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3D Vision Solutions for Food and Beverage Applications

Soda cans on conveyor belt and screenshots from 3D-L4000 inspection software

In the food and beverage industry, packaging quality verification protects a brand’s image and prevents product spoilage, but the system requires precision. The following three vignettes highlight food and beverage inspection challenges and how they are solved with the right machine vision solution.

Can Inspection

Inspecting aluminum cans for missing or damaged features must be done quickly to prevent bottlenecks. A small dent in a can or a tab lifted by just two degrees can result in a failure. Defects this small are difficult or impossible to identify with 2D imaging systems. However, moving to a 3D solution may disrupt production and require retraining workers. Every second counts in high-speed applications, where a few seconds may represent hundreds or thousands of products.

3D-L4000 camera scanning aluminum cans on conveyor belt and screenshots from inspection software

To achieve higher levels of detection without disrupting production or implementing long training programs, Cognex developed the In-Sight 3D-L4000 vision system. This high-performance smart camera delivers the best-quality patented laser imaging. It can detect: 

  • Blobs or volumes
  • Edges
  • Surface angles
  • Step heights, etc. 

With both 2D capabilities and true 3D vision, the In-Sight 3D-L4000 can simultaneously run both a 2D and 3D inspection of the part. The In-Sight 3D-L4000 is available in three models to meet specific requirements for a range of applications, such as can, packaging, and product inspection.  

Final Product Inspection

Food comes in many shapes and sizes. Identifying different candies, verifying frostings and decorations are correct and determining whether a finished product will fit inside its packaging are all complex tasks for automated imaging systems. To keep up with industry, 3D solutions and easy-to-use software work together to make the food and beverage industry even sweeter.   

Brand image is important. If a customer sees a missing cookie, broken cereal bars, or cupcake frosting smashed into the lid of a container, they may not purchase the product, and instead associate the brand with poor quality. To verify a product’s quality, 3D vision solutions are needed. Tasks include: 

Detecting defects
Identifying parts – e.g., cookie versus frosting 
Verifying heights
Ensuring proper volume
Checking flatness
Verifying presence and absence of components

High-quality optics and smart cameras are needed to accurately detect features and to determine volumes. The In-Sight 3D-L4000 provides the performance needed to guarantee product quality. However, the biggest challenges may not be solved with the camera alone. The next application demonstrates the need for software interfaces that are easy to set up, operate and maintain.

Cereal Bar Inspection

For a cereal bar application, the key to success is finding software that works easily and effectively without extended training or third-party technicians. Intuitive In-Sight software allows in-house technicians to quickly set up tools. Then the software handles the rest — determining every pixel above and below the set plane with linear measurements and highlighting features in a simple interface to communicate results clearly to every user.

3D-L4000 camera scanning granola bars on conveyor belt and screenshots from inspection software

Many production line workers are already familiar with In-Sight’s spreadsheet programming paradigm, while new operators can learn the system in minutes. In one example, 50 new users were trained on the 3D In-Sight program in less than three hours. Additionally, the In-Sight 3D-L4000 high-performance smart camera detects products that have been rotated or tilted. Its high-quality 2K resolution, with up to 4 kHz scan rate and patented speckle-free blue laser optics, provide a range of machine vision solutions with fast, accurate, and repeatable results. 

The In-Sight 3D-L4000’s unique blue-laser optical design has several benefits including: 

  • 2M eye safe operation 
  • More light delivered to the surface than competing solutions
  • Accurate 3D point clouds for measurements
  • Capability to capture a scan even with a percentage of the laser is blocked by debris

This last feature is an unprecedented achievement in 3D laser scanning, made possible by the patented speckle-free laser optics. Most laser scanning applications limit the designer’s option to mount the scanner upside down because of concerns about debris blocking the laser light. 

A Healthier Technology

When it comes to the food and beverage industry, inspection can be the difference between success or millions in lost revenue. Having less product in a container than advertised can damage a brand’s image, and too much product may cause packaging errors downstream. Challenges increase as food production lines become faster, more automated, and more dynamic. Even a simple packaging or product line may require advanced solutions for inspecting various volumes, surfaces, and features. With easy-to-use spreadsheets for effective communication, the In-Sight 3D-L4000 delivers accurate data for inspection and keeps the food and beverage lines moving.

 

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