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Cognex has revealed how its In-Sight Micro cameras are being used by Unilever at its facility in the Philippines to help automate the manufacturing process of its Rexona deodorant product.

Prior to implementing a machine-vision system, Unilever was engaging up to 10 operators per line to perform the following quality checks manually: presence and integrity of the cap; correct colour and date printed on the cap; and labels inspection on both sides of the product.

The production lines run at an average of 220 bottles per minute.

Despite having invested in a well-trained labour force, Unilever faced a high volume of rejects because the labels were poorly aligned or wrinkled during the application process.

Performing manual inspection on these tasks had become increasingly unrealistic.

Furthermore, manual inspection did not provide a check of the printed barcodes on the packages.

Gilbert Plumos, product line engineer for Unilever, decide to improve production performance by exploring various machine-vision systems.

He understood the need to have a vision system in place that would allow operators to be redeployed to other complex and mission-critical tasks on the production floor.

After a few rounds of collecting the inspection criteria, Plumos decided that a three-camera inspection system would best suit the plant’s needs.

A colour smart camera would be positioned overhead to check for cap presence and integrity, cap colour and date-code validation; a second colour camera would be positioned at the front of the product to check label alignment and verify the colour of the product label; and a third camera would look at the rear side of the package to perform barcode reading and verify the product code.

Plumos put Cognex to the test during the evaluation process, alongside a number of other vision system manufacturers.

He was pleased with the results that came from the In-Sight Micro cameras, especially their OCR performance and colour recognition ability.

The In-Sight Explorer software comes with an Easybuilder interface, which walks the user through a simple step-by-step process of setting up a vision application.

The greatest challenge was to select lighting that would provide uniform illumination for all the three cameras because the surface of the Rexona bottle is fairly reflective.

Furthermore, Unilever expects production yield per hour to grow with an increase of line speed in the foreseeable future.

Lighting was an important element.

Inzpect Technologies built custom lighting and a graphical user interface for Unilever to allow the operator to manage and view the images of all three cameras simultaneously with additional onscreen buttons to control other electrical and mechanical components within the vision module.

This was done seamlessly because the In-Sight product offers a software development kit, allowing users to create customisable, standalone user interfaces tailored to specific application needs.

After the successful implementation of the first vision system providing a fully automated manufacturing line, Plumos is now replicating this success to two other lines.

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