Vision System Assists Blind Workers
Bosma Enterprises, an Indianapolis-based organization serving the blind and visually impaired with employment opportunities, has for many years employed blind workers to package and ship surgical gloves from manufacturers to Veterans Administration hospitals around the U.S.
Bosma has a contract from the VA Hospitals prohibiting the use of the corrugated cardboard packaging supplied by the manufacturer, because that material can harbor bacteria and parasites. Workers would now need to pack gloves in generic chipboard boxes, and create new labels that identified the product. In addition to the manufacturer’s name and product type, the new labels had to contain the lot number, part number, size, and a barcode from the original boxes shipped by the manufacturers in order to comply with the manufacturer’s product traceability requirements.
To keep the VA contract, Bosma needed to find a way to enable blind operators to read and enter information printed on the package shipped by the manufacturer so that new labels could be created for the contract-compliant chipboard boxes.
Bosma worked with the EMP Technical Group, a systems integrator that specializes in data collection equipment and labeling systems, to develop a system that blind workers could use to accurately recreate the correct labels for each manufacturer’s box.
The system combines a PC that contains a database of manufacturer names, glove type and model number, a Cognex In-Sight® Micro 1403 vision system to read and transmit the date/lot/batch information from the packaging supplied by the manufacturer, and a machine for printing and applying the new labels.
Originally, EMP had tested a system that simply captured a photo image of the label, but that did not reproduce the label in a high enough resolution. The Cognex system produced a much more accurate and high quality label that met all of the manufacturers’ requirements for traceability.
Without the Cognex camera, the visually impaired operator would need to read each character from the original packaging under high-powered magnification, taking a significant amount of time. The new system eliminates the need for this process, as well as reduces processing time and eliminates keystroke errors. In addition, totally blind operators would not be able to use the magnification system at all.
The new system has increased productivity and allowed the company to work through a large backlog of orders. Due to the reading accuracy of the Cognex smart camera and the simplicity of the EMP-designed program, Bosma was able to retain the VA contract.
“The glove manufacturers wanted their boxes and labels reproduced precisely,” said Bill Amrine, Director of Industries, Bosma Enterprises. “Since the Cognex camera could read the actual text on each label, our workers could clearly determine that the correct label, with the correct information was on the correct box. This helped us to meet the requirements of the contract and provide good jobs for our employees.”