Unwrapped products, such as frozen meals in foil trays, cannot pass through the heavy lead or no-lead shielding curtains traditionally incorporated into x-ray system due to hygiene concerns.
Lightweight products such as metallised snack bags could also benefit from the development - the Thermo Scientific EZx 465 Touchless X-ray system - as previous systems have experienced jamming and resulting production line downtime.
Thermo Fisher Scientific metal detection and x-ray inspection lead product manager Bob Ries told FoodProductionDaily.com that the firm hope to offer the industry an alternative to metal detection through the development.
“The Thermo Fisher EZx Touchless was developed specifically to handle unwrapped products as explained above. Customers inspecting these products will not allow shielding curtain to come in contact with the food product due to sanitary and appearance/quality reasons,” said Ries.
“This innovation opens the door to new applications not previously possible due to sanitary concerns about the shielding curtains touching uncovered or unwrapped products. It also can eliminate the all too common problem of lightweight products being stopped or jamming in an x-ray system because they cannot pass through heavy radiation blocking curtains,” said Ries.
The development eliminates the need for shielding curtains by conveying the product through the inspection chamber via a series of small slopes and reduced height openings – still ensuring that the containment of x-ray scatter.
“In a typical flat conveyor system they will be emitted from the entrance and exit to the machine if shielding curtains are not used. Thermo Fisher Scientific designed the Touchless system by eliminating the straight line to the outside world for scattered x-ray and by taking advantage of that fact that x-ray power decreases every time it bounces off a surface.”
Metal detection alternative
The product, which can detect contaminants including glass, stones, bones and hard plastics, can be incorporated into pre-existing production lines, added Ries. The company believe that the development could offer the industry a more advanced alternative to metal detection systems
“We are the first to offer a solution like this at the x-ray entry level. This is important because more and more metal detector users are looking for low cost ways to step up to x-ray,” he said.
“The EZx Touchless is a complete conveyorised system and can be incorporated into just about any production line if there is space. No modifications are required typically.”
“Many customers looking for better contaminant detection will simply remove a metal detector conveyor system and replace it with an x-ray system. The cost of an entry level x-ray machine is approximately 2-3 times that of a metal detection system, however, the benefits in terms of food safety make the investment decision compelling,” Ries added.