Reliable automation technology for the food industry

ifm’s process sensor portfolio is vast and has expanded to include analytical measuring sensors. This is highlighted with the newly released temperature calibration check (TCC) sensor that complies with the required standards and directives of 3A, EHEDG and FDA. This means it is suitable for hygienic installations such as those in the food and beverage industry.

Maximum process reliability and constant product quality are maxims in the food industry, whether in the manufacture of beverages, confectionary, dairy, or in meat processing. The slightest impurities cause great damage, such as the product recall of entire production runs, expensive downtime and then there is the damage to the brand’s reputation.

TCC technology is the sensor that checks itself. Temperature is one of the most important measurements used in process control. In the food and beverage industry, accurate and stable temperature measurement is vital for product quality and safety. But, what happens if the process temperature is inaccurate? What if production managers could eliminate product quality risk due to inaccurate process temperature measurement between calibration cycles?

The TCC is specifically designed to combat the challenges of typical temperature products. ifm’s “Calibration Check” technology provides real-time continuous monitoring of instrument accuracy and measurement uncertainty. Leveraging the digital communication also provides better measurement accuracy and reliability than analogue since there are no signal losses.

Smart diagnostic technology monitors accuracy with two measuring elements in the tip of the sensor to react to temperature changes, with the microprocessor monitoring them for any potential decrease in measurement accuracy. The TCC’s repeatability is less than 0.015°C so users are assured the instrument provides repeatable measurements time after time.

The new technology is designed to give users peace of mind that a product is monitored 24 hours a day. It also monitors its own health and accuracy between calibration checks.
Clean-in-place (CIP) processes are among the harshest to which instruments are exposed. The constant cycling between hot and cold temperatures can quickly cause fatigue of the electronic components and therefore lead to drift and failure. Every CIP cycle is a potential source of drift.

Each TCC sensor is “tested beyond standards” to ensure ifm manufactures the most stable, reliable and accurate temperature products. Throughout the development of this product, ifm engineers identified the primary causes of drift and failure.

The company tested these products and those of three other major manufacturers in its X-treme test lab.

They simulated CIP in its thermal shock chamber with instruments being submerged in a bath at -15°C for 10 minutes and then transferred immediately (< 10 seconds) to another bath at 140°C. Drift was tested after every 50 cycles at a measured temperature of 123°C.
ifm took results shown for manufacturers B and C at a point where each unit failed. There is no data shown for Manufacturer A, since its products failed after two thermal cycles. The TCC measurement drifted < 0.2°C and it did not fail even after 1000 cycles, at which point, ifm stopped the test.

Permanent status checking
Due to the calibration check technology, the TCC permanently checks its own drift behaviour. The sensor compares the temperature value to the simultaneously measured reference value. If the deviation is outside the tolerance range, which can be set between 0.5 and 3K, the TCC provides an optical signal and sends a message to the central controller via IO-Link and the diagnostic output. The same applies to cases of serious malfunctions.

Quality assurance due to event-related measurement
Particularly in production processes where exact temperature values are decisive for the product quality, it is important that the measured values are precise. The TCC allows plant operators to take event-related measurements in case of drifts instead of waiting for the next planned calibration interval. This reduces the risk of losing entire production batches due to faulty production temperatures.

Transparent sensor communication with visual and digital indication: The TCC provides the current status in a simple and clear way. If the LED on the sensor is green, the unit operates reliably. Blue indicates a temperature deviation outside the tolerance range. Red indicates a serious malfunction, such as a failure of the main measuring element. The TCC also automatically stores all the data required for consistent documentation via IO-Link – installation date, operating hours, temperature histogram as well as logbooks on event messages (operating hours and event number) and on the calibration check status (operating hours, temperature value, drift value, limit and status).

All of ifm’s process sensors, which include, flow, level, pressure, temperature and conductivity, are made of food-grade materials. They have a hygienic housing designed and distinguished by high ingress and temperature resistance and protection against high-pressure cleaning with aggressive agents. They have stainless steel mounting accessories especially designed for the food industry and come with protection rating IP68/69K.

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