display

Sensors are often used in very large spacious areas or in very tight spaces. The effort involved in reading a sensor quickly becomes considerable when a hygiene barrier first 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 recognized at a glance from as far away as possible and from any direction, the development of the new VEGABAR and VEGAPOINT sensors focused on simple handling – and the fast and easy readability that comes along with it. Thanks to the round, 360° 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 clearly 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 especially easily and without the risk of errors. The system can be put into operation correspondingly faster with the standard protocol, which reduces production downtime considerably. 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 today, 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 utilization of the machines and increased process speed - in other words, noticeable savings.

Wireless transmission of measured values

The new instrument series can be easily read and configured with a smartphone or tablet. Especially in environments such as clean rooms, where physical access involves a lot of effort, the remote communication means the device set up and operation become considerably faster, easier and safer. 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 really convenient.

Conclusion: 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 ground-breaking level and pressure measurement technology for the automation and monitoring of future-oriented production systems.  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 perfectly 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 set up. 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.

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