As Productivity Rebounds, So Does the Need for Reliable Industrial Automation Solutions

With the slowdown of 2020 due to the pandemic, global manufacturing productivity fell by a notable amount in multiple sectors. But with easing restrictions and the ongoing vaccination effort, productivity is expected to rebound significantly as more and more companies seek to catch up on their backlog and meet growing consumer and business demands for their products.

Because of that, there’s never been a better time for companies to consider what automation solutions they’re using in their production environment. One of the most essential in-line solutions in today’s manufacturing world is industrial color sensor equipment. And thanks to their broad applicability, it’s easy to see why. 

Virtually any material — transparent or opaque, vibrant or neutral, large or small — can be detected with the proper color sensor, enabling companies to identify the color attributes of countless products and materials, verify the presence of certain elements in-line for quality control, and further automate and enhance their manufacturing production lines.

To assist you in understanding whether an industrial color sensor is right for your production environment and output goals, we’ll be exploring a few common materials that span multiple industries, how color sensors are used in them, and the benefits that companies enjoy as a result. Let’s get started.

Three Industrial Color Sensor Applications

Plastics

Plastics are available in a variety of different formulations, all of which can be further customized based on the product, the performance desired, the appearance needed, and so on. As plastic recipes for products are developed, one of the key metrics that manufacturers must pay attention to is color consistency. 

Occasionally, these recipes start to vary slightly. They might lighten or darken, or other factors might influence the resulting color in the product. In instances where colors are changed, it’s important to ensure that the old color has been completely extruded from the system — preventing it from mixing with the new color.

Industrial color sensors help to validate that color consistency is maintained or otherwise within a certain tolerance. Depending on the application, engineers or other manufacturing personnel set the color sensor thresholds or establish a required color value. This is often done using RGB or HEX color codes. 

As products pass through the color sensor light spot, items that fall outside the threshold or that don’t meet the required values trigger a response, which then signals a programmable logic controller (PLC) or another system to halt the line, extract that product from the others, or initiate some other corrective action.

Real-world example: Learn how the ColorMax sensor from EMX Industries helped a major automotive company with small parts color accuracy. Read the case study here.

Tinted Film

Tinted films are used in numerous industries to differentiate product appearance, as part of the product packaging, and as various types of labels, including tamper-evident solutions. Just as opaque materials must be checked for color, so too must translucent tinted films to ensure color accuracy. Precision and speed are just as essential here as well, particularly as many of these films (including translucent bottles and containers) are moving through production lines at an incredibly rapid pace. 

In these instances, a specialized type of industrial color sensor is used that features a remote light source positioned on the opposite side of the sensor. As products and films pass between them, the white LED light from the source passes through the material and is read by the sensor, which then translates the readings into RGB color values. If the material doesn’t fall within an established threshold or doesn’t match the specific value required, the sensor can either send a signal to an external process control system, enabling remediation and even the optimization of colorant usage.

If the tinted film being checked is actually a roll of material or a larger material that normally wouldn’t fall in the sensor spot size, multiple sensors can be used to ensure that the material color is consistent throughout. Occasionally, it may be necessary to adjust one or more sensors to a control reading. It’ll be important to use an industrial color sensor that allows for these adjustments to ensure consistent and accurate readings are produced in-line, every time.

The EMX advantage: The ColorMAX View color sensor allows for rapid, accurate color detection for translucent materials. And thanks to its white balance adjustment software, users can make fine corrections to ensure their suite of color sensors are providing accurate readings.

Stained Wood

One of the more unique applications for industrial color sensors is lumber automation and wood processing. For companies that are working with stained wood products, it’s essential that enough stain is used to meet quality requirements for customers. Think of a hardwood floor in your home. It’s normal — and desirable — for the planks to have different patterns and tones, but if certain boards are just too different, they stand out like a sore thumb and lessen the appearance.

Industrial color sensors are used in the lumber and wood products industries thanks to the ability to set a target color value and then thresholds around that value. This allows for variations in the color due to different grain patterns, the color of the underlying wood, and how much stain was absorbed during the manufacturing process. But again, those variations must fall within a certain range. Otherwise, the products should be removed from the production line to prevent them from being included in a warehouse lot or shipment.

Real-world example: Learn how EMX Industries helped an equipment manufacturer streamline the color matching process for high-end solid wood panels. Read the application note here.

Learn more about this industry: In addition to color sensors, ultraviolet light sensors are also used to identify markings on lumber and ultimately streamline manufacturing and distribution processes. Learn more here.

At EMX, Our Sensors Match Color with Quality

EMX Industries, Inc. is an innovative manufacturer of U.S.-made, high-performing, and highly affordable industrial color sensors. With the ColorMax line for opaque targets and the VIEW line for translucent materials, as well as a host of models that support your unique production environment, we provide the best solutions for color matching and verification needs for multiple industries. 

Unlike machine vision systems that cost tens of thousands of dollars more, our industry-leading color sensors can be adjusted and easily integrated into your production line, allowing you to get the readings you need consistently and reliably — regardless of the product or production line configuration. And, we can prove it.

Simply fill out a quick form and ship some samples into our headquarters in Northeast Ohio, and we’ll perform a complimentary test on your material using the ideal industrial color sensor type. You’ll receive a written report detailing the sensor’s performance with photos and readings. Don’t miss this chance to put a proven color sensing solution to work for your business.

Request your complimentary sample evaluation here, or contact our team to learn more about our ColorMax line of color sensors.

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