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IX-PD Series: Elevating quality control

The IX-PD X-ray machine boasts an advanced sensor and refined image processing.

Ishida and Heat and Control have been close business partners since the 1970’s, integrating their products to provide leading services in the food manufacturing and packaging industry.

While Heat and Control specialise in a wide range of food processing solutions, Ishida – a leader in food packaging solutions – complements their offering. This collaboration fortifies the IX-PD Series as a seamless extension of Heat and Control’s processing equipment.

“The two companies complement each other by the fact that Heat and Control can design and supply processing equipment which results in products that Ishida’s equipment can weigh and pack, along with inspecting. This enables us to be a true supplier of a turnkey solution,” said business team manager for packaging and inspection systems at Heat and Control,
Robert Marguccio.

What can the IX-PD Series do?

Leveraging photon counting dual energy technology, the IX-PD X-ray machine boasts an advanced sensor and refined image processing. Its hallmark lies in the unparalleled sensitivity and precision it offers in identifying low-density and minute foreign objects.

Its distinguishing feature lies in its ability to differentiate between product and foreign materials with great accuracy, significantly minimising false detection rates.

X-ray inspection identifies material inconsistencies within product packaging or a continuous flow of items passing a specific point. 

It detects various foreign objects like bone, stone, glass, metals (iron, steel, stainless steel, aluminium), and several high density plastics (Nylon, PVC, Teflon). 

The XP-PD system can detect varying particle sizes depending on the material and system sensitivity.

Utilising Ishida’s patented Genetic Algorithm (GA) image processing, this technology enhances detection sensitivity swiftly and efficiently for
any product. 

Beyond foreign bodies, the XP-PD system can highlight voids, broken, or missing product portions, while ultimately expanding quality
control capabilities. 

Unlike metal detectors, these systems identify inconsistencies in products packed in cans or metallised film.

Moreover, X-ray inspection is also able to be used to measure and estimate piece weight.  

How it works 

“The PD system is now photon counting, whereas traditional x-rays look at wavelength absorption,”
said Marguccio.

In photon counting, a detector records each photon that strikes an object, allowing for precise determination of the number of photons at different energy levels. 

This method provides enhanced sensitivity and accuracy in detecting X-rays, especially at lower radiation doses, and enables better differentiation between different energy levels or types of photons.

“An energy source is passed through the product. The software then – based on the darkness of the contaminant in relation to the darkness of the product-pings contaminants based on the grayscale,” explained Marguccio.

“The darkness and the algorithms basically determine how big or small, how clear or how well focused they are.”

Conversely, voids and fissures show up as lighter areas due to
increased penetration. 

Why is quality control essential?

The presence of foreign objects in food products can trigger various consumer reactions, from mild dissatisfaction and reduced trust in the product to potential injuries like broken teeth or serious health risks. 

Minor incidents often result in complaints, while more severe cases may lead to legal actions, impacting not only the retail outlet or manufacturer but any link in the supply chain. 

Such incidents can severely tarnish reputations and brand names, culminating in substantial financial losses, sometimes reaching millions. 

“I remember back in the early 90s, when Heat and Control first started working with X-rays, a client had a legal case in the States where a manufacturer of pies was taken to court and sued by the consumer on the basis that the company had not implemented the best available technology that potentially could have captured the contaminant,” said Marguccio. 

“A customer had found a piece of wire. 

“The company claimed that since they had metal detection, they believed that they had implemented enough due diligence to cover themselves, however this technology could not find the wire based on its orientation and size, relative to the metal detector aperture,” Marguccio said.

“But the court found that the company had not carried out proper due diligence, and put the maximum safety in, because they potentially would have found this size contaminant, in any orientation using X-ray.”

Even if retailers intercept contaminated items before they reach consumers, suppliers bear the cost of returned products, facing potential fines, and risking contract termination or a damaged relationship with the retailer.

The best risk management and marketing tool

Having a strong brand image is essential for any food manufacturer or processor for several reasons.

Customer perception shapes how customers view a company. A positive brand image creates trust and loyalty, influencing consumer decisions and their willingness to engage with a brand.

A well-crafted brand image enhances the perceived value of products or services. People are often willing to pay more for brands they trust and perceive as high-quality.

But product contamination can ultimately tarnish any well-crafted brand image, resulting in a loss in customer trust.

“Businesses can destroy their brand very quickly, depending on a consumer complaint, or if it gets into the media or social media,” said Marguccio.

“Today, complaints can be more far widely highlighted to the consumer compared to the past. In the past, recalls  were simply advertised just in the newspaper. Today, social media,  TV and various different social outlets, very quickly reach a far larger audience, so it’s critical that your reputation
is maintained.”

Marguccio  explains that prevention is always the best way to avoid product contamination, but prevention is not always possible. For many of Heat and Controls customers, the IX-PD acts as a type of insurance policy. 

“Manufacturers already do their best to have the product process as well encapsulated as possible, so that nothing can potentially contaminate the product. However, you still have machinery to process a product, and then pack it, you will always have the risk of potential contamination, as things can still be missed and occur,” he said.

“Manufacturers can try to prevent foreign bodies as much as possible, but for peace of mind and brand protection, they need an insurance policy, X-ray when needed can give them this assurance and protection. ”

Subsequently, using X-ray systems in food production can act as a marketing tool. It can signify that any manufacturer using X-ray technology is doing their due diligence and doing their best to ensure customer satisfaction. 

Running costs

The IX-PD system boasts economical running costs, making it a prudent investment for businesses in the food industry.

X-ray tubes, generators and line sensors constitute primary wear components in the system, that must be periodically checked to maintain system performance.  

“The beauty of the Ishida range of X-ray models is that they have been extremely reliable systems. Normally an X-ray tube has a warranty period of 10,000 running hours, however, we have X-ray tubes in the field that have been running for 40,000 hours, while still exhibiting clear images. One step further is now the IX-PD model that will carry a 5 year warranty period on the units line sensor,”
explained Marguccio. 

The reason that Heat and Control can offer this exceptional warranty period on the line sensor is because IX-PD counts photons rather than trying to look at the wavelength absorption, this means that there is less deterioration of the line sensor. 

Finding the right customer

Heat and Control believes in providing customers with solutions rather than attempting to sell them something that may not meet their needs, or offer
them benefits. 

Prior to offering or supplying an X-ray system, Heat and Control always prefers to conduct X-ray product testing using the customers product samples. 

“I always have stock of units and we prefer to run tests, then write a report, and tell the customer exactly what they can and can’t find,” said Marguccio.

Heat and Control  also prefers to make it very clear with all of their customers as to what the sensitivity against the probability of detection will be. 

A customer may want to find something to a certain size, however, this may be influenced by the product variation, making it impossible to find the foreign body 100 per cent of the time.  

If the operator tries to set it too finely, it is more possible to have a false reject due to product variation.

Marguccio explained, “we try to find 100 per cent probability with a realistic sensitivity level.”

“We aim to give customers the full picture of what they’re getting into. When purchasing an X-ray machine, we make sure our customers have a clear understanding of what they can and cannot detect.”  

See the Ishida IX-PD X-ray system at the APPEX trade show at stand C160.

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