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.”
In many production facilities, Agr equipment fulfills a key role in ensuring that containers meet quality, performance and safety standards. In this challenging time, we continue to work hard to support our customers around the world in their endeavors to provide essential products, while adhering to national and regional guidelines. It is our highest priority to keep our employees and business partners safe while providing the equipment and services to meet your needs.
Agr will continue to support our valued customers throughout this crisis, either from our Butler, PA, USA headquarters or from one of our regional sales and service offices. Although we have limited all non-essential travel, our global sales and service offices remain active and available for both remote and on-site visits to customer facilities.
For over 90 years, Agr and American Glass Research have been committed to servicing our customers, even in the most challenging of times. We understand the next several weeks will be difficult for everyone. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this global crisis. Stay safe and healthy.
As the packaging markets in Asia and the surrounding region continue to expand, Agr has recognized a significant growth in the demand for its quality management and process control equipment for plastic containers. This is evidenced by an ever expanding customer base in this region. The establishment of an office in Japan, headed by Mr. Satoshi Okura, is intended to meet this growing demand with a direct sales and service operation centrally located in the region, utilizing factory-trained Agr personnel and focusing on the needs of the plastic container industry.
Mr. Satoshi Okura holds a graduate degree in Business Management from Canadian International College. He is a veteran within the Glass and Plastic industry and has extensive business experience in South-East Asia. Mr. Okura brings with him experience with Agr equipment that extends over sixteen years. Before accepting this opportunity, he held positions with Agr distributors servicing the Japanese market handling Agr and TopWave equipment for the plastic industry as well as Agr’s glass equipment in the container industry.
Agr Japan, under Mr. Okura’s direction, will provide sales and service support for Agr’s complete line of products serving the plastic industry. The new office is part of the Agr Bangkok Ltd. Territory and the overall Management will be provided by Mr. Martin Küestner.
Agr will participate in numerous trade shows throughout the world in 2020. These shows will highlight Agr’s latest technologies and products within both the plastic and glass container markets. Visit us at any of the following venues!
The plastic market trade shows and conferences include:
|Plast Alger||March 9-11||Algiers, Algeria|
|PETnology Americas||May 12-14||Atlanta, GA|
|Annual Blowmolding Conf||Oct 5-7||Chicago, IL|
|Brau Beviale||Nov 10-12||Nurnberg, Germany|
The glass market trade shows and conferences include:
|China Glass||April 14-17||Shanghai, China|
|Glassman Latin America||May 13-14||Monterrey, Mexico|
|Mir Stekla||June 8-11||Moscow, Russia|
|Glasstec||Oct 20-23||Düsseldorf, Germany|
The general packaging and beverage market trade shows and conferences include:
|The Packaging Conference||Feb 3-5||Austin, TX|
|Propak Myanmar||Sept 17-19||Myanmar|
|China Brew & Beverage||Oct 13-16||Shanghai, China|
|Gulfood Manufacturing||Nov 3-5||Dubai, UAE|
|Pack Expo||Nov 8-11||Chicago, IL|
|Brau Beviale||Nov 10-12||Nurnberg, Germany|
Agr International has unveiled their latest development, the Gawis 4D™, a totally new laboratory test system that is designed to provide a new level of design, process and quality management for plastic containers and preforms. This system affords operators with the ability to perform multiple measurements, on a wide range of plastic containers and preforms, with unmatched accuracy, repeatability and operational throughput. This all-in-one measurement system incorporates the latest optical gauging and thickness measurement technology, in combination with automation, to simplify container measurement operations while maximizing testing throughput.
Agr’s Gawis product line, introduced over 20 years ago has provided plastic bottle and preform producers around the world with a means to perform accurate and repeatable dimensional and thickness measurements as part of their quality management program. The Gawis 4D is the latest generation, all new measurement platform that incorporates a number of features and capabilities.
Some of the many features include:
- AutoJob™ – Quick and automated job creation, without advanced knowledge of the finish
- Increased measurement throughput up to 30%
- Compatibility with existing Gawis jobs
- High resolution , USB 3 camera technology
- Optimized lensing and telecentric optics
- 360º imaging, with frames captured up to 1º
- 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 for PET, PE and PP containers 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. All this is done while increasing throughput by 30%.
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. These are each customizable to meet the needs of the application.
A patent pending feature on the Gawis 4D is AutoJob. This feature simplifies 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. The Gawis 4D will then scan the sample, identify the standard finish measurements for that sample and incorporate them into the job. The operator can make adjustments or additional measurements as necessary. This facilitates easy job creation, saving hundreds of labor hours through the course of a year.
The Gawis 4D system utilizes Agr’s proprietary and proven infrared light spectrometer measurement technology to perform thickness measurements. This method offers fast and precise thickness measurement without contacting the container or preform and is compatible with most colors as well as a range of polymer materials. Major advantages of this technology are the speed and accuracy of measurement as well as its ability to measure thickness at discrete points or scan vertical or horizontal regions for analyzing material distribution. Further, measurements can be performed at multiple locations and regions on the sample to get a full profile of the bottle. Once a job is defined, measurements are performed exactly the same way on every sample.
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. These include OPC and XML with TCP/IP connectivity. This capability facilitates advanced communication with other devices, to share data, support remote job change (commands and uploads) and interface with factory robotic handling systems without operator intervention.
A better way to meet the challenges of producing bottles with increased levels of rPET
Agr International recently introduced its latest and most powerful in-the-blowmolder vision inspection system, Pilot Vision+™. This product is configured and uniquely positioned to meet the quality management requirements for high-speed PET bottle production, with a special focus on containers with high percentages of rPET.
This Pilot Vision+ system is designed to work in conjunction with today’s high speed reheat stretch blowmolding equipment. As part of Agr’s Process Pilot family of products, it can be used along with the Process Pilot® automated blowmolder management system. The combination of Pilot Vision+ and Process Pilot provides bottle producers with the ability to not only detect random occurring defects, but also manage the process to maintain precise material distribution, even with the lightest and/or most difficult-to-process bottle design.
The Pilot Vision+ system is a modular vision-based inspection system that mounts inside today’s high-speed reheat stretch-blowmolding equipment. The compact design of cameras and lighting components and an operating speed of up to 100,000 bottles/hour make it compatible with most blowmolder models and brands.
The open architecture of this system allows for simultaneous management of up to 6 cameras in multiple locations. These are typically configured in four separate inspection stations; preform inspection in the oven area, and bottle seal surface, base and sidewall inspection immediately after mold takeout.
Special attention to preforms, color and rPET
The preform inspection module of the Pilot Vision+ system makes it possible to identify defects that are visible in the preform, before the bottle is blown. Multiple color cameras provide the imaging for 360º preform sidewall inspection as well as end cap and gate. Optics, LED illumination and image analysis routines are optimized to identify preform defects that impact bottle integrity, particularly the black specs and particle contamination sometimes associated with recycled PET (rPET).
With the increased use of rPET, challenges related to color consistency may also be an issue. In the Pilot Vision+ system, the preform cameras ensure that colors are within acceptable ranges. This is particularly valuable with the variations in color that can typically occur when higher percentages of rPET are used.
Another tool designed to address rPET related issues is the Pilot Vision+ system’s capability to learn multiple reference image sets for color inspection. This makes it possible to process a preform supply with slight color variations and manage the range of color by accepting those that match the reference images, while rejecting those that do not match.
Inspecting the base with liquid lens technology
The base inspection on the Pilot Vision+ system incorporates a powerful set of inspection algorithms that identify the smallest defects and anomalies regardless of base size, shape or design. In addition, the base inspection features a unique liquid lens that adjusts focus for bottle heights from five to sixteen inches, without mechanical components. This feature eliminates the need for mechanical lens adjustment when changing between containers of different heights. Focus settings are saved with each job and focus is automatically adjusted to accommodate new container heights. This saves changeover time and ensures a clear, high-resolution image of the base at the start of production.
In addition to the color preform cameras and liquid lens technology for base inspection, the new Pilot Vision+ offers features including:
- Large, touch-screen user interface with all data accessible from the main screen
- Pre-built tool sequences provided for each inspection type
- Flexibility to adjust parameters using live and history images during production
- Full-color preform imaging for color management
- Active cooling for high temperature operation
- Sealed components to prevent damage from fluids and moisture
The Pilot Vision+ system also offers a number of tools to assist operators with setup and job management. These include adjustable ROI tools, digital image filtering, zone scaling and the ability to display live and historical inspections images that can be used for evaluation or setup purposes. To aid operators in monitoring line status and assessing production trends, detailed defect and reject information and production-run data summaries are continuously updated. Defects are mold/spindle correlated and categorized using color codes for quick and easy identification of offending characteristics.
The Pilot Vision+ system is available as a stand-alone system, or in tandem with Agr’s Process Pilot® automated blowmolder management system. When you combine the Pilot Vision+ system with Agr’s Pilot Profiler® material distribution measurement system and the Process Pilot® automated blowmolder controls, it offers manufacturers a means to produce defect-free bottles with stable and consistent production on a 24/7 basis.
The Pilot Vision+ system is another segment to Agr’s Process Pilot® family of products, designed to provide comprehensive material distribution monitoring, automated blowmolder management and vision–based defect detection.
A more efficient way to manage volume and fill height requirements during glass bottle production
Agr International, Inc. announces the latest addition to its family of products for the glass container industry, the SPT2-Volume. This automated, self-contained testing station is designed to provide hands-free, automated volume measurement of glass containers on the plant floor or in the laboratory, offering a cost-effective alternative to the tedious hand measurement of bottles.
According to Agr, this system was developed to meet the needs of glass container producers and brand owners that need fast and precise volume measurement but do not require pressure testing. This product is particularly applicable to the producers of non-pressurized ware, including spirit, olive oil and specialty beverage and food containers where volume measurement is critical.
The SPT2-Volume is an extension of the industry leading Agr SPT2 product line. Built upon the same testing platform, this system shares many of the popular features, including a rugged stainless steel framework, no job change bottle handling system and a Linux operating system.
What is unique about the SPT2-Volume is its ability to perform fill height and volume measurement with laboratory accuracy, the repeatability that is achieved with automation and a fast throughput necessary for effective process management. System handling and operational components have been configured with this in mind. Plus, the system can be configured to operate autonomously, where it can provide round-the-clock volume measurement without additional labor requirements.
Volume measurement with precision
The SPT2-Volume system utilizes positive-displacement as it core technology. A known volume of fluid is transferred from a temperature compensated, calibrated cylinder into the test container. At the same time, the fill level is dynamically monitored as the container is filled to overflow.
The positive-displacement method offers a number of advantages over traditional laboratory methods. Most significant is the accuracy and speed. This filling technique, in tandem with a high-precision fill-height sensor, makes it possible to deliver defined volume and fill measurements at any point within the process, to an accuracy of + 0.5 ml. Measurements can be performed at a rate of up to 120 bottles per hour (350 ml bottle).
Other advantages include little or no effect on measurement precision due to water quality, container shape or rate of fill, regardless of the size and volume of the container. Furthermore, the volume measurement system on the SPT2-Volume is self-contained, requires no delicate scales and is not affected by water density, flow rate, vibrations or issues that commonly plague other methods.
Since the SPT2-Volume can perform in-process job changes, it is possible to test bottles from different manufacturing lines, or hand-feed a set of bottles as required, with testing protocols unique to that specific bottle type, without the need to stop and reconfigure the system, maximizing testing efficiency.
This system can be configured as a stand-alone testing station, integrated into a sampling line in conjunction with a plant-wide process management system or combined with Agr’s OmniLab® automated measurement system.
The SPT2-Volume is the latest generation in a long line of automated testing systems supplied by Agr for the glass container manufacturing industry.
Pilot Vision+™, Agr’s latest and most powerful in-the-blowmolder vision system will be featured at the upcoming Pack Expo show in Las Vegas. This system is uniquely positioned for the quality management of bottles with high percentages of rPET. Designed to work in conjunction with today’s high speed reheat stretch blowmolding equipment, the Pilot Vision+ system offers a modular approach to defect detection that works within the blowmolder. The open architecture of this system allows for simultaneous management of up to 6 cameras, in multiple locations. Some of the features of this system include color preform cameras for managing color variations, simple configuration and operation, large-screen user interface and defect categorization by mold/spindle and defect type. As part of Agr’s Process Pilot family of products, Pilot Vision+ can be combined with Process Pilot 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.
Agr will also feature the Process Pilot® system with Advanced Thin-wall capability. Introduced earlier this year, this tool is ideally suited for facilitating the production of ultralight bottles. It provides the added precision and blowmolder control necessary to produce very light bottles, with consistent quality, in order to ensure proper performance on the production line and throughout the distribution chain. The Process Pilot system works in conjunction with the blowmolder to continuously measure material distribution on every bottle, and proactively manage the blowmolder to maintain optimal material distribution. Since the Process Pilot system manages the blowmolder based on actual bottle measurement, it is an ideal tool that can be used to overcome many of the issues, outside of the blowmolder, that compromise bottle manufacture and filling line productivity such as process and environmental variables, resin quality, increased levels of rPET and preform variability.
Agr technical experts will be available at Pack Expo booth 6538 to discuss these products and the rest of their complete line of process monitoring and quality control equipment for the plastic container industry.
All-new, high-precision laboratory thickness and dimensional measurement system for plastic containers to be introduced by Agr International at K 2019
Agr will display several new product developments as well as an array of quality management and process control equipment for plastic containers at K 2019, Stand 11B40.
All-new measurement system for plastic containers – the focal point for Agr’s display will be an all-new laboratory measurement system for plastic containers. Designed to streamline laboratory measurement operations, this system provides operators with the ability to perform multiple measurements, on a wide range of plastic containers and preforms, with un-matched accuracy, repeatability and operational throughput. This all-in-one measurement system incorporates the latest optical gauging and thickness measurement technology, in combination with automation, to simplify container measurement operations while maximizing testing throughput. Additionally, this system includes a number of features including advanced job setup tools to minimize time required for job creation, large screen image display with ability to expand images for close analysis, comprehensive data capture/reporting and Industry 4.0 communications.
Pilot Vision+™ – Agr’s latest and most powerful in-the-blowmolder vision system. This system is uniquely positioned for the quality management of bottles with high percentages of rPET. Designed to work in conjunction with today’s high speed reheat stretch blowmolding equipment, the Pilot Vision+ system offers a modular approach to defect detection that works within the blowmolder. The open architecture of this system allows for simultaneous management of up to 6 cameras, in multiple locations. Some of the features of this system include color preform cameras for managing color variations, simple configuration and operation, large-screen user interface and defect categorization by mold/spindle and defect type. As part of Agr’s Process Pilot family of products, Pilot Vision+ can be combined with Process Pilot 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.
Process Pilot® with advanced Thin-wall Measurement –The Process Pilot system with Advanced Thin-wall capability, introduced earlier this year, is ideally suited for the production of ultralight bottles. It provides the added precision and blowmolder control necessary to produce very light bottles, with consistent quality, in order to ensure proper performance on the production line and throughout the distribution chain. The Process Pilot system works in conjunction with the blowmolder to continuously measure material distribution on every bottle, and proactively manage the blowmolder to maintain optimal material distribution. Since the Process Pilot system manages the blowmolder based on actual bottle measurement, it is an ideal tool that can be used to overcome many of the issues that compromise bottle manufacture and filling line productivity such as process and environmental variables, increased levels of rPET and preform variability.
Agr staff members will be available to discuss these products and the rest of their complete line of process monitoring and quality control equipment for the plastic container industry. As an industry leader for over 90 years, Agr is committed to provide the plastic container industry with the most technologically advanced products available for quality control and productivity improvement.
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. Additional details can be found on the Agr website at www.agrintl.com.
Agr International has invested more than 1 Million Euros in the establishment of an American Glass Research Testing Laboratory in Delft, The Netherlands. The lab has completed its first full year of operations and AGR CEO Henry Dimmick declares it has more than met its first year objectives. “Our goals were to create and staff a state of the art testing laboratory for glass containers and be able to offer all of the same core glass testing services American Glass Research is known for, including: Fracture Diagnosis, Proof of Design Testing, Filling line and Glass Manufacturing line audits, Container Design Study, as well as Label, Decoration and Closure Analysis”, said Dimmick.
We have installed Agr International produced testing equipment including a Ramp Pressure Tester 2X, Vertical Load Tester, and Pendulum Impact Tester for comprehensive, performance testing of glass containers. Additionally complementary AGR equipment housed at the laboratory includes the following: Line Simulator, Hot End Coating Measurement System, Finish Coating Measurement System, Tilt Table, Polarimeter and MBTxt thickness measurement gauge. Along with the Agr equipment, the lab also has a range of state of the art optical and polarizing microscopes along with an array of metrology devices to round out the capabilities of the facility.
The lab in Delft has a highly trained and experienced staff that fully understands the issues associated with the design and production of glass containers. “We have continually expanded our staff to meet our growing needs. In support of this, we are pleased to announce that Dr. Clarissa Justino de Lima has joined the AGR Testing Laboratory team as a Research Scientist” said Peter de Haan, Senior Scientist and Manager of the Delft lab. Clarissa’s main areas of responsibility will include fracture analysis, container testing as well as seminar instruction.
She will also have considerable involvement with the internal research projects and technical papers as they relate to glass as a material for use in the container industry. Clarissa received her PhD in Civil Engineering from Technische University Delft. She also
ince 1927, operates laboratories located in Butler, PA and Maumee, OH in the USA and Delft, the Netherlands. American Glass Research is a division of AGR International Inc. holds a Master’s degree in Science & Engineering of Materials from Federal University Alfenas in Brazil. .
We are also pleased to announce the expansion of our renowned Training Program and will now be conducting open enrollment seminars for the first time in Moscow, Russia in addition to expanding our offerings in Krakow, Poland, Lake Ammersee, Germany and Montecchio, Italy.
American Glass Research, a leader in consulting, training and analytical services for the glass packaging industry since 1927, operates laboratories located in Butler, PA and Maumee, OH in the USA and Delft, the Netherlands. American Glass Research is a division of AGR International Inc.
American Glass Research announced that Dr. Clarissa Justino de Lima has joined the AGR Testing Laboratory team in Delft, the Netherlands as a Research Scientist. “We have continually expanded our staff to meet our growing needs and are pleased that Clarissa is joining us and bringing a wealth of experience” said Peter de Haan, Senior Scientist and Manager of the Delft lab.
Clarissa’s main areas of responsibility will include fracture analysis, container testing as well as seminar instruction. She will also have considerable involvement with the internal research projects and technical papers as they relate to glass as a material for use in the container industry.
Clarissa received her PhD in Civil Engineering from Technische University Delft. She also holds a Master’s degree in Science & Engineering of Materials from Federal University Alfenas in Brazil. She is co-author of a number of publications related to glass science, manufacturing and innovative applications of glass materials and has presented her findings at a number of industry conferences around the world.
The Agr Process Performance Optimization Group offers technical assistance to maximize the productivity and efficiency of PET blowing and beverage production lines.
Self-manufacture of PET bottles has grown in popularity with beverage producers. The ability to produce bottles, on demand, at the point of filling offers a myriad of advantages. Cost containment, reduced warehousing and transportation costs, improved inventory control and increased production flexibility are but a few of these advantages.
However, along with the advantages come some new challenges. Many companies that self-manufacturer struggle with PET bottle processing. This often involves determining the proper recipe for a given bottle, taking into consideration the local plant and regional environments or dealing with preforms from different sources or lineages. Sometimes it is just a challenge to produce bottles with consistent quality and performance that do not compromise downstream operations. And, let’s not forget about the scarcity of experienced blowmolder operators and processing personnel. These are just a small sample of some of the issues that self-manufactures face.
Overcoming blowmolding challenges
The Agr Process Performance and Optimization Group was established to provide self-manufacturers with a go-to resource to help overcome some of the everyday challenges in producing their own bottles. The approach of the Process Group is somewhat different than what is traditionally offered by the blowmolder manufacturers. The Agr Process group takes a holistic approach towards optimization that not only focuses on the blowmolder, but goes beyond to understand issues affecting the efficiency of the entire production line. Since Agr is not affiliated with any specific brand of blowmolder, the group can provide whole plant assistance in operations that have different blowmolder brands in the same facility.
Some of the offerings now available through this group include working directly with a plant’s process engineers and plant floor personnel to help manage challenging light weight applications, develop effective processing recipes and address process variation and quality issues as well as a myriad of downstream process improvement efforts that can lead to improved pack rate. The services of the group are offered under the following categories:
- Blowmolder management and optimization – individual assessment of individual blowing lines
- Effective use of basic quality tools for blowmolder management
- Optimizing Pilot Profiler® and Process Pilot® automated tools to manage blowmolder and production quality
- Production line auditing and optimization planning
- Job-specific services such as recipe design and startup assistance
According to Robert Cowden, Agr’s Chief Operating Officer, “our primary mission is to work with our customers to optimize production efficiency, both in terms of blowmolding and total line efficiency. Agr’s consulting professionals work directly with plant personnel to optimize blowmolding and container flow downstream in order to reduce manufacturing costs.”
Agr is not a novice when it comes to managing blowmolder performance. This Process Performance Optimization Group is an outgrowth of the Agr Process Pilot® automated blowmolder management program. With over 400 Process Pilot systems operating in the field, Agr system engineers have encountered many of the issues that traditionally plague PET bottle manufacturers, helping to identify a need for this kind of service. As part of the installation and commissioning of these Process Pilot systems, Agr engineers have been tasked to provide some of the very services that are now being offered through the Process Performance and Optimization Group. However, through this group, the services have been greatly expanded and are no longer limited to facilities only using Agr’s Process Pilot system.
Request more information here.
New Lightweight option for the Process Pilot® blowmolder management system affords the production of even lighter, more sustainable PET bottles
With increasing focus on sustainability in packaging, Agr’s new Lightweight option for the Process Pilot® blowmolder management system gives brand owners and bottle manufactures another tool to meet this complex and growing challenge. The Process Pilot system, with the Lightweight option provides assurance that the limited material available for producing a light weight PET bottle is distributed exactly where it needs to be, and at the appropriate thickness, to ensure proper performance.
There are many facets to this issue and improving the sustainability footprint of a product or brand can be a complex undertaking. Most avenues to sustainability are not under the direct control of the bottle manufacturer or brand owner. One option that is within their control however, is the reduction and optimization of the amount of resin that is used to manufacture the bottles. Resin (or weight) reduction per bottle does not need to be excessive to have an impact with regards to sustainability and financial benefits particularly when factoring in the quantity of bottles produced over a given period of time.
Over the years, many PET bottle manufacturers have made great progress reducing excess material and moving towards lighter, more sustainable bottles. However, as weights continue to be reduced, the role of process variation and its effect on material distribution increasingly becomes a factor in the success of the weight-reduction program. Agr’s Process Pilot blowmolder management system was developed to address this issue and offers manufacturers a valuable tool to use in their weight reduction efforts. The Process Pilot system, with Agr Pilot Profiler® measurement technology installed inside the blowmolder, provides a means for manufacturers to accurately measure material distribution on every bottle (to 0.05mm), in real time, and proactively adjust the blowmolder to maintain proper distribution, countering the effect of process variation.
In the push for more sustainable bottles, weights are being reduced even further and, with that, the sidewall thickness of the bottle. In order to process these bottles effectively and control the material distribution, additional measurement accuracy is required. The new Lightweight option, incorporated into the Pilot Profiler measurement component, offered with the Process Pilot system was developed to address this need for even greater measurement accuracy and control on very light bottles. With this option, a level of control is now available with the Process Pilot system that extends the measurement range to 0.025mm, with an accuracy of +0.01mm for PET bottle sidewall material. This added functionality delivers greater distribution control on bottles with very thin sidewalls or at specific locations on other types of bottles where precise material management is critical to meet performance and quality requirements. This capability removes one of the barriers to producing usable, lighter and more sustainable bottles.
Agr’s Process Pilot automated blowmolder control systems are operating on over 400 PET bottle production lines. They have proven to be a vital tool in the production of light weight bottles while improving overall bottle performance and quality. The Process Pilot system is unique in that it manages the blowmolder based on direct bottle measurements, on every bottle produced. By controlling the blowmolder based on direct feedback from bottle measurements rather than just blowmolder performance indicators, the Agr system can ensure that the final product has the desired quality and performance attributes in spite of environmental, blowmolder or material variations that can occur during the production process. Now with the Lightweight option, the process can be controlled for even the lightest bottles. The option is currently available on all new production Process Pilot systems. To achieve these capabilities on existing systems, Agr also offers an upgrade package that can be easily installed in the field.
As of January 14, 2019, Ms. Marta de la Torre has been named Regional Director of Sales and Service for Latin America. A 20 year veteran of the Agr organization, Ms. de la Torre has vast experience in these regions with her former role as Sales Regional Manager. She has successfully provided knowledge of quality assurance and process control to the glass, plastic and packaging industries in the region.
Latin America continues to offer development in the packaging markets, evident with significant growth in Agr’s customer base within this area. Following the opening of Agr Packaging Services in Mexico and to better support this growing customer base, Agr made the decision to advance the role of Ms. de la Torre as well as expand the sales force in the region with the addition of Mr. Sergio Ruiz. Mr. Ruiz comes to Agr following 10 years in process, project and sales engineering in the region. In addition, Mr. Israel Hernandez and his team of factory-trained service engineers continue to provide installation, service support and training to meet the needs of the customers within the area. Maintaining a local presence of Agr personnel is central to this market with the ability to respond to customer needs in a timely and cost-effective fashion.
Agr International Inc. develops and manufactures a full line of laboratory and on-line testing/measurement devices for containers and similar products. The Agr headquarters and main manufacturing facility is located in Butler, PA, USA. Agr is committed to provide the container, filling and packaging industries with the most technologically advanced products available for quality control and productivity improvement.
This new device offers significant improvements in accuracy and testing throughput
Agr International, Inc. recently announced the introduction of the Combined Coating Measurement System (CCMS) for measuring metallic coatings on both the finish and body regions of glass containers. This totally new device provides operators with a one-stop, single operation testing station for measuring tin oxide coatings applied to the container during the production process.
This system utilizes Agr’s proven reflective coating measurement technology as a foundation and features a fully automated measurement approach. By incorporating a number of technological advances in combination with automation, Agr has been able to achieve a 33% improvement in testing throughput and a 70% improvement in precision with this device over previous coating measurement systems.
Some of the features incorporated into the CCMS include:
- Finish and/or body measurements in one operation
- Dual head design
- Universal hold down mechanism
- Automated test or spot check operation
- Secure Linux-based operating system
- Industry 4.0 ready
- Software-based calibration
- Advanced electronics for better precision
According to Agr sources, the basic goal of the CCMS development program was to provide the industry with a leading-edge system that could provide the measurement precision needed for process management requirements while reducing the labor intensity of coating measurement.
Two heads are better than one
In order to achieve maximum precision on finish and body measurements, the CCMS incorporates dedicated measurement heads for each of the finish and body regions. One head is optimized to operate with the precision necessary for the limited area of the finish region. The second head is configured for body measurements where larger areas and heavier coatings are encountered. The advanced electronics of the system, in conjunction with dedicated measurement heads for finish and body, make it possible to precisely identify the presence of very small amounts of coating in the finish region while measuring heavier coating levels applied to the body of the container, all in one operation.
Automated, one-touch operation
The CCMS is designed for fully automated operation. Positioning of measurement heads, including vertical height location, container rotation and capture of measurement data is performed in a single progression, without the need for operator intervention during the testing sequence. Jobs can be created to measure the body or finish regions individually or a combination of both.
For additional operator convenience, the system offers two testing modes. The “spot test” measurement mode affords the operator the ability to take a quick spot measurement on a single container location. The “job-based” test mode provides the operator with the ability to create and store jobs that can be used to measure multiple containers of the same type. In this mode, each measurement is performed at the same locations on the container body and/or finish, as defined by the job, on every container in the set.
The CCMS provides a wealth of test data. Measured values are presented in easy to understand color-coded graphic format for each test in progress, to permit operators to readily identify measurements that fall outside of acceptable ranges. Job-based numerical results are also available in spreadsheet form, detailing the min/max/average data for each measurement (height and angle) for both body and finish regions on every container.
The CCMS incorporates a Linux-based architecture and operating system to manage the continuous, multi-function operations of this system. Linux was chosen for its ability to run efficiently on the embedded computing platform that manages the CCMS test operations as well as its proven stability, security and long-term availability.
According to Robert Cowden, AGR’s Chief Operating Officer, “The CCMS product encapsulates Agr’s unique, high value added relation to the global glass container industry by combining an innovative, proven measurement technique developed years ago by American Glass Research scientists with current state of the art electronics, operating system and automation technology.”
The CCMS is the latest generation in a long line of coating measurement devices supplied by Agr for the glass container manufacturing industry. The CCMS is part of Agr’s broad line of on-line, laboratory testing and quality control devices for the glass container and filling industries.
Agr International has introduced the Dimensional Sampling Gauge, Series 400 (DSG400). This is the latest generation in a line of high-precision dimensional gauging systems designed by Agr expressly for glass container measurement.
While the DSG400 retains much of the look and feel of previous versions of Agr’s Dimensional Sampling Gauge, this version incorporates a multiplicity of new hardware, features and capabilities that further expand the handling, throughput, precision, communication and measurement functions of the DSG product line.
Some of the most prominent features incorporated in the DSG400 include:
- Advanced high pixel density, USB 3 camera technology with optimized lensing and telecentric optics
- Expanded measurement algorithms for multiple critical measurements
- Hands-free job change
- Optimized tool set for expanded measurement of small ware
- A Quad-core central computer
- Positive table positioning for enhanced thickness measurement
- Industry 4.0 communication protocols
When performing the complicated measurements required for managing glass container quality, maintaining sufficient throughput without sacrificing precision is always a concern, The DSG400 overcomes this in several ways.
- An advanced no-job change feature makes it possible for the DSG400 to accept bottles of different sizes and shapes from the same or multiple lines without the need for an operator to adjust handling components or change parts. This same enhanced tooling also facilitates positive bottle placement and increases the measurable thickness range for pharmaceutical and small format bottles.
- A new quad-core central computer system with a USB 3.0 camera interface and an embedded operating system provides the horsepower necessary to manage high speed communication with the system’s multiple cameras. This increases overall processing speed and vision frame rates, making it possible to capture more images, with higher density, in less time.
Focus on precision
The DSG400 precision is improved over previous models with new camera technology that sports a 2x increase in pixel density.
A major emphasis for the DSG400 is measurement precision. Enhanced telecentric lighting provides for improved edge shadow for the highest dimensional precision and repeatability. This improvement is of major significance as it provides for more distinct categories and lowers the percent of process variation for individual measurements.
Several enhancements have been made to simplify and improve measurement capabilities for label panels and finish thread measurements. These include an optional “point cloud” function for contour visualization of label panels. An intelligent “T” measurement has been added to improve precision and simplify the measurement of non-overlapping, partial overlapping and depressed threads. For one of the most difficult measurements to perform by hand, an enhanced lug algorithm has also been incorporated to accurately measure lug finishes including L, Lug diameter and gaps between lugs.
When measuring thickness, it is important to be able to measure material distribution over the complete bottle profile including sidewall, shoulder and angled areas. The DSG400 provides high accuracy thickness measurements simultaneously with dimensions by seamlessly incorporating the Agr’s Thickness 360® measurement system. With its patented vision-guided, three-axis positioning and optical measurement, Thickness 360® can measure round and non-round panels, tilted sidewalls or even corners at an accuracy of +/- 0.02 mm and repeatability of +/- 0.01mm. Thickness measurements, on the DSG400 are further enhanced through optimized bottle positioning and additional software features that extend the measurement range making it possible to measure thickness over the complete body sidewall particularly on small pharmaceutical ware.
Industry 4.0 standard communication protocols have also been incorporated into the DSG400 to improve communications and support Industry 4.0 objectives. These include CSV added outputs, XML and TCP/IP connectivity as well as XML tags on all data points. The addition of this capability expands the DSG400’s ability to talk to other devices, support remote computer job change (commands and uploads) and interface with factory robotic handling systems without operator intervention.
The Dimensional Sampling Gauge is Agr’s premier dimensional measurement system that functions as an automated laboratory test station, providing hands-free, high-precision measurement of critical glass container attributes such as body and finish dimensions, weight, pushup, bore, wall thickness and, when mated with Agr’s SPT2™ (OmniLab® configuration), volume and pressure testing, all in one system.