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Unrivalled 2D code readability through a tough processing environment

Het Kaasmerk using cognex 8070 handheld barcode reader for 2D code

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Het Kaasmerk b.v in the Netherlands is using a DataMan®  ID reader to read the codes marked on individual blocks of cheese. The cheese is marked with a 2D code early in the production process and these codes need to remain readable right until the end. The only ID reader capable of meeting this challenge despite a tough industrial environment that is very damaging to the code was the DataMan 7500.

• Increased food safety
• Prevention of product recall
• Saving the customer time and money

Identification codes, such as a 2D code or Data Matrix code, are not only applied to state-of-the-art technology products, they are also applied to the cheese we eat on a daily basis. These codes are not only mandatory, but also necessary for safeguarding quality during production. They help minimize food safety risks after the production phase as well, because every cheese can be individually traced. Het Kaasmerk B.V. of Leiden (the Netherlands) is a manufacturer of these edible cheese marks and has collaborated with Isotron Systems for the traceability and quality control of cheese for some time now. Isotron Systems is the distributor of Cognex vision and ID products in the Netherlands.

Complete traceability for each piece of cheese
The ability to identify each individual cheese as a unique item in the production chain is an essential component. The applied code functions as a veritable passport. In the past, these codes consisted of regular text which had many disadvantages. Isotron Systems and Het Kaasmerk B.V. therefore sat down together and jointly introduced the 2D dot matrix codes to cheese producers. They improved the contrast and cell size of the 2D code on the cheese marks. This unique code can be paired with essential information in the computer, such as ingredients, moisture and salt content, dimensions and weight of the cheese. So, when irregularities or mistakes come to light, action can be taken immediately.

Risk reduction – preventing unnecessary product recall 
Information about when and where the cheese was produced and which ingredients (for example which milk was used) is also included in the code. If mistakes are discovered during the production, distribution, or customer phase – it must be withdrawn from the chain as quickly as possible. If the specific batch of cheese could not be determined, many batches of cheese would have to be withdrawn as a preventative measure wasting time and money. Thanks to the unique code on the cheese mark it can be precisely established which batch of cheese is ‘unsafe’.

How do you guarantee the reading of a damaged or distorted code?
The cheese mark with the 2D code is applied to the cheese at as early a stage of the production process as possible. This is right after the separation of the whey from the curds. The code is made from casein (a protein particular to cheese) and is therefore edible. This 2D code is not however immune to damage, as it undergoes the same treatment as the cheese itself during the production process. Pickling (salt bath) and coating (application of a paraffin or plastic layer) can cause significant damage. The mark can often become distorted as a result of the puffing up of the cheese.

“What’s more, certain damage is inflicted purposely during the production process: the customer demands that the mark is perforated to avoid accumulation of moisture. “With a legibility of less than 90%, reading the 2D code cheese marks with a regular reader becomes impossible,” explains Jeroen van der Meulen of Isotron Systems.

Code must be readable, no matter how damaged
“It is however of the utmost importance that the codes remain legible during the entire production process, through the production chain up until the portioning of the cheese. This is not a given and the legibility is not achievable with any other system,” explains Jos Putker, Managing Director of Het Kaasmerk B.V.

“Isotron supplies us with Cognex cameras with accompanying software. We can easily implement that software. We know from experience that the Cognex readers are developed in such a way as to be able to perfectly read the distorted codes, while Cognex software can easily deal with correcting incomplete codes!” explains Jos Putker of Het Kaasmerk.

The solution that offers 100% certainty
Jeroen van der Meulen adds, “We opted for the Cognex In-Sight® ID reader in a waterproof casing. The implementation of the patented IDMax® algorithm also enables unclear, damaged and distorted codes to be read without difficulty. The codes must remain legible during the distribution and sales phases. To this end we provide portable readers: the DataMan 7500 series with its unique lighting source and IDMax with which highly irregular codes can be read. This provides a solution for new, young, and old cheeses. This solution offers 100% certainty. It is after all inacceptable for a code to be misread or that a reader indicates a different code than what is written on the cheese mark. This solution is 100% waterproof and counterfeit proof," he concludes.

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