You rely on your x-ray food inspection system for quality control and to maintain smooth operations at your food production facility. Unfortunately, these machines are far from infallible.
Malfunctioning hardware, dirty or worn-out components, and other issues can cause serious problems that result in the missing of foreign objects in your food products or a complete halt in the production process.
Protect your consumers and your bottom line with the following x-ray inspection system troubleshooting guide.
Here, we explain what causes standard x-ray system issues and provide tips for identifying and solving the problem. We also share some helpful advice on the proper maintenance of your x-ray food inspection equipment.
What Causes Problems with X-Ray Systems?
Many people understand the frustration when technology stops working correctly, but issues in manufacturing settings cost more than just peace of mind. Whether your facility packages food or beverages, malfunctioning x-ray inspection systems can cost you time and money you can’t afford to lose.
Let’s explore four common causes of x-ray system issues:
- Hardware malfunction: X-ray machines include several components, and they must all operate optimally for a smooth and accurate inspection process. Hardware problems like electrical shorts, loose or broken parts, or even fraying conveyor belts can cause the equipment to stop functioning properly.
- Software malfunction: The software in the system’s computer tells it exactly what to do and how to do it, so even minor software malfunctions can cause big headaches. Signs of a software issue include a frozen computer screen, delayed image, and failure to start.
- Lack of maintenance: Failing to follow manufacturer maintenance recommendations for x-ray inspection systems can cause false rejections, system jams, electrical part deterioration, and many other issues. Proper maintenance includes regularly cleaning the cooling system to prevent debris from compromising the fan.
- Improper operation: X-ray technology relies on many seemingly small operational details to ensure proper functionality. For example, inputting incorrect positioning guides into the software can cause improper alignment of the x-ray beam and incomplete pictures of the inspected product.
These common causes of x-ray system problems don’t cover every possibility, but you can help prevent issues by conducting proper maintenance and ensuring correct operation.
Common Problems in X-Ray Inspection Systems with Troubleshooting Tips
Below, you’ll find some x-ray inspection system troubleshooting tips to help you solve common problems with x-ray inspection technology. This guide is by no means exhaustive, and you should bring any complex issues to a professional, such as the technical support team from the machine’s manufacturer.
Failure to Detect Defects or a Foreign Object
Having to recall a product due to inaccurate detection of foreign objects or missing components negatively affects your company’s reputation and profits. Malfunctioning x-ray systems may not catch foreign objects or other quality defects in your products.
If your x-ray machine fails to detect metal or other contaminants, or improperly measures your products, you may need to recalibrate the system. Use the standards you have in place to check the detection sensitivity and other critical information that affects how your system inspects the products on your production line.
You may also inspect the resin cover on the line sensor to check for deterioration. A crack or gap in the resin may result in poor image quality and inaccurate inspection.
Image Distortion or Blurring
Accurately detecting contaminants and defects requires clear, high-definition imagery, so a blurry image can indicate a big potential problem.
If your x-ray machinery produces blurry images, scattering x-rays may be the culprit. Excessively wide x-ray beams can cause the x-rays to scatter when they hit the product, causing a blurred image. To fix this problem, access the proper setting, and set the width of the beam that emits from the x-ray tube to a shorter measurement.
A narrower x-ray beam can prevent x-rays from scattering and produce a clearer image of the product.
Guide Rail Jams
X-ray inspection systems use guide rails to feed products into the machine and ensure proper alignment. These may become jammed, causing a slowdown or a complete stop in your production line.
If your guide rail becomes stuck, you may have an electrical short that requires attention from an experienced technician.
Hardware and Software Malfunctions
X-ray inspection systems use hardware and software with many opportunities for malfunctions. A problem may stem from the machine or the computer’s operating system (OS).
Common hardware and software problems include the following:
- The computer fails to start. If the computer does not power on, inspect the other powered components to check for an electrical fault. If they also lack power, investigate the plugs and cables that power your inspection equipment.
- The software fails to start. If the software fails to start, you may have a problem with the software or OS corruption. You may need to update or reinstall the software. A technical support professional can provide more detailed troubleshooting advice based on your specific machine.
- The computer automatically restarts after booting up. The computer may automatically restart without fully booting due to a clogged cooling fan, computer virus, OS issue, or other reasons. If your cooling fan doesn’t need cleaning, you may need to run software to remove viruses or malware, or reinstall your OS.
- The system fails to orient products correctly. If the x-ray inspection equipment doesn’t have the correct calibration, it can’t position the product below the x-ray tube properly. If your x-ray images cut off part of the product, check your positioning guides and X, Y, Z, and R axis values. The correct axis values often come from the manufacturer.
- The x-ray imaging takes too long. An x-ray inspection machine should generate product images within a minute, with many systems only taking a second or two. If you don’t see an image on your screen after a full minute, you may need to increase the radiation intensity.
If these x-ray inspection system troubleshooting tips don’t solve your problem, refer your questions to the manufacturer’s support team. They should be able to determine the cause of the issue and provide advice on your best option moving forward.
Tips for Maintaining an X-Ray Inspection System
It’s impossible to prevent every problem with x-ray machines, but you can prevent common issues and extend the life of your machinery by keeping up with proper cleaning and maintenance. Sometimes, manufacturers ignore maintenance items due to time constraints, but making some for cleaning can save more time and money in the future.
Keep the following tips in mind to maintain your x-ray inspection machine:
- Clean the cooling fan and filter periodically. Poorly operated cooling fans can lead to expensive part breakdowns. When the fan or filter becomes too dirty, the cooler can’t pull in any fresh air, which results in the overheating of critical parts. For example, intense heat can melt the circuit board or the components in the tube that emits x-rays, and getting a new one of either can cost a significant amount of money.
- Clear the x-ray tube. This tube generates the radiation used to create the x-ray images. Follow the manufacturer-recommended cleaning process to clean this tube regularly to prevent premature breakdown and unnecessary replacement costs.
- Keep conveyor belts clean. Belts entering the machine with stains or other things besides the products can cause false rejections, so it’s essential to clean them periodically. Even a conveyor belt moving packaged products can become dirty from falling dust and debris, which the machine may read as a foreign object.
- Replace fraying conveyor belts. When conveyor belts begin to fray, the small pieces separating from the belt can become contaminants. Check your belts regularly, and trim and replace them as needed. To inspect your belts, remove them from the conveyor to check the top and bottom.
- Follow manufacturer recommendations. X-ray food inspection systems come with user manuals with manufacturer recommendations for regular cleaning and maintenance. It’s critical to follow these recommendations to keep your machine operating effectively.
If you can’t determine the cause of your x-ray malfunction, we recommend contacting the experts. The manufacturer of your x-ray machine is your best resource for troubleshooting problems and learning how to maintain your machinery correctly.
Choose a TDI Packsys Inspection System for Unmatched Technical Support
If you need a solution to detect contaminants, missing components, defects, or fill levels in your food products, get FDA-certified equipment from TDI Packsys. Our x-ray food inspection systems can effectively detect metal and non-metal contaminants to help keep your consumers safe and satisfied. Our machines emit minimal radiation, so you won’t have to worry about wearing protective gear to operate your inspection system.
If you purchase a food inspection solution from us, you’ll benefit from professional on-site installation, training, and all the support you need for any future x-ray inspection system troubleshooting. We’ll help you choose the best solution for your product type and ensure your team understands how to use and maintain it correctly.