R&D to Packaging Reality: The New Evolution of Vision Systems & 3D Protoyping Tech

By Mike Terry
Posted In : Technology, prototyping, vision, vision systems, 3D prototyping, packaging tech, packaging technology

Vision systems were what could be for packaging tech developers – dreams, fantasies, far-off realities that relied on futuristic tools to give customers full control over products and processes at faster speeds.

Yet packaging technology continued to evolve. Impossibilities became possible as optics hardware, software, and even complex coding language – driven by artificial intelligence – began to simplify and streamline application conception into reality.

Producers began rapidly analyzing products with forensic precision for optimal quality control. Implementation—once confined to pick/place automation—became widely available to cutting-edge corporations AND entry-level operators looking to make a name.

Seeing the Need to Build Brand & Business with Vision Systems

This grand metamorphosis forever changed vision systems and the packaging landscape, creating unprecedented levels of consistency, productivity, and repeatability across every cycle.

Now, with vision, product presence and orientation within packaging are perfected. Function and aesthetics are preserved across every valuable product. Producers can now determine quality defects and their sources faster than ever, preventing harmful repetition, errors, and costly unplanned production downtime ($5670 per day on average).

Yet, these improvements aren’t simple perks but breakthrough benefits with real-world ramifications on brand image and, most importantly, costs.

In 2021, $28 million in fines were levied against medical packagers for non-compliance in one year. Modern product recalls can cost over $1.3 billion in direct and indirect expenses, and brand image can suffer irrevocably.

Vision systems act as reliable safeguards for products, brands, and businesses, with an almost incalculable return on investment (ROI) and minimal total cost of ownership (TCO).


The Mechanics Behind the Vision System Magic

Vision systems work in a mosaic collaboration of optics hardware, software, complex computer coding, and robotics to seamlessly inspect products and uniformly control operational chaos.

Equal parts photography and visual analytics, they employ high-tech 4K cameras, telemetric lenses, sensors, enclosed illumination, and computer-based pixelation to analyze packages for defects at rates of up to 1400 products per minute (ppm) with no errors.

The system attunes line scan camera processing frequencies with individual production parameters to complete all inspections – packaging seals, edges, barcodes, labels, and print – with more precision and consistency than the human eye can achieve. This gives users a custom-engineered solution that reduces costs and time for analysis and offers near-perfect inspection to match their custom needs.


Top Technology In 3D Package Prototyping

However, vision systems aren’t the only applications offering producers faster, customized solutions with integrated technological evolution. Breakthrough 3D printing and package prototyping have also emerged as one of the industry’s most efficient and profitable packaging marvels.

Manufacturers and their OEMs are beginning to understand the value of evolving 3D printing technology and its various applications. They realize that through a more streamlined, cost-effective prototyping process, new possibilities can and will emerge for production, packaging development, and an optimal OEM experience with low risk and high reward.

Taking Tech Over Time

In the past, 3D-printed prototyping was costly and laborious. Tooling and one-off prototypes were outsourced outside the OEM to external machinists, costing packagers thousands and demanding a month of time (on average) to complete.

Additionally, the stereolithography (SLA) prototyping printers couldn’t produce the rapid rates or dimensions customers desired. Formats reached the size of cell phones, making practical prototype production almost impossible.

With new technological evolutions, coding and calibration driven by artificial intelligence (AI), things have changed. SLA printers now manufacture 3D prototypes as large as 300mm x 320mm x 200mm with the highest resolution available (50 microns) and finish work to defer the expensive post-processing work normally found in Fused Deposition Model (FDM) 3D printing.

Reduced Cost In Translation

The result? Packagers utilizing advanced 3D-printed prototyping with their OEMs are seeing reductions in time and expenditure, and an increase in optimized quality. Processes that cost thousands and months of time now deliver a more impressive prototype product and rapid fabrication in two days (on average) and require 1-4% of the total cost compared to traditional methods, including a 50% reduction in tooling and machining costs.

In-House Efficiency at the Heart of Success


Utilizing advanced SLA printers, like those from Form Labs, OEMs can rapidly prototype all tooling from resin and aluminum at reduced cost, enhancing customization. Modern 3D printing streamlines packaging processes, eliminating manual labor costs and reducing time-to-market for professional, high-resolution package prototypes and revolutionizing packaging development.


Adapting Vision System and Protyping Tech for a More Advanced Tomorrow

The evolution of vision systems and 3D-printed prototyping shows what is possible in packaging, now and in the future. Technological innovation and machine learning systems continue to get smarter, faster, and more sophisticated—able to complete complex tasks in half the time at half the costs. It is up to modern producers to see the benefits for what they are and make the investment in innovation, stay ahead, and stand out.

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