Development of a high-speed sensing and detection system for automatic removal of packages with leaky seals from a high-speed food processing and packaging line

Gibson, Gary Raymond (2009) Development of a high-speed sensing and detection system for automatic removal of packages with leaky seals from a high-speed food processing and packaging line. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Contamination of packaged foods due to micro-organisms entering through air leaks can cause serious public health issues and cost companies large amounts of money due to product recalls, consumer impact and subsequent loss of market share. The main source of contamination is leaks in packaging which allow air, moisture and microorganisms to enter the package. In the food processing and packaging industry worldwide, there is an increasing demand for cost effective state of the art inspection technologies that are capable of reliably detecting leaky seals and delivering products at six-sigma. The new technology will develop non-destructive testing technology using digital imaging and sensing combined with a differential vacuum technique to assess seal integrity of food packages on a high-speed production line. The cost of leaky packages in Australian food industries is estimated close to AUD $35 Million per year. Contamination of packaged foods due to micro-organisms entering through air leaks can cause serious public health issues and cost companies large sums of money due to product recalls, compensation claims and loss of market share. The main source of contamination is leaks in packaging which allow air, moisture and micro-organisms to enter the package. Flexible plastic packages are widely used, and are the least expensive form of retaining the quality of the product. These packets can be used to seal, and therefore maximise, the shelf life of both dry and moist products. The seals of food packages need to be airtight so that the food content is not contaminated due to contact with microorganisms that enter as a result of air leakage. Airtight seals also extend the shelf life of packaged foods, and manufacturers attempt to prevent food products with leaky seals being sold to consumers. There are many current NDT (non-destructive testing) methods of testing the seal of flexible packages best suited to random sampling, and for laboratory purposes. The three most commonly used methods are vacuum/pressure decay, bubble test, and helium leak detection. Although these methods can detect very fine leaks, they are limited by their high processing time and are not viable in a production line. Two nondestructive in-line packaging inspection machines are currently available and are discussed in the literature review. The detailed design and development of the High-Speed Sensing and Detection System (HSDS) is the fundamental requirement of this project and the future prototype and production unit. Successful laboratory testing was completed and a methodical design procedure was needed for a successful concept. The Mechanical tests confirmed the vacuum hypothesis and seal integrity with good consistent results. Electrically, the testing also provided solid results to enable the researcher to move the project forward with a certain amount of confidence. The laboratory design testing allowed the researcher to confirm theoretical assumptions before moving into the detailed design phase. Discussion on the development of the alternative concepts in both mechanical and electrical disciplines enables the researcher to make an informed decision. Each major mechanical and electrical component is detailed through the research and design process. The design procedure methodically works through the various major functions both from a mechanical and electrical perspective. It opens up alternative ideas for the major components that although are sometimes not practical in this application, show that the researcher has exhausted all engineering and functionality thoughts. Further concepts were then designed and developed for the entire HSDS unit based on previous practice and theory. In the future, it would be envisaged that both the Prototype and Production version of the HSDS would utilise standard industry available components, manufactured and distributed locally. Future research and testing of the prototype unit could result in a successful trial unit being incorporated in a working food processing production environment. Recommendations and future works are discussed, along with options in other food processing and packaging disciplines, and other areas in the non-food processing industry.

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ID Code: 48797
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Hargreaves, Douglas & Chattopadhyay, Gopi
Additional Information: Thesis embargoed until 6 August 2012.
Keywords: non-destructive testing, seal integrity, packaging quality
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Past > Schools > School of Engineering Systems
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 21 Feb 2012 06:49
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2012 14:10

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