Rofin-Baasel UK, Universal Converting Equipment and Olmec-UK have been shortlisted for the Partnership Award by the PPMA Group in their prestigious annual Industry awards which recognise the best practices in the Packaging and Process Industries. The 3 companies have worked together to achieve high speed and real-time diameter measurement of micro perforated holes in flexible packaging film which are laser drilled by ROFIN lasers for the packaging of fresh foods. The winners of the PPMA Partnership Award, together with the winners of other categories, will be announced at the PPMA show on 30 September 2014.
Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) allows the shelf-life of fruit and vegetables to be significantly increased by allowing gas interchange to extend the time produce stays fresh when being transported or displayed on shelves in the supermarket. The technique is achieved by use of laser drilled holes usually between 80 and 150 microns in diameter. Rofin-Baasel UK have installed numerous systems of this type into the UK market since 2001.
Since the small holes required for the MAP process are difficult to see and measure, and the film into which they are drilled is moving at high speed (sometimes over 350 m/min), in the past it has only been possible to monitor the quality of the holes after drilling the film and by sampling some holes to estimate the average diameter. Customer demand created a need for a real time quality control method to allow measurement of 100% of holes together with statistical analysis and the ability to provide alarms and warnings if hole diameters strayed outside the set tolerance limits.
Rofin-Baasel UK discussed the requirements with Universal Converting Equipment (UCE), a leading manufacturer of slitters and rewinders for the packaging industry, who were experienced with integration of ROFIN laser systems for packaging, and had experience of camera integration. UCE involved a third partner, Olmec-UK, a specialist in high performance vision systems for industrial applications. Olmec-UK provided the vision hardware and software and worked alongside UCE and Rofin-Baasel UK to supply an integrated system to the specification required by ROFIN’s customers.
The solution has since been further developed and is now offered to the market as VisionPerfoControl, with several successful installations allowing multiple lanes of perforations to be monitored in real time. The photo below shows one system implemented on a customer machine which is capable of laser drilling 6 rows of holes at high speed simultaneously. This allows the end-user to produce statistical data logging to provide verification and traceability for all the film supplied to end-users.