Keeping the cogs of the food machine turning at a pace that satisfies the appetite of retail giants, contract caterers and consumers is no mean feat.
It is often the case that with all the state-of-the-art technology involved in the food production process from ‘field to fork’ in bakeries, dairies, breweries, fruit and vegetable canneries, and animal feed …it is the humble solenoid valve that keeps the food engine running.
A solenoid valve has a simple mechanic designed to shut off, release, dose, distribute or mix fluids. In the food industry they are most frequently used to control the flow and direction of fluids, as well as being an absolute necessity for any operation that requires batch control such as in bottling plants and canneries.
The solenoid also drives pneumatic and hydraulic systems, flush systems, control cylinders, fluid power motors and helps control and energize the operation of larger industrial valves.
Solenoids can be found in almost any process operation that requires measurement, such as grouping and flow control, for example in the processing of condiments. They are also widely used in hot beverage dispensing equipment, such as coffee systems to control flow into and out of drink dispensers.
Les Littlewood commented:
“Solenoids are very common in the food processing industry and as such are a product line that our distributors require again and again. To cater for demand, we have introduced a wide range of design options to offer greater choice, and more cost-effective solutions. Our solenoid valve program currently includes valves for air, steam, oil, and gas, suiting a number of food processing applications. The range also includes pilot operated, direct acting and high temperature valves with a variation of different diaphragm options. The solenoid’s function of managing a variety of media, along with their high reliability, long service life and compact design makes this line a best seller.”
In the food processing industry stainless steel is always primary choice of material as is doesn’t corrode, rust or stain, it has excellent hygiene properties and is able to withstand extreme temperatures from -25°C to +200°C.
Albion was one of the first companies to introduce a range of stainless steel valves and fittings, which conform to ISO 4144 standard, specifying the pressure-temperature ratings, dimensions and materials of stainless steel fittings.
Although it is commonplace for process engineers to assess system components for quality including valves, it is less likely that the fittings are checked in these inspections to ensure they conform to the industry standard.
Albion recommends manufacturers of food processing equipment specify valves with ATEX approval as standard. Processing some food products like cereals, flours and animal food will produce a dusty environment.
Dust can when mixed with air create a potentially explosive atmosphere that could be ignited by a spark or flame. So, for all hazardous environments it is very important that an ATEX rated valve is used.
With over 65 million mouths to feed, the UK’s food industry must rely on the simple but effective mechanics of valves to keep industry machinery operating at maximum efficiency.