This is How Different Types of Food Packaging Affect X-Ray Inspection

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different types of food packaging

Guaranteeing food safety and quality requires inspections from the manufacturer. One of the primary contaminants in food is a foreign object that may enter the processing line from almost anywhere. 

The use of x-rays is a common means of inspecting food after it’s inside its packaging. You may wonder how different types of packaging affect x-ray inspection of the food. If certain types of packaging hinder the x-rays, you may miss some foreign objects, leaving your inspection incomplete.

Learn more about how different x-ray inspection systems will work with multiple types of food packaging and what you can do to make the inspection process more accurate.

Common Types of Packaging Materials for Food

When you are wondering how different types of packaging affect x-ray inspection systems for food packaging, you should start by understanding how each packaging material works. This knowledge helps with optimizing packaging for x-ray security.

  • Metal: Metal cans are medium-density containers. Extra items that are part of the can, like a pull tab, could affect the accuracy of some types of inspection machines. 
  • Plastic: Plastic containers consist of low-density plastic, which improves accuracy from x-ray inspection machines. Occasionally, the shape of a plastic package may cause issues.
  • Paper and Cardboard: Paper and cardboard cartons are low-density containers. These materials provide minimal problems for inspection machines.
  • Glass and Ceramics: With glass and ceramic containers, chipped and broken materials from other containers may end up in a package. Proper setup for the software on the inspection machines leads to success, regardless of the shape of the container.

Effects of Metal Packaging on X-Ray Inspections

In food packaging, metal cans store numerous types of food, including meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, powdered milk, and beverages. Food manufacturers rely on metal cans because they greatly lengthen the shelf life of food products. 

Metal can be a challenging material for x-ray inspections because of its density. However, modern inspection techniques for cans successfully handle foreign object detection, meaning the packaging impact from metal is minimal. 

For success in inspecting metal cans, the x-ray inspection machine’s software must be able to interpret the shape and design of the can, the presence of ribs, and the use of a pull tab. If it can distinguish such items from foreign objects inside the can, it will successfully find contaminants.

In addition to spotting contaminants, x-ray inspections often can find defects in the metal containers as they move along the line. Such defects could damage the exterior packaging when multiple cans ship together in a carton. Some defects the machine can spot include:

  • Loose lid
  • Missing lid
  • Dents

Effects of Plastic Packaging on X-Ray Inspections

Plastic is a low-density type of packaging, which simplifies the inspection process with x-ray machines. Plastic is a popular choice for almost any kind of food storage, including both liquid and solid products. Plastic food containers come in numerous shapes and sizes, as well as varying thicknesses of the walls of the container.

The x-ray machine’s software requires settings that account for the varying thicknesses and densities of the plastic in use. Some low-density plastics don’t show up on x-ray imaging, while thicker plastics do. 

Because the x-ray loses energy based on the density of the packaging in use, properly accounting for the thickness of the plastic packaging is key for accurate results.

In addition to scanning for foreign objects inside the plastic packages, the x-ray machines can inspect the packages for defects. When using certain algorithms within the x-ray machine’s software, it can detect loose seams, misshapen packages, loose lids, and missing pieces.

Effects of Paper and Cardboard Packaging on X-Ray Inspections

Paper and cardboard packaging are low-density packages that have little effect on the operation of the x-ray inspection machine. As long as the machine’s software can determine the thickness of the cardboard or paper packaging, as well as the overall shape of the packaging, the process runs smoothly. Designs of cardboard or paper packaging rarely involve anything but a rectangular shape or a tube, which further simplifies the inspection process.

However, inspections can become challenging when other packaging materials appear inside the cardboard. Cereal may have a thin cardboard outer package with a plastic inner package. Cartons of beer or soft drinks may have a thin cardboard outer package with aluminum cans inside.

Still, because the cardboard or paper does not affect the performance of the x-ray machine, operators can set up the software to focus on the materials inside the cardboard. Although different types of packages affect x-ray inspections, paper and cardboard packaging really don’t have much effect. 

Effects of Glass and Ceramic Packaging on X-Ray Inspections

Glass and ceramic packaging is popular for beverages, sauces, and powders. Consumers like the transparency of glass so that they can see the product inside. However, this makes the detection of broken, transparent glass inside the container extremely difficult. 

Advanced x-ray inspection technologies, including the use of artificial intelligence, now allow for an extremely high detection rate, even for transparent glass fragments. Inspection often occurs twice with glass and ceramic bottles.

  • Empty bottle inspections look for defects in the bottle and for objects inside before filling.
  • Filled bottle inspections look for foreign objects after filling the bottle while also checking for damage to the bottle that occurred during filling or capping.

Glass containers have a wide range of densities, capacities, shapes, and punts (the pushed-up shape of the bottom). Users need to set the proper resolution in the x-ray machine’s software to account for the shape and density of the glass containers involved.

Influence of Packaging Design on X-Ray Inspections

When considering x-ray sensitivity and material composition of packaging, pay attention to the thickness and density considerations of the package. A rough surface texture on the package may affect the accuracy of how different types of packaging affect x-ray inspections, too.

X-ray inspection machines allow the operator to set the density threshold for the machine. If you have concerns over dense packaging and x-ray penetration considerations, the computer in the inspection machine can ignore the thickness of the packaging material. However, you may find false detections when the food inside the dense package has naturally variable product thickness measurements.

Inspection Affecting Packaging Integrity

Some people worry about certain unusual package designs suffering damage through the x-ray inspection process. This theoretically could happen under intense x-ray scanning, according to the FDA.

However, the dose levels that x-ray inspection machines use are so limited that the chances of packaging damage are almost non-existent. In fact, the x-ray machine generates minimal radiation during inspections, less than what occurs with a dental x-ray. The exposure to radiation for the packaging, regardless of the complexity of the package’s design, is minimal.

Learn More About How Different Types of Packages Affect X-Ray Inspection for Food

TDI Packsys is a market-leading provider of food packaging solutions. We offer automated packaging machines that deliver the quality you need when you are focusing on food safety and x-ray-compatible packaging. Our variety of x-ray food inspection systems and machines can fit your needs perfectly.

We have multiple solutions when thinking about how different types of packaging affect x-ray inspection for packaged food. We even offer customization options for your automated food packaging system, especially with x-ray inspections in mind.

For more information, contact TDI Packsys today at 877-834-6750.

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