China Packaging Industry Article
Mettler Toledo CI-Vision
James Lee, Sales Manager, Asia-Pacific, Mettler-Toledo CI-Vision
1. In recent years, vision control for machineries has become China’s latest trend/focus in the packaging automation industry; companies are increasingly taking notice of vision control for machineries as a new area of development. What are your opinions with regards to this?
Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend for automating the vision inspection of production lines in the Chinese packaging industry. While certain segments of China’s manufacturing industry still rely heavily on manual inspection processes, other sectors have been very quick and eager to adopt vision inspection technology, such as the beer and beverage industry to cope with the increased demand.
Increased interaction and trade between China, the US and Europe is the cause of this trend, primarily due to growing concern of food safety standards and retailer guidelines regarding product quality and accurate labelling. As global brands require Chinese manufacturers to compete at the same high level of standard as other manufacturers in the marketplace - the need for automating vision inspection through technology will continue to grow. Automating vision technology benefits the manufacturer as it ensures that high volumes of product are correctly labelled and fully documented through the process. In the event of a product recall this information is crucial in proving that due diligence has been carried out, while helping to support retailers and consumers in product tracking.
To help meet automation demands, Mettler-Toledo has developed a holistic approach to product inspection solution offerings. By providing not only CI-Vision, a technology that specializes in the inspection of a finished package and label, but also content inspections such as metal detection, x-ray and checkweighing technologies, Manufacturers can now ensure quality throughout the complete production and packaging process from raw materials to the end product.
2. With China’s rapid development, vision control technologies are widely used in various fields. How is it used within the packaging industry? What is the biggest challenge when it comes to the application of this technology?
Some sectors, such as the beverage market, of the packaging industry are more developed and therefore have adopted and implemented vision technology early on, while other sectors are still recent in their adoption of the new technology. As they continue to update their technology with automated equipment, the awareness of vision inspection technology will continue to grow.
Vision inspection technology can be utilised in a number of different applications within the packaging industry such as completeness of materials, package/product quality and the integrity of the package. Detecting any weaknesses and accurately rejecting the product prevents any contaminated products from making its way to the consumer while also upholding a manufacturer’s brand reputation.
Once a manufacturer is aware of the applications that vision inspection can provide and evaluates the automated inspection process, the biggest challenge is how to implement the technology without interference to the production line. To overcome this, manufacturers should look to a provider that provides vision inspection technology coupled with consulting services so that production downtime is minimised and the quality of the end package is upheld.
3. The time for automation in the packaging industry has arrived; what role does vision control play on the automated packaging lines? Are there any new developments? What purposes does it serve?
Globalisation of products, growing consumer awareness of the need for accurate product labelling, competition from international brands and the need to reduce production costs, have led to an increasing number of manufacturers adopting automated product inspection systems.
In order to be able to compete with international brands, small, local companies are adopting fully automated product inspection systems to offer the same product quality while reducing costs at the same time.
In addition, quality standards by authorities such as the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to become stricter. Manufacturers are now being required to asses the potential risks that exist within their manufacturing process and implement solutions to prevent and protect consumers from potential harm. With vision inspection technology being a new entry into the product inspection category, manufacturers are taking advantage of the final packaging inspection solution that has been a risk in their process before.
4. What are the latest developments or products that your company has? What are some specific special features?
CI-Vision is committed to constant innovation to ensure customers receive the most comprehensive vision inspection technology for their processing lines. Among other technologies, CI-Vision has recently developed an inspection solution that offers 360° full view inspection. The system provides brand owners complete label quality inspection on non-oriented, round products. Each camera takes a sectional view of the label, which are then combined, using algorithms, to develop a complete image, ensuring comprehensive label inspection without having to worry about product handling.
To ensure that implementation of vision inspection technology is quick and to minimize downtime on production lines, it is essential that the installation of vision inspection is easy for manufacturers. Part of the CI-Vision solution is turn-key offerings that are designed to be easy to operate, with standard software and automatic changeovers.
5. During the fluid-filling process, how will vision control improve in-line inspections with regards to the detection of contaminants, level of liquid, hermetic seal, leakage in fluid packaging?
Vision inspection technology is capable of a variety of quality checks for the fluid-filling process. For example, the technology can inspect for physical contaminants or flaws in the packaging that can result in fluid leakage and can check fill level as well.
It is possible to install vision inspection technology on the production line prior to filling to detect debris and package flaws before it contaminates the product or product is wasted. It is also possible to install or implement vision inspection technology after bottling to inspect for fill level, seal integrity and even label inspection, ensuring brand owners can be completely confident of the quality of their product.
During the fluid-filling process, the empty bottle is inspected first for internal debris, chipped neck, choked neck, pinched neck, elongated or bent neck. The fill and cap inspection include gross fill level check as well as examination of the cap presence, position (height and skew) and color. If the product has successfully passed those stages, the label and decoration is inspected including label presence, position and label identification.
6. What are your company’s views with regards to the future and development of vision control for machineries? What other improvements can be made to this technology to meet future market needs? What is its market potential?
Consumer spending and globalisation of products in China is continuing to grow, leading many manufacturers to boost their production capability through faster throughput speeds and the use of multiple lines. As production has increased, so too has the need for product inspection to ensure product safety and quality.
The greatest increase in the use of vision inspection technology has been in China’s beverage industry, with 20 to 30% growth experienced in the last year. The industry is aware of the need for innovative solutions to ensure the welfare of their customers and their brand.
As the demand for goods, such as beverages increase, so will the need for innovative vision inspection technology which is capable of offering highly sensitive product inspection with faster throughput speeds. Easy implementation of the vision technology into production lines is important if high productivity will need to be ensured.
The market potential is that new product handling applications will continue to arise; for example, CI-Vision has developed a feature to ensure that products can be accurately displayed to cameras without having to drastically alter the speed of the production line. Other solutions include vision inspection technologies working with encoders and sensors to ensure inspections are sensitive to changes in the speed of conveyor belts with sensors tracking products throughout the production line and accurately detecting and rejecting defective products before they reach the next packaging stage.
About the Author
James Lee, Sales Manager, Asia-Pacific, Mettler-Toledo CI-Vision has 20 years of experience in the packaging industry. He is responsible for business development in Asia Pacific and has extensive knowledge in product management, operations and engineering within CI-Vision and vision inspection technologies. James has recently relocated to Taiwan with his family, in order to better provide successful vision solutions to the Asian packaging industry.