Bottle and can conveyors have been adapting as quickly as the sizes and shapes of the containers they are designed to convey have been changing.
Sidel Inc., Norcross, Ga., supplies a full range of conveyors, including air conveyors. Sidel’s air conveyor solutions are designed to transport PET bottles in all shapes and sizes, and come with a large prefilter and a neck rails clip and slide, which makes routine replacements easier, the company says.
A central automation controller controls the air output speed and adapts it to conveying speeds. Sidel’s patented air distribution system adjusts and regulates air pressure to bottle types and behavior to avoid bottle jams, the company adds.
The air conveyors also provide a cleaner environment with three filter options for a high air filtration level; a removable louver section to clean the louver and plenum without any neck support adjustment; a stainless steel design; and wire ways and integrated cables are protected by a convex top to maintain a high level of cleanliness. In addition to air conveyors for a variety of bottle types, Sidel offers the Sidel AQ-Max – an accumulation table used to hold excess plastic bottles, glass jars and metal cans when the conveyors get backed up. The table is particularly well-suited to handle empty PET bottles that stick together and are easily deformable due to its pressure-less concept that protects the package.
The system is a self-regulating, independent conveyor module that also regulates upstream and downstream machines. AQ-Max controls a discharge area from the filler and also maintains the accumulation capacity to keep the filler from shutting down.
Having a flexible conveyor is an important quality to many manufacturers, says Marc Aury, executive vice president of engineering and conveying at Sidel. “More and more, our customers want more flexible lines,” he says. “What flexible means is that you need to be able, by just pushing a button, to adapt the conveyor to accommodate a different size of bottle.”
Sidel conveyors have a plug-and-play aspect that reduces conveying equipment installation expenses, minimizes installation time and reduces cost of ownership, Aury says.
“Our customers are not investing anymore, but on the other hand, they are modifying existing lines or moving lines from one plant to another. They are focusing more on what they can do with what they have,” he says.
Ole Rygh, chief executive officer and president of Ryson International Inc., Yorktown, Va., agrees that although conveyor sales have declined, demands for faster and more space-saving lines are on the move. Spiral conveyors are one solution for those space-saving needs.
“What is happening with spiral conveyors is that machines that bottle and package are becoming bigger, so there is less space for the conveyors,” Rygh says. “The spiral conveyors can facilitate an elevation change in a small space, which also means that when you are changing layout to accommodate higher speeds, spiral conveyors allow you to do that because they do not take up as much space.”
Ryson offers spiral conveyors that handle both mass flow, such as bottles and cans, and cases and boxes. The Mass Flow Spiral Conveyor can run three sizes: 12-inch wide slate, which runs 800 bottles or cans per minute; 16-inch wide slate, which handles 1,200 bottles or cans per minute; and a 20-inch wide slate, which carries 2,000 bottles or cans per minute. Each slate measurement defines the width of the conveying surface.
“The spiral conveyors can change elevation, go up or down, in a small footprint,” Rygh says. “If you want to change the elevation in the conventional sense, you might have palletizers or operations on two floors. [With spiral conveyors] you connect the two levels.
“We are also seeing the cost of modularity. Our conveyors are easily reconfigurable. We can actually reconfigure the spirals on the spot.”
By using less floor space and requiring less maintenance, the spiral conveyors carry sustainability advantages, he adds.
Ryson recently introduced High Capacity Spirals in response to customer demands for the need to go higher and handle more weight. The new spirals handle double the capacity of the regular spirals and ship in one piece, the company says.
Hartness International Inc., Greenville, S.C., offers a variety of conveyors, with the 5500 Series and 7100 Mass Flow Dynac most suited for the manufacturing side of beverages.
“The 5500 Series is a closed-top conveyor, which is used a lot in the beverage industry because it is considered a sanitary design,” says Doug Stambaugh, vice president of sales North America, Caribbean and Mexico at Hartness International. “The frame the conveyor rides on is an inverted U. The chain is riding above this U and if product spills on the chain, water falls off the U and not down into the return way of the conveyor.”
Another trend affecting conveyors is the lighter weight of bottles.
“The types of the conveyors we use to make mass flow to single file and from single file to mass flow … the designs are having to be adapted to be able to handle the soft, ultra-lightweight bottles. The bottles are unstable and they need a very flat surface to be able to convey them,” Stambaugh says.
The 7100 Mass Flow Dynac also provides a means to convey a mass flow of bottles and cans. The operation creates a pressure-free, first-in/first-out environment, and is available in different infeed and outfeed configurations, the company says. The conveyor also can be double stacked for multi-level production lines.
“All our designs are really focused on the maintenance aspect of conveyors,” Stambaugh says. “We have drop out shafts and split sprockets. We have energy efficient components to help our customers with their operations. We are really innovative in repeatable rapid changeover with our design.”
Air it out
Posimat, Miami, is known for its Posijet air conveying system, says Carl Bussen, national sales manager for the beverage division.
“If you put the bottles on a conveyor when they are empty, they bounce around like a ping pong ball,” Bussen says. “With an air conveyor, they swish right away. Another advantage with air conveyors is all we are using is air vs. gears.”
Every 30 feet on the air conveyor, a big fan, or blower, will blow the bottles or cans down the line. The air focuses on the back of the neck of the bottle.
“You can move your bottles along faster, and it doesn’t really matter what the bottom of the container looks like,” Bussen says. “Also, the total cost ownership is a benefit. Maintenance is almost non-existent. Maintenance on a table-top conveyor … you have to oil it and gears wear out. The only moving part on air conveyors is the fan.”
The Posijet provides an automatic air flow control system for each bottle, meaning each bottle size has its own conveying characteristics. Bottles ranging from 100-ml. to 5-liters can be transported through the system. Optional features of Posijet include Bottle Jam Detection, Fully Automatic Bottle Neck Guide System and Automatic Cleaning.
Posijet-Cans Singulator works similarly to an air conveyor for bottles. The machine divides the can supply into two simultaneous outfeeds to use one depalletizer feeding two rinsers/fillers, the company says. Posijet-Cans Singulator conveys both empty aluminum and steel cans.
Posimat also offers the Vertijet, a system that can be integrated into the Posijet or be used as stand-alone equipment. The system operates at any incline or decline angle up to 90 degrees, at speeds of more than 1,000 bottles per minute. Vertijet is capable of running single or multi-size bottles ranging in size from 100-ml. to 2.5-liters.
“We can take the bottle, move it on a horizontal, and then move them on a vertical quickly,” Bussen says.
“Air conveyors allow much more flexibility,” he says. “With Vertijet, you’re using air in a closed system, blowing on the bottles, moving them up 90 degrees and down 90 degrees. You can bring them over machines, and if you have another bottling line, you can just blow around the plant to another corner.” BI