If you work as a food packaging manufacturer, you are responsible for keeping food properly sealed so that it retains its quality and isn’t exposed to contaminants, and doing so requires the right equipment. There are several different types of leak detection equipment, and while each one may be more appropriate for certain situations, they are all effective methods for discovering leaks in packaging.
1. Vacuum Chambers
Certain packaging materials are suitable for vacuum chambers, which removes air and other gases from the container. Detecting leaks with a vacuum chamber typically involves the use of a helium tracer gas and an additional detection device that will reveal even the most minute traces of gas passing through the packaging materials.
Vacuum chambers are also useful for producers who ship their products by air. The vacuum chamber will tell you if your product can withstand high altitudes, judged by whether or not the packaging collapses in the chamber.
2. Immersion Equipment
Submerging a package in water is another way of revealing leaks, but this is a technique that is typically only used for packages that contain air. Any significant leaks will start to produce air bubbles when placed underwater, and as undeniable proof of a leak or weakness, the manufacturers would need to strengthen their packaging. Submerging a package can also reveal its bursting point, which is used to calculate its strength.
3. Gas Leak Detection
Introducing certain gases to a package can reveal leaks as well. The gases that are most commonly used are hydrogen, helium, and nitrogen due to the low risk. Leak detection equipment using gas involves the gas itself and the equipment that detects the gas. Once you introduce the gas to a package, your detection equipment will tell you whether or not gas is escaping the package.
4. Dry Chambers
Dry chambers are most commonly used for packages that contain liquids, and dry chambers incorporate a vacuum as well. Typically, the package will be placed within the dry chamber on top of a paper towel or similar absorbent material. The vacuum will be dry within the chamber, and if the absorbent material is wet upon completion of the test, the packing is unfit for the product.
5. Ultrasonic Equipment
Ultrasonic equipment uses sound to detect leaks in food packaging. Large leaks tend to emit a hissing sound, which can easily be heard by ear. Smaller leaks emit sound as well, but they can only be picked up by special equipment. Ultrasonic detectors generate an ultrasonic wave that will produce an echo, and if the echo is altered, that means that a defect has been detected. The ultrasonic equipment will then produce an image that reveals the leak.
6. Machine Vision Testing
Machine vision testing is far more advanced than it used to be, making it an effective form of leak detection. Using this technique, a computer with a camera will assess food packages and reveal leaks as small as five millimetres.