Many manufacturers turn to track, trace and control systems to address issues with a global distribution and supply chain, product safety challenges and the need for more efficient and lean operations. Real-time data, visibility of waste in processes, poka-yoke (error-proofing) and minimizing spillage are benefits of a properly executed system. Automation engineers asked to implement these systems often do not have time to become experts in optics and automatic identification.
Selection of a proper code reader is critical to a track-and-trace system's successful implementation. Microscan says its new QX Hawk is the first high-performance reader with the flexibility to read any mark at any distance and speed in any environment. "We do this by combining advanced technologies from machine vision lighting and liquid lens with robust software decode algorithms in a package that is as easy to use as a standard barcode reader," states Dan Barnes, chief engineer at Microscan. "Advanced imaging technology, including patent-pending liquid lens autofocus modular zoom optics, means automation engineers need not research multiple configuration options before deployment." With QX Hawk, adds Barnes, a single unit is virtually guaranteed to read any 2D mark or barcode within seconds of installation.
"Traditionally, the only options for code readers with integrated optics were limited in performance, and conversely the high-performance readers required external C-mount optics and extra illumination," says Andy Zosel, Microscan's director of product marketing.
QX Hawk reads any mark—from a high-density 3.3 mil Data Matrix or a very large linear code to a low-contrast, direct part mark (DPM). It has a high-resolution, modular, optical-zoom system, which combined with liquid lens autofocus enables a single reader to handle almost any ID application. "The QX Hawk can read marks at distances from 50 to 500 mm and beyond," says Zosel. "And in discrete factory-automation environments such as beverage filling or pharmaceutical packaging, throughput can be very high. With the ability to read more than 60 codes/sec, QX Hawk can keep up with almost any high-speed application."
The device is powered by a dual-core ARM/DSP processor that allows for high-speed image capture and real-time configuration and communication. Barnes says this high-performance embedded processing, combined with the availability of three high-speed inputs and three high-speed outputs directly from the reader, enables QX Hawk to provide line-level control functions, and eliminate the need for what historically might have required a dedicated PLC.
Many manufacturers also are implementing flexible work cell or production lines that run a variety of products. A code reader can assist with, or in some cases completely automate, the line configuration based on data read from parts. "In other instances, line changeover is a necessary waste of time, which should be minimized," adds Zosel. "A flexible reader that can be configured quickly is essential."
Set up is almost as easy as using a point-and-shoot digital camera, claims Zosel. "A bright laser X pattern enables aiming alignment at any distance and an EZ button on the top of the unit provides instant focus and code calibration," he says. "The dual M12 ultra-lock quick-connect connectors provide full flexibility in deploying a one-unit Ethernet configuration or adding multiple readers daisy-chained together with a single cable between units."
With IP65/67 sealing, a robust metal case and a plastic front window, QX Hawk is ready for any factory automation environment. "We designed it for easy integration in machines," explains Barnes.