There are many well-known benefits and savings associated with PET bottle light-weighting efforts. Along with the benefits there are some associated challenges, especially with regards to bottle processing and field performance. These are most evident in the shelf-life performance qualities related to CO2 and water loss.
To address these issues, Agr International recently introduced a new capability for its Pilot Profiler™ in-the-blowmolder thickness management system. In addition to the precision material distribution control for PET bottles, the Pilot Profiler system can now monitor shelf-life for CO2 or water loss at the point of production by incorporating a version of the M-RULE container performance model. This provides plant managers with a continuous status of the predicted shelf-life performance as well as the capability to proactively manage critical bottle parameters to maximize the shelf-life of containers in production.
This new feature is the result of the combination of two proven products: Agr’s Pilot Profiler thickness management system and the M-RULE® Container Performance Model. These components have been integrated to provide an on-line tool that can not only effectively monitor material distribution to a very fine degree as needed for the successful production of ultralight bottles, but also monitor the shelf-life performance of those bottles at the same time.
Agr’s Pilot Profiler system with M-RULE affords bottle manufacturers the means to non-destructively monitor bottle production on a continuous basis for changes in bottle performance characteristics, including shelf-life performance. The Pilot Profiler system, installed within the blowmolder, precisely measures material distribution, and any changes thereof, on every bottle produced. Wall thickness data captured by the system is automatically entered into the M-RULE model. From this data, shelf-life performance is continuously calculated and presented for individual bottles or user-defined subgroups.
To take the bottle management process one step further, full closed-loop control can be achieved by adding Agr’s Process Pilot® automated blowmolder control system option to the Pilot Profiler. This option uses the detailed thickness information captured by the Pilot Profiler and automatically performs blowmolder adjustments to manage and maintain container material distribution at a specified thickness to within ~0.01mm. This is accomplished by continuously monitoring every bottle for material distribution, analyzing minute changes and adjusting the blowmolder controls to maintain pre-defined distribution levels. Unlike operator adjustments, the Process Pilot system can adjust one or all of the blowmolder controls simultaneously to achieve the best possible material distribution.
In the course of bottle production, an untold amount of variables in the production cycle can affect the processing and quality of light weight bottles. The Process Pilot system can accommodate many types of environmental changes as well as preform preparation and storage conditions that can occur. Compensation can be made for temperature, moisture content, and minor Intrinsic Viscosity (IV) changes of the preform to maintain a consistent process, within the smallest process window.
By monitoring the material distribution of the blown container as well as shelf-life performance characteristics, the Pilot Profiler along with Process Pilot automated blowmolder control system are able to account for subtle changes in the process affecting shelf-life and other performance factors that would normally go undetected by the operator. This prevents the process from drifting out of control before the operator’s next quality sample, averts the loss of precious little processing margin and provides operators with a means to maximize shelf-life performance of bottles in production.
The M-RULE Container Performance Model is a proven, web-based predictive tool that operates by integrating the fundamentals of permeation with critically evaluated physical data for the component materials and other pertinent data affecting the permeability of a container.