Emerging safety technologies

As technology becomes more sophisticated, the variety users have to choose from continues to increase.

By CFE Media August 13, 2012

Ranging from straightforward control devices to bacteria-eating viruses, new technologies are entering the marketplace. Just as light curtains have become a practical alternative to conventional machine doors, new technologies both protect and differentiate. Recent developments include the following:

  • Some HMI panels offer optional RFID readers that can be used to control and document access to machine operation, recipes, and control programs. The employee typically uses the same ID tag or button used to access areas of the facility. Access level can be controlled based on the employee’s qualifications.
  • Smart labels not only provide traceability, but they can now flag exposure to high temperatures over time during storage and transport.
  • Packaging systems that extract residual oxygen from food products during the packaging process can greatly extend refrigerated shelf life by removing the environment needed for pathogen formation (Figure 3).
  • New sensors are in development to more rapidly detect pathogens in food. One of the problems today is the time required to send samples to test labs and receive reports back. Sensors may be handheld wireless units or integrated into control systems.
  • Control systems that allow machine builders to limit access to source code, in order to prevent overriding of OEM settings (Figure 4). Some food companies now want to prevent maintenance personnel from changing PLC code, and instead want machine builders to provide all adjustments and diagnostics from the HMI screen.
  • Combination systems that integrate x-ray inspection and metal detection with functions such as check-weighing.
  • Bacteriophage systems that use viruses to destroy bacteria.

 – CFE Media, August, Applied Automation