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Guardian MINI Inspection Solution

The Guardian MINI is one of PC Industries’ most versatile inspection solutions. This customizable system brings a wide range of capabilities perfect for special applications within the labeling, pharmaceutical, converting, and packaging industries.

Customers have chosen the MINI for a wide variety of applications since its introduction to the PC Industries line of products in the summer of 2011. Click here to read about some of these unique applications, and to see how the Guardian MINI could be the inspection solution you’re looking for.

Application 1: Tabletop Rewinder

Tabletop rewinders are a popular choice for companies looking for fast, efficient, and easy-to-use rewind solutions. They offer a smaller footprint, quicker setup time, and lower cost than traditional rewinders. The Guardian MINI can be easily integrated onto any new or existing tabletop rewinder. It addresses the complications that have proven to be obstacles for other inspection systems, including issues with tension.

The challenge of uneven web tension

Tabletop rewinders pose a unique set of challenges for inspection due uneven tension across the roll. Uneven tension on the rewinder can cause the web to flutter, making it difficult to capture a clear image of the web with a standard inspection system.

Specialized cameras and lighting reduce the effects of web flutter

Several key features make the Guardian MINI Inspection System ideal for tabletop rewinder applications:

  • The camera can be easily mounted in a configuration customized to the application
  • The most effective combination of camera resolution and field of view (FOV) can be chosen based on applications, providing the best image quality at the best possible price
  • Specialized cameras and LED lighting compensate for web-flutter, capturing clean, accurate images from the web that would be impossible on a standard cameras.

PC Industries tabletop installations have successful applications for the MINI. These installations were performed making only minor alterations to the tabletop rewinder itself, and helped eliminate the need to calibrate the system to achieve 100% inspection, or the expense of purchasing a horizontal or vertical rewinder.

PC Industries provides full integration to control the deceleration and stop functions and additional idler rollers as required.

Tabletop Rewinder, Sekisui
Application 2: Focused Areas of Interest

Not all printers or applications require 100% inspection of their entire web or sheet. The Guardian MINI provides an economical solution for 100% inspection of a smaller area of interest on a wider web or sheet.

Typical application: The product contains variable data or other features in smaller areas of interest that need to be inspected. The accuracy of this print must be checked and logged.

While 100% inspection is a typical requirement in packaging and pharmaceutical applications, not every application requires the entire web or sheet be inspected. In fact, attempting to inspect an entire web or sheet with only small areas of critical print can be a waste of both time and money.  100% inspection for the entire web or sheet will require more expensive cameras, more powerful computers, and may need to run at slower speeds.

Focuses Area of InspectionFocused areas of interest provide inspection only where needed, and PDF reports are generated, detailing defects.

Guardian MINI focused-area installations have been done using many FOV sizes, which are determined by application requirements. Higher speeds can be achieved with focused areas of inspection while maintaining 100% inspection within the FOV. This allows the web faster while still providing true 100% inspection for the area of interest. Additionally, on installations with mapping and enhanced PDF reporting capabilities, printers benefit from a complete, secure audit trail that details any discrepancy between printed and master image.

 

Application 3: Packaging

Packaging poses a large array of challenges when it comes to inspection. Because these special applications are so wide and varied, a versatile system is required to successfully inspect in this very demanding industry. The Guardian MINI is a highly adaptable system that is built to address typical issues that arise within the packaging industry

The substrate is a special material that has proven to be a problem to inspect

Materials used in the packaging industry are varied, and pose many unique challenges. Transparent films, foil, and plastic that stretches are just a few of the stumbling blocks that prevent some 100% inspection systems from doing their job. Higher resolutions cameras and specialized lighting are just a few of the tools to provide the required results

Most recently, the Guardian MINI was used to provide 100% inspection for holographic features on a film substrate. This combination proved to be a difficult but not insurmountable challenge. With properly calibrated lighting and cameras, PC Industries was able to provide the quality control that the customer required.  Additionally, the MINI’s ability to perform dimensional measurement and gauging minimized issues caused by the substrate stretching.

The Guardian MINI is one of PC Industries’ most versatile solutions. It is a modular inspection system that can be customized to the needs of each application, making it perfect for the applications described above, as well as a wide range of other applications in the pharmaceutical, packaging, label printing, converting, personal hygiene, healthcare, consumer electronics, and medical device industries.

Capabilities

  • 100% Print quality inspection and defect detection
  • 1D and 2D bar code decoding and ANSI/ISO grading
  • Optical character recognition and verification
  • Sequential number verification
  • Dimensional measurement and gauging
  • PDF Reporting
  • 21 CFR Part 11 Compliant reporting and audit trail
  • Multiple FOV sizes are available to inspect different sized areas of interest
  •  Several cameras and camera resolutions are available to meet different defect size requirements

 

Applications

  • Label presence
  • Label flagging
  • Compare bar code to human readable data
  • Bottle fill level
  • Cap presence/skew
  • Date/time stamp
  • Safety seal inspection
  • Crimp inspection
  • Color matching
  • Case fill and package completeness
  • Lot tracking and verification
  • Insert/outsert/label/box matching


The Forward Looking Impact of your Inspection System Purchase

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When making a final decision on an inspection system purchase, it’s important to look at how the long-term ownership of the system will affect your bottom line. Whether the price seems prohibitive or easily within your budget, a system that pays for itself in a reasonable amount of time is always a wise investment.

This month, we’ll discuss some of the long-term effects of the purchase, installation, and use of an inspection system. This will help narrow down your choices by allowing you to find a system that will not only fit within your budget, but your business goals.

ROI

When considering what you can afford in an inspection system, price doesn’t tell the whole story. As with any purchase, you want to make sure that you’ll get great value during the life of the system.
Inspection systems can save money in a variety of ways, so it’s vital to consider which are important to your company.

The following are some of the ways an inspection system can help improve your bottom line:

Waste Reduction

Inspection systems help an operator recognize when something is going wrong with a run. Process errors like mis-registration can ruin an entire run. Even momentary upsets can cause the product to be rejected by a customer. With an inspection system, these issues can be discovered and corrected during the run.

Save Time

An inspection system that produces a complete roll map and report of defects can save press and rewinder operators a lot of time. By providing a map to each defect position within the job, corrections can be made quickly, often in real-time. A defect roll map that can be reviewed while the press is running can save time at the rewinder later.

Eliminate Returns/Rejections

Without an inspection system, it is nearly impossible to know whether or not you’re shipping good product. By warning the operator when out-of-spec product is being printed, defective product can be dealt with long before the customer sees it. Some inspection systems also offer auditing capabilities, which record defect locations and operator action. This allows you to guarantee quality to your customers.

Improve Operator Efficiency

It’s a fact- operators blink, and cameras don’t. A true 100% Print Defect Detection System provides complete inspection and reporting, unlike a Web Viewer or a Sampling Inspection System. When using a 100% inspection system, the operator is alerted when defects are being detected. This allows the operator to focus more of their time monitoring other press functions.

Preventative Measures

Inspection systems not only help you produce defect free product, they can also alert you to press issues before they become critical. There are many things that may cause a run to trend out of registration. This may cause subtle changes that the unaided eye can’t recognize. An inspection system can highlight these errors, allowing detection of possible process issues to be diagnosed before critical failure occurs. This may not be the intended function of the inspection, but it’s often an unexpected benefit.

Trade-in Values

Technology advances rapidly, and while this doesn’t affect the functionality of an inspection system, you may want to make sure you can keep your system cutting edge. Some companies have trade in policies, allowing you to trade in systems for newer or upgraded versions. When researching providers, be sure you understand their trade in policy, when available, if you plan on upgrading.

Customer Satisfaction

Beyond the monetary benefits of a system, you’re also buying peace of mind for you and your customers. With an inspection system, you prove to your customer that quality is your #1 priority. It gives you the ability to provide an achievable standard with known specifications.



Product and Specification Guarantees

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Product and Specification Guarantees

While both Product and Specification guarantees are important to consider when purchasing an inspection system, these features can easily be overlooked. With the overwhelming amount of information to consider, including specifications and customer service, guarantees can be the last thing on your mind.

On the next few pages, we’ll share with you why these guarantees are a critical factor to consider, and what you should expect from them.

Product Guarantee

A product guarantee is one of the most fundamental ways to make sure your investment is protected.  It helps ensure that the product lifetime will meet your expectations by offering repair solutions should problems arise. Each company that offers a product guarantee has their own terms for what is covered, so it’s important to make sure each company’s coverage is clear.

Manufacturer’s Defects:

Manufacturer’s defects are introduced during the manufacturing process. Most guarantees or warranties cover these kinds of defects.

Wear and Tear:

Products undergo wear and tear as a part of the normal day-to-day operation. While this is largely unavoidable, it shouldn’t compromise the functionality of the system for an extended period of time after installation, at earliest.

Parts and Factory Labor:

Typically, manufacturers will service their systems once returned to their factory. For covered systems, parts and labor costs are included under the warranty. Additionally, companies often offer on-site service calls for an extra cost. It’s important to know how long a manufacturer will be able to provide parts for your system. Look for a company that has a service track record of 10 years or longer.

Extendibility:

Typically, a product guarantee will cover a product for 1-2 years. Many companies offer you the ability to extend or expand this coverage for an additional cost.

Service Arrangements:

If the time does come for repairs, where will service be done? The most typical arrangement is to remove the system from the press and send it to the factory for repairs. Many companies also offer service arrangements as a part of their purchase agreements, where on-site service time can be purchased.

Specification Guarantee:

A specification guarantee assures that the system will perform to the specifications outlined in the purchase agreement. This can also be called a performance or satisfaction guarantee. Below are a few of the most important specifications that should be covered under any specification guarantee

Minimum Defect Size:

The smallest defect that the system will be able to detect. This is a function of the resolution of the camera and field of view. When comparing minimum defect size, be sure to note how it is expressed. Often, it is indicated by area (mm2), but this can be misleading. For example, a .0016mm2 defect can have measurements of .04mm x .04mm or .02mm x .08mm (among others), giving two very different minimum measurements.  To avoid confusion, both height and width should be stated (for example: .04mm x .04mm).

Field of View: 

This measurement is typically expressed in inches or millimeters, and indicates the physical size of the area being scanned by the camera. Example: 6” x 4.5” (150mm x 115mm)

Minimum/Maximum Speed: 

Systems can have speed restrictions due to many factors, including processing power of the computer, software limitations, and hardware limitations. Ideally, a system should be able to inspect from 0 to full press speeds, even during transitions, but not all systems can.

For more information on these specifications, see January’s “Inspection System Specifications Explained.”

A Specification Guarantee will be good for a given amount of time from installation. If the company you’re considering doesn’t offer a specification guarantee, be sure to consider what options you will have if the system doesn’t perform like you need. There can be a lot of downtime associated with the exchange or return of a product, and that translates to a loss of profit. A specification guarantee provides you with accurate performance information for the system you are purchasing, so you can make your decision with peace of mind.



Ease of Use, Customer Service and Support

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In finding the perfect inspection system to meet your needs, you may focus on specifications, numbers, or statistics, but systems from several companies may qualify for your application. During the average lifespan of a 100% inspection system, it’s likely that you’ll need to interface with your supplier. It’s very important to determine whether or not the company will provide service, support, and upgrades over the life of the system.

What are the supplier’s policies on internet, phone, and email support, trade-ins and upgrades, and most importantly, do they provide a written money back guarantee of performance?

On the following pages, we’ve put together a guide to helping you pick the right supplier.

Ease of Use

A good indicator that a company is customer-focused is the product itself. In the case of inspection systems, it can be seen in the design and the user experience.

Installation

Who will be installing the system, how in-depth is the installation, and how long will it take?

There’s simply no getting around the installation of your new system on the press or rewinder, so it’s important to know what will be required. For engineered or custom-installed systems, much of the installation can or will be handled by the manufacturer’s factory engineers. Proper installation should include hardware designed to fit your press or rewinder. The camera and hood arrangement should not extend beyond the frame or interfere with the operator. If you are installing your own system, it’s important to know how difficult the installation will be. Be sure to ask questions about how the product may be shipped, installation documentation, additional materials such as brackets, stands and rolls, that will be needed, and expected time to install. The prospective supplier should be happy to answer any of these questions for you.

Continuing Training

How long will it take your operators to learn the system?

Any new system is going to have an associated learning curve. Your supplier should be available during this time to ease the curve, getting you up and running quicker. It’s important to determine if their available training venues will be a good fit for your company. Many companies will spend face-time with operators, walking them through using the system step by step. Often, training is accompanied by documentation: guides, user manuals, and quick reference sheets. This kind of material should be readily available long after training is complete.

Additionally, many companies offer remote training and support for their systems. This can be done through email, over the phone, and through the use of desktop sharing applications. Be sure to discuss each of the options with your supplier to determine which will work best for you.

User Interface

Is the system easy to understand, and was it designed for someone with your needs?

A more manageable learning curve can be facilitated though a well thought out user interface for the software. Intuitive control, easy access to the most often used functions, and self-explanatory button names are a few of the features to look for Request either a webinar or demo of the system with your sample rolls. This will give you the best feel for whether or not the system will truly fit what you need instead of what the supplier thinks you need.

Make Ready

How long does it take to make ready, what are the steps involved, and can you save each setup for later recall?

This is largely a function of the user interface, but is affected by many other factors as well. Make ready is the amount of time it takes for the setup of a project- everything up to the first label, carton, or fold. Many of the factors that affect this are not related to an inspection system, but it’s important to consider those that are. The greatest use of time setting up some systems is the time required to train a master for comparison. Complicated labels can contain many points of inspection, and can be tedious to train on an improperly designed system. For this reason, it’s again important to request a demonstration of the software – preferably using a typical sample of your own product. To help decrease setup time for repeat jobs, you should be able to save your trained project for future use.

Customer Service & Support

Customer service starts before the system is installed, and extends for the life of the product. You can learn a lot about the providing company from just your first interactions.

Response Time

How long does it take the company to answer your questions, respond to support calls, or schedule a service call?

In some situations, a malfunctioning inspection system can cripple production for hours or even days, and that translates to money lost. A responsive supplier can reduce your downtime if there is a problem, and can help prevent future problems by responding proactively to your questions or concerns. If the supplier is in your geographical area, be sure to get an idea of how they run service calls- how far out available appointments are, how much a visit from a technician or engineer may cost, and how long typical calls take. If the supplier is outside your region, this by no means indicates they cannot make service calls, but there may be more efficient options, such as telephone or remote support. If a company is reluctant or takes a long time to answer these questions, consider what that may indicate about their response time once they’ve already sold you a system.

Support

How long will the supplier support the proposed system, and what do you do if your system is no longer supported?

Each manufacturer has an expected support life for their products. As new technologies emerge, support for older technology can easily fall to the increasing demand those new technologies drive. Some companies will retire systems at that point, no longer providing parts, labor, or any kind of support at all. After this point, many problems with the system can permanently cripple it, leaving you without inspection. It is important to make sure your supplier will support your system through the lifetime of your product so you don’t end up with money lost through downtime and the expense of a new system. The supplier can give you information on their support policies, but you can also request contact information of their other customers. It’s often a good idea to speak with people who have had long-term experience with your supplier, as they can provide a perspective closer to your own.

Product Knowledge

How knowledgeable is the staff about the product they sell?

It may be difficult for you to tell how knowledgeable your supplier’s staff is about their products unless you have at least a basic understanding of inspection systems in general. Last month, we offered a quick guide to some of the more critical specifications you will encounter when researching a system. You can find it here. Your supplier should be receptive to any questions you have about their system- after all, it’s in their best interest to make sure you understand and are happy with your system. Keep in mind that not every person at the supplier’s company will know everything about every product, but they should be able to provide the answers you need in a reasonable amount of time.

Customer Knowledge

How well does the supplier understand your industry and your needs?

Nobody knows your business better than you do, so it’s vital that your supplier be willing to listen to you needs, learn about your business, and present the most appropriate solution for your unique situation. Industry knowledge is also a must. A supplier should have a good understanding of the most current technology available. This is not limited to the technology of vision equipment, but should include the methods, materials, and machinery that other companies in your industry use. These things together will help them find the best fit for your company’s investment.

Courtesy

Does the supplier seem genuinely interested in helping your business- not just getting your business?

Every company has a personality, and just like when hiring employees, it’s important that the supplier’s personality fits with your business. Plain and simple, with an investment like an inspection system, your life will be easier if you can easily communicate with your supplier. This isn’t just gauged by how responsive they are, but how they treat you and how willing they are to understand your needs. Look for a common level of respect from your supplier; you shouldn’t feel they’re just trying to add another sale to the ledger.



Inspection System Specifications Explained

Evaluating inspection systems can be a difficult task whether you’re purchasing your first or fifth. This month we’ll break down some of the key specifications of inspection systems so you will know what to look for based on your needs. Before going over some of the basic specifications you’ll usually see when shopping for an inspection system, here’s a quick run-down on how most inspection systems work.

Inspection Systems typically consist of a camera and lighting assembly, timing circutry, and a computer with user interface. To control lighting, the inspection camera and lighting are contained within a single case that is installed on the press, rewinder or other machine. The light provides bright, true color light that allows the camera to capture the most accurate image possible from the web or substrate. Once that image is captured, it is sent to the inspection software for processing. From here, many things can happen depending on the inspection systems capabilities and the specific needs of the job. For the most common type of inspection, the image is compared to the master. If there are defects, they can be marked, the defective image can be stored, and the operator can be alerted. This can be combined with other capabilities such as bar code verification, sequential data verification, dimensional gauging, braille inspection, and more.

Here, we will define some of the most common technical specifications and features of inspection systems.

Strobes and Types of Lighting

LED:LED lighting is more expensive than Xenon bulbs, but they last longer (8 to 10 years). LED lights provide consistent lighting over the entire life of the bulb.

Xenon:Xenon bulbs have a lower start-up cost than LED bulbs, but also have a shorter life (6 months – 1 year). Light quality can degrade over time, unlike LED lighting, and can require re-calibration.

PC Industries offers the best quality lighting based on each application’s requirements.

Camera and Capture Style

Area Scan:Area scan cameras capture rectangular images, similar to how the common point-and-shoot cameras work.

  • Larger footprint (camera box size)
  • Used for smaller fields of view
  • Lower resolution
  • Slower speeds
  • Can be positioned to focus only on areas of interest

Line Scan:Line scan work similar to a flat-bed scanner. The cameras take continuous, one pixel captures of the entire web width under consistent lighting.

  • Smaller footprint (camera box size)
  • Larger fields of view
  • Long repeat lengths
  • High resolution
  • Higher Speed

PC Industries offers a wide variety of camera configurations that can be configured to the ideal settings for each installation. Camera specification and performance is detailed in each quote provided by PC Industries.

Cameras and Image Quality

Resolution:How many pixels wide by how many pixels tall the captured image is. A higher resolution camera can capture an image in more detail to detect smaller defects.

Field of View:Field of View: The Field of View is the physical dimensions that a camera can capture. It is usually indicated as width x height, and is given in inches or millimeters. The field of view needed for an inspection application can be based off the area of interest or the width of the substrate being inspected.

Minimum Defect Size:The minimum defect size that an inspection system can detect is determined by the field of view and the resolution. A larger resolution or smaller field of view means that a smaller defect can be detected.

PC Industries offers a wide variety of camera configurations that can be configured to the ideal settings for each installation. Camera specification and performance is detailed in each quote provided by PC Industries.

Processing

Variable Data Inspection:For applications with sequential numbers, such as serial numbers and bar codes, variable data inspection allows the system to read and verify the values of these numbers. This capability includes:
OCR: Optical data recognition- ecognizes random characters
OCV: Optical character verification- Verifies characters against expected data.

PC Industries offers variable data inspection and verification. It can verify sequential, as well as variable, which compares the sample to a list of acceptable values. The operator is alerted if the system finds missing or incorrect characters, or if they are below a given quality threshold.

Dimensional Gauging: This feature is used to track the relationship between features on the printed sample.

PC Industries offers dimensional gauging that can be set to track any print or die feature on a run.

Bar Code Inspection: There are several different levels of bar code inspection available. First, bar code image is compared to the master image to check for defects. Second is bar code decoding, where the system verifies that the bar code can be read as well as make sure that it matches the master. Finally, bar code grading scores the quality of the bar code to ANSI/ISO standards.

PC Industries offers system configurations that can inspect to any of these levels.

Alerts: Inspection systems are capable of informing the operator when there is a defect, or when a job begins to run out of spec. There are several interfaces for these alerts. The inspection system can sound a horn, activate a light, or even stop a rewinder or machine when a defect is detected.

PC Industries offers programmable outputs so these alerts can be adjusted to your needs.

Post-Comparison and Defect Logging: Another important aspect to consider is what the system does with a defective image once a defect has been detected. One option is to stop the press or rewinder so the defect can be corrected or removed. Another option is to store the location of a defect for later recall on an audit rewinder, allowing the press to run continuously.

PC Industries systems can start inspecting from zero speed, and offer many options for handling defects. 

Defect Roll Mapping records the position and image for all defects found during inspection. This data of defect images and locations can then be accessed by a secondary interface on a rewinder to automatically queue up these defects for correction.

Audit Trail: For pharmaceutical applications and others that have stricter security requirements, an audit trail is required to help reduce company liability. The audit trail comes in many forms, but is typically in FDA 21 CFR Part 11 compliance, which requires a secure login.

PC Industries’ systems can produce a secure report for each run, which includes defect images, project settings, and a log of operator action. Secure accounts can also be set up with operator and administrator level access.

Defect Flagging: This option marks the web or substrate to highlight the location of a defect.

PC Industries offers a number of automatic flagging or labeling methods, including the FlagRM.



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