By SARAH THEODORE
Inspection equipment can help ensure beverage quality
Given the heightened
awareness concerning product safety these days,
packaging inspection equipment has never been
more important. The proper equipment can reduce the chances of costly
recalls and the untold costs of losing consumers’ trust.
According to inspection equipment experts, the growth
in alternative packages, as well as an ever-increasing number of beverage
SKUs have made automated inspection essential.
“As you look at the market worldwide, you see
more and more companies getting away from glass and cans and going into
some sort of flexible packaging — either plastic bottles or in some
cases, pouches,” says Jim Kearbey at Teledyne TapTone, North
Kearbey says Teledyne TapTone has seen business shift
during the past several years from a majority of clients investing in
acoustic systems that inspect cans and glass bottles, to force and
compression technologies for plastic packaging.
Small microleaks in flexible packaging could impact
the integrity of a product, allowing bacterial contamination. To check for
such leaks, Teledyne TapTone offers the TapTone 1000-PBI for plastic
containers, stand-up pouches and tubes. The system uses dual sensor
compression technology to apply pressure to the sidewall of the container,
which compresses the headspace in the bottle. It then uses comparative
measurements at the infeed and discharge to indicate whether a bottle is
leaking. The system operates as fast as 200 feet per minute and
incorporates rejection technology that ejects a container from the conveyor
if it does not meet standards. The company also has force and compression
systems that operate at up to 300 feet per minute.
In addition, the company offers x-ray technology to
check for fill levels in containers. The x-ray technology allows plant
operators to examine bottles and cans at high speeds to ensure accurate
filling. When combined with x-ray technology, the TapTone 1000-PBI can
detect low fills, overfills and closure defects, as well as leaks.
Also offering x-ray inspection systems is ThermoFisher
Scientific, based in Minneapolis. The company offers the InScan system to
detect fill levels in opaque containers such as cans, and the POWERx to
inspect for potential contaminants.
The InScan system operates at speeds up to 2,400
containers per minute, and can simultaneously inspect fill level, net
content, under and overfill levels, and missing or misaligned caps and
crowns. The POWERx is available for both upright and horizontal
applications, with the S and D models appropriate for upright bottles and
jars. The D model is able to detect glass shards in glass containers with
100 percent probability, according to the company, while the S model has a
single beam for less complex packages without hidden inspection areas. Both
models easily can be added to an existing packaging line.
The company also offers the CrystalVision CO2 sensor,
which measures carbon dioxide levels in carbonated products — another
important measurement of product quality.
“To make sure you’ve got the right amount
of carbonation in a beverage is a quality metric for many reasons,”
says Rick Cash, product manager for CrystalVision. “The proper level
of carbonation is important so it has the right
drinkability. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it forms
carbonic acid. It changes the pH and ‘mouthfeel’ when you
The CrystalVision technology directly measures the
amount of carbonic acid in a product as opposed to more traditional
methods, which determine the level of carbonation through a calculation of
temperature and pressure. That is an important distinction, Cash says,
because those calculations do not take into consideration alcohol levels or
other factors that affect the ability of the CO2 to dissolve in the liquid.
The CrystalVision only measures the amount of CO2 that is actually in the
The system can be installed quickly and does not
contain membranes that could break and cause the system to shut down. Keeping the crystal in working order is
accomplished through a standard clean-in-place system, which eliminates
build-up on its surface.
“The best part is that this product
doesn’t have any moving parts,” Cash says. “It’s a
solid piece of stainless steel with a sapphire crystal at the end.
That’s all that comes into contact with the beverage.”
Keeping an eye on things
When it comes to overseeing an entire packaging line,
Monitoring Technology Corp., Fairfax, Va., has developed 20/20 Hindsight, a
system designed to allow plant operators to monitor and record potential
Hindsight cameras are small and have remote control
capability from the user interface. Cameras can be placed in tight
positions and the zoom, focus and aperture can be adjusted from the
According to the company, the system helps with
troubleshooting, increases line speeds by eliminating unnecessary “dwell” times and increases efficiency
by pinpointing the root cause of jams. It also can be used to enhance
training and documentation by using video clips, which can be used to train
personnel onsite or e-mailed to other locations using similar equipment.
No matter what type of inspection equipment a plant
installs, ThermoFisher Scientific’s Cash says to place the inspection
as close to a potential trouble spot as possible. For example, if equipment
is testing fill levels, it should be placed after the filler, before labels
and other materials are added.
“My advice to beverage plants is that, if
you’re going to put an inspection system in, put the inspection as
close to the process line area that could cause the problem you’re
inspecting. Inspect and measure before you add extra value to [the product]
where you’re going to scrap that extra value if there’s a
He describes automated inspection as a way to help
“bulletproof” a manufacturing system. “The more you can
bulletproof that process by having automation aids that do work for you,
the more peace of mind that production manager is going to have when he
goes to bed at night,” he says. BI
When things are going
well, plant operators are the only people concerned with inspection
systems. But recent reports of contaminated pet food ingredients,
counterfeit toothpaste and other products
have made it clear just how important it is to protect a brand’s
integrity before and after it hits the packaging line.
To help avoid the use of faulty ingredients,
ThermoFisher Scientific offers the Spectra-Quad Online Moisture and
Constituent Analyzer and the Antares FT-NIR which allow plant operators to
“Let’s say that you were getting sugar to
put into a carbonated drink,” says ThermoFisher’s Rick Cash.
“You’re worried that maybe at the bottom of that bag of sugar
there could be salt. That would be bad. Yet salt is cheaper than sugar so
people might pad that sugar with salt. A near infrared constituent analyzer
can actually look at that sugar before you put it in the tank.”
The Spectra-Quad system is able to measure fat,
protein, oil and coat weight in addition to moisture levels, and can
measure both dry and liquid products.
“Products like our Spectra-Quad can provide
quality assurance, not to replace a lab test, but to complement a lab
test,” Cash says.
To detect counterfeited product, the Value Engineering
Alliance, Cambridge, Mass., has developed the AVIA Private Eye, an
integrated PC-based software and hardware system that can examine authentic
and suspect packages. The machine detects differences in text and graphics
and generates a list of all the differences. It offers report preparation
tools such as true-color image export with optional image annotation.
Heineken in slim cans
Heineken USA, White Plains, N.Y., has launched
Heineken Premium Light in a new 12-ounce slim can, which it says,
“delivers imagery consistent with the elegance and unique design of
its bottle counterpart.” The 12-ounce cans are available in both a
12-pack Fridge Pack and a 24-pack suitcase. The company says the slimmer
and taller can structure continues visual elements from the Heineken
Premium Light bottle, with vertical logo treatment on the label.
New shrink label
Seal-It supplied a new full-sleeve shrink label for
Hilo Gold Noni Juice from the Stratis Group.
The heat shrink PET-G label is rotogravure printed in seven colors, and the
package includes a neckband made of clear PVC for tamper-evidence. The
characteristics of PET-G allow it to shrink to the contours of the bottle,
and the high-gloss film enhances the graphics’ intensity.
American Beverage Corp., Pittsburgh, launched
Daily’s cocktail mixers in a new 1-liter pour spout package. The
proprietary new pour spout includes a quick-flip hinge that keeps the
re-sealable cap open to prevent the cap from dangling into the pouring
“We conducted extensive research with bartenders across the country and developed the optimal pour spout
closure to meet their needs,” said Tim Barr, marketing director for
Daily’s. “As a result we have a sleeker, more ergonomic design
that outperforms the competition and allows for consistent, precision pours
and accurate measuring. It’s a win for professional bartenders and
The new bottle is available in two designs: large
orifice for high-volume or high-viscosity products; and small orifice for
lower-volume products that require a more precise pour. It will launch at
retail in August.
McCormick Distilling Company Inc., Weston, Mo., will
roll out 360 Vodka through its new division, Earth Friendly Distilling
Company. The company calls the product the “first eco-friendly
premium spirit.” 360 Vodka will be packaged in a crystal-like bottle
that is made from 85 percent recycled glass. The label and all marketing
materials also are produced using the most ecologically friendly materials,
methods and procedures, the company says.
NOS wins packaging award
Fuze Beverages LLC, Englewood, Cliffs, N.J., has
received the 2007 Silver National Association of Container Distributors
(N.A.C.D.) award for its 22-ounce NOS Energy Drink bottle. The bottle is
designed to resemble Holley Performance Products’ Nitrous Oxide
Systems and includes a novelty cap that mimics the bottle top on the Holley
automotive performance product.
The N.A.C.D. judges eight categories: Food &
Beverage, Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic & Toiletry, Industrial, Household,
Chemical & Automotive, Pet & Veterinarian, and Novelty. Packaging
is judged on graphics, decoration, shape, closure, texture, ease-of-use,
consumer appeal and technical merit.