X-Ray Inspection and the Next Wave of Technology-Based Manufacturing

Mike Stuart, Meat and Poultry Segment Manager

23 June 2020

The move towards Industry 4.0, sometimes called the fourth wave of manufacturing, is spurring the development of many new technologies. With more data from production lines, and improved communications between devices (M2M), significant enhancements in automation are providing manufacturers with the greater flexibility and improved line efficiencies they need to respond to new and ever changing challenges coming from their increasingly dynamic marketplaces. Latest-generation x-ray systems, powered by software that enables best image analysis whilst simultaneously capturing and storing product and production line information, provides more than a snapshot of each item on the line – it helps food and beverage companies be both reactive and proactive to produce the best, safest, highest quality products consistently, in the most efficient way possible.

If technology is the fourth wave of manufacturing, advanced x-ray inspection technologies will help food and beverage companies determine what’s below the surface and best navigate the waters.

X-ray systems can be considered an integral part of today’s technology-based manufacturing that has been defined as Industry 4.0, the fourth type of manufacturing following the industrial revolution, mass production and assembly and computerization. This new wave of manufacturing is based upon the greater use of smart and sophisticated systems in the production line, each with the ability to capture more in-process data and share this data with other machines in the line. With more devices able to communicate and react to what is actually happening in the production line manufacturers are able to become more flexible and agile with the way they produce, whilst also delivering major improvements in process efficiency.

Where does x-ray fit into technology-based manufacturing and how can you use it to ride this wave to better products and operations? Advanced x-ray systems are designed to inspect, record, store and share images and information on individual products, providing a wealth of valuable data for safe, high quality products and greater production efficiencies. At Eagle, I work closely with manufacturers and processors by deploying innovative systems and technologies that address any product application current and emerging challenges.

Here are some of the benefits of robust x-ray solutions for this new era of manufacturing:

  • See better: X-ray machines equipped with the radically enhanced performance x-ray technology, PXT™, can capture significantly more data about the product being inspected and deliver the highest resolution image in the industry. When combined with SimulTask™ PRO enhanced image analysis software, it will enable manufacturers to find and remove contaminants in the most challenging products. One of the significant advantages of SimulTask™ PRO is its ability to handle variability, inspect products with different characteristics and potential contaminants at varying speeds. The flexibility in the platform enables you to get the best possible contaminant detection for every product.
  • Learn more: Eagle’s proprietary TraceServer™ software can record valuable production data and machine status information from one or more of Eagle’s x-ray machines (up to 32 machines at once) and consolidate it into a single centralized database. That data can be easily and quickly accessed for the creation of useful reports and alarms. With large amounts of production data stored, multiple reports can be produced to show more information about events and trends, giving greater visibility of what is actually happening in the production line. By utilizing that extra information, it not only drives improvements in efficiencies, but also helps identify where the contaminants are coming from. This leads to appropriate interventions that mitigate the same issues from happening in the future.
  • Store and share: TraceServer™ extracts data from x-ray machines and links it together with other pieces of relevant information for each item that passes through the line. For instance, in my experience in the meat industry, I’ve seen companies use a bar code or unique identifier on a box of meat to carry information on where that item comes from – down to the farm where the animal was raised. If you link that unique identifier with the x-ray analysis for that product, you can build a larger data set about that specific product. This full analysis of a product at a point in time is available in a central database and can also be passed off into a company’s own ERP business management system.

As we’ve seen over the past several months, the marketplace is dynamic and subject to disruption. Recent events have reinforced the value of technology-based manufacturing as a way to stay responsible and competitive. We recognize that, as a food and beverage manufacturer, you are looking for ways to improve the scale of automation in your facilities and capture as much information as you can on every single product for optimal traceability and operational efficiencies. We also understand your need for flexibility and to think on a long-term basis. Ultimately, the more data you have, the better you can control and nimbly respond to changing demands and satisfy customers with safe, high quality products.