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Robot vision aids food product inspection

Robot vision aids food product inspection

Collaborative robots are aiding productivity as food and drink manufacturers safe guard their quality, as Earl Yardley of Industrial Vision Systems explains.

Food manufacturers are at the forefront of requests for automated 100% vision inspection systems for their production lines as this enables them to reach their product inspection target, ensuring they deliver high quality products and as a result save money and safe-guard contracts.

Robots operating within the workplace is one of the hot topics engulfing UK industry in 2016. They are set to play an influential role in shaping both the UK and global economy for generations to come. Vision systems for collaborative robots help to enhance productivity. This new generation of affordable lightweight robots is unlocking new markets and applications as they work side by side with human workers, increasing labour and total factor productivity and eliminating the need for costly precision fixtures allowing different parts to be processed and inspected without changing tools.  

There is a false illusion that the use of robots in the workplace is resulting in a loss of jobs for human workers and that their skills and abilities are just being thrown onto the scrapheap. That isn’t the case. We are using the robots to help assist human workers with inspection processes which actually relieves them of more commonplace work, meaning they are typically redeployed to higher value tasks that robots cannot do. In the future inspection and work benches will include space for an operator and a robot to work in partnership as part of the quality control process of production.

Food manufacturers are amongst those raising the bar on innovation, driving efficiencies and ensuring competitiveness. However, in previous years one area which was overlooked was the role a tailored product inspection program can play in supporting the organisation’s overall business goals and protecting brand reputation. This trend has evolved rapidly in recent years with our inspection systems now able to pinpoint packaging faults, food integrity failures, label checks, date inspection and rouge defect detection, all at high speed.

Automated vision systems are typically used for safeguarding against later product recalls from customers by checking every product manufactured, thus providing evidence that products were of the correct quality prior to being delivered in case of disputes. The latest food product inspection machines provided by us include high definition camera technology combined with an easy-to-use graphical touchscreen set-up to allow food and packaging types, styles and printing to be checked in real time. The machines include integrated conveyors and reject to allow the inspection system to be delivered and installed as a working machine, with little down-time for the food producer.

Those working within the food industry require automated vision inspection systems throughout their production process, and this has taken a notable rise as they look to protect themselves and their products against potential customer complaints and loss of contracts from the large supermarkets. This can give an organisation added peace of mind, knowing that they can prove the condition the products were in as they left their factory.

Automatically inspecting every label, date code, seal and packaging leaving the factory is now a pre-requisite in the modern food and drink factory. Latest generation machines allow manufacturers to protect their reputation quickly and efficiently against complaints by presenting customers with 100% inspected product, even on the highest speed lines. In addition robots can play a part in inspection of larger items and packaging. For example robot inspection cells are utilised to inspect the end of line pallets once all boxes are loaded and labelled onto a single pallet. The robot system gives the ability to inspect all side of the pallet to confirm damage to boxes, label checks and rogue part detection, offering a final inspection solution for food and drink manufacturers. By combining the latest 3D vision solutions with robot technology the options for inspection have reached new levels.

Collaborative robots are designed so that the robot and human can work side by side without barriers. By offering ready-to-run inspection solutions utilising robots and vision in tandem, we are opening a new era for real time machine vision inspection for the food and drink industry. When it can be deployed, collaborative robots are generally easier to use than the traditional models. 

At Industrial Vision Systems not only do we have off-the-shelf integration for inspection solutions with all major robot manufacturers, IVS also provides positioning feedback for high speed pick and place robots. Collaborative robots will transform the world beyond recognition and render old business models to the scrapheap. It is our firm belief that any business that fails to embrace the robot revolution will slip rapidly behind their competitors; a point that the food and drink industry should not ignore. 

Launched in 2000, IVS manages the design, installation and commissioning of quality control vision systems for manufacturing companies. Their vision systems are used for inspection, guidance, identification, measurement, tracking and counting.

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