In addition, a contemporary X-Ray system can also count the number of discrete objects in a package or even use the image data for checkweighing purposes. It has long been established that wood is not detectable as a foreign material with X-Ray technology. However, Figure 2 demonstrates that X-Ray can detect and automatically reject ice cream novelties with not only missing sticks, but even when the stick is too short.
Another application of a modern X-Ray inspection system is the detection of plastics. It is wellknown that not all plastics are detectable as foreign materials by X-Ray. However, many medical devices and products are packaged or dosed from plastic containers. Figure 3 shows a prefilled syringe, inside a carton, with correct length and another one, which has been compressed. X-Ray can measure the length of the syringe, account for any rotation or skew to improve accuracy, and then reject syringes of incorrect lengths. Since the incorrect length implies a deviation from the right dosage, the X-Ray system assures product integrity, which cannot be done by any other system.
Many products can be presented chaotically or combined so they are assembled completely at random within a package. Best detection performance with an X-Ray is achieved when a product specific setup is chosen. Although different products can be inspected using a single setting, the setting is often a trade-off, which results in poorer performance on one product or a higher degree of false rejects. An X-Ray system, which utilizes new software techniques can actually automatically recognize chaotic or multiple different products as they are presented to an X-Ray. Figure 4 shows chicken thighs and drumsticks that are typically packaged at random on a production line. The software highlights the recognized products on the screen.
With more robotic automation coming to production lines, X-Ray can often automatically recognize different products better than a vision system. This capability can be used to alert the robotic systems which products are coming to them. Up to four production lines can be simultaneously inspected due to newer X-Ray – source architecture of “bottomup shoot”. This new trend in configuration of the X-Ray source, which is placed under the conveyor, provides a full width inspection of the production line as compared to older architecture machines that are “top-down” shoot where the top corners are blind.
The newest generation of X-Ray systems offers not only advantages compared to conventional metal detectors but also to the older X-Ray technologies. In addition to detecting contaminants, it allows for product quality inspection by detecting product integrity, completeness, and positioning within closed shapes and packaging. Moreover, it allows for a quality parallel detection of two different products, incorrectly placed, or overlapping products. The modern X-Ray technology has been designed to operate safely for the inspected products and also for the operators by the production lines. Importantly, X-Ray detection has established itself as the standard for inspecting product purity, quality and integrity. It has become more affordable over the years due to the improvement of technology and software. Adoption of the latest long-life X-Ray tube, combined with proprietary real-time software running on an industrial PCs using flash memory, ensures faster image processing, reliability and ease of use. The benefits of X-Ray inspection systems are well recognized by the experts in the field. The advantages of the next generation X-Ray systems over the metal detectors and the older X-Ray technologies are now a significant part of a payback justification and the main reason for installing them across the industries.