Consumers expect products that are consistent and of high quality. X-ray technology helps manufacturers effectively ensure product quality within budget. Look for technical performance when evaluating an X-ray machine to trust with your brand’s reputation.
As a food manufacturer, you make an enormous commitment to bring a product to market, so protecting your brand in the marketplace is critical for success. The benefits are customer loyalty, improved market position, reduced liability risk, and overall positive branding of the product. However, because consumers expect a consistent, quality product, a single food safety recall could destroy your investment and reputation for product quality.
Because of this, food manufacturers are more vigilant to ensure uncontaminated product. Fortunately, the technology in inspection and detection equipment continues to advance so food manufacturers readily can improve their quality control programs and utilize more sophisticated inspection equipment that detects smaller foreign objects, reduces false rejects, and handles a wider range of products to assure maximum food safety with higher productivity.
X-ray inspection and metal detection are often used in inspection, and because they find different non-conformances, they are best used in tandem. Ishida X-ray machines can detect foreign objects or see large gaps in packaging; metal detectors can only detect the presence of metals. One advantage of using X-ray inspection is the ability to find more than just metal; also, the performance is not affected by product signal, typical with metal detectors.
The ability of X-ray inspection systems to provide unsurpassed detection of a wide range of physical contaminants, including metal (e.g., iron, steel, stainless steel, aluminum), glass, stone, calcified bone, and high-density plastics means they can be used to keep contaminants out of the production process, as well as catch contaminants before products leave the factory.
X-rays are generated by an X-ray tube, and this energy is emitted from the tube in a focused beam which passes through the product being inspected. On the other side is a sensor, called a photodiode array, which converts the received energy to light and then to a voltage. The voltage is transformed to the grayscale image that can be viewed on the screen or saved as an image.
If inclusions are present which are denser than the product, these are displayed as darker patches where less X-ray energy was received. Voids and fissures are displayed as lighter patches because higher levels of X-ray energy were able to pass through to the sensor.
The system can be set to automatically reject items that have either type of defect.
As product passes through the X-ray system, the machine can detect foreign bodies. The minimum detectable size of particle varies from one material to another, the product being inspected, and the sensitivity of the system. Foreign bodies are not the only inconsistencies an X-ray system can spot. Voids and broken or missing product pieces become visible, expanding areas for quality control. In addition, X-ray inspection can also be used for other functions, including to estimate weight.
When selecting an X-ray machine, determine what product is being inspected, as well as the type of packaging, and sizes of the products. Is the product unpackaged, or in glass, cans, metallized film, foil packaging, or cartons, and what is the maximum width, height, and length? The answers will narrow down the list of potential machines. Another consideration is the location of the machine within the manufacturing process.
Because X-ray inspection machines can be used at various critical control points (CCP) on a production line, their installment can strengthen both quality control and quality assurance for a food manufacturer. X-ray systems that are commonly found at the end of the production line are used to identify defects before products are dispatched and sent to the retailer or distributor. Inspection of incoming ingredients may offer important benefits, such as protecting machinery and/or eliminating contaminants before they can be fragmented (by downstream machinery) into pieces that may be too small for detection at end-of-line inspection points.
In addition to inspecting for physical contaminants, systems are widely used to perform additional quality control checks such as estimating mass, counting components, identifying missing or broken products, monitoring fill levels, and inspecting seals for food entrapment.
The particular CCP in the production process may allow for a flexible X-ray machine or it may require a different X-ray machine model from another CCP. To learn how to determine where to best place these CCPs on your production line, please contact an X-ray system expert.
X-ray food inspection equipment installed earlier in the production process can inspect the product before being processed such as raw ingredients and bulk-flow (loose) products prior to further processing or packaging. When used at one of these CCPs, the systems help provide quality assurance by preventing defects in final products.
The ability of food X-ray inspection equipment to store large amounts of data means they provide quality assurance by identifying trends and bettering overall traceability of incidents that could occur on a production line and instigating preventive actions.
The latest X-ray technologies now make it possible for producers to choose the most economical detection solution depending on their products.
The Ishida IX-GN Series X-ray inspection system offers proprietary seven-step image analysis technology detecting foreign objects with high sensitivity to simultaneously detect foreign objects and to accurately inspect products. Standard features include defect inspection, a masking feature which factors in individual product attributes that may cause false positives, and weight estimation. The GN Series offers the most versatile detection settings that cater exactly to inspection requirements. Ishida also offers the IX-EN Series X-ray inspection system which provides reliable inspection for basic level application with a lower power X-ray tube. Both the GN and EN series feature Ishida’s patented Genetic Algorithm, allowing users to create one or more algorithms that are focused on optimizing detection of certain contaminants in their product.
The combination of two trends, X-ray inspection technology consistently improving and its associated costs steadily decreasing, means a faster return on investment, making X-ray inspection more attractive to buyers. These twin factors have led the increase in the number of units sold in the market.
Will the X-ray machine be a stand-alone piece of equipment or does it need to be integrated into the plant’s network, providing periodic data reporting for a statistical package? Does the unit have ready-made software that can provide these functions? Is it Ethernet ready? Some manufacturers provide software packages that allow for remote programming and diagnostics via laptop without the need to open the power supply cabinet.
As with any equipment purchase, the buyer is not just purchasing a piece of equipment but also entering into a long-term relationship that includes up-front application assistance, training, parts supply, and technical support. Choose a reliable supplier that you feel comfortable with and that offers ongoing assistance. Contact us today to take advantage of the latest x-ray machine technologies.
Inspection Systems, North America