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Vision Inspection: Laser Illuminated Camera System For Empty Tote Detection

The client needed to utilize real time vision inspection techniques to verify the absence of previous products from totes before filling plastic totes with different products.

Client: Fortune 100 Company

Industry: Consumer Products

Key Engineering Features:

  • Turnkey laser illuminated camera system with high speed processor programmed and integrated for object detection
  • Two lasers fully integrated with machine vision system
  • Laser lockout unit for maintenance safety
  • PLC controls fully integrated with camera/laser system
  • Photo-eye triggers for lasers directly controlled by PLC

Core Challenges:

  • Varying product colors
  • Unknown locations and orientations of products within totes
  • Large surface area and short time-span for available for verification process
  • Only minor changes allowed to existing production line

An EPIC Solution:

Front-End Engineering for Vision inspection

EPIC first completed preliminary design to assure the most efficient process and accurate cost quotation. After reviewing the objectives and challenges with the client, EPIC’s engineers completed an analysis of the line and created an implementation plan that included the following elements:

  • Laser illuminated inspection system
  • Fully integrated vision inspection turnkey system that could be bolted onto existing line
  • Photo-eye trigger system to coordinate tote position with lasers
  • Laser lockout system with status lights for operator and maintenance safety
  • Integrated PLC controls for camera, lasers, photo-eyes and safety system

EPIC’s Proven Solution


EPIC’s vision engineers selected the laser vision system because it was the simplest solution. A laser illuminated system is not affected by color, object position, object size or product orientation. The laser detects surface flatness, detecting objects as “not flat” and failing the tote. This system is faster to program and simple to maintain compared to other smart camera solutions because it does not require shape, size, color or orientation programming.

The system utilizes a single camera and two lasers. The lasers project a line across the bottom surface of the totes.  This is a clean and simple way to inspect totes for unwanted objects.  An integrated PLC generates high speed triggers to the camera when a tote passes into position . The photo-eyes communicates the position of the tote to turn on the upstream and downstream laser when the tote is in correct alignment.

If an object is detected during the laser scan of the tote, the entire container is rejected downstream before the filler. This ensures that products from previous runs are not mixed the current run.

A laser-lockout unit was installed with the custom vision solution. The laser system is triggered when objects pass in front of the photo-eye. This could pose a potential eye hazard to maintenance personnel, whose heads or hand could potentially block the photo and trigger the laser. The lockable disconnect with status lights solves this problem.  The lasers cannot emit light without a signal from the PLC, and the inspection cannot be run during lockout.

A red light indicates that the lasers are emitting light. A yellow light means that the lasers are powered and can emit light if the photo-eye is blocked. A green light indicated that the system is in lockout and the power to the lasers is disconnected; it is safe to enter the area.


  • A Laser illuminated machine vision inspection camera solution is faster to program and install, simple to maintain, saving customer time and money
  • System ensures products are not accidentally mixed, improving quality assurance and reducing customer complaints
  • Downtime for existing line minimized during EPIC machine vision system design and installation due to self-contained and packaged turnkey solution

Why EPIC Machine Vision?

A machine vision integrator helps you design and integrate an appropriate vision solution to improve your manufacturing process. EPIC believes we can help you do it better by:

  • Utilizing a Front-End Engineering to ensure that the proper steps are taken during project scope development
  • Starting every machine vision project in a state-of-the -art evaluation lab with feasibility testing.
  • Applying plant engineering experience that assists clients to identify needs, pinpoint objectives and provide the most appropriate manufacturing equipment for the application
  • Maintaining an open door client policy to promote innovation. We invite clients to visit EPIC to experiment with new processes, technologies and techniques that push the limits of traditional engineering.
  • Having accountability to responsibly manage our clients’ projects from start-to-finish and beyond.
  • Imparting a transfer of knowledge (not just a basic training) for the systems and equipment we provide
  • Appointing  a single point of direct contact during the entirety of the project

Find a solution that is right for your company. Contact EPIC or learn more about vision inspection systems.

Get Started

Are you ready to get started with your modular process project? Contact an engineer today 314-714-1580. At EPIC you will be put in direct contact with a project engineer who will help you get started...

EPIC Systems, Inc.
4134 Meramec Bottom Rd
St. Louis, MO 63129, US