Thermo Fisher develops metal detection technology with the power of ‘five metal detectors in one’

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

The Thermo Scientific Sentinel multiscan metal detector allows users to scan up to five user-selectable frequencies at once.
The Thermo Scientific Sentinel multiscan metal detector allows users to scan up to five user-selectable frequencies at once.
Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed a new multi-scan metal detection platform for food processors that has heightened detection sensitivity to better inspect for metallic foreign objects.  

The Thermo Scientific Sentinel multiscan metal detector contains five separate metal detectors that all work at different frequencies, according to the company.

“It’s essentially five metal detectors in one,”​ Thermo Fisher’s lead product manager for product inspection, Bob Ries, told DairyReporter.

The ability to run five different detectors at varying frequencies increases the probability of finding all random sizes, shapes, and types of embedded foreign objects, Thermo Fisher said.

The company ran specific test on packages of sliced to cheese, a “notoriously” ​difficulty application according to Ries, to determine the Sentinel’s ability in detecting metal foreign objects.

“We’ve seen upwards of 70% improvement in the volume of metal that you can find in that application, particularly with stainless steel which is usually the toughest metal to find in a product,” ​he said.

‘Ground-up redesign’

The Sentinel metal detector, which will make its global debut at Pack Expo in Las Vegas this month, is an update to its predecessor, the APEX 500.

“The Sentinel is basically a ground-up redesign,”​ Ries said. “We made improvements to almost everything.”

Thermo Fisher increased the machine’s sensitivity to foreign objects and also updated its operating system, power supply, and user interface. The most significant update, according to Ries, is the Sentinel’s multiscan five-detector feature.

In addition, because the Sentinel metal detector has the same footprint and aperture location as the APEX 500 metal detector, users seeking to upgrade to the new platform can do so easily, the company said.

Metal vs. X-ray inspection

Ries, who also leads the product management of Thermo Fisher’s X-ray inspection technology, said there has been a transition in the food processing industry towards the adoption of X-ray systems that can detect contaminants beyond metal such glass, rubber, and rocks.

“It’s definitely a trend for a lot of customers, but the issue is still price – X-ray is two to five times the price of the metal detection system,”​ Ries said.

Some more “cutting edge”​ processors have already installed X-ray inspection systems at their facilities while others have upgraded their metal detectors. Another trend, Ries added, is the use of both technologies where a metal detector may be installed earlier in the process and the X-ray equipment is positioned at the end of the production line where it does the final inspection.

“I think the transition to X-ray is under way, but our estimate is there are still 10 metal detectors sold for every X-ray machine in the world,” ​he said.

However, metal contamination of food products is still the leading concern for processors, according to Ries.

“Other things like glass are becoming more important, but metal is still by far and away the most important foreign object.”

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