Insights from industry

The Key Role of 3D Smart Sensor Technology in the Food Industry

insights from industryLucien VleugelsTerritory ManagerLMI Technologies Inc.
In this interview, Lucien Vleugels discusses the use of 3D smart sensors in the food industry. Lucien gives insight into LMI's 3D smart sensors and how they can optimise food inspection by automating processes, enhancing quality control, and improving cost-effectiveness and safety.

How do LMI's 3D smart sensors automate the inspection process in the food industry?

LMI 3D smart sensors help optimize production in the food industry by reducing waste and minimizing the energy required to produce quality food products.  Also, because these are “smart” sensors, less equipment is required, meaning you don’t have to use a computer or external controllers. Smart design results in less total cost of ownership and less power to run your application.

How do LMI's 3D smart sensors adapt to different types of food products and processing conditions?

LMI’s sensors are designed to be very flexible for scanning products of any shape and size. With onboard tools for segmenting products in our 3D data, we can define values like area, volume, length, width, and orientation, without having to do any programming on each different product type.

What are the advantages of using LMI's non-contact inspection methods over traditional quality control techniques?

By using a non-contact measurement system like an LMI smart sensor you will never have to touch your products on the line in order to ensure their quality. This is a real advantage when the project is a fluid like hot chocolate, or meat products that you are prohibited from making contact with due to health and safety reasons (i.e., to avoid contamination).

In such cases, non-contact measurement with a vision sensor is an ideal solution for automated optimization and quality control. These devices are very precise and high speed, you get high quality and reliable 2D/3D data at production speed, without making any contact with the target.

How does the integration of 2D and 3D image analysis enhance quality control in food processing?

With 2D intensity we can see cracks and other defects that are difficult to see in 3D, so the combination of 2D (contrast) with 3D (height) images provides us with a robust dataset for complete surface analysis. LMI’s sensors come with onboard software and built-in measurement tools so you can automate the full process using 1 single sensor, with no third party software required.

How do LMI's sensors perform in extreme environmental conditions, such as cold temperatures in frozen food processing?

LMI sensors are designed to operate between 0 and 50°C temperature. That means the performance of the sensor will be accurate and reliable within this specified temperature range. In addition, LMI smart sensors are IP67-rated (waterproof) so they can deliver accurate measurement even in a high-humidity or splash-risk environment.

How has the adoption of 3D smart sensors impacted the cost-effectiveness of food production operations?

The main reason to integrate 3D smart sensors into your food processing and production lines is to automate the inspection process and control food quality more tightly. When you control quality through automation you maximize the number of food items that meet specification, generate less waste, optimize your raw materials, increase safety, reduce manual error, and consume less energy because you don’t have to rerun your production cycles in order to reproduce defective products.

A recent change in the manufacturing environment illustrates the benefits of automation through 3D scanning very well. During COVID, many food companies were forced to implement restrictions on employees standing side-by-side on production lines that rely on manual sorting and visual inspection.

In such cases, once COVID hit, the production process was not able to perform to standard because manufacturers didn’t have enough space to expand their production conveyors to allow people to stand the required 1.5 meters apart. This factor along with the increasing difficulty in finding highly qualified inspection personnel led to many food companies turning to automation of their production processes with 3D sensor technology.

How has the feedback from the food processing industry shaped the development of new features or products at LMI?

The feedback that we receive from customers is often about how easy and simple it is to integrate LMI smart sensors into their food processing applications, not only when we are talking about a single sensor, but also multi sensor setups, for example 4 synchronized sensors mounted side-by-side to achieve a 4 meter field of view for wider conveyor applications.

In addition, when we need occlusionless scanning of an object, we can overlap our sensors by 50% and achieve scan rates up 3 kHz and still achieve full coverage and real-time measurement and inspection results of parts traveling on a 3 meter-wide nonstop conveyor.

We also get a lot of positive feedback from customers that they’ve never experienced faster, simpler, or easier integration of an embedded device into their existing system than with LMI GoMax, which is used for data processing acceleration when the calculations are increasingly complex.

Can you detail a case study where integrating LMI's 3D smart sensor technology led to a significant improvement in food quality or production efficiency?

All of our projects provide significant improvements to the customer’s food production systems and processes. As an example, we had a customer measuring cookies on a 2.5-meter-wide conveyor, no occlusions, where we were merging the data from eight networked sensors and overlap-correcting for six degrees of freedom (6DoF), while still scanning at 3 kHz nonstop.

This is a level of performance that we got a lot of positive feedback on, and it's very doubtful any other competitor can achieve this. As a result this system delivered precise quality control, optimization of raw materials, and flow control for correct dough volume and thickness.

About Lucien Vleugels 

Lucien has a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science and over 25 years experience in industrial automation and non-contact laser sensors. In 1995, Lucien joined LMI Technologies, a company focused on 3D scanning and inspection systems, and has held various positions within R&D. 

For the past 10 years, he has been a Territory Manager responsible for the UK and Benelux markets. With his wide experience in the 3D industries his focus is to drive profitability, reduce time to market and open up new possibilities for his customers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

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Comments

  1. ABDUL AHAD ABDUL AHAD Islamic Republic of Pakistan says:

    This is a fantastic and informative interview, Lucien! It sheds light on the impressive capabilities of LMI's 3D smart sensors in revolutionizing food production.

    I found the part about non-contact inspection particularly insightful. The ability to ensure quality control hygienically and efficiently, especially for delicate or temperature-sensitive products, is a game-changer.

    The case study with eight networked sensors is truly remarkable. It showcases the potential for LMI technology to achieve unmatched precision and optimization in large-scale operations.

    Thank you for sharing your expertise, Lucien. This article is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the future of food processing!"

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoSensors.com.

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