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'Efficiency, quality achieved through vision'

14 October 2010

Orbis' machine vision system for the food industry, Imprint Verifier, inspects marking and package quality. Fazer Confectionery chocolate factory in Vantaa, Finland has introduced two Imprint Verifier applications in 2010.

Imprint Verifier inspects packages in an environmentally sustainable way and also reduces the number of customer complaints.

At the core of Imprint Verifier is the In-Sight vision system, a smart camera by the world leading machine vision system manufacturer Cognex. Smart cameras are available in a wide range of models from code readers and stainless steel enclosed models to five megapixel high-resolution cameras.

Smartness is based on an advanced image analysis software including tools for reading standard linear and 2D barcodes, text recognition, measurement, and pattern recognition. Assembled by Orbis, Imprint Verifier is a ready-for-use package custom made for the food industry, programmed with application specific parameters and equipped with the necessary casing, electronics, touch screen, cables and sensors.

Machine vision for environmentally sustainable washing
Fazer Confectionery's factory in Vantaa produces millions of kilos of chocolate every year. After moulding, confections and smaller and larger chocolate bars are taken on automated lines through the storage to wrapping and then back to the storage. Products are conveyed for wrapping in grey crates with over 23,000 circulating in the system.

Even though the crates are washed after use, some chocolate stains may persist. Washed crates used to be inspected with a camera that, when detecting a stained crate, returned the entire pallet back to the wash. With the new Imprint Verifier, stained crates can be singled out from the line, and only stained crates are taken back to the wash.

"The number of crates returning to wash has reduced significantly. We wash roughly 10% of what we used to, now that we have been able to eliminate unnecessary washing," says Production Manager Eino Määttä from Fazer Confectionery.

Fazer has welcomed the benefits of the new system. Washing is now much more efficient and the saved time can be allocated to other tasks. Unnecessary washing was an environmental load and targeted washing with less chemicals is also financially smarter.

Traditional chocolate bar brands travel through modern production line
In addition to washing and storage, Määttä is also supervising wrapping at Fazer Confectionery. “The Pätkis bar is a challenging product to wrap because of its round shape,” Määttä explains. “Challenges occur with other bars too, like JIM, DaCapo and so on,” he continues.

The roundly shaped Pätkis bar is prone to falling over on the line, in which case it ends up between the seaming chisels in the Flowpack packaging machine. As the result, the package is either left open or some chocolate gets caught in the seam.

Fazer does not want to distribute poorly wrapped products and receive customer complaints, so quality control of wrapping is essential. In a fast line with around 320 bars per minute, a human eye is not sharp enough to spot faulty seams.

The production volume demands certain investments, therefore the chocolate bar line is now watched over by an automatic eye: Orbis Imprint Verifier. The system images each wrapped bar against a back light. Each image is then measured, and excessive thickness of the wrapper ends reveals faulty seams. “The greatest challenge has been adjusting the communications between the Imprint I/O and the mechanical conveyor to the high line speed,” says Jari Koskinen, account manager at Orbis.

Fazer Confectionery has several applications for machine vision but thanks to the flexible software and accurate lighting design, all can be realised with a single system. Moreover, Imprint Verifier configuration is developing continuously. The latest improvement is embedding the touch screen into the door of the casing that protects the electronic components, which enhances usability substantially at the production line.


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