Beverage cans come in all shapes and sizes these days, and while demand for traditional 12-ounce sizes has dropped, the market for slim cans, super-sized 16- and 24-ounce cans, and smaller 8-ounce sizes is keeping canning technology on its toes.
According to the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm, metal beverage containers will see a slim 0.2 percent growth rate between 2007 and 2012, from 8.91 billion containers last year, to a little more than 8.98 billion in 2012. Demand will be led by energy drinks and 8-ounce soft drink cans, it says in its new “Beverage Containers” study. In addition, aluminum bottles “will increase rapidly from a low base due to their upscale appearance, which provides a key element of product differentiation in markets such as beer.”
In the plant, those changes mean more changeovers and technology that can adjust from one size to the next. Germany’s Krones has expanded its current portfolio with the VODM-C filler to keep up with those flexibility requirements. The new VODM-C filler uses an inductive flow-meter rather than the pre-measured filling chambers used by the existing VOC to determine filling volume.
According to Sebastian Delgado, director of filling technology, and Robert Jarosch, product manager for filling technology at Krones, the process is similar to the company’s VODM-PET bottle filling technology, and while it sacrifices a bit of the accuracy achieved by pre-filling, it is easier to clean and maintain. The VODM-C also allows higher flexibility as it has an easier setup for different filling volumes, they say.
“What we did is we said we’ll do it in the same way we usually work with bottles, which is we have a filling valve and we measure the flow of product by an inductive flow meter,” Delgado says.
“The new system is more flexible in volume,” he adds. “If I have a pre-filling [chamber], of course I’m limited to the volume of the pre-filling container. With the new system, I can fill from very small cans to very big cans without a problem.”
Modular design
Switzerland’s Ferrum Ltd. also is meeting the challenge of a wider range of can sizes with its F400 Series seamers. The company has partnered with Shoreline PPM, Havre de Grace, Md., to represent its products in the United States, and says its F400 Series features a compact, modular design that simplifies the changeover process.
“There is a change in philosophy regarding how to run canning lines that means it becomes more and more an issue how good and how fast you can make a changeover to different can diameters,” says Robert Grillenberger, sales manager for Ferrum.
In addition to the existing line up of high-speed beverage machines that range in capacity up to 2,500 containers per minute, the new F400 Series can be configured for three to 12 seaming stations and operate at speeds from 60 to 1,200 cans per minute. They feature an exclusive separate and variable motor drive for the seaming spindles, which is one of the keys to the F400 Series’ flexibility.
“It’s the only machine that we know of that offers a way in which you can separately adjust the seaming spindle drive ratio to the rest of the machine,” says Mike Mangone, vice president of sales for Shoreline. “The Ferrum 400 Series offers you three to four different and adjustable ratios so you can, on the same machine, run a variety of materials. You can run a steel can with a steel end, a plastic container with an aluminum end, aluminum with aluminum — so you can customize the seaming ratio to give the optimum seam for whatever material you are using.”
In addition, stainless steel construction throughout the seaming area is standard on Ferrum’s seamers, which can be combined with an optional automatic foaming cleaning system for more efficient cleaning.
“We can integrate this system directly to the Ferrum machines and also to whatever filler it’s being coupled with, and we can produce an automated foaming and cleaning system for sanitation,” Mangone says.
Ferrum’s seamers also feature a pressurized closed-loop oiling system with integrated seaming roll lubrication, which the company says has been an industry exclusive for more than 20 years.
New vs. used
Today’s economy has plant owners evaluating the operating costs of all their equipment, leading many companies that previously never considered buying used equipment to take a look at reconditioned machines, according to SMB Machinery Systems, Ball Ground, Ga. The company specializes in refurbishing used equipment, and says it is talking to companies that, in the past, always bought new.
“We’re seeing a lot more customers who, in the past, probably would not entertain looking at used equipment,” says SMB President Tom Ewing. “The major beverage companies who traditionally always purchase new are now looking at new ways to provide the products in the marketplace in a good value equation at a very high quality.”
Howard Buckner, partner at SMB, says secondhand machinery is getting a better reputation these days thanks to better rebuilding and maintenance.
“They’re respecting the fact that secondhand machinery, as long as it is maintained properly, as long as it is rebuilt properly, will last for a long time, no different than a used car if it’s maintained,” he says.
When it comes to package-specific filling, SMB says it is seeing a shift back to cans, thanks to more diversity in shapes and sizes. “We’re getting many more inquiries about cans,” Ewing says. “…I think the can companies have done a good job of reinventing themselves to offer new opportunities to put different products into a can.”
No matter what the equipment, SMB says there are cost savings to purchasing reconditioned machines, but buyers should beware of too-good-to-be-true deals.
“There is a cost savings to buying reconditioned, remanufactured equipment, but it’s not a situation where somebody’s going to be able to come in and buy a piece for a steal,” Buckner says. “If it’s going to be rebuilt, there’s only one way to do that and it has to be done thoroughly.”
Inspection at all costs
Keeping an eye on quality as well as budgets, CMC-Kuhnke, Hudson, N.Y., offers a range of can inspection systems for all sizes of beverage manufacturing. The company’s MARS-SEAM double-seam inspection system completes full seam inspection in minutes with fewer plant personnel. In addition, the company offers a new lower-priced SEAMscan SPC system for smaller operations.
“We’re trying to make the standard double-seam inspection system accessible to more of the smaller fillers that don’t have the budget for the MARS-SEAM,” CMC-Kuhnke Vice President Alex Grossjohann says.
The MARS-SEAM system measures seam thickness, countersink depth and seam height at up to 50 locations on the can. In addition, the system includes a Purge Station that opens the can from the bottom, and a Saw and Capture Station, which measures internal seam dimensions. The system operates at speeds of one can per minute, as opposed to traditional manual seam inspections that can take as long as an hour or more.
For companies that want high-quality seam inspection but do not have the speed requirements of the MARS-SEAM, the new SEAMscan SPC system offers a high-resolution option at a lower price, thanks in part to a new lens, Grossjohann says. “We just developed a new lens that allows us to reduce the price even further while keeping an even more clear picture, yielding more accurate measurements,” he says. BI