LONDON, ENGLAND — Bühler UK Ltd. received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation for its research into camera technology used in sorting machines.
The Queen’s Award for Enterprise is the highest U.K. award for British businesses that have excelled in the fields of international trade, innovation, or sustainable development. This is the seventh Queen’s Award that has been won by Bühler UK since 1968.
The award is in recognition of Bühler’s development of a unique camera technology used in sorting machines, capable of recognizing the subtlest of color and shading contrasts in materials and foods and so significantly increasing detection rates for foreign materials, potential choke hazards or contaminated foods.
The technology is being used by food producers in Europe and the United States that are reporting increased detection rates for foreign materials up from 85% to 95%.
The U.K.-developed technology uses hyperspectral imaging to record vast amounts of wavelength data to generate highly accurate color and shading contrasts for specific products. This data is then statistically analyzed to create algorithms that inform the sorting camera exactly what color and shading contrasts to look for when detecting contamination or a foreign object in a production process.
“The innovation here is our ability to gather such large amounts of data and then use that data to optimize 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,” said Benedict Deefholts, senior research engineer Bühler UK Ltd.
Over the past four years Bühler has used this technology to produce a range of specialist cameras for different markets. Its BioVision camera is targeted at the nut industry, PolarVision aimed at producers of frozen vegetable and PolyVision designed to improve plastic recycling rates.
One of the criteria for a Queen’s Award is that the technology should not just be innovative, but it must also be scalable, commercially viable and to have resulted in a material improvement to a commercial process. Since the introduction of the Sortex E optical sorter using BioVision technology, sales of Bühler sorting solutions into the nut sector have doubled.
The Bühler camera technology also is being used to detect foreign material and lower grade or discolored polymers to ensure the highest grade recyclate can be achieved by plastic recyclers.
While the technology has so far been applied to detect foreign materials, future developments will be able to detect mycotoxins and even pathogens.
“We are absolutely delighted to be receiving this ‘seventh’ Queen’s award,” said Matthew Kelly, managing director of Digital Technologies within the Bühler Group. “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; on food safety, food quality and of course generating commercial success for our customers.”