Certainly the trend!

The HEUFT eXaminer II XS lateral inspector, as a particularly slim and versatile turnkey solution at the end of the line, is predestined to be used to guarantee the product and packaging safety of ready meals.

Whether only part finished or already ready to eat: the convenience food sector is developing more and more into a food megatrend. In the United Kingdom alone, the largest European and fifth largest market in the world for such preparations, a sales increase of 4.9 per cent to a total of over 15 million dollars has been forecast for 2020 with an expected per capita consumption of almost 26 kilograms.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has given an additional push to the rapid development of the convenience food segment: In the first week of March, sales of products such as canned meat, canned fruit and vegetables, smoothies, packet soups, frozen foods and ready-to-serve meals in the UK were up by over 60 per cent compared to the same time in the previous year. In Germany, sales of canned fish and fruit rose by 70 percent over the same period, canned vegetables by 80 percent and canned and packet soups by as much as 112 percent over the previous week.

Full product and packaging safety at the end of the line

At the beginning of the crisis, consumers obviously wanted to stock up on durable food and at the same time save themselves the trouble of preparing their meals. And almost half of all consumers worldwide are willing to pay more for food with high quality guarantees and safety standards as a large-scale study two years before the current Covid-19 pandemic already revealed – a clear trend which is likely to increase still further in the future.

The use of a network-compatible inspection system at the end of the line is therefore more relevant for producers accordingly. A system which detects different safety and quality defects in the freshly filled ready meal and can be declared as an always available, constantly monitored critical control point (CCP) as part of a consistent HACCP concept due to maximum automation, continuous production and quality data acquisition as well as extensive self-test functions. At the same time it has to be so compact and flexible that it can also be integrated into existing filling and packaging lines easily, adjusted to different packaging types and format effortlessly and as a result carry out extremely fast brand and program changes.


Optimised pulsed X-rays

The further developed HEUFT eXaminer II XS as a network-compatible, highly automated and practically self-explanatory turnkey solution not only meets these important criteria. Therefore the modular system is ideally suited for the final inspection of the quality, integrity and safety of product and packaging along convenience food lines.

Above all the unique, further optimised pulsed X-ray technology inside it in order to detect, among other things, dangerous foreign objects, critical packaging defects or considerable deviations in filling quantity in a confined space carefully and precisely predestines the modular system of the new generation for inspecting the quality of primary containers filled with part cooked or ready to eat food such as plastic pots with lids, food cans, stand-up pouches and composite packaging. It achieves more coverage, resolution and sensitivity than ever before with a significantly extended lifetime due to new high-voltage components, X-ray generators and full-field image converters. And each individual X-ray pulse now penetrates significantly larger packaging volumes and product quantities.

A single lateral X-ray strobe is often all that is needed in order to inspect smaller full packaging from the lid to the base without gaps. This is also possible in the case of particularly large size containers by using an additional one with a straight view of the sensitive area around the filling line so that foreign objects as well as considerable deviations to the fill level are identified and the full containers in question rejected accurately. Contaminants such as small pieces of metal or hard plastic fragments are visible twice where two X-ray flashes overlap – from two different perspectives, thus again increasing the detection accuracy significantly. The in-house developed HEUFT reflexx² real-time image processing system divides the detected objects into different contrast categories in order to differentiate dangerous foreign objects from harmless product inhomogeneities or packaging structures based on their X-ray absorptivity.

Full flexibility and maximum operational reliability

Automation solutions that combine full flexibility with maximum operational reliability are in demand particularly along filling and packaging lines for convenience food where one and the same product is rarely produced over a longer period of time and frequent brand and program changes are the order of the day. The HEUFT eXaminer II XS provides an unprecedented level of automation and user support for this. For example the height and alignment of the upper X-ray flash module adapts automatically to the changed container brands and formats. The HEUFT NaVi user guidance provides the operator with audiovisual step-by-step assistance which not only makes brand changes simply easy.

The compact lateral inspector of the new generation can even be integrated into small installation spaces without a problem: the actual detection station with up to two X-ray flash modules which can be flexibly positioned and oriented is directly at the conveyor where it saves space and is safely enclosed. And the corresponding HEUFT SPECTRUM II control terminal is even more compact and can be equipped with numerous additional detections. The space-saving turnkey solution then carries out further valuable tasks for the sustainable in-line quality assurance of ready meals in plastic pots with lids, doypacks, stand-up pouches, food cans or composite packaging in the same work process parallel to a reliable foreign object detection. The spectrum ranges from an additional, high-precision fill level detection, internal pressure measurement to a label and marking inspection.


Full documentation

Not only online remote maintenance via the HEUFT TeleService is possible due to the protected network connection but also the permanent recording and archiving of all the relevant production and quality-related data for line analysis with the HEUFT PROFILER. For example the protocols of the test container programs for regularly checking the detection and rejection reliability are documented just as long and fully as the end products identified as faulty and rejected during actual operation. The HEUFT picCollect even saves each individual detection image for the long term if required. This not only ensures that the product and packaging quality always meets the specified standards. In this way even serial faults or false rejections can be detected and corrected in time before the efficiency and productivity of the complete line suffer.

All this makes the further developed lateral inspector a real turnkey solution for a particularly reliable, careful and precise quality inspection for convenience food in simple primary containers at the end of the line. The slim HEUFT eXaminer II XS is therefore certainly the trend!