High volume mailing systems of the type made by Sensible Technologies are used by service bureaus that print and mail statements and invoices for mortgage servicers, credit card companies and other high volume mailers. One design challenge with these machines is that statements and invoices for different customers often have several pages. It is important to ensure that each customer gets all of the pages of his or her statement and nothing more. In some cases, sending a statement page to the wrong customer can lead to a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), which protects the privacy of healthcare information.
Mailing systems meet this challenge by reading a bar code on every page, which provides a unique identifier for the statement or invoice. Most mailers use 2D codes because they can store more information in less space. Reading the codes just before folding the documents and inserting them into an envelope ensures the integrity of each statement or invoice. Often the barcode is read again through the glassine window of the envelope to provide a final check that the document has been completed and mailed.
The established companies in this market make systems that can sell for up to $1,000,000. Part of the high cost of these machines involves the use of a vision system consisting of a camera, an image-processing card, and image processing software running on a personal computer.
Sensible Technologies had a vision for a high volume mailing system that is simpler and less expensive to purchase and operate. The company developed a line of feeder/folders that are fully integrated with reliable intelligent inserters. The Classic system handles 24,000 documents per hour ranging from 8.5 X 11 in. to 8.5 X 14 in. and 10,000 envelopes per hour. The Luxe system handles 40,000 documents per hour ranging from 8.5 X 11 in. to 8.5 X 14 in. and 11,000 envelopes per hour.
Sensible Technologies’ output verification units read and report each document as it is processed, ensuring correct sequence and producing a full audit trail verifying each envelope’s completion.
The company decided to take advantage of the new generation of barcode verifiers with a camera and image processing hardware and software within a protective enclosure. One of the leading integrated barcode readers was chosen and successfully used in its first few products. However, as customers’ mailings became more complicated, the company found that the previous reader was unable to meet the requirements for many of its applications. “We switched to Cognex DataMan 100 because their verification system is faster and more configurable and they offer a high level of service,” said Herb Taylor, vice president of research and development, Sensible Technologies.
DataMan 100 readers can be mounted to a fixed location or used with an optional 10 in. X-Z adjustable stand. The unit includes adjustable 30/45° low angle lighting and 90° diffuse on-axis lighting (DOAL) lighting for the wide range of applications. Adjustable optics enable verification of codes with cell sizes as small as 7.5 mils and as large as 25 mm or 1 in. The verification system conforms to ISO15426-2 standards and has been tested to comply with the results of Judge-certified cards from GS1. The system includes a control box with integrated I/O, power and lighting quick-connect cable.
Sensible Technologies’ design uses an encoder to track the position of the leading edge of the paper. The encoder communicates with a Mitsubishi PLC, which initiates the reader using a digital output when the reader is positioned over the code. Servomotors drive the rollers that move the paper through the machine. The paper speed can exceed 150 ips, so each page passes through the machine within 50 and 75 msec. Within that time period the verifier needs to read the code and send it to the PLC. The Cognex DataMan 100 reader can capture and decode a 2D Data Matrix code in under 15 msec and transfer it to the PLC in 10-15 msec.
“We operate at the high end of the capability of everyone’s product,” Taylor said. “There is nothing standard in mailing in America so we frequently run into applications that stretch the limits of our code verifiers. There are laws as to when mail needs to be sent, so we often face tough time constraints. We now have over 100 systems in the field using DataMan 100 code verifiers.”
Taylor said the company plans to migrate to the Cognex DataMan 500 for its next generation of products, which will provide even higher speeds. DataMan 500 is the first ID reader to be powered by a proprietary vision chip. The chip enables DataMan 500 to offer speeds on 1D barcode reading with up to 90 decodes per second and image acquisition with auto-exposure, at up to 1,000 frames per second.
Filed Under: Design World articles, Vision • machine vision • cameras + lenses • frame grabbers • optical filters