How to choose a robust vision system

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While vision systems have been widely adopted in a number of industries, they’ve struggled to make a mark on the food industry when it comes to date code verification. Extremely reliable and effective in stable environments, when variations occur as they often do in the food industry, either in the natural environment or in the items they’re checking, vision systems can struggle to achieve reliable results.

But with the advances in vision, is there a system that will work for food manufacturers? Here, we take you through the considerations that should be taken into account when specifying a vision system and how to find the most reliable solution for your requirements.

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Effective vision outside of the lab

Many vision providers will often highlight that they offer a reliable system even in challenging conditions, such as the surrounding environment, object variations and component effects. However, since there are usually several components to a vision system, including illumination, lenses, camera, image acquisition, processing and measurement software, as well as data transfer elements… there’s a lot to go wrong. The complexity of the system does depend on the application where it is to be used but if any of the conditions in your facility differ from those to be found in a lab, the cost of your system is likely to go up.

Vision system components need to be able to deal with a wide range of variables, such as part variations, positioning, vibrations, ambient light, temperature, dust, water or oil as well as the ability to achieve the right results, such as the appropriate resolution or frame rate, on the items you need to check. These challenging conditions can affect not only the components themselves but also the results that they deliver so how do you ensure your vision system works in real life?

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Turn up the heat

Modern cameras can often deal with temperature fluctuations, so if your facility operates at high or low temperatures, you may think the system will work regardless. Yet higher temperatures can cause ‘noise’ to appear on the image from the camera sensor so this has to be compensated for by additional illumination. Similarly, LED illumination becomes less effective as it heats up, so a lighting controller is then needed to compensate for the drop in brightness, as well as an effective heat management system to prevent premature aging of the components. This means that vision systems can overcome any temperature fluctuations, but at an extra cost.

Lights out

Natural light can play havoc with vision systems as even the most advanced camera can’t automatically adjust to bright and dark like the human eye can. There are ways around this, including daylight cut filters, which use a high brightness pulsed LED, reduced sensor exposure time and adjustments to the aperture, to try to minimise the effects of ambient light. But once again, this adds costs to the system that’s designed to be your fail-safe at the end of the line.

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Inside knowledge

Vision is often an add-on when it comes to your packaging line and it often requires the technical team to get involved at almost every stage of its integration and operation. Yet in most food manufacturers, this simply isn’t an option either because the technical know-how isn’t available in house or because your teams are busy with other areas of the business. You need a plug and play vision system that works 100% of the time.

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AI-based vision system

That’s where APRIL™ Eye comes in. Turning traditional vision systems on their head, it offers an entirely robust solution without all of the complex choices that so often need to be made. The system is integrated and then works. End of story.

There’s no need for an expensive camera or lighting elements; all of the brains are in the software and not the hardware. Currently OAL Connected’s software includes over a million images of date codes (different types, shapes, formats etc.) both thermal transfer and inkjet, and this database is growing all the time. When the image reaches the PC, the software compares the new image to those in the database. If APRIL Eye meets a style or format that it hasn’t seen before, OAL Connected is able to remotely connect to add more information to the software teaching it immediately. In addition, when our technical team upgrades our software, it’s automatically sent to sites’ databases so APRIL Eye is constantly updated, further safeguarding manufacturers.  

Due to the simplicity of the equipment, APRIL™ Eye isn’t affected by temperature fluctuations and because it is a vision system with a brain, it can automatically adjust to ambient light variations. What’s more, because the system has been trained by our expert teams, there is no need for technical vision knowledge in-house; our engineers will help you get started, and with our support contracts, they can be available to help you 24/7.

So what are you waiting for? If you have been put off vision systems in the past, you need to see APRIL™ Eye to believe that it’s different. Speak to one of our experts today to find out how it can safeguard your packaging line!

Lauren Moir