What Materials are X-Ray Food Inspection Systems Able to Detect?

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male worker writing notes about the product on the conveyor belt

In the food industry, ensuring that consumable products are contaminant-free is critical for maintaining trust between the brand and consumer. Sometimes, materials like a metal fragment, plastic, stone, or another foreign body can find their way onto the production line, where it contaminates the food products.

X-ray inspection systems allow food production companies to maintain quality control, manage risks, and improve the safety of food products. They also increase production efficiency and minimize waste, giving the companies who use them an advantage over competitors, as well as a higher quality food product.

At TDI Packsys, we provide innovative product safety solutions using the latest and most superior x-ray inspection technology. Our highly sensitive inspection systems, as well as our customer service, are unmatched in the industry. We offer a fully-automated detection system that will keep your production process running like clockwork.

Read on as we discuss the materials that x-ray inspection systems are able to detect, as well as other details on this beneficial technology.

How Do X-Ray Inspection Systems Work?

When you think of an x-ray machine, the doctor’s office is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Medical professionals use x-ray technology to check for broken or fractured bones, but using this technology as an inspection system can also help manufacturers in the food industry.

To detect foreign bodies, an x-ray inspection system fires an x-ray beam through the product and onto an array that uses radiation to produce a grayscale image of the item. Since the x-ray beam has a harder time passing through denser materials, anything with a higher density than the product will appear on the image as a dark spot.

The resulting images can also help identify broken, missing, or damaged parts during the product inspection. For some food products like meat, an x-ray system can detect fat content or weight. The capabilities of this inspection system allow manufacturers to streamline production and quality control while ensuring that a whole and safe product comes off the line.

The following are some of the capabilities of x-ray inspection systems:

Components of x-ray systems include an x-ray generator, a camera that can record x-ray images, a high-density radiation protection casing, and an integrated computer that controls the inspection system.

Some machines can automatically analyze the products by comparing the films to an acceptable standard. If the product doesn’t meet the accepted condition, it gets rejected. The intelligence of the computer system allows production to keep moving and makes the inspection process faster than ever.

What Can Food X-Ray Inspection Systems Detect?

pile of metal shavings isolated on white

An x-ray inspection system can detect non-metallic contaminants, non-ferrous metals, and other foreign materials that have a high density, such as:

  • Metal fragments like shavings, wires, etc.
  • Pieces of glass
  • Bones and other animal parts
  • Stones and rubble
  • Hard plastics, silicone, etc.

One rule of thumb is that x-ray systems can detect anything denser than water, so anything that would sink in a glass of water is detectable. Though the system is usually accurate, some exceptions to the rule exist. If you want to test the system with your products to see what it can detect, contact our team at TDI Packsys.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, x-ray systems can also find defects in products, such as missing components or damage. Food manufacturers can use x-ray inspection equipment to identify faulty items and keep them from reaching the consumer.

Ensuring the safety of food and beverages and following all of the rules and regulations surrounding these products is essential for staying in business. X-ray detection makes it much easier to accomplish this without heavily impacting cost and resources.

Materials That X-Ray Inspection Systems Can’t Detect

X-ray technology is excellent for finding foreign bodies like heavy metal contaminants and other dense materials, but low-density materials are harder to detect. Examples of contaminants that x-ray systems struggle to find are:

  • Light metals such as aluminum
  • Wood fragments
  • Thin plastics
  • Human hair

X-ray systems do not work for fast-moving or free-falling products. Metal detectors are better at detecting contaminants in high-speed production conditions, though they only catch metallic impurities. Using both methods together helps guarantee product safety at all stages.

Why Do X-Ray Inspection Systems Miss Some Contaminants?

worker assembling apples for food x ray

The materials that x-ray inspection systems are able to detect depend on the type of product and the production process. X-ray systems work best for detecting contaminants with a higher density than the product. The modular design of our x-ray machines at TDI Packsys helps customize the inspection system to mesh perfectly with your products.

TDI Packsys outperforms our competitors in detection; we can detect contaminants that others cannot. We focus on using the latest technology to create the most sensitive inspection systems in the industry, so that you will end up with less waste, fewer costs, and higher quality products than anyone else.

How the Quality of X-Ray Inspection Systems Affects Contaminant Detection

The quality of an x-ray image depends on the equipment you use for the inspection. If the inspection system has a high-quality x-ray tube, it can reach a high signal-to-noise ratio. This means that the image will come out clearer and sharper, making the detection of a foreign body in the product much easier.

An advanced x-ray system is essential for the most precise contaminant detection. To ensure high-level food safety in your facility, be sure to research food x-ray systems to determine their components’ quality. Detecting foreign bodies in your products is critical to avoid damaging your business’s reputation and taking on costs from potential lawsuits.

If a consumer unwittingly finds a contaminant in one of your products, you could face massive expenses if they choose the legal route for compensation for their injuries. An advantage of automated x-ray detection systems is that you can verify these claims with the original x-ray image of the product.

TDI Packsys offers the highest-performing detection systems on the market. X-ray inspection is safe for food products since the radiation output is incredibly low: around .1 mrem (unit for measuring radiation emissions) per hour. For comparison, your body adsorbs 1000 mrem from a full-body CT scan.

Do X-Ray Inspection Systems Make Food Radioactive?

Food will not become radioactive from our x-ray systems because they use an entirely different type of radiation than what causes “activation” (that is, radioactive-ness). X-ray inspection uses a type of light wave that our eyes can’t see to detect product pollutants.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not necessary for operators of TDI Packsys x-ray systems. The machines feature a lead lining and protective coverings to mitigate radiation exposure from the x-ray generator. The doses of radiation that our machines emit are well below the FDA’s allowable limit, ensuring your utmost safety.

How to Improve Contaminant Traceability

quality control staff inspecting contaminated food product

Food manufacturers need to be able to trace the source of a contaminant to prevent waste or product recalls. If you find a tiny piece of metal in a product’s package, it could be a sign of a broken machine or polluted ingredients from a supplier. X-ray images help improve the traceability of contaminants in several ways.

You could install x-rays at the ingredient inflows to determine whether the supplier is the source of the pollutants. As the ingredients come in, the x-ray machine takes images and catches any foreign bodies. You might find that a specific supplier frequently ships contaminated ingredients, and you can then approach them with the problem.

X-rays also store images of every product they inspect, which allows you to go back and find the inspection photo of a rejected product. If your company has a product recall, you can pinpoint the exact batch it came from. This helps you avoid taking every single product off the shelves when an issue arises.

X-ray inspection machines can find more than foreign bodies; they can do a quality check on the packaging, including seals, weight, fill level, caps, and missing components. When a problem starts to occur consistently, you can use x-rays to track the issue back to its source. For this reason, x-rays make an invaluable addition as a final quality control check.

Finding The Right Equipment for Your Product

The method you use for product inspection depends on several factors, including the:

  • Product packaging (e.g., metal cans, aluminum foil, plastic, etc.)
  • Product transport system
  • Shape of the product
  • Speed of production
  • Type of product
  • Type of materials that need detection

If the pollutants that appear in your products are primarily metallic, you might prefer to use a metal detector. Metal detectors can work in high-speed production and cost less than other detection systems. An x-ray inspection system is also capable of metal detection, but only for dense metals. A light metal like aluminum might not show up on x-rays.

Certain packaged products can be harder to inspect, depending on the material. For example, metal detectors have trouble with metallic packaging. X-ray inspection systems can easily see through less dense packaging materials but might struggle with thick plastics.

Many companies use both x-ray and metal detection systems to cover all the bases. Each one performs well at different stages of production, and the combination can lead to a much higher level of quality control.

At TDI Packsys, our inspection systems provide a full range of capabilities for ensuring the quality of your products. Our metal detectors and x-rays find contaminants or defects, and our vision systems verify the products’ integrity and packaging. We can provide a fully-automated inspection system that keeps everything moving while improving food safety.

For more information on x-ray inspection systems from TDI Packsys, call our team at 877-834-6750.

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