X-ray technology is the most advanced inspection method that a food manufacturer can implement into their critical control points, but when it comes to products such as beverages that are taller than they are wider, challenges can still arise.
With foreign objects sinking to the bottom while other quality control issues such as a low fill level or faulty sealing present themselves at the top, it can be difficult for operators of traditional top-down X-ray systems to produce sharp images of the complete tall food product. With this in mind, Mekitec designed and launched its latest innovation: the SIDEMEKI™ system.
Introduced by a global manufacturer of innovative food quality control systems, SIDEMEKI is a side-shooting X-ray inspection system that guarantees safety and quality in tall food and beverage products. When it comes to quality control, there’s a lot to consider for manufacturers of these types of products.
“When you look at them sideways, the focal spot needs to be at the right place for the inspection. Let’s say you want to make sure that the headspace or fill level is correct, then you’d like to have a focal spot at that level. However, foreign objects usually go to the bottom of the product because it’s liquid and they don’t float, so you would like for the X-ray detection to also have a focal spot at the bottom of the product,” says Juho Ojuva, director of global sales and customer care at Mekitec.
“Therefore, SIDEMEKI gives the option of having two focal spots, looking at the bottom and the top to make sure that you get the best of both.”
Ensuring consumer safety with a side-shooting X-ray inspection system
With this divided focus, SIDEMEKI provides a crystal-clear image of the complete tall product. The overall quality of the product is inspected, with integrated product rejectors in place to automatically put aside faulty or unsafe items.
“If it’s a foreign object, it goes to a separate reject bin because they are considered to be containing something dangerous so they should not be re-entered into the production line. Products with quality assurance defects, let’s say a too-low fill level or a missing cap, are rejected to another box where the operator can take a look at it and see if there’s something wrong with a machine earlier on in production,” says Ojuva.
SIDEMEKI thereby enhances a food producer’s brand image and decreases the number of reclamations. As with all Mekitec systems, SIDEMEKI has been designed as a critical control point on a primary packaging line, making its accuracy levels extremely valuable to food producers looking to deliver only the highest quality products to consumers.
Ojuva adds: “By having the best possible technology in place, no products containing foreign contaminants go onwards from the critical control point, which SIDEMEKI is considered to be. Since it’s placed at a primary packaging line where no further foreign objects can be entered into the product, it makes sure that what goes to the shelves in stores is safe.”
True pack-for-pack traceability
Product traceability has become a rising trend in the food processing industry. Being able to track food through every production stage is integral to consumer safety. SIDEMEKI’s ability to store the necessary product data plays a key role in enabling true pack-for-pack traceability.
“SIDEMEKI stores the images of the products so that the food producers can go back with traceability and see exactly what they have shipped out. If there are any claims or any need to look at a certain batch that they’ve produced, they can see the actual X-ray images of that batch,” explains Ojuva.
As a result, by implementing SIDEMEKI at the primary packaging critical control point, the system gives food producers the security to demonstrate that their products were safe when they were shipped out.
Seamless quality control inspection for tall food products
Food products in tall containers can be prone to tipping over in the production line, especially during changes in conveyors or speeds. For this reason, Mekitec understands that one of the most important parts of introducing a new system to a production line is ensuring that it does not disturb the existing production.
“You don’t want to change something that’s working nicely, so production flow needs to be right,” Ojuva says. With this in mind, the company made sure that they designed an X-ray inspection system that would ensure a smooth production flow, even for tall products.
He adds: “For SIDEMEKI, product guides are important since with those we direct the products and make sure they stay upright as they go through the system. Product transfer from conveyor to conveyor is also a critical place where we need to make sure there’s no falling, tipping over or product jams happening in food production lines. We have multiple options of different kinds of entries to the system and ways of connecting the system to different kinds of production lines.”
The SIDEMEKI is something that Mekitec had been developing for a very long time. The Finnish company, which until now has focused on top-down X-ray machines, is very excited about the new market that this side-shooting system opens up.
Commenting on this, Ojuva says: “As a company, we have combined our X-ray knowledge together with our primary packaging inspection expertise. The SIDEMEKI is just a continuation of that mission of ours to equip the lines with the best possible technology there is.”