I had the pleasure of visiting The Vollrath Co. LLC, in Sheboygan, Wis., several weeks ago. Vollrath makes just about every type of commercial food and beverage preparation and serving product you can imagine — and many you probably can’t. Vollrath has six locations in Wisconsin alone, and each plant is geared toward manufacturing products made of common materials or sharing processes. Its Sheboygan plant, for example, uses vast quantities of stainless steels, aluminum, and other materials for making cookware, cooking utensils, pans for hot and cold tables, and other products too numerous to mention. They also make complete serving stations, such as salad bars and hot dog carts.

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The diversity of these products is showcased in Vollrath Man, shown at left. Vollrath Man greets visitors to the company’s lobby, and if you look closely, you can recognize several familiar items. His feet are made of stainless-steel pans you’d find in a hot table or salad bar. Various pots and pans make up his torso and head, his nose is actually a serving spoon, and his fingers are forks.

So what’s the connection in Wisconsin? Motion Controls LLC, Hartford, Wis., offers a line of pneumatic cylinders that use light for detecting piston position. Light, of course, is impervious to shock, vibration, and weld fields, so Motion Controls’ iNSiGHT cylinders use its QVLA sensors for detecting piston position fit right into Vollrath’s production operations.

One application I saw using iNSiGHT cylinders was where trays for hot tables were produced on a hydraulic press. Many of the trays share the same length and width, so the only difference between a 4-qt and 6-qt may be its depth. The QVLA sensor cylinder makes it easy to change the machine for different press depths and stands up to rugged environment directly under the press platens.