Case study: brewery benefits from bringing in new PLC
10 Oct 2016
A small-scale US brewery introduced a programmable logic controller to its operations, resulting in better product consistency and lower costs.
Twisted Vine Brewery is a three-man operation dedicated to the art and science of brewing unique, hand-crafted beer.
In order to maintain the consistent quality of its product, the company – which is based in Iowa – needed a robust and reliable programmable logic controller (PLC) that would enable it to brew with meticulous attention to detail.
Unfortunately, nobody at Twisted Vine had experience with controllers, so the platform had to be easy to learn and use.
The team’s primary goals were to monitor and control the beer’s fermentation temperature, to implement tools (timers for tracking hop additions, etc.) and to oversee trends and outputs remotely.
The team also wanted a control system that could be used as the business grew. However, space in the brewery is limited, so the owners needed a compact PLC, robust enough to be mounted next to the mash tun – kept at 150°F (65.5°C) during the brewing process and rinsed in water as hot as 170°F (76.6°C).
Any PLC Twisted Vine installed also needed to be sturdy enough to be exposed to high temperatures and large amounts of steam and condensation without failing.
The brewers discovered that the Unitronics Vision1040, paired with a V200-18-E3XB snap-in I/O module, was able to accommodate all these requirements.
My experience with Unitronics’ products has enabled me to produce systems that are more productive and user-friendly. This system has kept our products at the optimum temperature, while keeping our development and operating costs at their lowest
Steven Becker, Twisted Vine co-owner
The team was able to program the Vision1040 to control a rotary phase converter, which powers a threephase chiller, glycol pump and the glycol valves on the jacketed fermentation and conditioning tanks.
Twisted Vine also relies on Unitronics’ complementary data-logging and remote access software utilities. As a result, it is possible for staff to monitor temperature trends remotely, turning temperature loops on and off, as needed, from anywhere with internet access.
Additionally, with a NEMA4X/ IP65 environment rating, the Vision1040 is able to withstand the hot, steamy conditions.
Not only did Unitronics provide a powerful PLC, according to Twisted Vine co-owner Steven Becker, the all-in-one design and single environment software made the Vision1040 an intuitive and cost-effective choice for their operations.
“The free software and many online tutorials made it easy to learn and it was a low-cost and powerful solution,” explains Becker.
Twisted Vine Brewery is already planning to expand its control system in collaboration with Unitronics.
The brewery is introducing water-use monitoring and valve control to regulate the amount of water in the mash. The aim of this would be to both improve the consistency of the product and free up workers from having to monitor the water meter, says the company.
Becker adds: “My experience with Unitronics’ products has enabled me to produce systems that are more productive and user-friendly. This system has kept our products at the optimum temperature, while keeping our development and operating costs at their lowest.”