Machine vision applications -  Successful examples from many industries

MACHINE VISION APPLICATIONS

Successful examples from many industries

Rapid and safe microbial detection system

October 2010

In the pharmaceutical and food industries, the detection of microbial contamination is of paramount importance. The detection of the "microbial load" is performed using a quantitative method with a contaminant as the unit, such as a bacterial cell, for example.

Rapid and safe microbial detection system

Millipore Corporation, the U.S. affiliate of the Merck group, has developed Milliflex Quantum, a system which detects microbiological load quickly and reliably. The required components have been supplied by imaging experts STEMMER IMAGING.

In the pharmaceutical and food industries, the detection of microbial contamination is of paramount importance. This may be caused by bacteria, yeast and mould in liquids originating from raw materials, manufacturing processes or end products. The detection of the "microbial load" is performed using a quantitative method with a contaminant as the unit, such as a bacterial cell, for example.

Traditional detection methods use filtering membranes capable of retaining the contaminants. Once the product has been filtered by the membrane, it is incubated in a nutrient solution for 5 to 7 days, depending on the type of germ searched for. After this incubation period, the colonies are visible in the form of countable colonies.

The Milliflex Quantum system is a laboratory instrument that reduces the incubation time needed for measuring the microbial load on a membrane by two-thirds. The system combines universal and non-destructive fluorescent staining with an optical system. Thus the fluorescent micro-colonies on the entire membrane become visible to the naked eye.

A detachable camera module enables the user to visualise the membrane on the screen, providing maximum flexibility and usability. Specifically-developed software assists the user in counting the micro-colonies. Incorporated in a compact design for easy handling, this module delivers high contrast images showing microcolonies from a diameter of 120μm.

It includes an IDS uEYE board level camera with a monochrome CMOS sensor having a resolution of 1280x1024 pixels and a 12mm lens, both supplied by STEMMER IMAGING.

The multiple connection options of the IDS uEye board level cameras made it possible to easily shift the USB port. The inputs and outputs of the camera have been used to integrate a light strip controlled by the PC software via the camera. This strip visually informs the user about the current camera status (camera OK / acquisition is running / error). No complex additional electronic equipment was required for the implementation of this function.

Application Chronology

Having validated the technological basis of the Milliflex Quantum and produced the first prototypes, we became aware of the importance of providing the system with a visualisation function and supporting software for counting, states Mr. Gaël Waiche who is in charge of the development of the Milliflex Quantum instruments.

We have examined all cameras available on the market and opted for a uEye camera from IDS, distributed by STEMMER IMAGING in France. This product instantly turned out to be a good compromise between compactness, performance and price. Moreover, the quality of the SDK and the durability guarantee were decisive factors.

Mr. Philippe Gac from GPVision, one of STEMMER IMAGING’s integration partners in France, has developed the supporting software for setting the optics of this module. Thanks to the support of the STEMMER IMAGING team, we have been able to produce the first prototype of the camera module and to ascertain that the product meets our needs within only a few weeks.

This camera module, that was initially intended as an option of the Milliflex Quantum, has been tested by a large number of customers, 80% of whom declared that they preferred to use the Milliflex Quantum rather with the camera than without it. This has induced us to supply the camera module as a standard feature of the system. Following the formal validation of the system, the counting precision was checked.

Since its launch, the Milliflex Quantum with the camera module has been distributed throughout the world.

About Millipore

Millipore Corporation, the U.S. affiliate of the Merck group, is a Life Science leader providing cutting-edge technologies, tools, and services. The company has more than 6,000 employees all around the world and realised a turnover of approx. 1,7 billion Euro in 2010. The biggest names of the pharmaceutical industry are among its customers.

Millipore's expertise and its scientific and innovative solutions help customers tackle their most complex problems and achieve their goals, benefiting at the same time from full support throughout the project.

Millipore's main fields of activity include:

  • laboratory activities
  • development of new medicine
  • production and control of pharmaceutical products