X-ray inspection is becoming increasingly popular as food manufacturers learn more about its capabilities. X-ray inspection machines are designed to detect foreign material more effectively than other methods and, therefore, are the most efficient way to handle issues of physical contamination.
When a food manufacturing facility discovers it has a foreign material problem, X-ray inspection is the most reliable solution to help pinpoint and eliminate the issue.
However, there are certain factors to be considered when deciding to use X-ray inspection. Not all X-ray inspections are created equal, and knowing the options and the capabilities of X-ray equipment is critical to deciding what steps to take.
X-ray rentals are a great option for specific situations. However, in many cases, shipping the food to a facility for the X-ray inspection is the best approach.
There’s no single solution for every food producer, but knowing the facts and what to consider can help manufacturers make the choice that’s most ideal for them.
Inline vs. Offline Machines
Even when manufacturers have inline X-ray machines, there are times when third-party X-ray technology is needed.
While inline machines can find physical contaminants in food product, the environment of a manufacturing plant doesn’t typically allow for closer inspection when a foreign element is flagged. Since inline machines are designed to keep up with the speed of manufacturing, they aren’t consistent about detecting objects that are smaller than 3 to 5mm or are of varying densities.
By contrast, FlexXray's custom built X-ray machines are significantly larger than those found inline, and are designed to run at much slower speeds with much lower power. When a line technician notices a change in shading or density, he or she can stop the line, zoom in on the area in question and segregate the product containing the foreign contaminant.
Once the foreign object is identified and it’s determined that the rest of the product is safe to release, the product can re-enter the food supply chain. Compared to shutting down the facility and reworking the product or disposing of the entire run, offline X-ray solutions are the most cost-effective options.
X-ray Machine Rentals Bring the Inspection On Site
X-ray rentals allow the same offline services to be done in-house, but save the manufacturer the upfront costs of buying an expensive X-ray machine. FlexXray offers custom-built equipment that can be rented by the day, the week or the month to meet the needs of the manufacturer.
A rental machine offers many of the same benefits of off-site inspection and eliminates the need to ship the food to another facility for inspection. One advantage of having an X-ray rental machine on site is that the equipment can be set up at the location of the manufacturer's choosing and operations can be up and running quickly.
FlexXray's rental machines can handle virtually all types of packaging and provide high-quality imaging in real time, just like the off-site inspection equipment does. The equipment can efficiently inspect bulk packaging and does not require extensive calibration by the end user.
When to Rent an X-ray Machine
In most cases, having an X-ray inspection performed off site is going to be the best solution. However, there are times when it makes more sense to rent machines and do it in-house.
These situations for renting X-ray equipment include:
- When product control is essential and the food producer is legally prohibited from letting the contaminated product leave the facility
- When internal policies and procedures do not allow the product to be examined outside the facility
- When the product's inherent value is of low cost or is lightweight enough that the cost of shipping would offset the value of having the product inspected
FlexXray's machines can be on site quickly to begin inspection. Once a machine is delivered and before inspection begins, a technician provides hands-on training for the equipment and the process. The staff will become fully knowledgeable about how to safely operate it.
FlexXray staff also works with the plant to develop an effective verification process and protocols based on the specific individual project needs of the manufacturing facility.
When to Ship Food for Inspection
While X-ray rentals are appropriate for the scenarios mentioned above, there also are many times when it makes more sense to have the product shipped to FlexXray and inspected at one of our facilities. Those times include:
- When the manufacturer doesn't have the space or the power/cooling requirements to set up additional X-ray equipment
- When there isn't enough manpower to run the X-ray equipment and also keep the company's other production lines running
- When there is a large amount of product that needs to be reworked quickly
FlexXray can dedicate a dozen lines to the inspection of a single product and can handle fast turnarounds that can't be accomplished with the rental of just one machine.