Frequently asked questions

How does X-ray work?

Q. What are the fundamentals of X-ray detection technology and how does X-ray work?

A. X-ray inspection technology works by passing an electromagnetic wave through material and detecting the resulting image on a detector.  X-rays pass less readily through dense material and therefore dense objects show up as darker areas on an inspection image.  For X-ray food inspection applications, a machine then reads the resulting image to identify potential contaminants. 

Fundamentally, X-ray is driven by detecting differences in the density of materials. Thus, contaminants that have a density similar to the product being inspected are difficult to detect whereas contaminant materials with a large density differential to the material being inspected are generally easier to detect.   Most food products have a high water content and hence it is challenging to find contaminants with a similar density to water (which includes wood, certain types of plastic – see below for more information on what is not detectable). 

What Is and What Is Not Detectable?

Q. What contaminants are detectable and not detectable by Peco InspX’ ScanTrac systems?

A. We excel at detecting metal, glass, stone, rubber, bones, and many high-density plastics. These contaminants can be detected in most environments.  X-ray inspection systems cannot detect insects, wood, thin plastic film, hair, and other low-density items in cans or jars. Some of those items may be detectable in other environments.  Lab testing will verify detection levels for your exact specifications.

Q. Can the ScanTrac detect metal contaminants in metal containers?

A. Yes. X-rays penetrate metal or glass containers and allow us to detect contaminants inside. We can inspect metal cans, glass jars, containers with metal foil closures or made of metal foil (like pouches), and many more. 

Q. How can I be sure that a specific contaminant is detectable?

A. Peco InspX offers a free evaluation program – just send us samples of your product and the contaminants you want to detect, and we’ll show you how we can help you.  For more information, please email us at info@peco-inspx.com.

Q. It is known that X-ray inspection systems sometimes reject perfectly good containers. Is this true for the ScanTrac?

A. It is; however, what matters is the rate of such false rejects. In the inspection industry, a false reject rate of one in 1,000 is often considered reasonable. The ScanTrac false reject rate is well below one in 20,000 – a 20:1 improvement, and often is below one in 100,000. This is a very important consideration when purchasing an X-ray system as false rejects cost time and money – both product and package.

Q. Can you detect contaminants at the bottom or near the sidewall of a container?

A. Yes, ScanTrac’s superior image processing technology and software sophistication detects defects reliably even near sidewalls or the bottom, something that is a challenge for other X-ray systems. Our advanced machine learning algorithms model normal containers in order to accurately identify defects without falsely rejecting normal container variation. This technique allows us to deliver 100% container inspection with no masking, ensuring the highest product quality.

What Are Recent Developments in X-Ray Technology?

Q. I have heard about X-ray technology for a long time; what, if anything, has changed?

A. X-ray technology is not a new invention.  The fundamentals of X-ray detection were discovered in the late 1800’s and  X-ray machines have been used in medical and other applications for over 50 years.   X-ray systems for food inspection have been around for about 30 years.   Today’s machines are more powerful, more versatile and more reliable than ever before – therefore, it is important to distinguish old technology from state of the art solutions.

Q. What are some of the most recent innovations developed by Peco InspX?

A. Peco InspX places significant emphasis on technical research and development with intense focus on extending X-ray tube life, improving contaminant identification and expanding machine functionality. Recent enhancements to the ScanTrac product line-up include:

  • Improved ability to detect the presence of inserts within packages
  • Improved check weigh features with enhanced weight accuracy
  • Quick release pipeline for easy cleaning of pipeline systems
  • Enhanced ease-of-use of computer interface with touch screen capabilities
  • Expanded remote diagnostics and automation monitoring
  • Multiple beam systems for improved detection performance on asymmetric objects
  • High resolution imaging to deliver the highest quality images in the industry
  • Software and hardware advancements aligned with Industry 4.0 priorities and innovation

Safety

Q. Is the ScanTrac safe for the people around it?

A. Absolutely. Maximum stray radiation limits are strictly governed by the Federal (and often state) governments. However, Peco InspX exceeds all US and European safety regulations by a considerable margin. Furthermore, stray radiation from our equipment is usually below the level of natural radiation from the Earth and cosmic rays present around us. Finally, each ScanTrac machine utilizes state of the art safety features that maximize operator protection.

Q. Is X-ray inspection safe for our products?

A. The X-ray radiation dose applied to the product during inspection is virtually imperceptible as compared to FDA guidelines.

Q. Does an X-ray system need to be periodically surveyed for radiation compliance?

A. Local regulations may require that X-ray machines be periodically tested to ensure radiation is within limits.  Peco InspX offers this service by request or as a standard feature of our Annual Service Program.

Machine Reliability

Q. I have heard that X-ray inspection machines often have a short lifespan, is that true?

A. Early generation X-ray systems had an exceptionally short lifespan due to X-ray tube and photo detector longevity issues. Today, these components are much more durable with X-ray tubes typically lasting between two and five years of operation and more.  However, actual life span depends on a variety of operational factors including how often the machine is cycled and environmental conditions.  Peco InspX’ ScanTrac machines use ultra long-lasting high performance X-ray tubes that offer the longest life spans.

With Peco InspX, you can purchase an extended maintenance plan that covers 100% of machine parts and maintenance.  Furthermore, our robust remote diagnostics mean that over 90% of issues can be identified and corrected remotely, minimizing downtime.  

Q. Does an X-ray system need preventative maintenance?

A. ScanTrac systems require minimal preventative maintenance.   The systems include monitors on important elements such as coolant levels and temperature.  However, the machines should be regularly checked to ensure that the machine is operating properly and that potential problems can be detected fast and early.

Q. How often do you need to stop production for calibration?

A. Never. The ScanTrac automatically calibrates itself without production stoppage.

X-Ray versus Metal Detection

Q. Is X-ray technology intended to supplement or replace metal detection technology?

A. X-ray systems are capable of detecting everything that a metal detector can detect and more.  The limitations of metal detectors in foreign contaminant detection extend beyond the foundational constraint – that metal detectors only detect large metal contaminants.  In contrast, X-ray systems can find metal and a host of other contaminants.  Furthermore, the capabilities of metal detectors are impacted by temperature, moisture and salt content (among others); whereas X-ray systems operate effectively under a broad array of environmental conditions.  Finally, an X-ray system can indicate the exact location of a contaminant, facilitating the removal of the contaminant where it makes sense to do so.

Most importantly, X-ray inspection for metal (and other contaminants) can be made in the presence of metal such as in metal cans or capped glass jars.

Are X-Ray Systems Easy to Use?

Q. X-ray inspection devices contain sophisticated components and electronics.  How can I operate and maintain one if I do not have engineers on staff?

A. All Peco InspX ScanTrac systems are designed with ease of use as a top priority.  Our technical service team can remotely configure the machine to inspect new products. Your local operations team simply needs to know how to press the start button to begin inspecting.  Furthermore, our robust remote diagnostics allow us to rapidly resolve about 90% of field issues without a service visit.

Machine Performance

Q. How fast can the ScanTrac inspect?

A. ScanTrac can accommodate the fastest line speeds in operation today.  We have applications running 2,400 containers per minute at 700 feet per minute (210 m/min) conveyor speed.

Commonly Asked Operations Questions

Q. What ejectors are best suited for the ScanTrac?

A. A recommendation would depend on the product, container, speeds, container spacing, line placement and other factors. Peco InspX manufactures a complete line of ejectors for every need.  Review options online from one of our Ejectors.  If you are unsure which ejector is right for your application, contact one of our experts.

Q. What is the minimum space required between containers?  Do you require leadscrews or accelerating conveyors to provide minimum space between containers?

A. Most ScanTrac systems do not require any spacing between containers; they can be inspected back-to-back. However, the containers should not be under backpressure – this would prevent proper ejection. We do not require any leadscrews or accelerating conveyors.  In the case of multi-beam ScanTrac systems, spacing of approximately half the diameter of the container between packages is required to ensure the multiple inspections can be completed without interference.

Q. What is the minimum conveyor space required to install the ScanTrac?

A. Typically, the ScanTrac requires six feet (1.8 m) of linear conveyor space.  In some situations, the space required can be reduced to as little as 40 inches (1 m).

Q. Can the ScanTrac operate on variable speed conveyors?

A. Certainly. All ScanTrac models will automatically adjust to the conveyor speed without any operator intervention, from crawl all the way to the maximum rated conveyor speed.

Q. What kind of power requirements do X-ray machines have?

A. Peco InspX ScanTrac X-ray systems all run on standard 120 VAC power and plug into a standard 3 prong wall outlet.

Q. Can X-ray machines be used for check weighing?

A. Yes, X-ray systems can be used for check weighing.  The mass of an object can be computed by the number of pixels of product and container in an image.  The primary advantages of using X-ray systems for check weighing applications are speed and cost.  X-ray systems can handle very high line speeds without any modifications to their software – there is no need to spend additional capital on separate check weigh systems (additionally high speed check weigh systems are extremely expensive).

Q. How much energy does an X-ray System Use?

A. In general X-ray inspection systems are very energy efficient, using no more energy for inspection than a small electric motor.

Q. What is the difference between machines built to the IP65 versus the IP69K standard?

A. These standards refer to the level of enclosure integrity for the cabinet that holds the X-ray system.  An IP69K enclosure can safely withstand high-pressure, high-temperature steam cleaning and a required option when mandated by the operating environment.  For additional information please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code

Q. How do X-ray power levels impact the inspection process?

A. An X-ray system requires a minimum level of power (usually expressed in terms of Watts) to meet the application requirements.  These requirements include the speed of the line, the package material, the size of the package, and the resolution required for the application.  To illustrate, much less power is required to inspect a foil bag of snacks at 200 feet per minute as contrasted to a 401 diameter can running at 400 feet per minute.

Q. How advanced is the machine’s analytical software?

A. One of the biggest differentiators between X-ray inspection equipment manufacturers is the quality of analytical software – both the software used for image recognition/contaminant detection and the software that provides summarized operational analytics.  Be sure to understand how the software impacts the kinds of problems that the machine can detect and how that information can be summarized for later analysis. Peco InspX’ technical investment and innovation continue to differentiate ScanTracs from others in the market with continuously enhanced algorithms and Industry 4.0 standards.

Q. What makes the ScanTrac the most accurate X-ray inspection system in the industry?

A. Our sophisticated image processing software utilizes algorithms based on neural network principles, the most advanced area of image processing. Until recently, it was not practical for use in fast, real-time systems that process up to 40 images per second due to computer performance limitations.  However, the accessibility of high performance computers has rapidly improved – allowing ScanTrac X-ray inspection to take advantage of these cutting edge approaches to analysis.

Q. How much does the machine cost to own and operate?

A. Total cost of ownership is one of the most critical aspects of the purchase of an X-ray system.  While X-ray systems are extremely long-lived, they do have components that wear out (namely the X-ray tube and the photo detectors) and replacing these components can be expensive.  Therefore, it is a good exercise to thoroughly understand the anticipated lifespan of wear parts in your potential installation and how much these parts will cost.  Extended warranty and service plans may reduce your operational expenses.

Q. What factors come into consideration when getting machines serviced?

A. Because most X-ray inspection systems are powered by advanced computers, they can leverage powerful diagnostic and remote service capabilities that greatly reduce the need for onsite service. Peco InspX, for example, can address about 90% of field problems via its remote diagnostic interface, which greatly reduces the need for more expensive (and less time efficient) field support.  

Q. Does Peco InspX Offer Customer References?

A. Peco InspX has a large global installed base of operating X-ray inspection systems (worldwide ScanTrac systems inspect about a 1 billion units every single day) and we would be happy to provide customer references that are most relevant to your application.  

Q. What is the difference between Top-Down and Side-View X-ray inspection?

A. The best contrast for X-rays is to image through the narrowest dimension of the product or package.  For flat objects, a Top-Down X-ray inspection inspects through the flatness of a pizza.  For this type of package or product, the Top-Down approach optimizes the detection of foreign material.  For most rigid packages, the height of the package is greater than the width and thus the Side-View imaging provides the superior detection approach.  Certain packages are best suited for Top-Down inspection because their shape would make Side-View inspection difficult or impossible.  Side-View X-ray Inspection looks through the side of the container. 

For more information on Peco InspX ScanTrac X-ray inspection systems, you can contact us online, call 800-732-6285 or email us at info@peco-inspx.com.