Supercomputers help to make Inwatec’s X-ray machine even smarter

Tudor MorarForgotten pens and needles are among the costliest challenges in the laundry industry worldwide. Pens destroy a lot of laundry while needles pose a major security risk to employees. X-ray technology is one part of the solution, especially when the machines are able to analyze the images on their own.

At Inwatec, a team of programmers is working hard every day to solve problems that one can literally find in the pockets of the clothes that pass through the washing process. One of these people is Tudor Morar, a young Romanian-born robot engineer who joined the team when he invented the basis for the solution that is now running on all of Inwatec’s X-ray machines during a single weekend in 2015.

“Normally you would make the X-ray system search for dark spots in the pictures but that doesn’t work well enough with plastic parts. Therefore, we have developed our own algorithms. I can’t reveal business secrets but I can say that the novelty resides mainly in the fact that we consider the shape of objects instead of their material,” says Tudor who gets very excited when speaking about the many challenges of analyzing garments that he and his colleagues face.

“Garments are a big challenge because you won’t find two X-ray images that are alike. The seams always look differently and there are all kinds of buttons and zippers one has to take into account. The current technology is really good when it comes to sorting garments such as hospital clothes. However, with heavy fabrics, there comes the challenge. With these, the machines make errors too often.  While the machine is supposed to let zippers and large buttons pass, it is expected to reject screws and small nuts,” says Tudor.

Massive computing power available

One part of the solution to the problem are better algorithms that are able to spot the foreign elements. Another important aspect is artificial intelligence (AI) that can help the human operators with making the right choices.

“One of the biggest challenges regarding the X-ray sorting is that it cannot look for foreign elements too thoroughly. If we make it too sensitive, clothes with many creases get rejected. On the other hand, if it is not sensitive enough, needles and pens slip through and end up in the washing,” explains Tudor Morar who has written all of Inwatec’s programs from the scratch and therefore knows how to assist the computers during the process.

“The solution is to teach the computer how to spot foreign objects on their own. Therefore, we started using AI. We have just started to rent some Amazon servers optimized for computations in order to be able to work with larger amounts of data. To give a rough estimate, the processor cores of Amazon’s servers are 64-times more powerful than our computers, but it is mainly the graphics processing unit that is much more powerful than anything we had available before,” explains the Romanian programmer. He and his team are, however, not even closely challenging the full capacities of these supercomputers.

“Fortunately, we have a great collaboration with our customers who are, of course, also interested in continuously improving our software. That’s why we have received plenty of real images from our customers in Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands. I think we are talking about 15,000 images that we have to analyze. Theoretically, the machine could sort one million images a day but there is an important obstacle: We have to sort the images first into two groups, reject or pass, which has to be done manually,” says Tudor Morar.

Computers have to learn how to think by themselves

At Inwatec, we have better jobs for the programmers than using their working time for manually feeding computers with images. For this purpose, Tudor Morar and his colleagues embarked upon a very ambitious plan:

“We are using deep learning algorithms that are designed to function like neurons in the human brain. That way, the computer is able to learn by itself without anybody having to take care of it during the whole time,” says Tudor who together with programmer Martin Bulin already are in full swing of training his electronic ‘students’.

“The AI needs a fairly precise description of what it should look for. The more we can specify it, the better the results will be. Not everything works equally well but there are patterns in the images that can be detected and then be used in the deep learning process in order to improve the results. This is what we are very interested in when teaching the X-ray machines how to work,” says Tudor.




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Inwatec increases the efficiency of Norway’s leading laundries

Nor Tekstil is Norway’s dominant player in the laundry industry. The company serve a significant share of Norwegian hotels hospitals and nursing homes, as well as a large number of customers in the offshore industry and other firms in the industrial sector.

The company is constantly evolving to maintain its market leader position. Inwatec came into play as a part of this process. What started as a small relationship has become an important collaboration over time.

“We started with some mat rolling some years ago when Mads Andresen convinced me that it was a good idea and profitable solution. At Nor Tekstil we believe that the machines should have a payback time of less than three years to be a good solution for us. In fact, it was already the case after less than two years, so he was right and we purchased some more of them,” says the director of development, Ove Belsvik, who is also co-owner of Nor Tekstil.

Ove Belsvik has just visited Inwatec at Hvidkærvej in Odense to inspect the latest purchase: An X-ray machine to be installed at Nor Tekstil’s high-tech laundry in Trondheim for reducing the cost for replacing garments. He already knows that the machine will be a success because Nor Tekstil already has a similar machine in operation.

“Inwatecs X-ray machine solves a problem that the big companies of the laundry industry can’t handle on their own, and this problem is that you cannot avoid people making mistakes. A large part of savings of the X-ray machines is because we don’t have to buy new fabrics to the same extent as we had to do before. On our machine in Drammen, which has been running for six months now, the system has worked quite smoothly, and that’s why we buy machine number two now,” says Ove Belsvik and elaborates:

“We can see in the boxes under the machine that the detection rate of the X-ray machine is high and although, of course, some things still slip through sometimes this happens on a completely different level than before. This security makes a big financial difference for us, because when a washing is being destroyed by a pen or something, it’s not just the 70-80 kg clothes to be replaced. It also costs a lot of money in the administration, labeling and so on.”

Huge development potential

Nor Tekstil operates 16 laundries throughout most of Norway and Ove Belsvik expects that the collaboration between Inwatec and Nor Tekstil has great potential in the long term.

“We work together with some of the world’s largest laundry-manufacturers, and we are investing in the most advanced equipment on the market. Inwatec helps to close a large part of the gaps that are still in the processes. Put simply, they solve our problems, and from this perspective, Inwatec is a small but important partner,” says Ove Belsvik who focus on weeding out the physically demanding and manpower-intensive processes, because labor is in short supply in Norway.

“For me it’s important that I know Mads Andresen as well as I do. We have done many things together, and I know that when we have agreed on that a robot must pick 2,000 pieces of clothing per hour, it can do so when it’s delivered. I also know that Inwatec develops specifically for our needs and challenges, which makes it easier to invest in new machinery. It matters to our customers that we are willing to invest, so of course it means also something to us that Inwatec invests in our challenges,” says Ove Belsvik, who predicts that there will be a great development in the machinery of the laundry industry in the upcoming years.

“Our assessment is that there is going to happen a lot regarding the machines for washing processes in the next five years. The washing and drying of clothes is well under control, but there is room for much more automation in logistics and packaging.”

X-Ray and Sorting

We are approaching the summer, which usually has a reference to vacation, relaxation and cosiness.

At Inwatec we share this idea, but what we also share is the passion for smart machines. Take for example our X-Ray, which locates foreign objects in textiles:

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We wish you a lovely spring with all the best to come!

– Inwatec

Automation without RFID

At Inwatec, this year has begun with emphatic pace. Orders are being placed in a healthy tempo, and we are working on exciting projects.

One of the lastest projects that has been shipped is a mat rolling machine with sorting function (6 to 8 categories) which went to Norway:

 

View from the side with integrable conveyors 

 

With hopes of a great year to come, we wish you all the best!

Successful Open House Event

The open house event, December 12th 2014, was a great success with more than 100 visitors. Machines were demonstrated, people were mingling, and the atmosphere was positive!

All of us at Inwatec would like to thank all of you for a great 2014! 

We also wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year, in which we are looking forward to working with you.

Thanks for a great exhibition in Munich

On three days more than 40 guests from whole Europe visited us at Schäfer Matten to see the new patented Roll Machine and the highly automatized Mat Storage System. They used the opportunity to look at the machines in action, to talk with each other and our team in person as well as enjoying a beer at the Oktoberfest.

Invitation to Inwatec Exhibition at Schäfer Matten in September

Come and join us at our exhibition to visit one of the most automated and modern industrial laundries with a cycle of one ton of mats per hour, to see our innovative machines in action and to talk face-to-face to our team about our products and your laundry. 

 

When: 24 – 26th September 2013, 10:00 to 15:00 

Where: Laundry Schäfer Matten GmbH & Co. KG, Industriestraße 22, 82194 Gröbenzell, Germany

Just write us an email mail@inwatec.dk

Inwatec upgrades Berendsen laundry

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Our Inwatec engineers and programmers updated Berendsen´s existing roll machines with a modern control system. With our new system Berendsen´s mat rolling process is improved as the mats are rolled more stable and the sorting is enhanced. Another benefit is the easy maintenance and handling of the system. Berendsen is very with this solution!