Integrated vision comes into focus

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

The Fuji Vision system is mounted in the film-drive roller housing
The Fuji Vision system is mounted in the film-drive roller housing

Related tags Machine

The pressure on the food industry to align more with the automation, quality control, traceability and wider security standards of sectors such as pharmaceuticals appears to be feeding through, at least in the availability of integrated vision systems in packaging equipment.

This month’s Processing and Packaging Machinery Association (PPMA) Total Show will see Paramount Packaging, exclusive distributor of Fuji Machinery Company’s form-fill-seal (FFS) equipment, highlight Fuji’s Alpha VII series of box-motion horizontal flow-wrappers.

Along with other elements which can give box-motion horizontal FFS (HFFS) quality advantages over higher-speed rotary HFFS, the Alpha VII machines include vision systems as an integral, standard feature.

The Fuji Vision System (FVS) is mounted in the film-drive roller housing, with the aim of monitoring film-tracking, label application, print legibility, barcode verification and offering optical character recognition.

Optical character recognistion

Sales engineer Simon Martin said: “It’s not common at all to have this feature on a machine. It’s not standard on most companies’ equipment.”

More typically, manufacturers have the option of specifying vision systems as an extra on new lines or retrofitting them on existing lines.

In the past, the installation of machine vision had the reputation of being relatively high-cost.

“We’re getting involved in higher-speed applications, more so than many of our competitors,” ​said Martin. “There have been a few installations where the vision feature was important for the sale.”

According to Martin, a box-motion Alpha VII machine might cost around 20% more than a rotary HFFS machine with a similar speed capability.

But as well as the vision system, this price difference depended more on other details – such as the increased use of servo control – which make box-motion more efficient than rotary machines, he explained.

“In fact, the vision system does not add massively to the cost,”​ he added.

One customer is using the machines to wrap produce such as celery on a field rig. “Occasionally, the wrong printed film was being applied on the previous system,”​ he said.

“The vision system will stop that happening by ensuring that the print correlates with the product setting. By preventing operator error, it also avoids the need for so much rework.”

According to the company, the FVS also comes into its own with the automated film-roll splicing feature, which is standard in the higher-speed Alpha VII machines.

The vision system identifies the item where the auto-splice took place and rejects it as an out-of-specification pack.

Out-of-specification pack

“Some businesses need to upgrade from standard flow-wrap because customer requirements are getting more stringent,”​ said Martin.

“Rotary systems have been a way of achieving high speeds, but they don’t give the same consistent quality. Now, you can wrap at higher speeds with box-motion.”

While rotary HFFS can hit speeds of up to 1,500 packs per minute (ppm) on small items, Fuji’s latest box-motion machines might manage 220ppm wrapping, for example, a slice of flapjack.

In comparison, he doubted whether most suppliers of box-motion equipment could reach 100ppm. 

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