Smooth operators

Applied Vision attracted Cannex delegates with a model of an aircraft carrier on which a set of starting lights tested people's reaction times. The Canmaker's John Nutting failed the test miserably.

Increased automation and versatility is simplifying and speeding up the inspection process. Richard Estrada reports from Cannex

Where there is a need, there is usually money to be made, which helps explains why inspection and testing systems were popular at Cannex & Fillex de las Américas held recently in Denver, Colorado. With canmakers continuing to work on narrow margins, the clear trend is to develop units that are both more automated and more versatile.

•The Ultra Compact DS Vision Inspection System, IBEA’s newest creation and bolstered by a double-snap feature, takes two simultaneous images of the same can. That eliminates the compromise created by taking only one shot for the inspection of the can, where separate inspections of the body and panel/flange need to be made. Those separate inspections can be a challenge, given the dark interior coatings that can be used in food cans. The system is also designed for the inspection of ends. By using the DS-feature, simultaneous images of the surface quality and repair coating can be produced by this inspection unit.

“We have started the rollout of this feature this year, and the initial feedback from customers has been great,” said Jakob Purrucker, IBEA’s sales and marketing director. “It simplifies the task and increases the inspection quality. The old-school approach, taking only one photo and inspecting both aspects to make sure the can’s integrity was secure, is not efficient in today’s market.

“What we’ve found with our first DS systems is that once we get them in front of our customers, they’ve sold themselves. Everyone is looking to save time and money, but without sacrificing quality. That’s put a lot of emphasis on improving the inspection and testing process.”

Applied Vision took advantage of the crowd at Cannex to roll out its next-generation unit, taking a great leap forward with Orion. The cutting-edge piece unit analyzes every can during the production run, providing for total coverage.

Applied Vision Orion
Above is the Orion camera inspection system used, which captures label images at 2,400 a minute.

This has been a 20-year pursuit for Amir Novini, chief executive of Applied Vision. He’s long had the theory and concept mapped out, but putting it into practice has been the challenge.

Says Mitch Reed, Applied Vision’s communications manager: “We’ve developed the computer technology so that Orion can provide a 360-degree inspection of the label on an aluminum can, on a line that can produce over 2,400 cans per minute.

“It’s a great leap forward in machine vision technology.”

Applied Vision even displayed a model of an aircraft carrier with aircraft and a propulsion launch to draw eyes to Orion, which detects spatial defects, colour shifts, colour registration, and other production flaws, and rejects those cans.

Prior to Orion, one hurdle facing canmakers focused on their line speeds simply being too fast for inspection systems. That meant flawed cans could easily get through the line without being noticed, sometimes going into the market and other times being pulled from the line later in the cycle. The latter incurs a financial loss, as the canmaker had gone through the expense of curing, washing, necking and other steps.

“It’s been a lengthy process bringing Orion to canmaking plants,” said Reed, noting the machine’s evolution was accomplished with short gains over time. “We installed our first Orion in 2015 in the US. Now we have it in Mexico and Europe.”

Consumer confidence has been the driving force behind Applied Vision’s development of Orion. Shoppers have come to equate the appearance of a product with its quality, and labels that have colours bleeding into each other or lack precise definition of images can be seen as suspect.

Orion can be installed into the production line anywhere in the process, but is typically installed as close as possible to the decorator. “It can be installed elsewhere in the line, but the best savings will be found by removing the can as soon as possible, before adding value down the line.”

Applied Vision provides comprehensive training to operate Orion, reducing potential errors on the factory floor. There is also the ability for Applied Vision to remotely access the Orion software, so quick adjustments can be made from afar, as well.

Pressco Technology, the Ohio-based manufacturer with more than 6,500 systems in 75 countries, had plenty to celebrate at Cannex. Not only is this the company’s 50th anniversary, said marketing manager Michael Coy, but Pressco is promoting its game-changing DecoSpector 360 as a solution for canmakers needing 100 percent coverage.

Pressco Technology, celebrating its 59th anniversary, focused on its DecoSpector 360 label inspection system.

“It’s the answer to the canmaking industry’s need for inspection of every decorated can at fill line speeds,” said Coy, whose company has engineers strategically placed throughout Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas. Pressco had a live demonstration featuring multiple cans being inspected, and the impact was not lost on the many who crowded around to get a close look.

Each can passing through the DecoSpector was being shown in real time, with print and colour defects spotlighted on a large, stainless steel-enclosed touchscreen. The crowds were most impressed by the fact that the DecoSpector is a fully featured online system that provides a 360-degree inspection of each can’s label for spatial and colour-related flaws, without having to purchase an additional offline unit.

“Beyond the obvious benefits of removing defected cans before further value-added operations are performed, the DecoSpector 360 pinpoints machine issues that are creating problems, such as mandrels, print blankers and even the pin chain itself,” Coy said. “The real-time feedback allows operators to quickly troubleshoot and correct those flaws.”

The DecoSpectror 360 has been installed in canmaking plants in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Customers have reported a monthly reduction of cans held for inspection (HFI) of 90 percent compared to a year earlier.

“Because litho defects are almost always the greatest percentage of HFIs, canmakers are looking to integrate online solutions that monitor the can-decoration process, remove non-conforming product and provide actionable data about their production process,” Coy said. “DecoSpector provides all these, while dramatically reducing HFIs.”

• Recognising the need to simplify and speed up the inspection process, the UK’s Torus Group reached out to X-rite, a global leader in colour measurement technology, to power their latest system.

XRITE camera
Colour-measurement technology from X-Rite is being employed by Torus

Its Z345 Automatic Colour Inspection System is built around an X-Rite Ci64 spectrophotometer, cutting labour costs and reducing the risk of human error as it automatically analyses decorated two-piece beverage cans. A high-resolution camera reads and ‘unwraps’ the label, ensuring fast and accurate positioning of the Ci64 spectrophotometer at each user defined location on the label.

“The X-Rite SP and Ci instrument range are highly regarded in the industry for precise colour measurement,” said Torus managing director Michael Parry, explaining how they are typically used for colour checks on two-piece beverage cans. “Manual colour checks are usually performed once or twice an hour, but now with a direct line feed to the system, cans can be checked every few minutes. If the quality of the print falls below specification, canmakers need to know in real time as there are cost implications.”

The technology for colour inspection continues to evolve, Parry said, driven by consumers who now equate the vivid images and bold colours on the outside of the can with the quality of the product inside.

“A can with blurred images? The consumer puts it back on the shelf, then reaches for a can that’s clean and colourful,” said Parry, noting the uniformity of ‘Pepsi Blue’ as an example of what processors strive to attain.

Torus says that its Z345 Automatic Colour Inspection System is currently being evaluated by leading canmakers around the world looking to enhance their process control as well as reduce cost, HFI and colour related spoilage.

“Like any revolutionary idea, there’s a trial period as the canmaking industry makes sure it lives up to its billing,” said Parry, noting the unit integrates seamlessly into canmaking lines. “They’ll take three to six months to analyse the performance, cost savings, manpower, ease of use. It has to make economic sense and generating a cost saving, to be successful.”

AVT specialises in print process control, quality assurance and press control and has more than 7,000 systems at work in the packaging, labels, and commercial print industries.

Roie Moran, who has a role in product marketing, pointed out that AVT’s Titan is a comprehensive, 100 percent quality assurance and process control system for metal decorating applications based on the company’s advanced quality control algorithms.

Titan is said to detect the full spectrum of typical print defects, including colour variations, mis-registration (including varnish mis-registration), misprints, spots, text, streaks and more. Its other quality control aspects include PDF comparison and colour variation tracking, as well as a generated report – called PrintFlow – that enables easy defect tracing for subsequent analysis.

AVT’s CoatScan, which Moran describes as a next-step inspection solution for metal sheet coating applications, provides margin inspection and sheet alignment assurance using customers’ pre-determined standards.  It offers defect detection of the overall coating area, as well as a coating thickness indication.

• “We have canmakers coming to us, posing a situation they’re facing in their plants, and asking how it can be solved,” said Chloe Wiggett-Scott, a commercial specialist with Australia-based Versatile Technology. “It’s a very competitive business, canmaking, and every dollar counts.”

That led to a recent discussion between Versatile and one of its clients, concerning the client’s need for an auto compound placement gauge inspection to remove human error and manipulation. The result was on display at Cannex.

Versatile has placed two of its MW146A inspection units in end-making plants, and the one at Cannex was crated and shipped to Europe after the show. The unit has 360-degree continuous scanning, real-time graphing of compound and shell edges and unrolls the curl to minimise compound smearing. The process is automated from start to finish.

The operator, running the machine through a 15-inch LCD screen, puts the ends in the unit. The V2 microprocessor oversees tests related to compound placement and bandwidth, and then safeguards the results.

“If a filler has defects in his cans, the canmaker can pull up data from a specific day, a specific run, with results from an automated inspection,” Wiggett-Scott explained. “Everyone wants traceability in their products. Being accountable to customers is critical going forward.

“We created a Special Gauges Unit, engineers focused on research and development, particularly for companies looking for their machines to accomplish more or handle a new task,” Wiggett-Scott said.

Versatile has been developing and manufacturing testing equipment for beverage, food and aerosol canmakers for a quarter-century and has inspection units in 42 countries.  Recently it has experienced a growth spurt.

It doubled the size of its Melbourne facility in the last two years, expanding to 13,750 sqf. Versatile also added ten employees during that time, pushing its roster to 26 workers with an eye on versatility.

Prime Controls’ new ET230 EthernetIP Gateway arrives at a critical time for the industry, as manufacturers expand the use of EthernetIP to enhance communication between machinery and the operators.

This new unit is designed for OEM can end conversion press manufacturers and pairs with the company’s Double Shell & Missing Tab Detectors unit, and is also a safety asset. By reducing the number of times an operator must physically access the control cabinet – this unit allows operators to calibrate and operate the sensors remotely – it reduces the risk of an arc flash taking place.

At Cannex, Prime Controls also introduced upgraded models of its MD30 TestAlert, DS150 Double Sheet Detector and LT LED TL 103.

The TestAlert replaces obsolete Hyde Park Controls MD2, MD3 and MD20 on the Borden Air Tester, and it also has improved power surge protection. Many of the upgrades were in response to requests from three-piece canmakers.

The Double Sheet Detector features a smaller footprint and a faster processor and a DC power supply, steps that Prime Controls’ president Beth Graves believes positions this unit well for the future.

Green is the new colour of Prime Controls’ LT LED Lamp, replacing the halogen lamps on Stolle’s Randolph LT Series Can Body Light Tester – better for the bottom line, both environmentally and financially. The complete upgrade will pay for itself in one year, Graves promises, when factoring in the reduced downtime.

Sencon was displaying its non-contact gauges. One of its most popular machines at Cannex was the new shell gauge, which provides enhanced testing results in a variety of forms.

Sencon displayed its non-contact system for measuring the dimensions of beverage can samples, but its shell gauge attracted most attention at Cannex

One of Sencon’s points of emphasis during Cannex was that it touches every aspect of the can industry, whether a two-piece beverage can, a three-piece food can or the end. It was promoting its wide range of gauges, stressing the control counsels that provide real-time information and the ability to handle multiple can sizes without change parts.

“We’ve got experience across the industry, so there are very few issues we haven’t dealt with in that time,” said sales and commercial director Richard Churchill. “We’ve been putting a lot of energy into non-contact (inspection), which is giving us a better representation of the can. We’ve been getting great feedback on that as we talk during the show.”