Special focus: placing safety first

With consumers rightly demanding high standards of hygiene and safety with in food manufacturing, investing in the right sorting and inspection lines is a vital component of any confectionery producer’s operations. Editor Neill Barston reports

As we have previously examined, the significance of manufacturers maintaining a high bar for levels of health and safety in confectionery and snacks production is of vital importance in today’s food and drink sector. With the advent of social media quick to pass judgement on any industry errors in terms of product recalls having a potentially damaging effect on key brands, the stakes have consequently never been higher.

Consequently, according to studies from Maximize Market Research, the global sorting equipment sector across industries stood at $3.9 billion in value last year, experiencing healthy compound growth of around 5.5 per cent.

In addition, inspection machinery across segments, was valued at $722 million, and also showing an upward curve to $905 million by 2027, says Markets and Markets in its assessment of the business. So with this in mind, it’s clear that the industry is responding with new and innovative solutions – some of which will be unveiled at this year’s fast-approaching Interpack event in Düsseldorf, Germany. Among companies within sorting and inspection fields exhibiting for the weeklong event is Tomra Food, highlighting its sensor-based solutions to make sure Every Resource Counts for manufacturers.

 

This includes lines dedicated to nuts and dried fruit, which, as the business notes, can be challenging segments to operate within in terms of meeting customers’ clearly exacting specifications. Foreign material can get into the processing line’s product stream and product can be damaged by both external and internal defects, which can be almost impossible to detect. Yet, these threats must be eliminated to protect processors and retailers from product recalls and reputation damage.

In response, Tomra will be showcasing its advanced optical sorting systems, (the With consumers rightly demanding high standards of hygiene and safety with in food manufacturing, investing in the right sorting and inspection lines is a vital component of any confectionery producer’s operations. Editor Neill Barston reports Tomra will be heading to Interpack with its latest series of inspection equipment including the 5C system (pictured). Pic: Tomra Safety comes first Tomra 5C,5B, 5X and 3C). These processors can grade to specification, minimise false rejects, increase removal efficiency, reduce or eliminate the need for manual intervention, help solve the labour problems (scarcity, cost, effectiveness), reduce downtime, and provide data about the product being sorted. While the company’s sorting technologies are sophisticated, all are designed to be easy to use. Notably, these machines are remotely controllable and can be easily networked. Some even possess self-learning abilities in order to further refine their sorting accuracy.

As a result, false rejection rates are low, yields are high, and nut processors are empowered to conquer even the most daunting of operational challenges. Additionally, Tomra Food’s solution is meeting great success in the confectionary segment for its ability to provide advanced technology for the reliable sorting of sweets. Product color and structure is checked by laser scanners. In addition, the scanners identify contaminated products or foreign objects that are not visible to the naked eye. When augmented by an Advanced Foreign Material Detector (AFMD), sorting can be supplemented to include product properties. Tomra has developed special high- resolution cameras for optical food sorting on the basis of colour and outline.

A further module for shape recognition ensures that, through scanning, individual products comply with the desired dimensions and shapes.

Metal detection
For its part, Fortress has continued to expand its detection series targeting magnetic and non-magnetic metals in flour, rice, cereal, corn, grains, sugar, seeds and spices, with its Mini Gravity Metal Detector. This features a 75mm anti-static in-feed pipe with a high speed reject valve, was created specifically for busy ingredient lines where space is limited. The smaller pipe quickly separates metal contaminants from the good product flow. Resulting in less product rework and consequently waste.

Made to accommodate smaller food factory layouts, including tightly packed production facilities, low ceiling heights and for insertion between product chutes and hoppers, this Mini Gravity Metal Detector is also packed full of useful labour and time saving features. Including optional automatic testing to eliminate production downtime, reduce waste and product rework. The metal detector is also built to withstand vibrations and temperature changes without compromising performance, and can be supplied to meet hazardous location standards.

As the company added regarding conveyor inspection lines, a retail-spec combination metal detection and checkweighing system provides an alternative space-saver. Mounting these systems on the same conveyor results in a far smaller footprint than stand-alone units would occupy. At FoodEx 2023, Fortress presents its most compact – the 100mm belt width Raptor Combi. Designed for high care confectionery, chocolate, bakery, packaged meats and fish, cheeses and prepared food manufacturers, this award-winning Raptor Combi accurately inspects and weight checks products and pack formats weighing from 50 grams up to 8kg and measuring up to 400mm in length, saving 50 per cent on space.

Vision inspection
Another business that has been actively extending its portfolio for the segment is Scorpion Vision, which has devised an advanced 3D stereo vision-based inspection solution that ensures a perfect presentation for chocolate gifting trays. As the company noted, by performing with near 100 per cent accuracy a task that is usually carried out by one or two humans its system can help confectionery manufacturers and packers to combat unskilled labour shortages, whilst increasing line efficiency.

This latest line deploys the Scorpion 3D Venom camera to inspect chocolates that have been deposited in compartmentalised trays by pick and place robots. Occasionally, after being placed, chocolates will bounce up and either turn upside down or jump out of the tray altogether. Scorpion has engineered an advanced vision solution that images the chocolates in 3D and takes precision shape measurements to confirm that each chocolate is in the right compartment and position.

At the heart of the solution is the global shutter Scorpion 3D Venom camera, which is ideal for applications in cutting-edge 3D stereo vision systems owing to its short baseline. Paul Wilson, managing director at Scorpion Vision, added: “The shorter the baseline, the more accurate the stereo or ‘z’ depth – a camera trait that is essential for reliable decision making in this application.” “The system requires several data sets to determine, with high accuracy, whether the right chocolate is in the right position.  As well as generating a 3D profile, it relies on precise dimensional measurements, 2D imaging and colour imaging to build a complete and detailed picture. With this data combination, it can even analyse the texture of each chocolate to determine whether they are correctly placed.

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