Design a monitoring system for industrial dough-making processes to ensure consistency among recipes and batches.
Use the National Instruments USB-9215 measurement device, USB-232 serial port converter, and LabVIEW to create a portable system to monitor and analyze industrial mixer power curves.
Consumers demand consistent food products. Variation in color, texture, and flavor, for example, is generally not tolerated. Brand loyalty is highly coveted. Yet, manufacturers typically rely on an inconsistent process of visual inspection, smell, taste, and other qualitative means to determine whether a product batch is suitable for store shelves. More quantitative results improve quality but are often difficult to achieve in this particular market.
A worldwide food company faced such issues and asked Tecnova for assistance. Research showed a correlation between batch consistency and industrial mixer power utilization as ingredients were added. Initial trials involved connecting a stand-alone power meter, starting the batch process, and collecting measurement data as the process completed. Data was not viewable as the trial ran, making it impossible to immediately know if the batch was correctly mixed or data coming from the power meter was correct. Extracting data from the power meter for post-processing was difficult and time consuming. An automated process was an obvious benefit and strongly desired.
The result is a portable power measurement system that makes any of 12 calculations in real time as the batch process executes. The LabVIEW application uses X-Controls to create a highly-customized user interface. Graphs and charts allow live data to be viewed and overlays allow operators to ensure that batches are within specified limits. Custom algorithms detect and separate the process into each component mixing stage (i.e. water, flour, eggs) based on user configuration. Tecnova architected the underlying code to be highly parallel in nature, allowing each function to run independently. The system works with a variety of off-the-shelf power meters connected to USB or Ethernet based platforms from National Instruments.
After each batch, data is saved to standard flat file (CSV) format for quality assurance purposes. In addition to on-the-fly acquisition and measurement, the software application allows operators to import CSV files for off-line post-analysis and overlay onto acceptable power curves.