Food and beverage applications are covering a wide range of environments that present challenges to electro-mechanical products, especially for the pushbuttons which are located on the external side of the machines.
A simple approach would enable us to classify these environments into 4 categories with common challenges.
- Outdoor applications :
Agricultural applications are typical here. Feeding machines for cattle and fruits harvesting machines are facing challenging from the weather (low or high temperatures, rain), or from the dust and mud covering and sometimes blocking the pushbuttons. Thus, the operating temperature range and the water and dust protection (IP protection level) are key criteria to confirm when choosing products in these applications.
- Indoor applications within the “wet” area
That area corresponds to machines in contact with the food, either permanently or during potential incidents. Special hygienic solutions usually need to be implemented to avoid the contamination of the food by germs located on the machine control interfaces. Approximately one third of pushbuttons in food and beverage are located in the wet area. These pushbuttons are usually using dedicated hygienic material (stainless steel, hygienic plastics…) and shapes preventing the aggregation of food on top of the button.
- Indoor applications out of the “wet” area
Most of the other pushbuttons are out of the wet zone. They don’t present a risk of contamination for the food when basic hygienic rules are applied. Still these pushbuttons are often cleaning either with pressurized water or with cleaning agents (alcohol…), so that they must be robust enough. Furthermore, flush mounting pushbuttons can also be a nice addition as they are much easier to clean with a cleansing agent soaked tissue.
They are also summited to accidental splashing by blood, beer, milk and other aggressive products, and in the meat processing factories the cold rooms may requires pushbuttons to work at temperatures as low as -35°C.
Finally, flour is often an issue for bakery applications as humidity can cause flour to stick the pushbuttons. Protective boots are often the only solution for the type of machines.
- Applications with explosive atmospheres
Rice and cereals are volatile dust that can cause explosions. In a similar way, alcohol vapors can present a risk when standard contacts create small sparks… International standards like the IEC 60079 and UL60079 are covering the requirements for pushbuttons used in such applications.
Explosive atmosphere pushbuttons answering to relevant IECex and UL standards are useful in cereals silos and alcohol processing
Do you see other environmental challenges that would influence your choice of pushbuttons in these applications?
Discover more about our Harmony pushbuttons