Editor Gerry Duggin takes a comprehensive look at weighing and detection machinery in this round-up of the quality control sector

Accuracy linked with reliability

Loma Systems has developed a range of checkweighers for packaged products which it claims will be the “most accurate, reliable and robust on the market”. The AS Range contains a new weighing transducer developed in conjunction with partner Hottinger Baldwin Messtechnik (HBM) which is said to enable the checkweigher to handle products at the highest line rates without degradation of performance.

Five options are available in the range for rigid and flexible packs up to 5000g and sacks and cases up to 45Kg. A compact combined metal detector and checkweigher is also included.

The company says accuracy is of paramount importance to ensure R51 compliance wide weight ranges and to safeguard against product overfill. A certified standard of X(0.5) and e=0.5 is claimed to be twice the performance of most other European checkweigher brands on the market.

According to Loma, a key benefit is the user-friendly and safety-conscious design. Unlike tower systems, Loma has positioned the control unit at waist level at the front of the conveyor, which it says leads to greater machine stability and therefore improves weighing accuracy. This also means that the operator doesn’t have to lean across the conveyor at any time.

The AS range can be supplied with Loma OnLine, a data management solution for companies operating a number of checkweighers, which amalgamates weight and overfill data and presents it centrally.

Available on a lead-time of under 4 weeks, the machines are said to be easily integrated into the most complex production line.

Optimum filtering from Cintex

Cintex says it has developed Intelligent Digital Filtering for its Eclipse4000 range of Checkweighers to provide “a greater level of sensitivity and accuracy than other systems currently on the market”. It claims the technology has improved weighing accuracy by up to five times.

This is made possible because the checkweighers collect weight data at over 1000 samples a second, even when the pack has started to leave the platform. The company says that often 100 or more ‘good’ extra weighings can be obtained before IDF technology determines the pack too unstable for weighing. In turn this leads to an overall increase in weighing time enabling a higher degree of filtering and hence greater accuracy.

The software takes into account the fact that different products require different levels of filtering due to mechanical noise. Cintex says that, unlike some systems that have just one filter setting for all products, its Eclipse4000 machines regard each product individually and their optimum settings can be saved to menus for recall at any time.

The range is also said to have a user-friendly design with colour touch screen and easy to follow menus.

Data can be downloaded directly to floppy disk or, alternatively, the systems are networkable to a remote PC.

Slimline metal detection

Lock Inspection Systems showed its Compact Vertical Fall metal detector for the first time at the recent PPMA show. Some 25% smaller than the previous standard systems, the slimline Vertical Fall is said to guarantee protection for incoming bulk raw materials in both granular and fine powder form, even in severely restricted spaces.

Lock says the aim was to create a machine that combined a sealed reject mechanism with compact dimensions that could detect in all types of raw materials.

The detector’s flap reject system is said to offer particular maintenance advantages as it can be cleaned without having to be removed from the line and there are no nuts or bolts to unscrew – it is sufficient to unclip the hinges and pivot the arm to clean the interior of the pipe.

Lock also showed its MET 30+ 3f, said to be the first triple fully automatic frequency detector on the market capable of highly accurate inspection of both polyfilm and metallised packaged products. The 3f operates at three crystal controlled frequencies – high, medium and low – and features an in-built automatic frequency selection facility which chooses the optimum frequency, whatever the product or pack.

Thus, for example, when inspecting polywrapped product the detector will automatically select high frequency, whereas for a product packaged in metallised film it will operate at low frequency.

Revolutionary software

ICCS claims its software packages – QC Pro and InLine QCPro – are set to “revolutionise the packaging industry” by making LIMS (Laboratory Information Management Systems) accessable to all companies at a competitive price.

The company says both products can be easily installed into existing infrastructure and checkweighers, including metal detectors, to supply real time monitoring, data recording and in-depth reporting.

QCPro is described as an industry standard weight, attribute monitoring and management information system suitable for HACCP, average contents and data monitoring and recording.

InLine QCPro is a checkweigher and metal detection management information system that has been developed to capture the production and trading standards data generated by in-line machinery.

Granger Nelson, managing director of ICCS said: “Both products will completely modernise the packaging industry because they offer LIMS technology, all the latest reporting processes and existing system compatibility at an unprecedented price.”

Both software products are said to comply with all main standards.

Thrifty checkweighing

Ishida Europe has introduced an integrated checkweigher/traysealer which it says saves packaging materials and product by weighing the tray before it is sealed.

The checkweigher, using a loadcell fitted underneath the conveyor, allows satisfactory trays to continue to be sealed while under- or overweight packs are rejected. Various reject devices are available, according to the customer’s requirements.

“It is such a simple concept,” comments Neil Giles, Ishida Europe’s marketing manager. “But for years checkweighing took place only at the end of the packing line. By introducing it earlier, manufacturers and processors can recycle the product, thereby cutting waste. In addition, the tray itself can be re-used and, of course, no film has been applied, which represents a further saving.”

Remote control from Garvens

The latest developments for Garvens S2 dynamic checkweigher include a software package allowing remote access via a PC. The Garvens Remote Access Tool – ReAcT – allows single or multiple checkweighers to be linked to any PC fitted with an ethernet card or through an ethernet network.

Legislative and regulatory requirements are simplified, says Garvens, by uploading data direct to the QA office. Data can also be inserted into spreadsheets using the MS Windows platform for further analysis.

The product database can also be uploaded and modified or added to on the PC and downloaded back to the checkweigher using the same screen layouts and entry procedures as on the checkweigher, removing the need for further training. Unauthorised access is prevented by multi-level password protection.

There is also a new LoginServer program which conforms to 21 CFR-11 regulations. It is designed to satisfy the latest demands for automatic activity logging supporting line validation requirements

Garvens products are available through Mettler Toledo for all industry sectors except the UK and Irish healthcare sectors where Romaco are the agent.

Multi-head applications

Vertex is the latest in the range of metal detectors offered by Fortress Technology which says this narrow system has been developed specifically for the multi-head and form fill and seal applications where space is at a premium.

The system is painted aluminium with standard fixings for easy installation. The package has remote controls for easy operator access and a “host of standard features”. The display and keypad design makes setup a quick and simple operation, while the integral power supply and I/O interface means that no additional boxes need to be mounted or cables run.

The detector also incorporates AutoTest as a standard feature. This automatic testing system resolves the problems of inserting the test sample into the product, particularly an issue when handling continuous flow products. It is fully electronic, requiring no additional services or component parts, so it can be used throughout the production process. By calibrating to a specific size and type of metal, it can be configured to suit the application and take into account true life influences such as product effect and vibration.

Alternatively, where manual testing is preferred, the Vertex unit also includes setup of operator driven test procedures where an alarm can be initiated to prompt for the QA test procedure to be carried out.

Drug compliance

The weighing and inspection division of Thermo Electron Corporation has launched a 21CFR Part 11 compliant version of one of its checkweighers to meet the requirements of the pharmaceutical sector.

The Ramsey AC9 Rx is the first in the company’s range of equipment to provide secure electronic records and audit trail data, and a retrofit software package is also available to enable existing AC9s to be upgraded to meet the regulations.

The new development generates secure electronic records of the checkweigher’s operation using an electronic signature that is unique to the user. This ID is allocated by the system administrator, while the password is selected by the user and can be changed at any time.

For further protection, there are three access levels: Administrator, which gives full access to the menus; Service, which is reserved for maintenance personnel and allows access to functions that stop the production line; and Operator, which makes normal controls available but does not allow access to functions that could be dangerous to the process.

Audit trail records can be created in response to a range of events, including alarms reset, statistics clearing, product change, copy product, dynamic, static and speed calibration, tare zeroing and enabling/disabling options.