/ Projects / Global Food & Processing Powerhouse / Food + Beverage /

Smart Cameras, Smarter Packaging

In the food and beverage industry, marking production dates and batch codes on packaging is about as common as sliced bread. It isn’t a question of whether to do it, but rather how to do it faster and more accurately. It’s also not limited to perishable goods, as many non-perishable food manufacturers are also joining in.  They know when it comes to those pesky product recalls, being swift and pinpoint-accurate is the name of the game for saving some hard-earned dough. And whether it's gourmet delicacies or pantry staples, consumer expectations are high and brand loyalty can crumble in an instant.  

Let's turn our attention to a global food and processing powerhouse. Naturally, when it comes to their packaging, they set the bar high by employing laser technology to engrave these codes onto their packaging.  As it turns out, there tends to be a lot of variability in how the laser burns the codes into the packaging.  Their unpredictable nature in etching these codes has made life quite challenging for the trusty old vision system, causing a high false positive rate, and leading to a lot of re-work for this leading manufacturer. Here’s how we tackled this packaging predicament.

From Reservations to Results: A Next Level Code Inspection System

After meeting with the customer to listen and understand their needs, we decided to assemble a new vision system.  The star ingredient? A Matrox Iris GTX Series camera from Zebra. This camera, right out of the box, boasted superior functionality compared to its predecessor. However, they had reservations about bringing a PC into the mix. No PC, no problem.  Zebra, sprang into action, implementing their sophisticated algorithm for this smart camera directly into the hardware for a new version of the camera using a built-in Linux processor.

At the heart of this ingenious smart vision system lies an exceptional artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm, meticulously crafted to encompass a vast library of over 10,000 fonts.  This empowered the camera to flex its reading muscles, effortlessly deciphering an array of character variations at extremely high speeds and resolutions.  False positives plummeted while real issues were identified swiftly ensuring their packaging process remained as smooth as creamy milk chocolate.

We didn't just stop at skillfully programming the vision system, because we like a good challenge, we used our ingenuity and expertise to create a user-friendly visualization system for the operators and developed software that talks to the Rockwell-based automation system.  Here's how it works: The data goes straight to the Rockwell PLC, which acts like a decision-maker. If a package passes inspection, it continues on its merry way through the packaging process. But if it doesn't make the cut, the PLC directs it to a different path.

Smart Vision, Savvy Investment

In a world where food and beverage regulations keep getting stricter, and manufacturers feel the pinch on their profit margins, having a trusty traceability system is like having your cake and eating it too. The smart vision system we've uncovered here? It’s a fairly low-investment way to vastly improve the accuracy of code inspections, helping you confidently keep products on shelves and your reputation intact.