Vision systems are becoming increasingly important in the food industry as end-of-line packing is being automated. Food suppliers have found that packers used to check the quality of goods before they were packed; automation has brought about a requirement for vision systems to take over this function. We are now in the position of being able to apply vision system techniques, label inspection and character recognition to the food industry. This has allowed customers to improve their quality and reduce wastage.
MVT has built a relationship with two companies in the food industry. Western Mechanical Handling are specialist manufacturers of food handling systems.
In a recent application we provided the vision for a ‘pick and place’ unit for loose pork pies. Due to the irregular nature of the pies it was found that they were sometimes damaged by the picking mechanism. By incorporating vision, the precise location of 48 pork pies on a tray was verified and measures could be taken to reduce wastage. This is one of the applications that vision systems have been used for extensively in other industries.
Other potential applications include checking the presence or absence of labels, character recognition (for example date code recognition, product type), print verification and the identification of errors in packaging. This can include identifying food trapped in seal areas and seal integrity on boxes. Quality checking of food items is also possible, this may involve a presence/absence check of a number of items or checks on the colour, size or shape of items. With respect to cooked items, colour may indicate burnt or uncooked areas; size and shape measures can indicate mis-handling. All of these checks can help to improve quality and reduce wastage.