Food ejection system incorporates 3D vision capabilities

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A growing number of food producers are relying on inline inspection of shape and colour of their food items to maintain a high-quality product. Adbro Controls, based in Berkshire, UK, has developed a high-speed ejection system for food manufacturers featuring an integrated ColorRanger E 3D colour camera from Sick. The system reliably detects flaws measuring only 0.3mm.

The camera transmits shape and colour data to a host PC that compares the images to reference samples. In the case of a fail signal, pneumatic nozzles are activated, blowing the flawed item from the belt using compressed air. At the same time, the PC saves the data for further processing, producing statistics and trend information that allow for early intervention to avoid production errors, such as baked goods breaking or being overcooked.

In terms of baked goods, the system inspects each item to ensure it is the correct shape and colour, and that the produce is not broken or missing aspects like frostings.

The ColorRanger E from Sick is a high-speed 3D camera featuring high-performance and high image quality. The camera can be configured easily for simultaneous multiple measurement of 3D contours and colours or grey values. The camera provides an RGB signal with a resolution of up to 3,072 pixels per channel, fast and precise 3D data and a scanning frequency of up to 11kHz. The images are transmitted via Gigabit Ethernet interface and the camera can run parallel multiple inspections at full production speed. A single ColorRanger E camera can replace several other cameras, significantly reducing system size and costs for hardware, integration and maintenance.