Thermo Fisher Scientific NextGuard x-ray machineThermo Fisher Scientific, the Minneapolis-based Fortune 500 company, has developed a new X-ray detection platform it says is more affordable for food, pharmaceutical and other applications. The system sells for about $40,000 and can be financed through the company's financing arm.

The platform is called the NextGuard system, and the first model in the series is the NextGuard C330. It complements the company's mid- and high-end Xpert and Powerx X-ray inspection systems.

Applications include cheese, ice cream and bakery products. Many wet or semi-frozen foods do not lend themselves to metal detection due to product affect issues, said Bob Ries, lead product manager, metal detection and X-ray inspection, Thermo Fisher.

Dairy processors using metalized film packaging might benefit from a X-ray detection system because that material can be problematic for metal detectors, Ries said.

Thermo Fisher also manufacturers metal detection products. Ries characterized the metal detection market as big but added that the X-ray detection market is growing faster.

The product is available for shipping and is in use at dairy processing facilities. Ries declined to identify the types of dairy foods being manufactured at these plants. He did say that ice cream processors are a big customer segment for the company.

Based on Thermo Fisher testing, the NextGuard offers up to 50% percent better detection sensitivity than Thermo Fisher’s previous value-based X-ray system, the EZx. The system is designed to be reliable, easy-to-install and compact (one meter long). It comes equipped with intuitive software.
NextGuard’s performance-oriented features also have been driven by a changing industry landscape. “X-ray detection addresses a number of customer concerns, including evolving HACCP standards and requirements from some retailers for X-ray inspected product,” Ries said.

The company was able to bring down the price of the unit and still offer many features by tapping purchasing and design efficiencies throughout the company.

The NextGuard has features often only found in higher-end systems to help expand the technology to a wider customer base. These include: 

  • Multiple contaminant detection algorithms to increase detection probability
  • Ability to modify, test and change detection parameters on the fly
  • QA check mode, automating operator audits and record keeping
  • Multiple available X-ray powers with low-cost extended warranties
  • Wraparound detector intended to reduce “blind spots”
  • Built-in internet remote support hardware and software
  • Easily removable conveyor facilitating quick cleaning and service
  • Detector diagnostics warn when preventative maintenance is needed
  • On-machine reject image storage for up to 90 days

Thermo Fisher is manufacturing the machine in Minnesota. It plans to export the product to Germany, Mexico and China. It will introduce the NextGuard system at a meat industry trade show in Germany next month.