The need for precision in crafting a quality beer does not end when the brewing process is completed. To ensure the final product reaches the customer tasting the way the brewer intended, a successful bottling operation is required. Potential problems can be diagnosed with continuous monitoring of the packaging process giving the brewer the feedback necessary to recognize either bottle or equipment failures.
In the mid-2000’s, a microbrewery in the Western United States needed a lighting solution for their bottle fill inspection application. The brewery worked with Advanced illumination to develop a custom-made backlight specifically for their inspection challenge.
The goal was to develop an inspection system powerful enough to handle high volume bottle inspection, yet small enough to fit their limited inspection environment. The inspection ensures each bottle is filled to the proper level (not above or below), and that the bottle is properly capped, or crowned. To provide successful results, the lighting system had to meet several criteria.
First, the light had to fit within the limited space that included custom mounting it into a 4x stainless steel enclosure necessary in a food-preparation, washdown environment. According to the brewery’s Packaging Development Engineer, the thickness of the light housing was a challenge due to the need to place the light as close to the edge of the conveyor and passing bottles as possible.
Second, the light had to offer consistent intensity over the field of view in order to avoid false readings.
Finally, light intensity needed to be adjustable independent of the vision system, in order to penetrate the darker beers without causing blooming in the lighter ones. Because the inspection occurs in a washdown area, operators needed the strobe controller positioned remotely from the light for access.
THE Ai SOLUTION
After reviewing the brewery’s needs, the representative at the local integrator created a multi-function inspection with the combination of a DVT 530 camera, and an expandable Backlight and S6000 strobe controller from Advanced illumination.
Ai’s expandable illumination source allowed the brewery to order a Backlight built specifically for its application. The 3″ x 6″ lighted surface was slightly wider than the widest portion of the bottle while being long enough to cover the neck and approximately half of the bottle. Red surface-mount LEDs provided considerable uniformity over the entire active illumination area, and the 660 nm red light easily penetrated the amber colored glass of the bottles.
The inspection setup consisted of passing the bottles between the vision system and the light at a rate of 330 bottles per minute, with the capacity of up to 600 ppm. Inspection occurred immediately after the bottles were filled and capped, providing the vision system an opportunity to utilize a byproduct of the filling process – foam – to its advantage. The density of the foam, compared with the transparency of the beer, created a clear line of contrast. Whereas the foam eventually settled to form the proper meniscus, too much foam at fill time meant there was too little actual liquid in the bottle; too much light meant the liquid level was too high.
Driving the BL0306-660 was Ai’s S6000 strobe unit. Camera triggered, the S6000 was set to overdrive the light in order to create enough intensity to cut through the darker beers. During the cycle time of ~30ms, the vision system captured an image from each bottle and analyzed it. Detection of a fill error indicated either a bottle problem or a malfunction of the filler machinery. Rejected bottles were shunted off the main conveyor to a collection area. In cases when the bottle proved to be in unacceptable condition, technicians were alerted to a problem with the filler equipment. According to the brewery, the inspection system had a success rate of 99.8%.
While this application was a few years ago, the BL0306 continues to be a Backlight in production today. The full BL Series Expandable design has withstood the test of time and continues to perform to meet the needs of numerous customers. In addition to the BL Series, Advanced illumination also offers a number of other backlighting solutions to fit bottling inspection application needs. One Backlight in particular, the BL245 UltraSeal Washdown Backlight, is engineered with a proprietary nickel finish that is ideal for food and beverage applications. Its finish is highly resistant to corrosion, protecting the Backlight against common caustic solutions often used in bottling applications.
“For years, we have worked with Advanced illumination to come up with the perfect lighting solutions for our machine vision applications. These range from food inspection, washdown applications, packaging, automotive, medical, and others. We’ve experienced spectacular success every time – sometimes with completely custom-made solutions. Mike Romano from the Ai Applications Lab has stuck by us through challenging applications, even through some failure, until we nail the solution. Being able to talk out the unique lighting challenges with the Ai team and get expert thoughts on wavelength, color, and light type is the best part about working with Ai.”
– Marianne Stevens, Lead Engineer | Automation and Vision Solutions
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