Aggressive factory-floor environments are commonly found in many industries, including food & beverages, pharmaceutical, automotive.

Typically, packaging machines not only have to deal with aggressive fluids and vapours, but also need to be frequently washed or sterilized at high pressures, with the use of steam, foam and chemicals, even several times a day, or whenever a production run is changed, depending on the process’ requirements.

M.D.’s sensors find wide use across a multitude of industrial applications from earth-moving and constructions machinery to logistics, packaging, general manufacturing, waste management, furniture and wood, automotive, vending machines, etc.

When M.D. pitched for a new sensor, to be installed on a packaging machine from a leading Italian manufacturer, the choice for a matching cable and connector supplier, with the capability of providing the required performance spectrum fell quite naturally on Belden, as M.D.’s benchmarking partner, exhibiting a proven track-record in successful co-operation.

In the course of the past two years, M.D. and Belden have been working side by side on a growing number of projects, with a particular emphasis on the food & beverages market.

Both companies focus on delivering innovative products, with world-class quality, at a high degree of customization.

Furthermore, Belden’s Connectivity-Center offers a choice of a total of 12,000 products from the Lumberg Automation and Hirschmann brands, including from sensor connectors and valve connectors for energy supply and down to decentralized distribution systems and I/O module. All these products can be customized, to meet specific extended requirements, such as wider temperature ranges or IP69K protection.

The key project’s specification called for both the sensor, as well as the cable and connector, to be fully FDA-approved for food contact, as well as UL-compliant, i.e. with a temperature resistance from -40 to +80 °C. Furthermore the Ecolab/Diversey specification was requested, in order to meet the required resistance to detergents and cleaning agents. To achieve this performance, a special connector design was required, with gold-plated contacts to ensure corrosion resistance.

The combined solution, i.e. sensor, connector and cable, must also present no recesses, where food or dirt particles could adhere.

Giacomo Villano, CEO of M.D. Micro Detectors, explains: “While several competitors may be in a position to deliver a solution with similar specification, our winning factor proved to be our demonstrable speed in developing a customized product, even for medium/low quantities, in record time. This winning edge was made possible, on our part, by the implementation, over 2 years ago, of Lean Enterprise concepts. Through this major change, we revolutionized our manufacturing processes, reducing our inventory, greatly increasing our flexibility and reducing the time to market for the development of both new products and the customized products.”

“But our flexibility alone would not have sufficed, if we hadn’t been able to rely on a similar flexibility from the connector supplier. Curiously, we found our vision to be very close to Belden’s Lean-Enterprise concepts. Working in close co-operation with Belden, our joint R&D teams were able to design the sensor, along with its matching connector and cable, within 10 workdays”, continues Giacomo Villano.

The new inductive sensor, from M.D.’s PFM range of sensors for harsh environments, is made from AISI 316L stainless steel, while its protection is IP69K compliant. This rating marks a product’s ability to sustain the high-pressure and high-temperature combinations, typical of wash-down applications.

The cable and connector from Belden’s Lumberg Automation range, benefit from the new M8 and M12 connection technology. Their temperature resistance extends from -40 to 105 °C and fulfil the most stringent requirements in terms of ingress protection and resistance to aggressive chemicals and cleaning agents.

Andrej Lorkovic, Director Product Management, Connectivity-Division, of Belden comments: “Our co-operation with M.D. is funded on a shared commitment to serving global customers with innovative and highly customized products, as well as with speed and flexibility. With our Connectivity Center we have a platform exclusively dedicated to specific customer projects, not only offering an in-depth industry expertise in automation, but the necessary knowledge, as well, to adapt this to individual customer requirements. A typical example is the development of custom cables, software interfaces or part miniaturization. The Connectivity Center is one of the practical applications of our Lean-Enterprise philosopy, focused on eliminating waste in all production processes, improving quality and turnaround speed, to deliver a faster and better service to customers”.

As a result, the number of projects developed by Belden and M.D. together has moved up from 7 in 2012, to 11 in 2013 and is growing further in the current year.