News product InspectIon technology delIvers perfect pattIes

Investment in the latest inline inspection technologies enables food manufacturers to not only improve contamination detection and product quality, but also production efficiency – as Bell Food Group recently discovered. Bell is one of the major processors of meat and

convenience products in Europe. Increased customer requirements and demands in terms of quality assurance and production capacity gave the company the push to rethink the configuration of their production line for burger patties. Bell decided to dismantle their existing line, carry out a hall conversion and replace individual production line components as part of modernisation measures. They chose a new X39 x-ray inspection solution from Mettler-Toledo to support the improvements in their quality regime. The purchase decision was made after Bell had experienced the X39 in real time at two comparable sites in Ireland and Germany. Along with metallic contaminants, the X39 can

detect various additional foreign bodies that are commonly found in meat, including bone and cartilage, stones, high-density plastic or glass. The system also provides a whole range of other options for checking the patties for product errors

and visual defects: such as patties joined together, holes, dents and product flakes. The X39 inspection system currently

casts a strict x-ray eye over in excess of a million patties a week – most of these being three standard products, which vary in terms of size, form and weight. Depending on the variant of burger patty that Bell are producing the x-ray system will inspect between three and six lanes. If a visual defect is detected, the relevant patty is rejected using multi-lane air nozzles. This significantly reduces the volume of patties rejected in comparison to simpler x-ray system variants that reject the entire batch from production. Bell can even differentiate between individual rejections by product error. Once the patties enter the x-ray system its

integrated control laser checks if the patties have been separated properly: otherwise these patties are rejected and prepared for rework. This minimises product loss for the customer without losing out on any of the benefits of the product integrity check solution. The majority of product settings and tolerance limits for each patty variant have been validated

sensor package rIdes aboard bees

Engineers at the University of Washington have created a sensing system that is small enough to ride aboard a bumblebee. The package requires only a tiny rechargeable battery that could last for seven hours of flight and then charge while the bees are in their hive at night. The researchers designed a sensor backpack that weighs 102 milligrams,

or about the weight of seven grains of uncooked rice. Because bees do not advertise where they are flying and because GPS

receivers are too power-hungry to ride on a tiny insect, the team came up with a method that uses no power to localise the bees. The researchers set up multiple antennas that broadcasted signals from a base station across a specific area. A receiver in the bee’s backpack uses the strength of the signal and the angle difference between the bee and the base station to triangulate the insect’s position. Next the team added a series of small sensors - monitoring

temperature, humidity and light intensity - to the backpack. That way, the bees could collect data and log that information along with their location, and eventually compile information about a whole farm. Then after the bees have finished their day of foraging, they return to

their hive where the backpack can upload any data it collected via a method called backscatter, through which a device can share information by reflecting radio waves transmitted from a nearby antenna. Right now the backpacks can only store about 30 kilobytes of data, so

they are limited to carrying sensors that create small amounts of data. Also, the backpacks can upload data only when the bees return to the hive. The team would eventually like to develop backpacks with cameras that can livestream information about plant health back to farmers. 8

within just over half a year and saved in the X39. Employees now simply select a product from the product library in order to run the inspection process, based on the pre-approved product data. While employees can carry out calibrations and rectify simple defects, line managers have further access options that enable them to carry out additional settings changes on the x-ray system. Going forward, it will be possible to archive all

data collected by the X39 within a network and evaluate it. This makes it easier for Bell to pass on quality indicators to customers. In turn, the customers can then analyse the figures for their own quality optimisation processes.

Industry urges unIversItIes to work harder for vocatIonal learners

Britain’s manufacturers are urging universities to cast their net much wider to include vocational learners rather than prioritising academic pupils on the back of new survey evidence showing companies are giving greater priority to investing in apprenticeship programmes than recruiting graduates. The survey, published by EEF, shows a clear shift in this direction

by employers looking to ensure they have the specialist skills they will need in the future. According to EEF, the data highlights the vital need to meet

skills shortages at craft and technician level, as well as bring fresh young talent into the sector. This is partly driven by a rapidly ageing workforce with a significant number of employees expected to retire in the coming years. Fur thermore, with companies still planning to expand despite

the economic and political uncer tainty in response to shor tages of qualified people they are increasingly looking to recruit employees with transferable skills from other industries and sectors to plug hard to fill roles. According to the survey almost three quarters of companies are

planning to recruit apprentices compared to 66 per cent in 2014. But, by contrast, the number now planning to recruit Graduates has fallen to 34 per cent compared to 66 per cent in 2014. January 2019 Instrumentation Monthly

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