Automatic Print Inspection using 4Sight Technology

2019 has been an exciting year for AutoCoding Systems with the launch of their new automatic print inspection solution, 4Sight, developed in conjunction with global partners, SICK.

Manufacturers often experience problems with illegible or missing codes on consumer products, an issue which can have expensive, and sometimes serious consequences if the products have to be reworked or recalled.  Inspecting and reading printed codes, particularly on high speed lines, has always been challenging due to the many application specific variables.  Using the SICK AppSpace development platform, AutoCoding Systems has developed 4Sight, the first fully-automated vision inspection system for printed coding and marking.

The 4Sight application communicates directly with any brand of printer, with no requirement to “teach” the camera what to look for.  Unlike more traditional vision inspection techniques, no fixturing, such as an edge or logo, is needed; the software can automatically cope with variations in artwork, background and text location.

All processing is undertaken onboard the SICK camera where the 4Sight software resides meaning no line-side PC is needed.  There is a simple set-up process for camera position, set-up, focus, illumination and exposure time, with no requirement for operators to configure features or regions of interest.  The software automatically adjusts to accommodate real-time message changes, such as date code and clock time.  In addition, there are a number of configurable features, such as “inspection depth”, to allow the solution to be easily optimised for fast processing time, making it an ideal print inspection solution for high speed applications.

Inspection depth allows users to choose between different levels of inspection, from simple code inspection through to full OCR, balancing the need for accuracy with processing speeds.

Additionally, the application offers full flexibility allowing users to determine acceptable print quality tolerances and define what is considered a good read, bad read or no read on a per product basis.

As well as operating seamlessly with AutoCoding, the 4Sight software can be used as standalone solution or connected to any code deployment system and also offers full integration to various types of label editing software.  When connected to a code deployment system, the accuracy of the printed code can be guaranteed, meaning that the need for full OCR is eliminated.

Managing Director, Mike Hughes, considering some of the challenges of using vision technology to automatically inspect printed information commented, ““Historically AutoCoding Systems has used its standard product to automate packaging line devices and, within a workflow, integrate its product to other customer infrastructure systems, as needed.  Frequently, AutoCoding is used to deliver solutions in coding and packaging verification, where printed codes and variable information are fully controlled for all brands of printers and coding technologies by the AutoCoding software.  The 4Sight application adds a much-desired vision solution to our coding management capabilities.  Inspecting printed codes, particularly at continuous inkjet speed, has always been fraught with challenges, making living with a print vision system quite difficult in terms of nuisance stops or false rejections, causing unnecessary line stops.  4Sight uses new and innovative methods for print inspection, simplifying the process and making vision accessible to all budgets.”

The 4Sight solution can be used as a standalone application where an image of the code to be inspected is taken by the camera prior to job start, printer led where there is a direct connection between the printer and the camera or integrated with code deployment software, such as AutoCoding.