Check Weigher Serves Food Production Lines

  • March 09, 2012
  • Case Study
For food manufacturers, ensuring accurate and precise product weights is as important as recipe management, manufacturing processes and product packaging. Helping food manufacturers maintain the exact weight for their products every time regardless of package size or changeovers, Friesen’s, Inc. is a major provider of material handling, check weigher and fluid power systems that are used for this purpose. Based in Detroit Lakes, Minn., Friesen’s has been serving the food and packaging industries with innovative weighing solutions since 1939. Friesen’s systems are primarily used for products like meats, cheeses, packaged products and more. While the company’s customers are primarily in the meat processing industry, their systems can be applied to suit any product and case check weigher application.
Friesen’s offers wash-down capable solutions that can be deployed across the entire food production line from processing, to packaging, to the end of the line. Friesen’s IP69K-rated systems are ideal for applications in USDA-regulated plants. Wash-down requirements are naturally a major challenge in food industry applications since any food production area where contamination is possible faces the highest levels of scrutiny.
Friesen’s offers wash-down capable solutions that can be deployed across the entire food production line from processing, to packaging, to the end of the line.
“Friesen’s weighing systems can handle products from one end of the plant to the other as sanitary, high performance solutions,” Kari McAllister, Director of Product Development, Friesen’s, Inc. said. “Our customers are increasingly asking for check weighers that can be implemented further back in the processing area.” Traditionally, check weighers were installed closer to the end of the line at the packaging level, but today more are implementing them at the product processing and manufacturing level to better evaluate and control losses of product.
“Food manufacturers are moving equipment further upstream to find potential savings earlier in the line,” Derek Hanson, Director of Engineering, Friesen’s, Inc. added. “Through wash-down capable check weighers, we’re able to help realize those savings.”
Closed controls weigh down machine design
 The Mach-Series and F-Series machines from Friesen’s were designed to make check weigher technology highly adaptable to a wide range of end-user requirements and are ideally suited for use in earlier food manufacturing steps. The 100+ parts per minute (PPM) Mach-Series include the Electro Magnetic Scale (EMS)  and Dual Electro Magnetic Scale (DEMS) high speed precision check weighers as well as the Digital Product Scale (DPS) high speed in-motion check weigher. The sub-100 PPM F-Series lineup features the Analog Product Scale (APS) in-motion product check weigher, Analog Case Scale (ACS) in-motion check weigher and the Static Scale (SS) Friesen’s strives to be flexible for customers because no two applications are the same – the company can quickly adapt their various check weighers and customize them for raw pork, chicken, cheese, baked goods or even coffee grounds.
Flexibility is key for the automation system to adjust to a wide variety of industrial devices with minimal impact on the control system itself. “Historically, customizing and scaling the control solution has been a relatively difficult process,” McAllister explained. “In my view, some of the major controls vendors in this space are too proprietary in nature. They often don’t communicate as well with technologies from other vendors without incurring unacceptable costs required to connect beyond the strict confines of their world. Eliminating these pitfalls is a major reason why we decided on open control architectures from Beckhoff Automation.”
In addition, Beckhoff helped the Friesen’s engineering team eliminate system components. “With fewer components we have improved machine reliability and a lower chance of failures overall. In addition, we avoid larger cabinets and in some cases, eliminate extra cabinets,” Hanson said.
PC-based automation helps lighten the load
 Friesen’s began testing Beckhoff components in October, 2010 and moved quickly to upgrade the wash-down check weigher lines. “We went from first contact to having an engineer on-site helping us implement our new hardware and software platforms within three days,” McAllister recalled. “Within two and a half weeks, we had the first of our new check weighers up and running.”
For check weigher automation, today Friesen’s utilizes powerful CX1020 Embedded PCs with 1 GHz Intel Celeron M CPU running TwinCAT PLC software from Beckhoff. The DIN rail-mounted and solid state CX1020s are connected to Beckhoff CP69x2 Control Panels for machine visualization. A critical design requirement for Friesen’s was flexibility and support for modular controls programming. TwinCAT PLC and its supplemental libraries were key to rapid application development using proven software building blocks. “TwinCAT communication drivers support of a wide range of fieldbuses and made the integration of various components and devices quick and easy,” Hanson said.
CX1020 Embedded PCs, Friesen’s can run the application software, HMI software, and MES/ERP interface all on one CPU, which drastically reduces the number of hardware components, panel space, and cost.
Friesen’s uses Indusoft and Microsoft Visual Studio for the HMI software displayed on the Beckhoff touch screens. With these technologies, Friesen’s can create improved, application-specific HMI screens and ensure a “Friesen’s look” throughout the user interface.
Friesen’s uses Indusoft and Microsoft Visual Studio for the HMI software displayed on the Beckhoff touch screens.
The Beckhoff system also manages data acquisition from various weighing functions on the Mach-Series and F-Series machines, validates and logs product weight, deals with reject products and runs all the conveyors. By using CX1020 Embedded PCs, Friesen’s can run the application software, HMI software, and MES/ERP interface all on one CPU, which drastically reduces the number of hardware components, panel space, and cost.
Easier communications with EtherCAT
Industrial Ethernet technology is also a major factor for the check weighers in the form of EtherCAT I/O Terminals and EtherCAT servo drives from Beckhoff. “Through EtherCAT, we have industry-leading performance and the ability to communicate with a wide range of industrial devices,” McAllister said. “TwinCAT software as well as communication terminals available from Beckhoff’s EtherCAT I/O system permit simple connection to essentially any Ethernet TCP/IP, Serial RS232 and CANopen device, for example, simplifying our designs and machine build efforts.”
Friesen’s connectivity improvements extend beyond the physical Ethernet connector and I/O terminals into the software. “EtherCAT is essentially plug-and-play so when adding a new terminal, TwinCAT System Manager can automatically recognize it,” McAllister added. “Considering these hardware and software tools, adding devices with TwinCAT and EtherCAT is a breeze where it can be a time-consuming activity with other systems.”
In addition to providing connectivity solutions, EtherCAT also brought a boost to system speed and performance. “Revamping our check weigher speed was another considerable challenge – we sought to process product weights faster and communicate to our reject systems at higher speeds,” McAllister explained. EtherCAT can achieve update times for the data from 1,000 distributed I/Os in only 30 µs – including terminal cycle time. Up to 1,486 bytes of process data can be exchanged with a single Ethernet frame – this is equivalent to almost 12,000 digital inputs and outputs. The transfer of this quantity of data only takes 300 µs.
Piling on the results
Utilizing fewer controls components means fewer points of failure for Friesen’s. “On the new and improved Mach-Series and F-Series, Friesen’s has reduced check weigher downtime by 22% and reduced system startup time by 30% through the reliability and time-saving aspects of TwinCAT and PC-based control,” McAllister reported. “Since Friesen’s began using EtherCAT and Embedded PCs, check weigher system speed increased by 31%; this means we can offer our customers much higher throughput numbers and really differentiate ourselves in the market.”
Savings also translated into cost and commissioning improvements for the Mach-Series and F-Series. “On average, we decreased installation time by 50%, decreased technical support requirements by 35%, decreased machine build time by 25% and reduced build cost by 17%,” Hanson proclaimed. “In addition, data storage and data streaming flexibility is nearly limitless for Friesen’s today since we’re using standard, PC- and Ethernet-based technologies.”
Automated troubleshooting has also been drastically improved for Friesen’s and the company’s electrical technicians have reported impressive improvements. “It’s much easier to see the functional status of our machines, it’s not a guessing game,” Hanson explained. “Technicians no longer have to walk all the way around the machine for as many traditional maintenance checks.”
Looking to the future, Friesen’s plans to standardize on IP69K versions of CP69xx stainless steel Control Panels from Beckhoff, which are designed to excel in wash-down applications. Friesen’s also plans to move the majority of their machines’ axes to the dynamic AX5000 EtherCAT servo drives from Beckhoff.
“With open technologies, improved connectivity and higher controls performance assured, 100% of Friesen’s check weighers will be fitted with Beckhoff controls going forward. The timing for Friesen’s and Beckhoff is perfect because now more than ever, our customers are opening their minds to new, truly innovative solutions that can be applied in more areas of food manufacturing lines,” McAllister concluded.
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