How Food X-Ray Calibration Works: A Brief Guide

Table of Contents

technician calibrating machine in food factory

Food X-ray inspection systems are essential for catching dangerous contaminants across a wide range of products. To keep these machines fully functional and at their peak, factory workers need to calibrate the system occasionally.

This guide will explain how food X-ray calibration works, why it’s important, how often it needs to be done, and much more. Discover the complexities of this process and the benefits it brings to all those who work in food packaging. Trust the inspection systems specialists at TDI Packsys to give you an in-depth look at food X-ray calibration.

How Does Food X-Ray Calibration Work?

The calibration of food X-ray systems involves heavily testing the mechanical functions. This includes a collimator assessment to align the collimator beam and X-ray tube. Technicians must inspect the beam’s center to confirm that it’s perpendicular within 1.5 degrees.

A detailed generator check ensures that the overload circuit protection is fully functioning, the kilovoltage peak (kVp) falls within the industry’s 6% margin, and the exposure time is accurate. All of these tests enhance the overall performance of these closed X-ray systems, also known as cabinet X-ray systems.

Importance of Calibration in X-Ray Systems

woman using magnifying glass to check vegetables

Why is calibration a vital service? It helps X-ray systems perform accurately, so food packaging plants can pinpoint any contaminants or foreign objects within products. This ultimately saves on food waste and keeps the public safe.

Maintaining System Accuracy and Sensitivity

First and foremost, x-ray machines uphold their accuracy and sensitivity with regular calibration. This is crucial whenever you have a new product that you send through for inspection. Calibrating the system with that product helps it recognize the object and quickly determine any issues with imperfections or contaminants.

Enhancing Detection Capabilities

Food X-ray systems can effectively show traces of concrete, glass, metal, and dense plastics, among other contaminants. However, a machine may not detect all contaminants or may miss small foreign objects within food if the system doesn’t undergo calibration. As a result, hazardous products may roll through the line and end up in someone’s home instead of in the garbage.

Calibration and regular maintenance can improve the machine’s detection capabilities, so only safe products ship to stores.

Reducing False Positives and False Negatives

Food packaging plants may waste a lot of products and money when their X-ray system rejects items. These rejections could be false positives, detecting contaminants that aren’t there if the machine doesn’t undergo calibration as often as it should. On the other hand, false negatives may lead the plant to miss contaminants and ship out products that are unsafe to consume, yet the machine didn’t detect anything.

Both false positives and false negatives can have harsh consequences. Fortunately, following a routine X-ray system calibration schedule can reduce the total number of false findings.

Factors Affecting Calibration Accuracy

worker checking temperature and humidity in factory

X-ray system operators should be aware of certain conditions that alter how food x-ray calibration works. Get a closer look at some of the issues that can impact the overall accuracy of calibration and how to fix them.

Environment Conditions

The environment surrounding your food inspection system plays a big part in how accurate it will be following recalibration. Every machine operates under different conditions, so calibrating them outside of their normal range can have a major impact.

For example, an XE Economical X-Ray system can operate between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit and in humidity ranging from 30 to 85%. If you were to calibrate it under abnormal conditions, the process would not be as successful.

X-Ray Beam Quality and Energy Settings

The X-ray beam is crucial for finding defects or contaminants in food packaging. Make sure that the X-ray beam has a wide enough range so that every product that enters the tunnel gets fully inspected. If the beam quality is aimed incorrectly or is too weak, you need to calibrate the system so the beam touches the whole product going through the conveyor.

Operator Training

The calibration process won’t go smoothly if operators don’t have sufficient training. TDI Packsys offers an in-depth training and commissioning program that sets up machine operators for success. Technicians will spend at least eight hours teaching all operators how to safely and correctly perform various x-ray functions, including calibration.

Undergoing this high level of training and certification ensures that plant employees can properly calibrate the system and therefore make it more accurate.

How Often Should Food X-Ray Machines Be Calibrated?

calendar clock pins and pencil on green background

There are two distinct scenarios that call for food X-ray calibration. Operators should plan calibration once a year as part of routine system maintenance that also includes cleaning air filters, inspecting gaskets, and repairing conveyor belt fraying. This keeps the system in check by testing and realigning the beam, adjusting the kVp, and checking the exposure time.

The other instance that calls for calibration is when a new product needs to go through the machine. Going through this process allows the x-ray to memorize each product according to certain set limits, so it can detect any contaminants. Once the system finishes calibrating, the machine will continue to recognize the core product and won’t need further calibration unless there is an error or change in the packaging.

What Are the Benefits of Proper Food X-Ray Calibration?

The main benefit of this testing is that it increases food safety. Food X-ray calibration works to make the machines accurately detect contaminants like glass, metal, or bones in various food packages and products. Having a machine detect these hazards keeps these products off the shelves, so consumers stay safe and businesses can avoid litigation and a public relations crisis.

Another key advantage of calibrating food X-ray machines is that it improves the system’s longevity. Neglecting regular calibration creates costly problems, and packaging plants may need to allocate money to repair or replace machines well ahead of the normal schedule.

Overall, this preventative maintenance is the best way to minimize false rejections, improve productivity, and maintain the highest level of food safety.

What Happens If a Food X-Ray Machine Is Not Calibrated Properly?

Failing to calibrate these complex systems correctly can have dire consequences. The exposure time can become less accurate without calibration and therefore increase the amount of radiation exposure to a given product. This puts the public in harm’s way should they consume products with higher levels of radiation, as well as any staffers that are near the inspection system.

The system may not perform as well or malfunction. When this happens, leadership must spend money either repairing certain parts or replacing the machine. Companies end up throwing money down the drain by failing to properly calibrate X-ray machines.

Faulty calibration can ultimately lead to an uptick in false rejections and waste more products, money, and resources. Make sure that all operators have the proper training for calibrating the system, or reach out to a professional technician for assistance. This is the best way to ensure that the X-ray machine faces no problems after recalibrating.

Now that you have a better understanding of how food X-ray calibration works and why it’s necessary, get your system checked today. Reach out to the specialists at TDI Packsys if you need assistance or want to schedule an immediate calibration service.

Table of Contents

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.