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Smart inspection solution for printed coding and marking

07 June 2019

A collaboration between SICK and AutoCoding Systems has resulted in the launch of what is believed to be the first fully-automatic smart vision inspection system for printed coding and marking on food and beverage packaging. 

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The 4Sight Automatic Print Inspection System sees the AutoCoding 4Sight software, operating on SICK’s Inspector P smart vision camera, to enable direct closed-loop communication of the printed message from any brand of printer using standard inkjet, laser or thermal transfer technologies.

The application, one of the first to be developed using SICK’s AppSpace software platform, offers an error-proof, high-speed inspection system for printed codes such as dates, batch and line numbers. The direct communication concept eliminates ‘nuisance stops’ and reduces the set-up times required by conventional vision systems to teach thousands of images and fonts, as well as the context of the surrounding packaging design affecting the inspection.  

“Working with SICK and using the power of the SICK AppSpace development environment, we were able to draw on the strengths of AutoCoding to think about print inspection systems in a completely new way,” explains Mike Hughes, managing director of AutoCoding Systems. “The result is a directly networked connection between the printer and the smart camera, coupled with the 4Sight software’s ability to self-optimise the code inspection process.”  

“As the artificial intelligence is already pre-trained in the application, the AutoCoding system knows exactly the printed message it is looking for so it can adjust automatically when the printer changes to a new job.”

Users have the flexibility to define what is classed as a ‘good read, bad read or no read’ on a per product basis.  However, there is no need to teach fonts, configure features or regions of interest on the packaging, or for fixturing against an edge or logo. A simple, user-guided self-set up process configures the optimal camera settings.  

The solution is said to be capable of processing inspection images with very short cycle times. It operates at increasing line speeds, including high speed applications such as bottling and canning lines. 

Commenting on the solution, Neil Sandhu, SICK’s UK product manager, Imaging, Measurement, Ranging & Systems, said: “All too often we are called in to help production teams who have ended up disabling their vision systems altogether because of the nuisance caused by frequent, unnecessary line stops as a result of an overly-sensitive system. The problem is too complex for the operators to fix, so the vision system simply becomes a white elephant.  As a result, the manufacturer remains at risk of receiving penalties and damaging their customer relationships if code inspections on delivery result in products being returned. The 4Sight system offers a more dependable solution that is easy to set up and use.”

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