One of the most common posts we see on Linkedin are photos of valve arrays. Not only do they photograph well, they also solve several challenges in modern food and beverage processing plants. But what is that thing with all those electronics in the Linkedin photos and why would a food processor use one? We’ll answer those questions in today’s post.
So let’s start at the top- what is a valve manifold? A valve manifold, otherwise known as a matrix or an array, is an arrangement of valves (usually double seat or mix proof valves) designed to route multiple products and supporting fluids (like water or CIP) to different destinations. Valve arrays are like an automatic version of a traditional swing or flow panel. Valve arrays can be as simple or as complex as we want to make them. We’ve see very simple arrays that, while not necessarily the most hygienic, use ball valves to route flow, but usually what we see are fully automated mix proof arrays that incorporate the latest in high purity process design to allow continuous processing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
To understand why food and beverage processors would want to implement valve arrays, let’s go back to our “automatic swing panel” analogy and summarize the goals of most of the modern processing facilities we work with today.
At the end of the day, the goal of modern food and beverage processing facilities, like most businesses, is to maximize profits. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Today’s facilities accomplish this by operating continuously, maximizing product recovery, having flexible equipment layouts that run multiple products simultaneously, minimizing downtime, and reducing manual process control for maximum safety and product reliability (i.e. no lost batches).
Traditionally, when running multiple products to different destinations, processors would use a swing or transfer panel. These are big stainless steel contraptions with multiple ports and jumpers to connect circuits. Transfer panels are fully manual pieces of equipment that consume a large space and require extensive piping to and from the panel. Not only are they fully manual (and potentially a large risk to product integrity), but there is also limited to no traceability for who made what connection where. And if you’ve seen a transfer panel that has been in use for a few years, you’ll also see that tremendous amount of wear and tear to jumpers and ports requiring regular replacement.
Valve manifolds solve all of these challenges and help processors meet their goals through automation and elimination of human intervention.
As we’ve mentioned previously, valve manifolds can be fully automated for 24/7/365 operation with limited to no human interaction. With mix proof valves, we can be cleaning one tank, while filling another, and draining a third. They have built-in, fail-safe programming that allows for safe processing and complete activity records. Valve control tops are available with a variety of industrial networking protocols and integrate easily with most modern PLCs. Additionally, most manifolds today are welded using automatic orbital welders, yielding cleaner, longer lasting welds as compared to the hand welds used on transfer panel jumpers. And as you can see in all the Linkedin photos, valve arrays are compact and easily to install compared to a transfer panel.
In summary, valve manifolds are not just Linkedin fodder, they’re an automatic diversion panel that routes process and support fluids from multiple sources to different destinations. They enable processing plants to meet their goals and maximize profitability by enabling continuous, automatic processing with high levels of safety assurance.
As always, if you have any questions about valve manifolds, please contact a Triplex Sales engineer today.