A better way to meet the challenges of producing bottles with increased levels of rPET

Agr International recently introduced its latest and most powerful in-the-blowmolder vision inspection system, Pilot Vision+™.  This product is configured and uniquely positioned to meet the quality management requirements for high-speed PET bottle production, with a special focus on containers with high percentages of rPET.

This Pilot Vision+ system is designed to work in conjunction with today’s high speed reheat stretch blowmolding equipment. As part of Agr’s Process Pilot family of products, it can be used along with the Process Pilot® automated blowmolder management system. The combination of Pilot Vision+ and Process Pilot provides bottle producers with the ability to not only detect random occurring defects, but also manage the process to maintain precise material distribution, even with the lightest and/or most difficult-to-process bottle design.

The Pilot Vision+ system is a modular vision-based inspection system that mounts inside today’s high-speed reheat stretch-blowmolding equipment.  The compact design of cameras and lighting components and an operating speed of up to 100,000 bottles/hour make it compatible with most blowmolder models and brands.

The open architecture of this system allows for simultaneous management of up to 6 cameras in multiple locations.  These are typically configured in four separate inspection stations; preform inspection in the oven area, and bottle seal surface, base and sidewall inspection immediately after mold takeout.

Special attention to preforms, color and rPET

The preform inspection module of the Pilot Vision+ system makes it possible to identify defects that are visible in the preform, before the bottle is blown.  Multiple color cameras provide the imaging for 360º preform sidewall inspection as well as end cap and gate. Optics, LED illumination and image analysis routines are optimized to identify preform defects that impact bottle integrity, particularly the black specs and particle contamination sometimes associated with recycled PET (rPET).

With the increased use of rPET, challenges related to color consistency may also be an issue. In the Pilot Vision+ system, the preform cameras ensure that colors are within acceptable ranges. This is particularly valuable with the variations in color that can typically occur when higher percentages of rPET are used.

Another tool designed to address rPET related issues is the Pilot Vision+ system’s capability to learn multiple reference image sets for color inspection. This makes it possible to process a preform supply with slight color variations and manage the range of color by accepting those that match the reference images, while rejecting those that do not match.

Inspecting the base with liquid lens technology

The base inspection on the Pilot Vision+ system incorporates a powerful set of inspection algorithms that identify the smallest defects and anomalies regardless of base size, shape or design. In addition, the base inspection features a unique liquid lens that adjusts focus for bottle heights from five to sixteen inches, without mechanical components. This feature eliminates the need for mechanical lens adjustment when changing between containers of different heights. Focus settings are saved with each job and focus is automatically adjusted to accommodate new container heights. This saves changeover time and ensures a clear, high-resolution image of the base at the start of production.

In addition to the color preform cameras and liquid lens technology for base inspection, the new Pilot Vision+ offers features including:

  • Large, touch-screen user interface with all data accessible from the main screen
  • Pre-built tool sequences provided for each inspection type
  • Flexibility to adjust parameters using live and history images during production
  • Full-color preform imaging for color management
  • Active cooling for high temperature operation
  • Sealed components to prevent damage from fluids and moisture

The Pilot Vision+ system also offers a number of tools to assist operators with setup and job management.  These include adjustable ROI tools, digital image filtering, zone scaling and the ability to display live and historical inspections images that can be used for evaluation or setup purposes. To aid operators in monitoring line status and assessing production trends, detailed defect and reject information and production-run data summaries are continuously updated. Defects are mold/spindle correlated and categorized using color codes for quick and easy identification of offending characteristics.

The Pilot Vision+ system is available as a stand-alone system, or in tandem with Agr’s Process Pilot® automated blowmolder management system.  When you combine the Pilot Vision+ system with Agr’s Pilot Profiler® material distribution measurement system and the Process Pilot® automated blowmolder controls, it offers manufacturers a means to produce defect-free bottles with stable and consistent production on a 24/7 basis.

The Pilot Vision+ system is another segment to Agr’s Process Pilot® family of products, designed to provide comprehensive material distribution monitoring, automated blowmolder management and vision–based defect detection.

Agr International Inc., develops and manufactures a full line of laboratory and on-line testing/quality control devices for containers and similar products.  The Agr headquarters and main manufacturing facility is located in Butler, PA, USA.