“Coatings for Containers – Purpose and Performance” on September 21 and 23, 2021
The “Spotlight on: Coatings for Containers – Purpose and Performance” webinar, to be held on September 21 and 23, is produced by American Glass Research and is designed to provide an in-depth exploration of the purpose of surface treatments applied to glass containers.
This webinar consists of 2 sessions of instruction and will demonstrate the protection provided and indicate how the coatings ensure satisfactory container performance.
Topics covered include the general aspects related to the application and function of the hot end and cold end coatings. An introduction to the instruments and test methods used to evaluate the quality of surface treatments will also be presented. Participants will also become familiar with the practical aspects of interpreting coating measurements through the use of case studies.
This webinar is a live presentation consisting of two 1-hour sessions plus Q&A, and will be conducted by American Glass Research’s Doug Holscher. The live broadcast will be conducted at 9:00 EDT/13:00 GMT/15:00 CEST. The cost is $375 per person. Group discounts are available. For those unable to view the live broadcast, the webinar will be recorded so attendees can replay the presentation at their convenience.
American Glass Research has been conducting fracture analysis seminars for over 80 years and offers a full catalog of seminars and training sessions designed to augment and improve the skills and knowledge of plant personnel working with glass containers. This webinar is the latest in a series of educational webinars produced by American Glass Research to provide greater accessibility to training and resources vital to the glass container industry. The availability of the seminars in this series offer a convenient and economical means to continue critical training for plant personnel, particularly in light of travel restrictions and limited budgets.
Visit American Glass Research e-seminar site www.americanglassresearch.com to learn more about this program and to register for participation.
Agr International is sad to announce the passing of our long-time friend and colleague, Jose Ortiz.
As Agr’s Service Manager in Latin America, Jose was talented, knowledgeable and well-respected by his co-workers and customers alike. Jose will be missed by all who had the great opportunity to meet him.
July and August Savings on E-Seminar Packages
American Glass Research is currently offering special combined training, on-demand, E-seminar/Webinar packages from our full catalogue. These combinations are only available for purchase during the months of July and August with special promotional pricing on three different bundles. Buy during the promotion and view them on your schedule later!
Signing up for any combination package in the months of July or August automatically qualifies you to join one of our live, interactive Q&A Sessions (via MS Teams) offered every Thursday at 9:00 EDT. And as a special short-term summer offer, you also get our “Do’s and Don’ts of Lightweigting” webinar free (a $95 value) with any of the combination packages.
Butler, Pennsylvania – March 1, 2021 – Agr International announced the appointment of Mr. Steve Smith to lead Agr’s North American sales organization. This appointment is a continuation of Agr’s multi-year plan to strengthen and expand its sales and service organizations in order to better support the distinct needs of customers throughout the world.
Mr. Steve Smith will assume the position of Director of Sales. In this role, he will oversee all sales related activities within the United States, Mexico, Canada and several countries within Latin America and the Caribbean.
Since joining Agr’s sales team, Steve has consistently contributed to Agr’s business growth. Over the last twelve months he has played a major role in Agr’s efforts to successfully navigate through the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic. In addition to the outstanding sales results, Steve has demonstrated the ability to manage complex customer accounts in the bottle manufacturing and beverage industry.
Mr. Smith possesses significant knowledge and experience with Agr’s customers, products and services and is well positioned to provide the guidance necessary to lead Agr’s North American sales force. Steve has considerable experience in industrial sales and management. Prior to joining Agr’s sales team, he held sales managerial positions in the aluminum extrusion and carbon/graphite industries. This experience, along with his knowledge of Agr products, well positions he and his team to assist customer in meeting their varied needs, while achieving operational success.
According to Steve, “AGR International has provided me an opportunity to grow and succeed personally and professionally. I look forward to continuing to promote world class products to the plastic and glass container industries with the North American sales team. As a team and a company, we are well prepared for the challenge to help our plastic and glass customers navigate the production challenges of increased demand for recycled content through products, technology and services.”
Agr International Inc. develops and manufactures a full line of laboratory and on-line testing/quality control devices for glass and plastic containers and similar products. Agr products play a leading role in helping bottle manufactures meet sustainability challenges while improving productivity and profitability. The Agr headquarters is located in Butler, PA, USA.
Mr. Martin Küstner, Managing Director Agr Bangkok, International Sales Director, will participate as a presenter in the second edition of Pack Passion Week 2021.
The presentation from Küstner will take place on March 9, 2021 at 5:10pm CET and is titled, Precise Measurement Solutions to Minimize the Risk of Increased rPet Usage. With an increased focus on sustainability, brand owners are setting new and ever more difficult goals for the increased utilization of rPET in their PET bottles. Increasing rPET content however, does not come without risks. This presentation will discuss how the risks associated with increased rPET usage can be managed and minimized with the proper in-plant measurement and process control solutions.
Pack Passion Week will be held over three days, March 9-11, 2021. This virtual conference is an excellent forum for interaction between the worldwide PET industry. Register at www.packpassion.com.
Agr International has unveiled their latest development, the Gawis4Glass™. This all-in-one dimensional measurement system is designed specifically to improve the efficiency and testing throughput of the glass containers quality control laboratory. The Gawis4Glass automates a number of critical bottle measurements into a single operation and performs a complete dimensional analysis in a matter of seconds. This totally new laboratory test system provides an unmatched level of measurement capabilities to support the design, process and quality management of glass containers.
Continuing the legacy
Agr International has a long history of providing high-precision dimensional gauging and measurement systems to the glass container industry. Agr’s Dimensional Sampling Gauge and OmniLab products are well known within the industry for their high precision and automated measurement capabilities. These systems are relied upon by a number of bottle manufacturers and amply fill the need for at-the-line or near-the line sampling and measurement. However, in addition to at-the-line testing and measurement, there is still a need for similar capabilities in the laboratory, yet in a format that is more compatible with the size and style of laboratory operations. The Gawis4Glass was designed specifically to fit this need. With a footprint of 1 square meter, the Gawis4Glass can fit in laboratories with very limited space. The size of this system however, does not diminish its precision and the measurement capabilities.
The Gawis4Glass directly addresses the unique challenges that the dimensional measurement of bottles presents to laboratory personnel. This system incorporates features and functions specifically oriented to simplify this time-consuming task, while providing highly repeatable and accurate measurement results. To achieve this, the Gawis4Glass utilizes the latest optical gauging technology, in combination with automation and advanced, intuitive operational software, to simplify container measurement operations while maximizing testing throughput. As a result, this system can provide broad measurement capabilities on a wide range of glass containers with unmatched accuracy, repeatability and operational throughput.
Built upon a completely new measurement platform, this system incorporates a number of advanced features and capabilities including:
- Precise finish gauging and body measurement capabilities utilizing high resolution, USB 3 camera technology, optimized lensing and telecentric optics with 360º imaging
- Performance to exceed all relevant international standards
- Powerful yet simple job creation and editing tools incorporating Agr’s patent-pending AutoJob™ – automated job setup
- Large, customizable and intuitive user interface, with swipe and zoom capabilities
- Industry 4.0 communication protocols
Advanced Vision Technology for Precise Dimensional Gauging
A major design emphasis for the Gawis4Glass was to provide measurements with a level of precision and repeatability that not only can document dimensions of production containers but can also be used to qualify and manage molds. The vision measurement technology incorporated in the Gawis4Glass utilizes high pixel density camera components in combination with enhanced telecentric optics and lighting. Cameras are fixed with zero movement, eliminating any potential errors from vibrations or camera movement. Telecentric optics ensure that every measurement is accurate and repeatable regardless of container size, shape or distance from the camera. This combination provides a very crisp edge shadow, making it possible to achieve the highest dimensional precision and repeatability, as well as a very low percent of process variation for individual measurements.
Further, images are captured at one-degree intervals and the entire bottle is scanned, achieving 100% full-bottle capture in order to facilitate the most efficient dimensional processing. Once a sample is placed, a rotary lift table provides 360° of rotation, allowing measurement at any position around the sample. Precise vertical and rotary positioning guarantees that measurements are performed consistently every time, on every sample – preventing human error, unnecessary adjustments and incorrect data.
Ease of job setup
One of the biggest challenges with measurement systems of this type is the preparation and programming of the device to perform the desired measurements. The Gawis4Glass offers a range of tools that are available to simplify this process and minimize the time required to edit jobs. Operators can use AutoJob™ to automatically identify finish measurements, build a job from individually selectable measurement routines or choose from a library of industry standard or customized templates that include a collection of measurements and their associated limits. Gawis4Glass also enables an operator to select a single measurement or combination of measurements for a particular job. All job setup methods are straight forward and intuitive, yet provide the versatility to enable an operator to customize tests for the application.
AutoJob – job setup in less than 20 seconds
AutoJob™, is a patent-pending feature on the Gawis4Glass that is designed to simplify job setup by providing automated recognition of key finish measurements. With this feature, the operator simply selects the AutoJob mode and the work of locating and identifying finish features is performed automatically. The Gawis4Glass scans the sample, identifies the standard finish measurements for that sample and incorporates them into the job within a matter of seconds. The operator can adjust the selection, add control limits and incorporate additional measurements as necessary. AutoJob can be used to create a new job or identify an existing job template through Template Matching, that most closely matches the container. Template matching, another feature associated with AutoJob, provides the closest match of a scanned bottle finish to the job templates in the template library. In all, the AutoJob feature greatly accelerates job creation, saving hundreds of labor hours through the course of a year.
Industry 4.0 communication
Industry 4.0 standard communication protocols have also been incorporated into the Gawis4Glass to improve communications and support Industry 4.0 objectives. This capability facilitates advanced communication with other devices, to share data, support remote job change and interface with factory robotic handling systems without operator intervention.
“STONE ANALYSIS ESSENTIALS” ON MARCH 9, 2021
American Glass Research (AGR) will be conducting its latest in a series of educational webinars in a live webinar, “Spotlight on: Stone Analysis Essentials,” on March 9, 2021.
AGR’s “Stones in Glass: Analysis and Identification” in-person seminar has trained glass industry professionals for over 10 years in this specialized skill. To introduce practical stone analysis to a broader audience, we are offering a shortened version of this seminar that will be useful for glass plant QC employees, batch & furnace workers, and some filling line QC personnel.
This new, 1.5-hour training webinar focuses on visual identification of stones using simple tools available in every QC lab – a hand lens and an optical microscope. Using the material in this course, trainees will be equipped to identify the majority of stones found in commercial glass products and to address their root causes.
The 1.5-hour live presentation will be conducted by Dr. Brandon Aldinger. The live broadcast will take place at 9:00am EST/14:00 GMT/15:00 CET. The cost is $285 per person. The webinar will be recorded so attendees can replay the presentation at their convenience. A free preview of the webinar and additional information can be found at www.americanglassresearch.com
AGR has been conducting live in-person training to the glass manufacturing industry and glass container fillers worldwide for over 60 years. In response to the COVID pandemic and heightened health safety considerations, AGR has constructed a dedicated studio for the production of live webinars and self- paced e-seminar modules.
Agr International has introduced a novel, breakthrough method to measure thickness distribution in HDPE, PP, PE and similar containers. With this method, an entire segment of containers is now able to be measured for thickness distribution with light-based technology. Prior to this development, many HDPE, PP, PE and similar containers that were highly colored and had limited transparency, were not able to be measured using non-contact, light-based measurement techniques.
In the development of its new Gawis 4D dimensional and thickness measurement system, Agr engineers were challenged to include the ability to measure thickness on a broader range of bottles including those constructed of HDPE and non-PET materials. To address this, a novel “Integrated Method for Thickness Measurement” was developed and implemented into this system. This patent pending method incorporates a proprietary programmable spectrometer and utilizes the integrated- method to analyze the signal level of multiple absorption bands within the entire NIR band width. Using this new technique, bottles that are highly colored and have a transparency to IR light as low as 5% can now be measured for thickness.
The benefits of non-contact, IR-based thickness measurement, such as the fast, reliable and accurate measurement that PET bottle producers have taken advantage of for years, has not been available to the manufacturers of HDPE and similar non-PET bottles. In the past, light-based IR thickness measurements have been limited to materials with high levels of light transmission. PET bottles are ideal for this technology since
the majority are transparent and have IR light transmission and absorption levels that are very high and predictable. On the other hand, HDPE, as with many other non-PET materials, is generally translucent, meaning some IR can pass through, but detailed shapes cannot be seen in the IR spectrum. The amount of colorant used in the bottle, especially solid colors, further limits IR light transmission and absorption. Consequently, because of weak IR light transmission and absorption, light-based thickness measurements of HDPE and non-PET bottles has been difficult and not very practical.
This breakthrough overcomes many of the measurement challenges presented by non-PET materials and offers a new measurement alternative for HDPE and non-PET bottles used in the food, cosmetic, personal care and related industries. The Integrated Method for Thickness Measurement technology is now standard on Agr’s Gawis 4D Measurement System. With this capability, in addition to all types of PET products, the Gawis 4D can measure containers manufactured from a wide range of polyolefins, including highly colored materials, making the device ideal for testing labs that process a wide variety of containers and products. With the growing pressure to reduce carbon footprints through container lightweighting and source reduction, the ability to measure material distribution on non-PET bottles with high accuracy and repeatability is increasingly important.
Agr’s Gawis 4D is the latest offering in a long line of automated laboratory measurement systems for plastic bottles and containers. The Gawis 4D is designed to provide highly accurate and repeatable dimensional gauging as well as high precision, non-contact thickness measurement over the entire bottle or preform, with a throughput of less than twenty seconds per sample. In addition to the Integrated Method for Thickness measurement, this system offers a number of key features designed for simple and fast operation. These include Agr’s patent pending AutoJob™ automated job setup for dimensional measurements, a library of standard industry finish templates, easy-to-operate multi-function touch and go UI, Industry 4.0 compatibility and a wealth of data transfer methods.
Agr manufactures a complete line of products for the measurement and testing of plastic containers. Agr products are designed to assist container producers, converters and fillers stay competitive, while meeting the increased quality demands of today’s changing world.
As we continue to operate in a more virtual world at this time, Agr is pleased to participate in Pack Expo connects. This FREE virtual version of Pack Expo takes place November 2-6, 2020, including daily live sessions.
The Agr showroom is currently open and will remain available following the show to provide the latest information on how Agr products can meet the everchanging needs of container producers and fillers. You may find Agr’s showroom here.
Agr will also participate with live sessions. These sessions are scheduled as follows:
November 9, 12:45pm-1:00pm EST and November 11, 1:00pm-1:15pm EST
See a live demo of the Gawis 4D, an all-new, high-precision laboratory thickness and dimensional measurement system for plastic containers and preforms. The Gawis 4D is designed to automate a number of critical bottle and preform measurements into a single operation. This totally new laboratory test system provides a high level of measurement capabilities to support the design, process and quality management of plastic containers and preforms.
November 10, 3:00pm-3:15pm EST and November 11, 3:00pm-3:15pm EST
The Process Pilot family of products, including Pilot Profiler, Pilot Vision+ and Process Pilot can be combined for a total bottle management solution, providing the ability to detect random occurring defects as well as manage the process to maintain precise material distribution, even with the lightest and/or most difficult-to-process bottle design.
Register for free now! Register.
Once reviewing the show room, you are encouraged to contact Agr at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-724-482-2163 to discuss your specific needs.
More details regarding the virtual show can be found out https://www.packexpoconnects.com/.
Precise Automatic Measurement of Key Quality Criteria.
Join Mr. Martin Küstner, International Sales Director, as he discusses how Agr sampling and laboratory equipment support on-line inspections and act as an integral part of an Industry 4.0 approach. Highlighted will be Agr’s all new, Gawis4Glass – a compact dimensional gauging system for glass containers.
Register now to learn the latest details from Agr during this live session on Tuesday, October 20th, at 9:00 CEST.
As part of your FREE registration for glasstec VIRTUAL, you have access here to further details and videos on how Agr assists container producers, converters and fillers stay competitive, while meeting the increased quality demands of today’s changing world.
American Glass Research (AGR) will be conducting its third live webinar, “Spotlight on Pharmaceutical Glass Flaws” on October 20. AGR has been conducting live in-person training to the glass manufacturing industry and glass container fillers worldwide for over 60 years. In response to the COVID pandemic and heightened health safety considerations, AGR has constructed a dedicated studio for the production of live webinars and self- paced e-seminar modules.
This new, 2.5-hour training webinar covers the visual identification of flaws in pharmaceutical glass containers, specifically flaws in molded and tubing pharmaceutical glass containers such as vials and syringes. For each flaw, attendees will learn its identifying characteristics, its source, and the effect that the flaw has on container performance. Hundreds of photographs will provide attendees representative examples of each flaw. The webinar also includes a discussion of flaw severity categories (critical, major, minor or cosmetic) and a brief overview of pharma glass manufacturing processes. Trainees will also be provided with crucial information for corrective actions.
Topics to be Covered:
- Identification, effects, and sources for over 40 flaws
- Lexicon of flaws in pharma glass
- Overview of PDA TR 43
- Flaw severity classification
- Introduction to vial manufacturing processes
- Covers both tubing and molded containers
The webinar is one 2.5-hour live presentation (with an intermission) and will be conducted by Dr. Brandon Aldinger. The webinar will be recorded and attendees can replay the presentation at their convenience. The live broadcast will be conducted at 9:00 EDT/13:00 GMT/15:00 CET. The cost is $265 per person.
Visit American Glass Research e-seminar site to see a video trailer, to learn more or to register: https://e-seminars.americanglassresearch.com/courses/Pharmaceutical-glass-flaws-webinar
Questions regarding the program can be addressed to: https://americanglassresearch.com/questions/contact-us
Join American Glass Research for the webinar titled “Sand to Shelf: Essentials of Glass Containers”. This six-session webinar will offer a comprehensive overview of glass containers, including glass as a material, container manufacturing, filling, testing, design and fracture analysis.
The webinar will begin on Tuesday, September 1 and will run Tuesdays and Thursdays for three weeks.
Click on the picture below to register!
Agr International has unveiled their latest development, the Gawis 4D®, an all-in-one measurement system for plastic containers and preforms. Designed to automate a number of critical bottle and preform measurements into a single operation, this totally new laboratory test system provides a new level of measurement capabilities to support the design, process and quality management of plastic containers and preforms.
The Gawis 4D is two systems in one; a thickness measurement system, and a dimensional gauging device. This system incorporates the latest optical gauging and thickness measurement technology, in combination with automation, to simplify container measurement operations while maximizing testing throughput. It is designed to provide broad measurement capabilities on a wide range of plastic containers and preforms with unmatched accuracy, repeatability and operational throughput.
Built upon a completely new measurement platform, this system incorporates a number of advanced features and capabilities that are designed to simplify testing and maximize throughput including:
- Large, customizable and intuitive user interface with swipe and zoom capabilities
- Powerful yet simple job creation and editing tools incorporating AutoJob™ – automated job setup
- Precise finish gauging and body measurement capabilities utilizing high resolution, USB 3 camera technology, optimized lensing and telecentric optics with 360º imaging
- Comprehensive, non-destructive thickness measurement compatible with PET and a wide range of polymers
- Performance to ISBT, ASTM and equivalent international standards
- Industry 4.0 communication protocols
Advanced Vision Technology for Precise Dimensional Gauging
A major design emphasis for the Gawis 4D is to provide measurements with a level of precision and repeatability that not only can document dimensions of production containers but also have sufficient precision for the qualification and management of molds. The vision measurement technology incorporated in the Gawis 4D utilizes high pixel density camera components in combination with enhanced telecentric optics and lighting. This combination provides a very crisp edge shadow, making it possible to achieve the highest dimensional precision and repeatability as well as a very low percent of process variation for individual measurements.
The unique design of the Gawis 4D imaging system, along with advanced measurement algorithms, provides the capability to measure an extensive range of finish dimensions on bottles and preforms. Jobs can be configured for single or multiple combinations of measurements without sacrificing throughput. A large library of industry standard finish measurement routines is provided with each system that are each customizable to meet the needs of the application.
Simplified job setup with AutoJob
Agr has developed AutoJob™, a patent pending feature on the Gawis 4D that is designed to simplify job setup by providing automated recognition of key finish measurements on a bottle or preform sample. With this feature, the operator simply selects the AutoJob mode and the work of locating and identifying finish features is performed automatically. The Gawis 4D scans the sample, identifies the standard finish measurements for that sample and incorporates them into the job within a matter of seconds. The operator can adjust the selection, add control limits to the selection and incorporate additional measurements as necessary. This feature greatly accelerates job creation, saving hundreds of labor hours through the course of a year.
Breakthrough thickness technology
Thickness measurement in the Gawis 4D utilizes two approaches. For translucent materials, the Gawis 4D incorporates an all-new, patent pending Integrative Thickness Measurement™ method. This method takes advantage of the full IR bandwidth and expands the capabilities of the system to provide measurements on translucent plastic materials that were previously not possible with non-contact measurement. With this capability, most HDPE, PP, PE and heavily colored PET containers that have IR light transmission as low as 5% can now be measured.
For PET bottles, preforms and most transparent materials, the system incorporates Agr’s traditional IR reference/absorption thickness measurement technology. This technology is widely used in hundreds of Agr measurement systems worldwide for measuring material distribution in bottles and preforms in the laboratory and on-line systems.
Regardless of the methodology, Gawis 4D offers a means to perform measurements that are fast and precise with un-matched repeatability. Additionally, this system offers a wide range of measurement options including thickness at single or multiple discrete points anywhere on the sidewall or heel of the bottle or the ability to perform complete vertical or horizontal (circumferential) scans for analyzing material distribution.
Industry 4.0 communication
Industry 4.0 standard communication protocols have also been incorporated into the Gawis 4D to improve communications and support Industry 4.0 objectives. This capability facilitates advanced communication with other devices, to share data, support remote job change and interface with factory robotic handling systems without operator intervention.
Agr offers a complete line of products for the measurement and testing of plastic containers. Agr products are designed to assist container producers, converters and fillers stay competitive, while meeting the increased quality demands of today’s changing world.
Agr International announced the appointments of Mr. Martin Küstner and Mr. Davide Bartoli to new strategic positions within the Agr organization. These appointments are a continuation of Agr’s multi-year plan to strengthen and expand its sales and service organizations in order to better support the distinct needs of customers throughout the world.
Mr. Martin Küstner, a twenty-year veteran of Agr International, will assume the position of International Sales Director. In this role, he will oversee all world-wide sales related activities, with the exception of the United States and Canada. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Küstner has advanced his career at Agr while thriving in positions of increasing responsibility. Previous to this post, Mr. Küstner headed Agr’s Asian operations where he was instrumental in establishing Agr’s sales and service center in Bangkok, Thailand, and was responsible for developing a regional sales network throughout Asia that has consistently contributed to Agr’s business growth.
Davide Bartoli, another twenty-year veteran of Agr, will take on the position of International Service Director. He will oversee all service and repair related activities outside of the United States and Canada. Over the past twenty years, Mr. Bartoli has served Agr in a number of roles including regional European Service Manager, Sales Engineer and, most recently, Director of Training. In his latest role, Mr. Bartoli applied his thorough knowledge of Agr equipment and implemented programs to train both Agr employees and customers throughout the world in the support and operation of Agr equipment. His knowledge and experience of technology to facilitate remote and virtual field support will prove invaluable in this new role, especially when faced with limitations on travel and face-to-face meetings due to COVID-19.
Both Mr. Küstner and Mr. Bartoli possess significant knowledge and experience with Agr’s customers, products and services. According to AGR COO Robert Cowden, “AGR and its international customers will benefit immensely as Martin Kustner and Davide Bartoli assume executive roles within AGR’s Sales and Service management team. Both individuals understand how to support their customers in order to consistently achieve operational success. These successes are a main ingredient to AGR’s longstanding, global franchise.”
Join American Glass Research for a free webinar titled “The Do’s and Don’ts of Lightweighting”. The webinar will cover the cost benefits, time saving suggestions and key analytical insights for successful glass container lightweighting initiatives.
This session will be held on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 9:30am EDT/13:30 GMT.
Click on the picture below to register! We look forward to talking with you!
Automated Blowmolder Control systems take the guesswork out of the blowing process
The integrated beverage lines at the Coca-Cola FEMSA plant in Villahermosa, Mexico, are a perfect example of streamlined, sustainable production. Manufactured on site, the PET bottles are filled immediately after blowing, then labeled, capped, palletized, and shrink-wrapped for shipment, never touching a carton. Without bottle inventory on hand, the lines must be up and running around the clock to fulfill production targets, according to Helmut Hoedl, Head of ALPLA’s
Injection Stretch Blow Moulding (ISBM) Business Unit. As the onsite converter responsible for bottle-making, ALPLA is meeting FEMSA’s quality and schedule requirements with the assistance of three Process Pilot® Automated Blowmolder Control systems from Agr International.
Two of the Process Pilots are installed inside KHS InnoPET Blomax stretch blow molding machines, one a Series III and the other a Series IV. The lines are set up in a blocked configuration, which combines both blowing and filling in one compact machine. The blocked design is the linchpin of FEMSA’s strategy for streamlined operations, but it also makes the blowmolding process especially critical. Non-conforming bottles not only disrupt the line and generate product waste, but can also present performance issues, either during transport or on the retail shelf.
Even with ALPLA’s 65 years as a leader in plastics processing, including three decades of experience in on-premises packaging, Villahermosa’s especially hot and humid climate, with almost-hourly variations in ambient conditions, posed unique challenges for the converter. The environmental instability made it difficult to produce bottles with consistent material distribution and performance characteristics.
Dedicated to Coca-Cola brand carbonated beverages, primarily Coca-Cola Classic and Light, Fresca, and Sprite, the KHS lines produce multiple bottle shapes and sizes, several per machine. In response to fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels, ALPLA developed several different blowmolder settings, or recipes, for each bottle type. The ALPLA-manufactured preforms, made from up to 50% rPET, known for its variations in resin, required further machine adjustments, along with labor-intensive bottle testing.
Despite these time-consuming corrective measures, out-of-spec resin distribution across the bottle sidewall continued. This was concerning, because PET bottles that don’t meet wall thickness specifications are subject to environmental stress cracking, particularly around the base. Stress cracks can open up while the filled bottles are in storage, in transit, or in the store, leading to undesirable consequences like leaks or bursts.
Hoedl and his FEMSA colleagues realized that finer process control was essential to meet the stringent bottle specifications for the market. In search of a remedy, they found that Agr’s Process Pilot automated control system presented a means to manage the blowmolding process to a level of precision not available through any other technology. “There wasn’t really any other solution for bottle quality and better controls,” Hoedl comments.
The Process Pilot’s powerful combination of measurement and control technology manages thickness distribution and automates blowmolder response to any variable, whether a change in humidity or preform composition. It ties into blowmolder control functions associated with oven lamps, pre-blow pressure and start time, and preform set-point. The system’s proprietary learning function teaches it how modifications to basic machine control parameters affect material distribution. Once a bottle process is set for the desired thickness and performance characteristics, Pilot takes control. Algorithms instantaneously analyze the thickness measurements over the entire container sidewall and automatically adjust the blowmolder control parameters. When even minute shifts in material distribution are detected, Pilot fine-tunes the related blowmolder function to redirect resin placement, assuring robust production of in-spec bottles without the need for operator intervention.
ALPLA installed Process Pilot systems in the two KHS blowmolders, and another in a standalone Sidel SBO 20 machine designated primarily for Ciel brand water packaged in 100% rPET bottles. The installation coincided with plant upgrades like air conditioning and air quality tests to screen for particles that might affect the blowing process.
After just a few months of operation, Process Pilot data confirmed dramatic improvement in the consistency of resin distribution in the container base. Hoedl estimates that stress cracking has declined by as much as 80 percent.
Other metrics are equally impressive. Instead of having three or four recipes for each bottle shape, ALPLA now has just one. “A 75 percent reduction in the number of recipes is important, because the more recipes you have, the greater the chance of error,” he notes, explaining, “The wrong recipe delays start-up of the filling line.”
The converter has also experienced a significant decrease in the need for operator involvement. Prior to the Pilot installation, ALPLA had documented that operators had to make as many as 240 process adjustments per day. Three months after deployment, the number of adjustments plummeted to a record of 15 in one day. On average, Hoedl figures that for every 10 adjustments made in the past, only one is needed today.
A study of all the variables that can affect bottle performance—from resin quality and the weather to warehouse conditions and bumpy roads during transport—coupled with two years of data generated by the Agr systems, has not revealed a single underlying cause of the stress cracking, but the totality of measures taken by ALPLA have delivered the right results.
“There are many influences,” says Hoedl. “We can’t point a finger at any one thing. What we do know is that if we control wall thickness distribution with the Process Pilot, our chances of having a big problem are low.”