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Bühler’s smart cameras please the Queen

New camera technology to detect subtle variations in colour and shading during the sorting of materials including recycled plastics has won Bühler UK this year’s Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation.

The UK-developed technology uses hyperspectral imaging to record wavelength data to generate accurate colour and shading contrasts for specific products. This data is then analysed to create algorithms that tell the sorting camera exactly what to look for when detecting contamination or a foreign objects in a production process.

Bühler’s camera technology is being used by plastic recyclers to detect foreign material and lower grade or discoloured polymers. Food grade plastic packaging is said to be possible from 100% recycled material, cutting the need for virgin plastic. The camera version for this use is being trademarked as PolyVision.

The technology is also currently being used by food producers in Europe and the United States who are reporting increased detection rates for unwanted materials including potential choke hazards or contaminated foods.

‘The innovation here is our ability to gather such large amounts of data and then use that data to optimise a conventional narrow band digital camera so that it is capable of quickly and efficiently detecting very specific things, whether it is shells in nuts, foreign materials in a vegetable production line or even different grades of polymers in a recycling plant,’ says Benedict Deefholts, senior research engineer at Bühler UK.

This is the seventh Queen’s Award won by Bühler UK since 1968. One criterion for these awards is that the technology should be scalable, commercially viable and have resulted in a material improvement to a commercial process.

‘Innovation is at the heart of our business and it’s wonderful to see another cutting edge product making a big impact in the market,’ says Matthew Kelly, Managing Director of Digital Technologies within the Bühler Group.

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