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Brother International Deploys BLE Solution to Track Garment Ink Agitation

The BlueHound system, developed by Bastian Solutions in partnership with Quuppa, uses BLE beacon technology to identify when ink agitation machines are in operation, thereby ensuring a high-quality ink product for direct-to-garment printing.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 28, 2019

Business and industrial products company Brother International Corp. is managing the quality of its white ink, based on agitation during production, via Internet of Things (IoT) technology provided by Bastian Solutions and Quuppa. Bastian's BlueHound system enables Brother to track work-in-progress as it makes white ink used for direct-to-garment (DTG) printing operations. Brother has declined to comment for this story.

With Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon-based technology, the print technology company can track the status of its ink products based on how often they are agitated, for the purpose of quality assurance. The system consists of Quuppa's tags attached to ink agitator machines, in order to detect when the equipment is running and transmit that data to a cloud-based server. The software captures and analyzes the information to determine when agitation took place for each batch of white ink, and for how long, thereby ensuring the proper ink viscosity.

The BlueHound system
Brother's deployment is the first application of the solution created under Bastian's and Quuppa's partnership, which the two companies developed to provide location- and sensor-based data to businesses in multiple sectors. Bastian Solutions is a material-handling systems integrator that provides automated solutions to manufacturers, as well as to distribution and order-fulfillment firms. It sells IoT-based asset-tracking and supply chain visibility solutions. Recently, the company released its BlueHound asset-tracking system, which employs Quuppa's Intelligent Locating System software. Locators and tags, according to Natalie Hogan, Bastian's general manager of IoT.

The Quuppa Intelligent Locating System is a technology platform leveraging a combination of Bluetooth, angle-of-arrival (AoA) and angle-of-departure (AoD) methodologies, as well as advanced location algorithms and management software tools that the company says it has developed throughout the course of more than 15 years. Bastian began working with Quuppa in August 2018 and deployed the system for Brother in February of this year at Brother's production facility in Bartlett, Tenn. Brother was not seeking a solution to track the movements of its assets or inventory, but rather to identify when its assets were in use and for how long. Brother makes DTG printers, as well as ink to be applied to printed garments at production-level speeds.

The process of creating the ink that garment manufacturers apply to fabrics by is precise and needs to be monitored, the two companies explain. The ink requires frequent and regular agitation. White ink is especially challenging, as it contains metallic flakes that could sink to the bottom of any container and thereby compromise the consistency of the contents.

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