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Micro-holes in Packaging: The new Inline Quality Control
Micro-holes in Packaging: The new Inline Quality Control



07 February 2022

Micro-holes in Packaging: The new Inline Quality Control

A new application of IR spectroscopy makes it possible to detect in-line, during production, the presence of micro-holes in packaging, thus ensuring package integrity

We are talking about micro-holes in packaging. They cannot be seen with the naked eye and cannot be checked manually, but they can cause significant damage to the product's shelf life and organoleptic properties. In particular, for products packaged in MAP (Modified Atmosphere Packaging), any effort to balance the mixture of gases used to preserve the product can be undone by a micro-hole not detected during production. However, a new application of Infrared spectroscopy can now be used to detect the presence of micro-holes in packaging inline during production, ensuring its integrity. 


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We talked about this with Professor Stefano Zardetto, Manager of the Quality, Research & Development department of the VOLTAN SPA Group, and lecturer of the "Professional culture for the food industry" Master's Degree Course in Food Science and Technology at the University of Padua since 2013.

IR spectroscopy to detect in-line micro-holes in packaging

Prof. Zardetto, what causes a micro-hole to form in the packaging during production quickly, and how does it affect the product? 

The reasons for this are varied but fall within two main categories:

  1. causal and sporadic breakages: these can be attributed to more or less extensive breakages that may occur in one or more packages along the production line due to belts, parts of machinery, processing procedures, etc.;
  2. systematic and extensive breakages: these can be attributed to packaging machines and their correct setting (sealing clamp temperature, pressure, time, the processing speed of the line, etc.).
    In this case, micro-holes can occur along with the seals or in the packaging itself. Such breaks can affect multiple packages and easily result in the production of entire batches that are non-conforming.

In both cases, the consequence is the gradual deterioration of the barrier constituted by the MAP packaging with a more or less pronounced development of altering microorganisms and a reduction in the product's shelf life. The greater the size of the micro-hole, the greater the loss of carbon dioxide and hence this reduction in shelf life.

IR spectroscopy promises to revolutionize the quality control market by detecting micro-holes inline and replacing spot checks. What are the salient features and benefits for companies that implement this inline inspection?

The first and most important benefit is that the inspection applies to all packages, not random ones. This is significant in two ways:

  1. if correctly applied and managed, the inspection will always guarantee that the batches will be conforming;
  2. random and sporadic breaks are identified that typically pass undetected during spot checks.

The final benefit ties in with both of these aspects and are that the company can detect all types of faults quickly and in real-time and manage the issues inline.


In your experience, have you encountered any trends or numbers that objectively prove the benefits of applying IR spectroscopy in a production line?

As I mentioned already, applying this technology inline offers two advantages.

  1. The first and most tangible one is a reduction in defective parts produced by the line with a sharp decrease in the number of defective parts per million (depending on the current level of defects, this reduction can be even higher than 50-80%).
  2. The second, less measurable but, in my opinion, a highly significant benefit is the ability to continually assess issues relating to MAP packaging. Regular changes to the settings and/or structure of the production lines (in relation, among other things, to changes in packaging material, packaging machinery, operators, etc.) can lead to sudden or systematic breakdowns that are unforeseen and unforeseeable.

The inline inspection can promptly identify such faults and allow the company to resolve them promptly. This inline analysis offers excellent benefits and means that the management of MAP packaging technology can be adapted to the increasingly stringent requirements of customers and consumers.


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