The food and drink manufacturing industry is best understood as a giant machine which needs every cog to keep working properly. From manufacturing to distribution, all the different parts come together to create a seamless production line which is necessary for success.
And we don’t just mean this in a metaphorical sense either, in the way that a delivery driver can be viewed as a part of the chain that keeps the product line flowing. We also mean this literally, as the physical parts that you use to manufacture various products matter enormously when it comes to getting the desired – or even a workable – result.
Perhaps the most glaring example of how a piece of this machine can hugely affect a business, and indeed an industry, is the use of different valves in food and drink manufacturing. So, via Actuated Valve Supplies we’ll take a closer look at which valves are best for different jobs, as well as how these are changing to move into the future.
The different types of valve
Direct contact valves and Utility service valves
The reason we’ve put these two types of valve together is that they make up the two main classifications of valve available. Direct contact valves are exactly what they sound like. They directly come into contact with the likes of meat, milk, condiments or whatever is being manufactured on that line.
They are crafted from stainless steel. This is because the tough metal is needed to withstand the harsh cleaning agents that they come in direct contact with: harsh cleaning agents which are necessary to maintain food safety standards.
Utility service valves are more simply understand as valves that do not have direct contact. So, these are perfect for handling non-food related resources, such as steam and water.
Sanitary ball valves
Often used in the production of alcohol, such as spirits, wine and beer brewing, sanitary ball valves are used in applications that require sterile processing. Due to this, there’s a very strict set of rules for what can be considered acceptable from a sanitary ball valve. One important element is the lack of any crevices or cavities, which can allow bacteria to remain and multiply. Wetted surfaces are kept to a minimal size and are polished to further prevent any bacteria from clinging.
These valves are operated electromechanically. They can be switched on and off in the case of a two-port valve or switched between two outlet ports in the case of a three-port valve. Multiple valves can be used together on a manifold for more complex applications. These valves are the most frequently to be used in fluidics: that is, they are used to distribute, release, shut off and mix fluids safely, precisely and reliably. They are also highly useful in applications such as pasteurisation, due to the high pressure involved.
As is always the case in manufacturing, things are constantly moving forward to become much streamlined and effective, both in terms of quality and cost. Although it is hard to say what might happen in this, or indeed any, area of manufacturing, there are a few changes we can already see on the horizon. These include the use of remote set point control for pressure regulators and even a move away from regulators entirely in favour of PID control, although cost may dictate whether that’s the route many companies take.
Whatever developments the future may bring to the food and drinks industry, one thing is for certain and that is the use of valves is a perfect example of how every piece of the manufacturing process is vital to the industry’s continued success.