Visualising solutions

03 May 2011

CEE looks at vision solutions that are helping to increase product quality and consistency.

A vision solution from Omron is helping to eliminate packaging and labeling errors
A vision solution from Omron is helping to eliminate packaging and labeling errors

OTE Group produces and exports special hydrating, cleaning and lubricating fluids for the lens care market. The company needs to be sure that all bottles reach their destinations in good condition and to schedule and must meet medical and pharmaceutical industry requirements. In a bid to increase product quality it made the decision to move from a manual to an automated quality control system.
Checker vision sensors, supplied by Cognex, offered method of verifying the presence of product and packaging features. This ‘multi-sensor’ can detect features that otherwise require multiple photoelectric sensors.

Three of the sensors were installed on the packaging line, checking for the presence of a code printed on each bottle and simultaneously checking for the presence of the label.

OTE has over 250 different labels so it needed to be sure that the right labels are present on each bottle. For this Checker is used. For round bottles one sensor is used, and for other dimensions, two are required. Labels are ‘taught’ at the input and an external trigger uses the reflection of light to detect its presence.

A recent addition to the Checker range adds Ethernet networking capabilities for remote setup and monitoring, PLC communication through EtherNet/IP and ProfiNet and the ability to save inspection images to an FTP server. Checker 4G can be configured as a presence or measurement sensor to inspect and error proof the manufacturing process. The networked vision solution gives the ability to communicate with factory automation devices and remotely monitor and manage vision sensor activity throughout the manufacturing process.

Integrating with ERP
Another vision solution, from Omron, is able to integrate with the customer’s ERP system to eliminate the risk of packaging and labelling errors.

Greenvale is a supplier of fresh potatoes and it needed a vision inspection system to check that the correct labels are applied to packs. It needed a system that could automatically tell the vision system which labels should be affixed to a batch of potatoes, without involving the line operator. When a new order is set up on the packaging line, the plant's ERP system can download the data corresponding to that order -in the form of a CSV file. So, what was needed was to find a way of making the label data from this file available to the vision system.

Traditionally, the only way of doing this would have been to develop software routines to allow the transfer of data between the ERP system and the vision system. However, Omron was able to offer a better solution with its CJ1 PLC which can, optionally, be fitted with a storage and processing unit (SPU) which makes data transfer between the PLC and external PCs simple.

By using the SPU, the labelling data can be acquired from the ERP system using standard hardware and software. The CJ1 PLC also supports Ethernet connectivity, making the physical connection to the computers running the ERP software easy.

The ability to link to the ERP system offered additional opportunities. For example, it is also possible to automatically check that the correct type of film is being used for packing the potatoes. This was done by adding a 2D matrix code to the packaging. The code is checked by an Omron matrix code reader, and the results compared with the type of film specified for the order in the ERP system.

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