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Sabine Terrasi


100% Inspection Using Camera-Based Cap Control With Artificial Intelligence

APREX inspection system checks plastic bottle caps for defects running at high speed on a production line

Published: Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - 12:01

Strong price pressure combined with high-quality requirements—the beverage and bottle industry faces the classic dilemma of many industries. This is also the case in the quality control department of SOLOCAP, a French manufacturer of plastic caps.

SOLOCAP is a subsidiary of La Maison Mélan Moutet, “flavour conditioner since 1880” and manufactures all types of plastic caps for the food sector at its industrial site in Contrexéville, France. Among them is a top-class screw cap suitable for any glass or PET bottle. Thanks to a clampable lamella ring arranged around the bottle collar, it enables a simple, fast, absolutely tight, and secure seal. However, the slats must be reliably and carefully checked for cracks, tears, and twists during production. This is the only way to guarantee absolute tightness.

But reliably detecting cracks and micro-cracks on plastic caps in 40 different colors and shades running at high speed on a production line is a real challenge, and SOLOCAP's previous inspection system could not meet these high requirements.

The APREX inspection system checks plastic caps for defects running at high speed on a production line.
The APREX inspection system checks plastic caps for defects running at high speed on a production line.

AI and fast image processing detects subtle defects

SOLOCAP turned to APREX Solutions from Nancy, France, which successfully achieved this goal with the help of image-processing technology and artificial intelligence (AI). The basic images are provided by a USB 3 industrial camera from IDS Imaging Development Systems GmbH.

APREX Solutions realized the new solution with AI individually on the basis of in-house software algorithms. The necessary specifications were developed in advance in cooperation with the customer. This also included several inspection stages, one of which, for example, was the reject control to avoid false reports.

The introduction took place in two phases.

First, the specific “SOLOCAP application” was trained with the help of the intelligent APREX TRACK AI solution. The software includes various object detector, classifier, and standard methods that operate at different levels. Networked accordingly, they ultimately deliver the desired result tailored to the customer. Four control levels with several test points guarantee a reliability rate of more than 99.99 percent.

In the second step, this application was implemented in the production line right after the first assembly run with APREX TRACK C&M. The latter was specially developed for the diverse image-processing requirements in the industrial sector. This includes, among other things, the control and safeguarding of a production lineup to the measurement, identification, and classification of defects in the production environment. The software suite delivers the desired results quickly and efficiently, without time-consuming development processes.

After a short training of the AI methods, the complete system was ready for use at the customer’s facility. In the case of SOLOCAP, it combines an IDS UI-3280CP-C-HQ industrial camera, powerful ring illumination, and a programmable logic controller to provide comprehensive control over all inspection processes. At the same time, it records all workflows in real time and ensures complete traceability. Only one camera is needed for this. However, APREX TRACK C&M could handle up to five cameras.

“The difficulty of this project consisted mainly in the very subtle expression of the defects we were looking for and in the multitude of colors,” explains Romain Baude, founder APREX Solutions. “With our software suite, it was possible to quickly set up an image processing application. The image from the camera provides the basis for the evaluations. It captures every single cap directly in the production line at high speed, and makes the smallest details visible to the software.”

UI-3280CP-C-HQ industrial camera reliably detects forty different colors and shades
Forty different colors and shades are reliably detected.

One crucial component: the IDS camera

The UI-3280CP-C-HQ industrial camera integrated into the system with the 5 MP IMX264 CMOS sensor from Sony sets new standards in terms of light sensitivity, dynamic range, and color reproduction. The USB 3 industrial camera provides excellent image quality with extraordinarily low-noise performance, at frame rates up to 36 fps. CP stands for “compact power.” This is because the tiny powerhouse for industrial applications of all kinds is fast, reliable, and enables a high data rate of 420 MByte/s with low CPU load.

Users can choose from a large number of modern CMOS sensors from manufacturers such as Sony, CMOSIS, e2v, and ON Semiconductor along with a wide range of resolutions. Its innovative, patented housing design with dimensions of only 29 mm × 29 mm × 29 mm makes it suitable for tasks in the fields of automation, automotive, medical technology and life sciences, agriculture, logistics, and traffic and transport. Screwable cables ensure a reliable electrical connection.

Thanks to the IDS-characteristic plug-and-play principle, the cameras are automatically recognized by the system and are immediately ready for use, as Romain Baude confirms: “The excellent color reproduction of the UI-3280CP-C-HQ and its high resolution of 5 MP were decisive factors for us in choosing the camera. At the same time, the model enabled a quick, uncomplicated integration into our system.”


Anthony Vastel, head of technology and industry at SOLOCAP, sees a lot of potential in the new inspection system. “APREX’s AI-based approach has opened new doors for our 100-percent vision-based quality control,” he says. “Our requirements for product safety, but also for reject control, especially in the case of false reports, were quickly met. We are convinced that we can go one step further by continuing to increase the efficiency of the system at SOLOCAP and transferring it to other production lines.”

AI offers new, undreamed-of fields of application for quality assurance as well as other industries in which image-processing technology is used. It makes it possible to solve tasks in which classic, rule-based image processing reaches its limits. Thus, high-quality results can be achieved with comparatively little effort—quickly, creatively, and efficiently.

APREX Solutions and IDS have recognized this and offer solutions with intelligent products that make it easier for customers to enter this new world. Image processing and AI: a real dream team on course for growth.

About IDS Imaging Development Systems

The industrial camera manufacturer IDS Imaging Development Systems develops high-performance, easy-to-use USB, GigE, and 3D cameras with a wide spectrum of sensors and variants. The almost unlimited range of applications covers multiple nonindustrial and industrial sectors in the fields of equipment, plant, and mechanical engineering. In addition to the successful CMOS cameras, the company expands its portfolio with vision, app-based, intelligent cameras. The novel image-processing platform IDS NXT is freely programmable and versatile.

Since its foundation in 1997 as a two-man company, IDS has developed into an independent, ISO-certified family business with more than 300 employees. The headquarters in Obersulm, Germany, is both a development and production site. With branches in the United states, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, as well as other offices, IDS is represented internationally.


About The Author

Sabine Terrasi’s picture

Sabine Terrasi

Sabine Terrasi manages corporate communications for German camera manufacturer IDS Imaging Development Systems.