The new standard in level measurement

Close-up view of the wavy water surface

Since its introduction about 30 years ago, radar level measurement has continued to change and improve. VEGA Australia offers two 80 GHz units which represent the cutting edge in this field.

Up until the late 1980s, manufacturers used technologies such as capacitance and ultrasonic pressure to measure the levels of liquids and solids inside vessels. However, as is the case with most old technologies, these devices have now been largely superseded.

“Radar technology now is becoming an accepted form of level measurement. Radar has completely replaced traditional methods because of advantages to the client,” John Leadbetter, managing director of VEGA Australia, told Food & Beverage Industry News.

These advantages include better hygiene, efficiency, simplicity, speed, accuracy, and more.

VEGA Australia offers two products which provide all these benefits – the Vegapuls 69 which is mainly used to measure solid materials like grains, flours, and solid mixtures; and the Vegapuls 64, which is suitable for use with liquid and paste materials, such as sauces, dairy products, blends of mixtures, and oils.

80GHz level measurement

These level sensors are the first to use a frequency of 80 GHz. This means they have a narrow beam angle of 3 degrees which provides better focus. In addition, they have an increased power range and can measure up to 120m.

According to Leadbetter, the small size of the sensors is another important factor. “The smaller size in both models allows a lower beam angle. The other thing it does is help with the cost of installation. The customer doesn’t have to go out and modify vessels to larger diameter units. In most cases, existing sockets on the vessels can be utilised for the transmitter. Installation’s a lot simpler and easier,” he said.

While the sensors are suitable for use in many industries, including energy, oil, chemical, building and elsewhere, the models used by food makers have all the necessary industry approvals.

“The Vegapuls 64 carries all the food approvals and the Vegapuls 69 carries what they call the dust approval. This is necessary because things like grain and white sugar are highly explosive,” said Leadbetter.

The importance of hygiene

Hygiene is a crucial consideration for food and beverage makers. The advantage of radar level measurement, in this context, is that the sensor used never come into contact with the material being measured.

Apart from that, operations which use the technology should simply follow normal industry procedures. “Most applications in the food industry use cleaning in place with caustics, so we’re all fully approved, we have temperature ratings and everything for that. Realistically in the food industry you’re going to have no little gaps or anything like that so it’s going to be a smooth finish,” Leadbetter said.

Connectivity and simplicity

According to Leadbetter, another advantage of the sensors is that they are Bluetooth compatible.

“With both units you have a variety of fittings so they are adaptable to the needs of specific clients. They also have built-in asset management which means that, if there has been a problem in the middle of the night, they can go back through the memory and pick out what the problem was,” he said. “Asset management’s a big part of it.”

The sensors are used with an industry standard software called Pactware which is commonly used for instrumentation. Users log into their units through a laptop (or Bluetooth via a smart phone or iPad) and they are able to set the unit up either remotely or connect to it directly.

“The major feedback we get from customers is how easy they are to program. We’ve made it a lot simpler for the customer,” said Leadbetter.

According to Leadbetter, the two units have been very well received by industry. “Three major grain companies in Australia have now standardised on the Vegapuls 69. Also, in the case of the Vegapulse 64 we have food manufacturers that have standardised on the product. This means they are very happy with the performance,” he said.

On top of that, they have proved popular. Combined, they have sold in excess of 80,000 units, across all industries, worldwide.

Leadbetter said that VEGA Australia has all the level measurement bases covered. “We’ve covered the dry and processed food with the same technology. It’s one technology to cover both sides of operations,” he said.