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In the news - More Than They Seam

Keeping Tabs on Beverages- By Rick Rouan

Lightweighting also has affected the accuracy and repeatability of inspection equipment in the canning industry, says Alex Grossjohann, vice president of CMC-Kuhnke, Albany, N.Y.

Grossjohann says that some beverage companies have made changes to material thickness and alterations to the size and shape of containers, such as slim cans or aluminum bottles, to generate interest in their products during the recession.

"As unique designs have peaked customer interest, they pose inspection issues for us because another way to drive customer demands and compete in that type of economy is to change your container," he says. "As we see the innovations in the product or the container, we have to innovate our inspection of it. It can be very difficult because new containers offer all sorts of different angles and thickness and production challenges..."

Video Seam 

To measure beverage, food and aerosol cans, CMC-Kuhnke offers several manual and fully automated options, including the entry-level Video SEAM Monitor 5 (VSM 5) and the fully automatic MARS-SEAM system, Grossjohann says. Some of the company's systems have a return on investment period of one year, he says.

The VSM 5 uses auto SEAMview 5 software installed on an integrated micro-PC connected to a machine from the company's VSI-5000 series of imagers to automatically measure the double seam on a can.

A high-resolution camera and pre-configured auto SEAMview software work together for automatic double seam measurement displayed on a large TFT screen. The VSM 5 also features an optional touch screen and color camera, the company says. The user can make notes directly on the image, which can be saved as a .BMP, .GIF or .JPG file and used in an e-mail or document.

The 5.0 version of the SEAMview software features an AutoLearn capability that will recognize patterns over time to reduce measurement time and improve accuracy, the company says.

"In general, we've been asked for fully automatic measurement systems that provide more accurate results in less time and at lower costs than the manual methods. This is a major shift from a few years ago," Grossjohann says. "I believe it's probably related to a need for more accurate equipment, but also driven by the rising labor costs..."

Mars Seam - Fully Automated Double Seam Inspection

CMC-KUHNKE's flagship fully automated system is the MARS-SEAM double-seam inspection system, which Grossjohan says "will automatically tear down a beverage can in about a minute."

The MARS-SEAM system follows a five-step process for can inspection: in-feed, contact double seam measurement, product purge and cleaning, cross-section and seam image measurement, and out-feed.

A high-speed can ejection system delivers cans automatically to the system's in-feed conveyor when connected to the production line. At station No. 1, the system measures seam thickness, countersink depth and seam height in 297 places, or about every sixteenth of an inch, the company says.

The machine opens the bottom of the can with a specially designed punch to avoid leaving sharp edges before draining, cleaning with a jet of water and drying the can with a blast of compressed air, CMC-Kuhnke says.

In an enclosed chamber, the double seam is cut using two carbide blades. The residual tab is indented and the cross-section is cleaned for high-resolution digital imaging with the company's VSM imager and auto SEAMview software.

When finished, the cans are placed in order onto a conveyor or into a carrying basket, and the company is provided with an inspection report, the company says.

"The can industry seems to be catching up with other industries," Grossjohann says. "Manual inspection systems are becoming more of a commodity. Automatic systems are becoming more important." BI

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