Sealing the deal: how Recochem ensures packaging integrity

A compact thermal imaging camera continuously monitors the quality of the chemical product manufacturer’s cardboard boxes.

February 4, 2017
by FLIR Systems Ltd.

The AX8 sensor is set up to look at predefined areas of the flaps where glue should be applied and verify spot sizes and their temperatures. PHOTO: FLIR

The AX8 sensor is set up to look at predefined areas of the flaps where glue should be applied and verify spot sizes and their temperatures. PHOTO: FLIR

Presentation and delivery are critical parts of product quality. Recochem Inc., a privately owned, Montreal-based manufacturer and distributor of chemical products and fluids understands this all too well. That’s why the company is using thermal imaging to continuously monitor the quality of its package sealing.

Recochem’s Americas Division is a producer, formulator, contract packager and wholesale distributor of household chemical products and automotive fluids operating from five locations in Canada.

“Packaging is something that is really important in terms of product quality and safety,” says Adam Wolszczan, plant engineering manager at Recochem. “Our windshield fluid products come in jugs, which in turn are put in cardboard boxes. The integrity of these cartons that overwrap and protect our products must be maintained at all times.”

One of the most cost-effective ways of sealing cartons is to use hot melt adhesive on the carton flaps; however, in the online process, the glue is sometimes applied inaccurately or inadequately. Recochem needed a way to check whether or not the glue had been applied, and applied in the right position.

“In the past, the carton integrity was determined by periodically taking boxes from the production line and destroying them for further inspecting,” says Wolszczan. “This was very time-consuming and quite expensive.”

Recochem first tried a single-spot IR sensor. “Because the glue is heated, we can use temperature information to inspect the glue spots,” says Wolszczan. “However, we did not manage to install IR sensors in a position in which they could look at the bottom carton flaps. Also, the IR sensor only looked at the applied glue on the open flaps.

Recochem’s quest for an effective monitoring solution finally reached a breakthrough with thermal imaging.

“I already knew thermal imaging as a technology,” says Wolszczan. “The company has a contractor for roof maintenance and inspection of our electrical panels, so I knew the technology can be used effectively to search for moisture, missing insulation and more.”

He purchased a FLIR TG165 thermal imaging camera to look at some of the boxes that came off the production line and the camera clearly showed him where the hot glue spots were; and the camera could see through the cardboard to check the pattern and size of the applied hot melt adhesive.

That led to the FLIR AX8 thermal imaging sensor. It’s set up to look at predefined areas of the flaps where glue should be applied, and verify spot sizes and their temperatures. The compact sensor installs in such a way that it can look at the bottom of the box. And since the AX8 can see the heat through the carton, it’s no longer necessary to destroy boxes for inspection.
Video images are viewed by an operator on a dedicated screen.

The AX8 thermal images show the hotter spots where the glue has been applied. Whenever a glue gun is delayed, you see a position shift of the hot spots, so it’s instantly evident something is wrong.

“The big advantage is that thermal imaging now allows us to spot quality problems much faster and more efficiently,” says Wolszczan. “The thermal image is very convenient for our operator, whereas a single-spot IR sensor just gives you an on/off switch as the box moves along the sensor without any further information.”

The outcome is better products for the customers, and time saved. Operators were destroying a box every 10 to 15 minutes for inspection.

“Our production line is operational five days a week, for a good portion of the year, says Wolszczan. “The amount of time and money saved is significant.”

This is an edited version of an article contributed by FLIR Systems Ltd. – Canada, in Burlington, Ont.

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