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MARS-SEAM - Automated Double Seam Inspection

CMC-KUHNKE installs first Automated Beverage Can Seam Inspection System

November 2005 - Hudson, NY

MARS-SEAM Automatic Double Seam Inspection System

A new era is beginning in the world of double seaming, one where seam teardown inspections are completed with the press of a button. In November, CMC-KUHNKE installed the canning industry's first automated, conventional double seam inspection system at a major US Brewery. Dubbed "MARS-SEAM", it completes a full seam inspection in minutes with minimal human interaction. The end result is faster, more frequent and more accurate seam inspections for beverage and food canners alike, all while reducing costs.

In the early 1990s, PC-based video inspection systems revolutionized the seaming process by improving the quality of inspection data, while at the same time, reducing labor. Today, QA Managers and Maintenance Managers face the challenges of higher- speed canning lines, stricter quality standards, and more streamlined workforces. With MARS-SEAM, CMC-KUHNKE has once again answered the challenge.

"In the past technicians have spent hours emptying cans and performing inspections," says Alex Grossjohann, company Vice-President and chief project manager. "MARS-SEAM gives those hours back."

Developed and built through a collaborative effort between CMC-KUHNKE facilities in Berlin and New York, MARS-SEAM is the brainchild of company president, Heinz Grossjohann. It is the latest in the company's long line of innovations that include the DP1 Double Seam Projector, the VSM-III Video SEAM Monitor and the award-winning auto S.E.A.M.scan System.

Much has been written about the recent trials using X-ray technology to measure double seams. What sets MARS-SEAM apart is that it uses conventional inspection methods. Its components are gauges and software that canning operations have used for years. They've simply been automated. No drastic changes are needed to seam specs, reporting, and SPC analysis. In fact MARS-SEAM can be networked to an existing manual SEAMscan Workstation, sharing the same database and performing inspections side-by- side.

MARS-SEAM looks right at home on the production floor. Its stainless steel exterior is sleek, stylish and sturdy. About the size of a bedroom armoire, its footprint takes up little space. A Plexiglas safety window reveals all the inner workings - a mesmerizing dance of robotics, bound to be a popular stop on any plant tour. Full cans go in and minutes later - empty, inspected cans come out, accompanied by a complete inspection report.

So what really happens in between?

How It Works:

MARS-SEAM Automatic Double Seam Inspection System

MARS-SEAM consists of three stations linked by a pick and place system. It is driven by a powerful PLC and integrates with a PC workstation using the award-winning SEAMscan database software.

For an 18-head seamer, an 18-can sample is loaded onto the infeed conveyor. Loading can be done manually by an operator, or conveyed directly from the canning line. There are advantages to both methods. The online set up reduces the need for initial operator interaction while the manual infeed allows multiple canning lines to use one machine. The pick and place system takes the can from the infeed to station #1.

Station #1: The Triple Seam Gauge measures the external double seam dimensions (seam thickness, countersink depth, and seam height) at up to 50 locations around the can. These measurements are sent to SEAMscan, and the pick and place system then transfers the can to station #2.

Station #2: The Purge Station: The can is held firmly in place as a punch opens the can from the bottom - preserving the integrity of the double seam. Product is then drained, and the interior of the can rinsed and dried.

Station #3: Saw and Capture. Using a Seam Saw to cross-section cans and a Video Seam Imager (or "Seam Scope") to magnify and measure internal double seam dimensions has long been the industry standard. MARS-SEAM uses automated versions of these familiar components to cut the can, expose and clean the seam, and capture the double seam image. The combination of controlled, precise cross-sectioning and a high- resolution camera result in unprecedented image quality. Cover hook, body hook, seam height and overlap are all automatically measured with S.E.A.M.view Software, and then stored in a loss-less compression format for later review.

After the final station, cans are transferred to the outfeed and into a removable portable basket. All stations are able to operate and send data simultaneously and the result is a cycle time of less than one minute per can. When the last can reaches the basket, an alert is triggered to notify the operator. The operator reviews the inspection at the PC and signs off. A recheck is as simple as identifying the head (or heads) to be rechecked and placing cans onto the infeed conveyor.

Data is stored in an SQL database from which inspection results are displayed "real- time" throughout the computer network. SPC charts are instantly updated to put necessary information into the hands of operators and managers alike.

The results are quick, immediate, and highly accurate. While a standard manual seam inspection can take one operator as long as 1 hour to complete, MARS-SEAM requires less than 1 minute of total labor for a complete inspection. If a facility performs 8 inspections per day, that's almost a 3,000 man hours per year savings!

The History of MARS-SEAM:

Double Seam Image from MARS-SEAM

The story of MARS-SEAM begins with the development of semi-automated gauges by two staunch competitors: Container Machinery Corporation and the Manfred Kuhnke Company. In the mid-1990s both companies began to explore ways to automate common can inspection procedures.

Manual bead depth, can height and flange measurements were automated to become the BHF-2000 Bead/Height/Flange Gauge. Seam thickness and countersink depth measurements became the Triple Seam Gauge and the Combination Seam Gauge. Countersink depth, curl diameter, and curl height became the End Measurement Station. These semi-automated gauges quickly gained a strong reputation throughout the canning industry for their accuracy and efficiency.

In 2002, the two competitors combined forces to become CMC-KUHNKE, and work began on the next level of automation. Why not combine these semi-automated gauges into completely automated systems capable of taking samples directly from the line? And so the MARS (Measurement and Rating Station) series was born.

The MARS-C-ER: Can Measurement Station arrived first. Combining already existing gauges with a pick and place system, it takes 3-piece cans directly off the manufacturing line for bead depth, can height, flange width measurement and enamel rating. Two MARS- C-ER units were installed at a major U.S. Can Manufacturing Facility in 2003. It is estimated that the systems paid for themselves in labor savings within a year.

The MARS-DMA arrived next in 2004. CMC-KUHNKE took their End Measurement Station, added the ability to measure curl opening, chuck fit, 1st bead depth, and panel depth, and combined it with a pick and place system. The MARS-DMA is able to measure ends of multiple diameters without the need for tooling changes. It has allowed simplified testing procedures and labor reduction for end manufacturing facilities in Europe.

MARS-SEAM was the logical next step. CMC-KUHNKE already had a well-established line of semi-automatic seam gauges, automatic seam saws, vision gauges and software. The task was simply combining them into one operator-independent system. Work began in January 2005 and after 10 months of design, manufacturing, programming and extensive testing, MARS-SEAM is ready for action.

"At CMC-KUHNKE, automation is our future," says Heinz Grossjohann. "The success of our MARS series solidifies that. There is much more to come."