In the beverage industry, consumers won’t buy a drink that falls flat. Although regulations ensure that can contents are processed safely and securely, only exact diagnosis of each filling head and every can seaming line guarantees the integrity of the finished product, according to equipment manufacturers. Whether it’s data analysis or adding more machines to the mix, today’s software and equipment developments improve quality and help maximize seaming and filling efforts.
Although the process for ensuring proper beverage can seams has come a long way during the past 30 years, some beverage operations still use the manual teardown method, which separates the coverhood from the bodyhook for hand-held measurement. Today, most facilities have opted for the improved safety, accuracy and efficiency provided by digital contact measurement for seam thickness and countersink depth and cross sectional optical measurement for seam height, coverhook, bodyhook and overlap.
CMC-Kuhnke Inc., Albany, N.Y., recently introduced a complete line of semi- and full-automated computer-based inspection options.
VSM 5 Video Seam Monitor is CMC-Kuhnke’s modern equivalent to the “shadow boxes,” DP1 projectors and VSMII monitors of the past. Using a high-resolution digital camera and pre-loaded SEAMview software, it automatically measures seam height, coverhook and bodyhook overlap at the click of a mouse. It appeals to lower-canning volume operations looking to move away from manual teardowns because of its simplicity and lower price point, the company says.
“We’ve seen significant sales of this type of system to the emerging craft brewery canning market,” says Bryan Hall, senior sales representative. “It seems to be a good fit for their can volume and budget.”
The company’s CSG-2000 Beverage Seam Gauge automates contact measurement of countersink depth and seam thickness. It replaces hand micrometers and manual digital gauges with improved speed and accuracy of these critical measurements. CMC-Kuhnke has seen several major beverage corporations standardize on this gauge during the past year, Hall says.
CMC-Kuhnke’s MARS-SEAM machine fully automates the double seam measurement process, combining the VSM 5 and CSG-2000. Its handling system combines three stations: contact external seam measurement, product purge and cleaning, and cross-sectional seam image for internal seam measurement. Larger breweries and soft drink facilities with multiple canning lines have used this system to reduce labor and improve accuracy, Hall says.
All three systems can integrate with Visionary QC database software, providing features such as digital data storage, print inspection reports and trend analysis. The software increases real-time trend analysis for operators during inspections and provides electronic reporting to quality assurance supervisors and managers.
“In the past, double seam inspections were performed primarily to meet FDA requirements and avoid gross seaming issues,” Hall says. “Production facilities would react to an out of spec reading by stopping a line and putting a product on hold. Now seam inspections can be used as a tool to keep seamers running at peak efficiency because of increased measurement accuracy and the ability to process data digitally. Operators can use trend analysis to identify problems before they occur, limiting downtime and product holds.”
Trends in the beverage industry, such as craft beer segment growth and movement toward semi-automated systems and retrofitting customers with new software featuring high-resolution cameras, have impacted recent business developments at CMC-Kuhnke. New single-head seaming canning lines opening in craft breweries have created new opportunities for the company to showcase its double-seam inspection technology and equipment, it says.
Monitoring the seaming process and accuracy is an important step in ensuring a product doesn’t fall flat. But cleanliness and contamination prevention processes also must be in place to have quality product manufactured on every run. Swiss–based Ferrum Ltd.’s line of can seamers feature a stainless steel design to ensure cleaning ability and stainless steel pipe and spray nozzles to allow automatic foam cleaning and disinfection of the seamer. The company also takes personal safety into account with features such as a carbon dioxide exhaust system to reduce contamination.
Additionally, its can seamers are equipped with automatic oil lubrication to decrease the frequency of production stops needed to grease the machines.
“The fewer production interruptions we have and the higher the line efficiency, the better results the customer will have,” says Markus Hobi, Ferrum’s executive vice president.
Ferrum’s new equipment includes online measurement of seaming quality to improve production quality, a gassing turret designed for foam cleaning applications and a modular infeed table design based on hygiene requirements. Hygiene continues to be a focus and its Ferruclean system continues to evolve, Hobi says.
The F812 system, Ferrum’s can seamer, equipped with an automatic foam cleaning system, was developed in partnership with Jurgen Lohrke Gmbh and is applicable to all Ferrum seamers. Ferrum continues to work on new equipment through its university and business partnerships.
“We have designed a concept seamer to further comply with hygienic standards as a next step into the world of cleaning availability,” Hobi says.
The new design advances were first introduced at Drinktech in 2009 and the company debuted additional improvements to the seamer at BrauBeviale in Nuremberg in November, he adds.
Franklin, Wis.-based Krones has a collection of filler models designed for many beverage can filling needs. Whether it’s beer, carbonated soft drinks or mineral waters, Krones equipment and technology is designed to increase efficiency and fill accuracy in easy-to-use and low-maintenance systems.
One system in particular, the Volumetic-VOC system ensures that the correct product goes into the can, fills at the right level and stays fresh without adding extra foam or carbon dioxide loss during the filling process.
“This volumetric filling process works on the principle of measuring out the exact filling quantity for each can in a dosing tank,” according to the company. “During the filling procedure, the dosing tank is only emptied up to a pre-set level and refilled from below.” Being able to pre-program filling steps based on beverage type also increases changeover efficiency, Krones says.
Companies that prefer re-manu-factured can fillers have options such as those available from Willoughby, Ohio-based Bevcorp. The company offers can and bottle fillers with upgrades, including high-speed filling valves, stainless steel construction for clean filling rooms, float level control enhancements, and electrical and lubrication package accessories. Bevcorp’s line of beverage can fillers range in size from 40 to 130 valves with speeds up to 2,000 cans a minute.
The popularity of energy drinks and other new products with numerous container sizes, prompted the company to introduce its 8-, 12-, 16-ounce conversion package. This installation allows customers to raise and lower the filler bowl to accommodate various can heights. Bevcorp also offers quick change handling equipment with adjustable base plates that allow tool-less snap-on handling equipment for any rotary filler with durable, lightweight handling part carts for convenient storage. BI