The food & beverage industry is being faced with more strict requirements and regulations than ever to protect consumer health. And with those requirements comes increased liability in areas like contamination, food safety, and quality. Machine vision is helping food manufacturers and processors protect both people and profits.
What Is Machine Vision?
Machine vision is a unique combination of hardware and software to give automation systems the ability to “see.” A high-quality camera is paired with an imaging system and the programming required to analyze the images. Machine vision can do everything from reading labels and barcodes to inspecting the visual appearance of a product.
Many machine vision systems are integrated with artificial intelligence to increase their capabilities. A huge database can be used to train the automated system what a product should look like and then use that information for sorting, labeling, or some other processing. Tasks that required human inspectors can now be performed faster with automated systems.
How Machine Vision Is Used in Food & Beverage
Machine vision has come a long way in food & beverage since some of its first applications in the 1980s. Back then, one muffin baker used machine vision to identify oversized muffins that were clogging up the packaging machines. Higher-quality cameras, faster processors, and improved software have exceeded human abilities.
Food processors are using machine vision to inspect products by color, ripeness, and if a product is undercooked or overcooked. Image processing can even detect spoilage and sort out unsafe or undesirable products. By using cameras that capture hyperspectral images, machine vision can even see problems that the human eye can’t even detect.
Packaging is crucial to the delivery of quality food products. Defects in packaging don’t only make products unsatisfying, they can lead to degraded quality or spoilage. Machine vision can detect imperfections in packaging that lead to wasted food and recalled products. Machine vision can also detect mislabeled products to help protect consumers who are sensitive to or allergic to certain ingredients.
The Future of Machine Vision in the Food & Beverage Industry
Machine vision and smart camera technologies hold out an exciting future for food & beverage product inspection to improve efficiency. Interval cleaning doesn’t always account for numerous factors that lead to a contaminated environment. Food processors hope to soon be able to use smart cameras to indicate when equipment and facilities need to be cleaned.
By pairing machine vision with neural networks, food processors will be able to more precisely find variations in size and color among food products, resulting in less waste and spoilage. Consumers will be further protected from contaminants. Less food waste will help combat the threat of a global food shortage due to world population growth.
Need a machine vision camera for your food & beverage application? Contact the experts at Phase 1 Technology today.