Multiscan technology in food metal detection utilizes a true spectrum of frequencies along with advanced signal processing to find metal contaminants in packaged food products. The critical control point (CCP) scans up to five completely adjustable frequencies to find metal types and sizes previously undetectable. It’s like having up to five metal detectors back to back in a production line. Multiscan technology provides unmatched sensitivity and the highest probability of detection.
Metal detection technology overview
Metal detectors used in the food processing industry find small particles of ferrous, non-ferrous and stainless steel using coils wound on a non-metallic frame and connected to a high-frequency radio transmitter. When a particle of metal passes through the coils, the high frequency field is disturbed under one coil, changing the voltage by a few microvolts. The output is used to detect metal.
More specifically, three equally spaced coils surround the aperture or opening through which inspected material passes. The central coil connects to an oscillator circuit to produce a magnetic field. The coils on either side of the central coil receive this signal. These are the receiving or input coils.
[Note that multiple transmit coils can be configured to yield a more effective magnetic field and much improved sensitivity so metal spheres up to 20% smaller in diameter can be detected reliably.]
Since the input coils are equally spaced from the oscillator, they receive equal amounts of signal. The coils are wound in such a way that their signals oppose each other so the net signal across them is zero. When a piece of metal enters the magnetic field, it alters the field strength around it. As this metal passes through the aperture, it changes the balance of the receiving coils so that the net signal is no longer zero.
Multiscan metal detection technology operates using the balanced-coil, full-loop detection system. However, it uses more than three coils in its design. Up to three pairs of oscillator coils provide higher levels of sensitivity over traditional methods. Parallel and series arrangements of coils are used. Two receive coils are used to produce the metal signal.
A digital signal processor (DSP) processes this signal. The DSP performs the product compensation, phasing, residual compensation filtering, and produces a reject signal. The detector used in multiscan technology is a high performance, measuring instrument. The quality of the installation has a direct effect upon performance and reliability.
Different sizes of the same metal have different magnetic and conductive reactions. Alloys of metals have different reactions too. And the shape, orientation and position of the metal can change the resulting signals in a metal detector.
What is the “best” frequency for any metal detection application? The answer is: as many as you can get all at once. This is the premise behind Multiscan technology. The operator picks a set of up to five frequencies from 50 kHz to 1000 kHz and Multiscan scans through each frequency at a very rapid rate, effectively acting like five metal detectors in one. As a result, the detectors can run a frequency close to ideal for most any type of metal encountered. The result is that the probability of detection goes up exponentially and escapes disappear. Sensitivity is optimized because the optimal frequency is running for each type of metal of concern. Multiscan technology enables users to identify contaminants that are up to 70 percent smaller in volume than previous technologies.
Types of metal that can be found by metal detection technology
It is widely understood that ferrous is the easiest metal to detect due to its magnetic properties. Magnets attract iron. An electromagnetic field reacts most when a ferrous metal is in it, and the lower the frequency the greater the reaction.
Conversely, stainless steel, which contains only a small amount of ferrous metal, has little or no magnetic property. To find stainless steel with a metal detector requires running a high frequency because the high frequency field induces a current in the stainless steel, which creates a new field that interacts with the original field in the metal detector to create a signal.
Here is a chart of common metals found in the food production process. The higher number of dots indicates the easier to detect.
|Detectable contaminant type||Metal detectors|
✔ ✔ ✔
|Non-ferrous metal e.g., brass or bronze||
|Wires (Note: Depends on orientation)||
One of the biggest challenges in metal detection technology is “product effect.” This occurs when a product has a conductive property which affects the magnetic field generated by the metal detector. This is typically found in high salt, high moisture products. For example, warm bread coming out of the oven, coupled with its salt content, tends to have a high product effect. This negatively impacts the metal detector’s ability to distinguish between actual non-ferrous metal contaminants and the false signal given by the combination of typical product attributes. This is further complicated by the varying densities, air bubbles and other physical characteristics of each loaf, since no two are exactly the same. (There also are variations between bread types.)
Conventional metal detectors use a technique to ignore magnetic and conductive product effects called “phasing.” Anything passing through the metal detector with a known ratio of magnetic to conductive signal below a threshold is ignored because it is the product and not a piece of metal.
There is a concern that the signals generated in a metal detector by random pieces of metal can vary substantially. Eventually, their phase angle exactly matches up with the product phase angle. Because the metal signal is so small in relation to the product this means the metal goes undetected.
If looking for a piece of stainless steel hidden in a piece of cheese, for example, you could vary the frequency a bit (this separates the product and metal phase angles) and detect it, but that could mean that you won’t see a different size of stainless steel because this contaminant phase angle lines up exactly with the cheese. So, the problem isn’t fixed; it just moved somewhere else. It is similar to patching a hole in your roof and then drilling a new hole in a different place. Water still comes in. This is a very subtle but important real-world problem because no single-frequency metal detector ever has perfect detection. Adding a second fixed frequency makes things a little better but in the end you still have holes in your roof.
Multiscan technology can overcome this challenge. If one frequency means a piece of metal is phased out, another frequency detects it and vice versa. Because there are many frequencies running at one time there are always back-ups.
By scanning up to five user-selectable frequencies running at a time, multiscan metal detection technology provides unmatched sensitivity and the highest probability of finding ferrous, non-ferrous, and stainless steel metal contaminants in challenging applications such as dairy, meat, poultry, bread, and other foods with high product effect.
While metal detection technology has slowly evolved over the years, the challenges facing food processing have changed considerably. There are increasingly demands such as new regulations, retailer detection mandates and greater productivity demands. The stakes are higher too: the potential for a costly recall and collateral damage via social media. This white paper addresses a new approach to metal detection in packaged foods.
Video spotlight: Multiscan metal detection technology in action
Keep consumers safe, protect your brand
Do you have the right food product inspection equipment in place to keep consumers safe and protect your brand? X-ray inspection systems and metal detectors can find virtually any foreign object in your packaged food products. To find out how they work, and which one will work best for you, read
A Practical Guide to Metal Detection and X-ray Inspection of Food.