Nobody wants to open a can or bottle and notice something unexpected inside or that the carbonation has gone flat or that a millimeter-sized hole in the can or bottle was not checked and his or her new pants are now drenched in liquid.
With the speeds of bottling plants increasing at a steady rate, inspection equipment checking on the range of products needs to be top notch. Some of the inspection equipment is manual, and some are semi-automated or fully automatic. All of the machines inspect packaging to ensure the highest quality possible.
CMC-Kuhnke, Hudson, N.Y., produces a range of manual, semi-automated and fully-automated gauges, testers, seam saws and software. The company’s equipment can be used on beverage cans, steel cans, aerosol cans, composite cans and PET bottles.
The company tests seams on beverage cans to ensure a tight seal so carbonated beverages do not become flat. The Digital Seam Inspection workstation can use both manual and semi-automated gauges, depending on the system.
The manual system operates with the STG-4000, the S.E.A.M. Thickness Gauge, and the CDG-3000, the Countersink Depth Gauge, which is used to measure can profile depth. All readings are transferred to a computer using an SPC data cable.
In manual mode, the inspector places the can into the VSI-4211M and also rotates the can so the gauge is able to take a digital image. The manual system is a good fit for both large and small operations, the company says.
Both the manual and semi-automated system use the VSI-4211M Beverage S.E.A.M. Imager, which takes high-resolution images of a can’s seam, and the AGS-2000 Beverage S.E.A.M. Saw, a machine that cuts can double seams to show a precise digital image, the company says. The average inspection time for both a manual or semi-automated system is 35 to 45 minutes for 12 cans.
The CSG-2000 Beverage Seam Gauge replaces the STG-4000 and the CDG-3000 in the semi-automated system. This gauge is equipped with Countersink Depth, Double Seam Thickness and optional Can Height measurement systems.
CMC-Kuhnke also offers a fully automated seam inspection system called the MARS (Measurement and Rating Systems)-Seam Inspection. This system is able to inspect 12 cans in 12 minutes, the company says. It takes automatic measurements of seam thickness, countersink depth, seam length, body and end hook, overlap, seam gap and body hook butting percentage.
“The [fully] automated inspection system should be the goal for a number of reasons,” says Heinz Grossjohann, chief executive officer for CMC-Kuhnke. “Manually handed gauges are still influenced by the handler or quality control inspector. With the automated system, there is no difference between the values, which means these values become comparable. It is a great ability for companies that have multiple plants.”
With trends leaning toward higher filler speeds, having quality inspection equipment is key, Heinz says.
“The idea is to fill faster and to have fewer rejects or fewer problems,” he says. “We need to increase the quality control and the quality of quality control.”
Inside and outside bottle checks
Krones Inc., Franklin, Wis., also offers a range of inspection equipment applicable to the beverage industry in every stage of production. Ron Wilson, technical director for Krones’ North American inspection group, says the company’s inspection equipment can be broken into three groups: inspection technology, control technology and rejection systems. All of the systems are automatic.
Within inspection technology, Krones offers empty bottle inspection, full bottle inspection, sniffer equipment and PET inspection. Individual machines such as the Linetronic 735, Toptronic 719 and Smartronic 714 comprise its empty bottle inspection lineup.
“We have empty bottle inspection with six different types of inspection units,” Wilson says. “These inspect each and every bottle. The Smartronic does 300 bottles a minute, the Linetronic does 1,000 bottles a minute, the Toptronic does 1,200 bottles a minute.”
The Smartronic 714 is a low-speed machine for smaller lines and smaller companies, Wilson says. The Linetronic 735 is Krones’ biggest seller because it can inspect returnable glass, a common phenomenon outside the United States, he says.
The full bottle inspection equipment looks for glass particulates in a full bottle. Sniffer equipment is used most often in parts of the world that use returnable PET bottles, Wilson says. PET inspection machinery checks bottle pre-forms.
One of Krones’ PET inspection options is the PetView 776 that looks at the sidewall and the base of the bottle. “We’re looking for PET characteristics or cracking or pearling or discoloration of the bottles, the wall thickness type stuff,” Wilson says.
Within control technology systems, Krones manufacturers three types of inspection equipment for dry, wet and sorting systems for beverages. The dry system checks the label of the bottle and the wet system inspects fill height and bottle caps. Krones uses its Checkmat equipment on the dry and wet inspections.
The company manufactures three Checkmat machines for three types of inspection: fill level, label and pack. For dry inspections, meaning inspections of the label, the Checkmat 708 or Checkmat 761 are used.
For wet inspections, or those at the filler, Krones operates the Checkmat 707, Checkmat 752 or Checkmat 731. The Checkmat 707 is a basic controller-based unit that measures fill-height and cap inspection, Wilson says. The Checkmat 752 has an integrated touchscreen system that controls the filler. Neither the Checkmat 707 nor Checkmat 752 has camera applications.
The Checkmat 731 is the company’s high-end, high-performance unit, Wilson says. The machine includes filler management and camera applications. The system is installed at the conveyor with its own control panel.
Krones also offers rejection systems that can be used as a sorting system, he says. “Say you’ve got different colored bottles [and] you don’t want to destroy them, you can push them off to a separate lane that would put them into the correct lanes or correct area.”
Rejection inspection equipment takes the bottle off the line and puts it on a separate conveyor for human inspection. By taking the bottle off the line, other inspections such as fill-height inspection will be administered, Wilson says.
“I have seen the rejects come off the line and you look at the bottle and with your naked eye it would be really hard for you to detect the piece of glass the machine will pick up,” he says.
In-motion weight checkers
Thompson Scale Co., Houston, is a manufacturer of check weighing systems, packaging machinery controls and custom production scales. Its in-motion check waste systems can be used on dry and liquid packages.
The three in-motion check waste systems applicable to beverages are the TSC 350, the Sonic 350 and the 4693i Intermediate Check Weigher. The systems provide quality control by weight and eliminate the need for spot checks by a human, says Alan Vaught, vice president of operations for Thompson Scale Co.
The TSC 350 is meant for the producer of rigid packaging, such as coffee cans. The equipment can verify that the proper amount of liquid is contained in the package, Vaught says.
The Sonic 350 is meant for a flexible package and provides production rates up to 200 packages per minute with accuracies plus or minus one half-gram, the company says.
“[The Sonic 350] does a very good job on packages that don’t have a structure to stand up by themselves,” Vaught says. “It is comprised of a belt conveyor and the product transfers over the belt.”
Lastly, the 4963i Intermediate Check Weigher is used in applications after a case is packed to verify that all of the containers have been placed into the case and that there are no leaking bottles or cans within the case.
“When the box is sealed up, you cannot do a visual inspection to verify that everything is in the box,” Vaught says. “So looking at the weight of that container … should be able to tell you if that carton is filled or not.”
Mocon Inc., Minneapolis, produces the Permatran-C Model 10, which measures the carbon-dioxide transmission rate of individual plastic carbonated beverage bottles.
The test takes about three hours to produce statistically accurate results, the company says. The equipment graphically displays projected shelf life based on a user-specific loss limit, or the amount of carbon dioxide the carbonated beverage can lose before it is considered bad.
Permatran-C Model 10 can be used with plastic bottles ranging from 250 ml. to 2.5 liters. The ideal users of the unit include carbonated soft drink and beer manufacturers, and both of their bottle suppliers, the company says.
Agr International Inc., Butler, Pa., also offers inspection equipment for the beverage industry, including its newest package tester, the PPT3000. The PPT3000 is a pressure tester that incorporates high-precision volume expansion measurement and a version of the M-Rule Container Performance Model, the company says.
The M-Rule Container Performance Model, a software-based tool, provides material utilization and predicts shelf-life characteristics of individual plastic containers.
According to the company, the PPT3000 can be used as a viable process control instrument for testing and monitoring the quality of all types of plastic bottles, including pressurized and non-pressurized containers.
The machine also uses a custom test generator that permits the creation of test profiles that can meet the needs of special bottle designs or to simulate a particular problem that could occur in the field. It can monitor and gauge bottle shelf-life during routine quality testing in advance of long-term shelf-life tests as well, the company says.
Pressco Technology Inc., Cleveland, a producer of online computer automated vision inspection and process analysis products and services, specializes in metal and plastic closures, and beer and beverage ends.
Pressco’s Intellispec performs online vision inspection of beverage applications, including metal and plastic closures, the inside of beverage cans, PET containers, PET pre-forms and converted ends. Retro-Spec is a computer-like interface designed to be used by the operator with Intellispec technology. The Intellispec products are positioned to allow the inspection of containers before, during and after the blow-fill process, the company says.
“Pressco has designed a complete package integrated with material handling to interface with industry standard hoppers such that production capacity is maintained,” says David Cochran, program manager for Pressco.
For the filling market, the company uses both camera and sensor-based products. “In the case of the camera applications, the system is configured to identify the fill level and/or label of a container through a pixel-based analysis,” Cochran says. “Sensor-based systems are simpler, but [they] add the capacity to identify the fill level of products in metal or glass containers.”
The inspection equipment used on beverages plays an important role in ensuring a quality product. With automated machines and manual checks, every step in the bottling production line receives attention. BI
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The May 2020 edition dives into where beverages fit in the future of cannabis. Readers also can find out how beverage market and retailers are adjusting to handle coronavirus. Additionally, this issue highlights the latest trends impacting protein and sports drinks, fiber and probiotics, packaging design and much more!