The labelling and coding OEM uses Cognex machine vision to ensure proper label placement on boxes.
Cognex machine vision technologies are embedded in the labelling and coding equipment supplied by German manufacturer Weber Marking Systems GmbH, the joint venture of Bluhmsysteme GmbH, and US-based Weber Packaging Solutions. The company is a leading provider of printing and application machinery such as labelling systems, inkjet printers, and laser markers for a wide range of applications from logistics and manufacturing to household products and cosmetics and applied to surfaces such as cardboard, glass, wood, metal, plastic, and flexible packaging.
In the high-intensity operations run by its logistics customers, where accuracy and fast throughput are key to productivity and profitability, it is vital that Bluhm Weber’s equipment prints, applies, and reads labels, barcodes, and RFID codes to eliminate any slowdown or break in production.
Jörg Emrich, in charge of project engineering and product management at Bluhm Weber, says having Cognex’s expertise embedded in Bluhm Weber’s automated labelling systems means the customer can be assured the right label is placed in the right place on the right product.
“With our latest products, we have made a big step forward with the Cognex 3D-A1000 Dimensioning System,” he says. “We use it to find the right spot on the product in order to label it. The products arrive on a belt in unregistered order, so they lie chaotically on the conveying system, and we use the 3D-A1000 to detect where the product is, how it’s tilted, and then copy that shape to the labeller. The labeller will follow it and place the label in the correct spot.”
A Decade-Long Partnership Built on Innovation
Bluhm Weber has been in business for more than 50 years and its relationship with Cognex began a decade ago when Emrich was attending a large European trade show. His attention was caught by a banner on the Cognex booth which said its advanced vision technologies were a “laser killer.”
“From that stage, I followed Cognex and saw that they were really focusing on getting cameras down to a reasonable price,” he said. “Cognex was, from my point of view, a fast-growing, relatively young concept, which was fresh and very flexible. Our big meeting was around five years ago when we started the development of our Legi-Flex system.”
Thanks to the inclusion of Cognex 3D-A1000 dimensioning technology, the Legi-Flex 3D labelling system eliminates the product alignment step, thus greatly benefiting industries with time-critical processes, such as eCommerce and logistics. The device determines the position and volume of cardboard boxes or bags at high speed and applies a label without contact.
The reliability of Cognex’s range of vision systems matches Bluhm Weber’s high expectations, as Emrich explains, “We don’t sell in the cheap end of the market, but in the reliable and high-performance section. For us, reliability is very important because we are not particularly low priced; our focus is more on total cost of ownership. So, we supply all the consumables, labels, inks, etc. from our portfolio, bearing in mind that TCO is always a big issue for our customers.”
“We were looking for a partner who could supply a vision system which was not just going to identify a point cloud where we must discover the top, bottom, and corners. Cognex can supply the FT (CAD) file, the coordinates, the tilting, and the position on the belt,” said Emrich.
Aligning Technologies for a Powerful Print & Apply Solution
The Legi-Flex collaboration was the start of a strong relationship between the two companies, whereby Cognex became more integrated with Bluhm Weber systems for functions beyond just labelling. For example, the coding sector – which uses human-readable and positioning decoding to verify that the right label is applied to the right product in the right place – is growing, particularly in pharmaceuticals.
As Bluhm Weber’s project management leader for print and apply systems, Emrich is responsible for new product developments that anticipate and fulfil changing customer demands. Once Emrich started to learn more about the capabilities Cognex could bring to the party, the relationship between Bluhm Weber and Cognex flourished. “The Cognex 3D-A1000 was key to this,” says Emrich. “We already had other cameras from its competitors, but the 3D-A1000 Cognex had a USP, the right sales rep, and a strong support network in Germany. The rest is history.”
Emrich went on to say, “Cognex’s integrated intelligence and the self-learning devices, are very interesting, especially when decoding human readable items. Also, Cognex is not just a single product, it has a full range.”
“With Cognex, it’s much easier to convince customers of the benefits because we have a professional partner. It’s now not an issue for us to implement and to mechanically adjust the camera, to make the right projecting, and to find the right design. We are in so many different markets with so many different customer requirements, and we now have a big benefit with Cognex. We can go into customers where we didn't have the right vision solution in the past and present a partner that can supply the ideal cameras and then install, program, and adjust them. In the past, it was really a challenge to find the right solution, and this is where Cognex now helps us a lot.”
So, in that decade since Emrich first spoke with Cognex, he said, “Ten years later, I can say Cognex has killed the laser. I expect the remaining laser scanners to disappear in the next three to five years in the typical end user business.”
So, with proven products and reliability, Bluhm Weber’s range of systems with tried-and-tested Cognex vision capabilities at their heart provides precision coding and labelling to demanding customers across multiple industry sectors at unmatchable speeds.