Intense price pressure combined with high-quality requirements – the beverage and bottle industry faces the classic dilemma of many industries. This is also the case in the quality control department of a French manufacturer of plastic caps. Reliably detecting cracks and micro-cracks on plastic caps in 40 different colours and shades running at high speed on a production line is a real challenge. APREX Solutions, from Nancy, France, has successfully achieved this goal with the help of image processing technology supplied by IDS Imaging Development Systems.
SOLOCAP manufactures all types of plastic caps for the food sector. Among them is a screw cap suitable for any glass or PET bottle. Thanks to a clampable lamella ring arranged around the bottle collar, it enables a simple, fast, absolutely tight and secure seal. However, the slats must be reliably and extremely carefully checked for cracks, tears and twists during production. This is the only way to guarantee absolute tightness.
The company’s previous inspection system could not meet these high requirements. So imaging systems specialist, APREX Solutions, developed a new bespoke solution with artificial intelligence, using in-house software algorithms. The specifications were developed in hand with the customer and included several inspection stages, one of which, for example, was the reject control to avoid false reports.
The system was introduced in two phases. First, the specific SOLOCAP application was trained with the help of the intelligent APREX Track AI solution. The software includes various object detector, classifier and standard methods that operate at different levels. Networked accordingly, they ultimately deliver the desired result tailored to the customer. Four control levels with several test points guarantee a reliability rate of over 99.99%.
In the second step, this application was added to the production line, with APREX Track C&M, specially developed for the industrial sector’s diverse image processing requirements. This includes, among other things, the control and safeguarding of a production line up to the measurement, identification and classification of defects in the production environment. The software suite delivers the desired results quickly and efficiently, without time-consuming development processes. After a short period training the AI methods, the complete system is ready for use by the customer. In the case of SOLOCAP, it combines an IDS UI-3280CP-C-HQ industrial camera, powerful ring illumination and a programmable logic controller (PLC) to provide comprehensive control over all inspection processes. At the same time, it records all workflows in real-time and ensures complete traceability. Only one camera is needed for this. However, APREX TRACK C&M can handle up to 5 cameras.
“The difficulty of this project consisted mainly in the very subtle defects we were looking for and in the multitude of colours. With our software suite, it was possible to set up an image processing application quickly despite the complexity,” explained Romain Baude – founder of APREX Solutions. The image from the camera provides the basis for the evaluations. It captures every single cap directly in the production line at high speed and makes the smallest details visible to the software.
One crucial component
The UI-3280CP-C-HQ industrial camera, paired with a 5 MP IMX264 CMOS sensor from Sony, sets new standards for light sensitivity, dynamic range and colour reproduction. The USB 3 industrial camera provides excellent image quality with extraordinarily low-noise performance – at frame rates of up to 36 fps. The CP in the camera’s name stands for compact power. This is because the tiny powerhouse, suitable for all kinds’ industrial applications, is fast, reliable and enables a high data rate of 420 MByte/s with low CPU load. Users can choose from many modern CMOS sensors from manufacturers such as Sony, CMOSIS, e2v and ON Semiconductor with a wide range of resolutions. Its innovative, patented housing design with dimensions of only 29 x 29 x 29mm makes it suitable for a wide range of tasks. Screwable cables ensure a reliable electrical connection, and thanks to the IDS-characteristic plug & play principle, the cameras are automatically recognised by the system and are immediately ready for use.