Whether it’s a flavor or packaging size, equipment manufacturers must keep on top of trends to stay competitive. Can sizes have gone from the traditional 12-ounce size to multi-sizes and also slim cans. As diameters change on can sizes, can seaming and filling equipment must be flexible to handle constant changeover.

Alex Grossjohann, vice president and managing director at CMC-Kuhnke, Albany, N.Y., says he has seen some changes in semi-automatic can seaming equipment. With this in mind, the company has been focusing on its VSM 5, which uses an automatic measurement of the seam. The VSM 5 is a significant upgrade for many facilities using manual inspection, he says. Although the VSM 5 requires an operator for a part of the operation, the machine also is a budget sensitive unit, and it provides faster, more accurate measurement with automatic measurement of the double seam.

VSM 5 uses the company’s SEAMview software to measure the double seam. SEAMview automatically resizes live or captured images to fit any screen without affecting calibration or measurement accuracy. The software is installed on a mini-laptop connected on top of the machine. The laptop features an 8.5-inch monitor, high-resolution USB or Firewire cameras, and runs Windows XP.

“The mini PC is mounted right on top of the fixed focus microscope, and we can turn what used to be a manual measurement device, into a fully automatic measurement device by taking advantage of the small PC,” Grossjohann says.

Another big advantage of the small PC is that it can be purchased with a solid state hard drive. This means any issues with contamination, dust and vibration will not affect the system so the hard drive won’t fail, he says.

“It’s a low-cost product, and it’s really designed for the customer who needs to upgrade, who doesn’t have a large budget,” he says. “If your beverage facility has one 12-head seamer, and you’ve been limping along with this manual measuring system, then you can replace it with an automatic measurement system. You get the automatic measurement, which requires less operator intervention, and you get higher accuracy.”

All VSM 5 components are compatible with larger systems, so customers can add equipment a la carte to the main machine as they go, he adds. VSM 5 also can be customized to include can tables for not only beverage cans, but also food and aerosol cans.

Another way CMC-Kuhnke is helping its customers save is with its MARS-SEAM equipment and Visionary QC Software.

MARS-SEAM is a fully automatic double-seam measurement system, and it is the flagship product from the MARS line. The equipment saves companies money by eliminating the need for operator intervention, Grossjohann says.

The equipment uses the company’s Triple SEAM Gauge with the Automatic SEAM Saw and Video SEAM Imager, and a can emptying station in between. Cans are carried between three stations by a gripper powered by pneumatic cylinders. MARS-SEAM does not use robotic technology for can handling, so the gripper will never lose calibration, the company says.

The machine’s three stations are Contact Double Seam Measurement, where seam thickness, countersink depth and seam height each typically are measured in three to four places. MARS-SEAM is able to measure up to 99 external measurements, for a total of 297 measurements in three places. The second station is Product Purge and Cleaning, where MARS-SEAM system uses a punch to pierce the bottom of a can without leaving sharp edges. The can then is cleaned with a jet of water and dried with compressed air. Station three is Cross-section and Seam Image Measurement, which makes the double seam cross section, then cleans and measures it.

Digital images then are transferred to a PC via Firewire connection where the auto SEAMview software measures and analyzes high-resolution double seam images.

“We have doubled our production this year in MARS-SEAM, and we have a lot commitment for next year,” Grossjohann says. “It seems like this is a good avenue for us.”

Grossjohann also mentioned the Visionary QC Software as a way for companies to save money. Visionary QC Software provides a user-friendly data collection and report system designed to lead operators through their quality inspections and provides reports for process control.

Some customers will only fix a can seaming line when there is a problem at a specific moment, Grossjohann says. By using the company’s statistical data analysis software, customers can notice trends and address problems  at more convenient times.

“As far as cost reduction and down time savings, you really will get a bang for your buck,” he continues. “Look at your production and decide when you maintain the machine, as opposed to running blind and when it breaks fix it, because it never breaks when it’s convenient.”

Visionary QC Software is compatible with older hardware and features a universal gauge interface, reduced inspection time with fully customizable test-types, real-time SPC graphs, in-depth SPC analysis and reports, and a robust server/client network design.

Clean and seam

With flexibility in mind, beverage manufacturers are able to change from one can size to another in a short time, thus reducing the amount of downtime and providing cost savings. Swiss-based Ferrum Ltd. developed a can seamer equipped with an automatic foam cleaning device because hygiene is an important issue, says Robert Grillenberger, Ferrum’s area sales manager for North and South America. The company also supplies the F708, F812 and F918 automatic high-speed can seamers for the beverage industry. The F708, F812 and F918 allow its customers to do quick changeovers, he says.

“The lines have to be more flexible, which in other words means, they have to make changeover on the complete line from one can size diameter to another can diameter,” he says. “If you don’t have a quick changeover of a can seamer on those high-speed seamers, you quickly lose eight to 10 hours of operation due to the changeover time for the mechanics.”

The F708 is suitable for closing round two- and three-piece aluminum, steel and composite cans. The machine can be used for applications in beverage, food and can making industries. F708 also has eight seaming stations, and is able to seam up to 1,000 cans per minute. Beverage cans with diameters ranging between 50 to 73 mm. automatically can be seamed with the F708.

The F812 is able to do quick changeovers, and it also incorporates a specific hygiene-centered component. Automatic high-speed can seamer F812 is equipped with 12 seaming heads, with one or two lid infeeds. The machine runs up to 1,750 cans per minute.

Additional features of the F812 include an upper rotor housing constructed of one piece machined stainless steel, new machine guarding package with integrated CO2 control unit, a CO2 exhaust system, a solid one piece stainless steel base cover with 2.5 degree pitch angle for improved drainage and a redesigned can transfer that complies with all existing wash-down and cleaning standards.

“You have to reach a certain hygiene standard, and there is a lot of equipment around which does not fulfill this requirement,” Grillenberger says. “We noticed this demand a few years ago and we adapted our seam. We are still in the process to improve this part of the seam, but I believe we have a seamer that fully covers the hygiene standards of today.”

Ferrum, in cooperation with Jurgen Lohrke GmbH, also developed ferru-clean, a can seamer equipped with an automatic foam cleaning system. The system is stainless steel, and the preparation of cleaning foam and disinfectant use electronically controlled dosing pumps for each detergent either as stand-alone or in combination with filler hygiene center.

Another seamer Ferrum offers is the F918, which is an 18-station automatic can seamer equipped with two lid-feeding channels, with a capacity for up to 2,500 cans per minute. The tendency to use thinner can material as well as a quick change from aluminum to steel cans and vice versa, was taken into consideration when designing F918, the company says.

“Seaming is traditionally a conservative technology,” Grillenberger says. “There have not been too many changes in the last 50 years. There’s a lot of things that can be improved or have to be improved. If you have a seamer which can cover the hygiene standard and quick changeover, all that, at the end, summarizes what companies want.”

High-speed filler

While can seamers must ensure quick changeover and constant flexibility, can fillers also must possess those same qualities. Bevcorp LLC, Willoughby, Ohio, produces new and re-manufactured high-speed beverage can fillers capable of filling multiple shapes and sizes. The fillers are able to run up to 2,000 cans per minute.

The company says they have a well-known reputation for upgrading and retrofitting existing fillers to run multiple containers at increased line speeds. Bevcorp’s 8-12-16-ounce Conversion Package is installed in the field, which allows the customer to raise and lower the filler bowl to accommodate different height cans, the company says.

“With the addition of our popular Quick Change Handling Equipment, customers can fill assorted products with different can heights and diameters all on one filler with quick and simple changeovers,” says Mike Connelly, vice president of Bevcorp.

Connelly says he also sees a trend toward increased integration of electronic controls for all production line equipment to monitor all line operations. Bevcorp offers complete electronic control packages and accessories for can fillers, conveyors and seamers.

Beverage packagers are looking for any and all ways to make the machinery more efficient, the company says. Bevcorp stresses improvements in their production lines, and the importance of after sale parts and service support.

“When budgets for new equipment are constrained, customers look to extend the life of existing equipment with retrofits and upgrades,” says John Beeze, sales manager at Bevcorp. “To meet these demands, Bevcorp has a large manufacturing and assembly facility near Cleveland and a field service crew with a depth of experience to fully support our customers’ can filling equipment needs.” BI