The food industry is a complex network of products and businesses that spans across the globe, serving to supply the vast majority of the world’s population with food. It is comprised of diverse businesses, production and agriculture. While it is an economic force, the underlying drive of the industry is of course out of necessity. The globalization of the food industry has countless benefits and potential for this reason, but it also calls for more regulation in order to ensure that the consumer is safe. Luckily most places have a number of different methods in place to do this.
One of these methods is the metal detector. It sounds like a strange idea to those outside of the industry, but food grade metal detectors are in fact a widespread practice when it comes to food production. The ultimate purpose is for the benefit of the consumer, but their use has many benefits. The metal detectors are used to find any trace of metal that may have found its way into the food at some point throughout the production process. These fragments have the potential to harm the consumer. The company also benefits from ensuring the safety of their customers as it eliminates the complications of claims from them. On a long term basis, it also protects the brand reputation from negative press and public perception.
These industrial metal detectors are most effective when installed at every stage of the production process, from raw ingredients through to the packaging. Typically the detector is installed directly before the machine. This also serves to protect the machines themselves; wall particles can cause system failures leading to expensive repairs. Even though the metal detectors will catch any fragment that has fallen in, it is also recommended that inspections be held of the raw ingredients when the metal is still whole and easier to see. This is the best way to catch all of the metal too.
Most industrial metal detectors used today fall into one of two categories. The first is are systems with a general purpose head. These can detect essentially any kind of metal fragment from ferrous (containing iron and magnetic) and non-ferrous (not containing iron and non-magnetic) metals to stainless steel in both frozen and non-frozen products. The second kind of metal detectors have systems with a ferrous-in foil search. These are more limited in their scope, only being able to find ferrous metals within foil-wrapped fresh products. They are perfectly fine and efficient depending on the kind of production that is being completed within a manufacturing centre.
The most common metal detector in this industry of the two is called the Balanced Coil System. It operates with a general purpose head system. All of these metal detectors function by the same principles but cannot be used interchangeably in every situation. They tend to be encased in a metal box which houses all of the coil components in order to protect the delicate mechanics within. The food products then pass through this compartment on a plastic belt.
The ratio between the belt and the size of the product is important to the effectiveness of metal detection. While passing through the compartment the sensitivity of the metal detector is measured at the centre of the aperture. The coils, after which it is named, then come into play. The transmitter coil operates similarly to a radio transmitter, generating a field. This then “highlights” any metallic fragment present. The other two coils are receivers and then detect these particles. They react to the conductive and magnetic properties of these fragments so that they can be removed.There is also flexibility for the controls of the machine. They can be on the head itself or be used remotely. Where the controls are mounted doesn’t affect the effectiveness of the system. The signal processor is sensitive at one millionth of a volt, so they will be able to locate the fragments for extraction. It is important to reiterate that magnetism is not being relied on here, rather it is seating for interruptions in the electromagnetic field created.
The second commonly used industrial metal detector system is that of the ferrous-in foil search, as previously discussed. Their mechanics are significantly simpler for most people to understand. They operate by relying on a strong magnetic field, so that any metal within the product is magnetized as it passes through the tunnel within the machinery. The then magnetized fragment passes under them and a current is generated and amplified by the detection system. This system has its shortcomings however. While ferrous metal will be detected, only the largest pieces of non-ferrous metals will be detected.
In the end both systems are effective, but what is right for the production process changes. Cost definitely comes into consideration, but the ultimate choice should be based in what is best for protecting the consumer.
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