X-ray inspection systems are coming to the fore in quality assurance and control applications. Modern equipment operates within WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines (see Are X-Ray Inspection Systems Safe? below), and is now considered safe to use in all environments, including food inspection and packaging.
WHAT ARE X-RAY INSPECTION SYSTEMS?
X-ray inspection equipment gives processing, packaging and manufacturing industries a fast, efficient and accurate methodology for automated quality assurance. As a result X-ray inspection machines are being installed in increasing numbers of production lines in a variety of industries, with food, automotive and aerospace to the fore.
HOW DO X-RAY SYSTEMS WORK?
Building on the technology of automated optical inspection (AOI), x-ray inspection systems use x-rays instead of visible light, permitting an automated inspection of features typically hidden from view.
The use of x-ray inspection is fast spreading in various industries, such as aviation and automotive where it is used in applications for shape analysis, missing items, contamination detection and package integrity control.
With production speed always a key feature, manufacturers simply cannot afford to have production lines slowed down by ineffective quality control. Modern x-ray inspection systems allow manufacturers to meet production expectations without compromising on quality.
ADVANTAGES OF X-RAY INSPECTION SYSTEMS
X-ray inspection systems are particularly useful in the manufacturing industry since they provide a non-contact test method beneath sealed surfaces. This allows for quality and quantity control checks to be run at various stages during production.
Combined with enhanced graphical interfaces, x-ray systems are able to perform component counts on finished products and run final checks to ensure no internal elements have become damaged during production and packing. This helps to reduce the risk of poor quality products in the marketplace, permitting manufacturers to increase profitability by avoiding unnecessary and costly product recalls.
Many systems can now perform multiple functions and are therefore, able to reduce maintenance and operation costs. In the food industry for example, x-ray systems not only check for contamination but also handle recipe management. It is now possible for one x-ray machine to simultaneously perform inline checks, such as measuring mass, counting components, identifying missing or broken products, and monitoring fill levels.
FOOD X-RAY INSPECTION EQUIPMENT
In the food and beverage industry, x-ray technology has provided manufacturers with the opportunity to safeguard their brand reputation by protecting consumer welfare and minimising the possibility of foreign bodies contaminating products.
The ability to closely monitor production both internally and externally from start to finish allows for the identification of contamination at the exact stage, which can lead to loss-cutting by potentially halting production of contaminated products as soon as possible.
With new x-ray inspection methods, quality assurance at every stage of production becomes a possibility. Since neither foil nor metallised film packaging affect x-ray sensitivity, food can be checked for contamination from raw ingredients right through to finalised and packed products. This can be particularly beneficial, since in the food industry there’s a growing awareness by customers of the quality and standard of products, backed up by ever more stringent government regulations.
ARE X-RAY INSPECTION SYSTEMS SAFE?
One factor which can hinder the adoption of x-ray inspection systems in the food industry is the apprehension some people have that products may be adversely affected by exposure to radiation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that food radiation levels up to 10,000 Sievert (unit for measuring amount of radiation absorbed) do not affect food safety or nutritional value, and that food which passes through an x-ray inspection system spends about 250 milliseconds in the x-ray beam.
During that time, the food receives only a 0.2 Millisievert (0.002 Sievert) dose. This radiation dose is so low that organic food subjected to x-ray inspection maintains its organic status, delicious taste and high nutritional value.
PPMA Show 2020 at the NEC in Birmingham UK from 29 September to 1 October will feature all the latest development in x-ray inspection systems as well as inspiring displays and talks from leaders in the processing and packaging machinery industry.
Also see more about inspection equipment on show at UKIVA Machine Vision Conference and Exhibition, 14 May 2020 at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes UK.