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Cognex In-Sight ID readers are being used by Omega Design in a sterilisation application that utilises a serialised side label and a synchronised marking on the bottom of each container.

This approach enables the packaging-machinery manufacturer to use low-cost printed labels, while being able to identify the actual containers within bundled labels.

‘Cognex In-Sight ID readers meet the challenging requirements of the application such as being able to read the 12 unique bottom codes at a time while the bundle is held by a robot,’ said John Scholes, special projects manager for Omega Design.

Printing a digital code on a paper label has the advantage of much lower costs for both the label and the reader, high print and apply speeds, negligible failure rates and easy implementation.

Omega Design’s solution is to print a unique ID on the bottom of every empty container to complement the serialised label affixed to the side of the container.

The side label is referenced throughout the life of the container, providing the unique container ID as well as all of the relevant consumer information such as product identity, manufacturer, dosage and quantity.

The unique bottom code enables the packager to easily identify containers after they’ve been aggregated within a bundle.

When a bundle is created, the serialised side labels would be difficult to see but the unique ID on the bottom of the container is visible through the transparent shrink-wrap film.

Omega Design offers a solution for implementing this track-and-trace approach with a single unscrambler that can maintain full control over each container – its speed, height and orientation – while passing under the print head and over the verification and rejection stations.

The unscrambler accepts bulk bottles and orients them sequentially on the production line.

Omega unscramblers print and verify a unique ID on the bottom of every empty container.

This unique ID contains enough information to keep track of the container temporarily on the packaging line.

Once a larger, permanent and fully serialised label is applied to the container, a camera and serialised software-management system put the label code and bottom code in sync.

When it’s time for final packaging, the shrink bundler groups and wraps the specified number of containers into a bundle.

A robot lifts each bundle and passes it over another ID reader that identifies the containers in the bundle.

A new label is then placed on the bundle that is linked to each package in the bundle and a parent-child relationship is developed.

The two ID readers used in this application must meet demanding requirements.

The ID reader used on the unscrambler must accurately read Data Matrix codes while keeping up with a line that runs at 50 to 300 bottles per minute.

The bundler provides an even more challenging application because the ID reader must read all of the bottles in the bundle with one image.

‘We picked Cognex In-Sight 5000 series vision systems for this application because our experience shows that they provide the required accuracy for reading 2D Data Matrix codes,’ Scholes said.

In-Sight vision systems incorporate Cognex IDMax Data Matrix code-reading software, based on Patmax technology, to handle a range of degradations to the appearance of the code and provide robust and reliable decoding under all conditions.

Omega Design uses the In-Sight 5410 ID reader on the unscrambler and the higher performance In-Sight 5603 on the bundler application.

Cognex also provides a full line of fixed and handheld ID readers that can be used to verify the origin of the bottle at any point in the supply chain.

Omega Design used Cognex’s spreadsheet-based programming interface to overlay images of the 12 inspected codes, provide pass/fail indications for each code and provide a pass/fail for the entire bundle on the user interface.

The program starts when the vision system receives a digital signal from the programmable logic controller (PLC) that a bundle is in position for inspection.

The program first captures the image of the bottom of the bundle containing 12 2D codes.

Then, 12 different inspection tools are run to read the codes.

If all of the codes are read, then a digital output is sent back to the PLC.

The PLC instructs the robot to place the bundle on the pass conveyor.

The vision system uploads the container IDs to a computer, where they are managed by Track and Trace software.

If the inspection fails, the controlling PLC instructs the robot to reposition the bundle two more times and re-triggers the inspection.

If these inspections also fail, then the bundled is channelled to a reject chute.

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