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Article | April 30, 1997
New level of packaging technology reaches Jim Beam (sidebar)
Licking a condensation problem
With its squared shape and corner handle Jim Beam's 1.75-L bottle can only be labeled if it's correctly oriented. The machine purchased to accomplish that task is a 90 Series orienter from Krones (Franklin WI). Though running smoothly now there was one obstacle unanticipated by Krones or Beam that had to be overcome: occasional condensation. The 12-station rotary orienter operates via machine vision. From a tabletop conveyor bottles enter the orienter by way of a timing screw/starwheel infeed that places each bottle on its own plate. Bottles are held from above by a centering bell. Immediately the bottle is photographed by a machine vision system to determine where the handle is. The position of the handle is communicated to a PLC which in turn sends a signal to three locking stations spaced around the periphery of the orienter beneath the bottle plates. If the bottle is determined to have entered in the correct orientation the first locking station fires and locks the magnetic bottle plate in position so the bottle can't lose orientation. If the bottle is not properly oriented on its plate the first locking station won't lock and the plate will turn. When it reaches locking station two if it's now correctly oriented it will be locked that way. If it's still not oriented by locking station three it will turn one last time and be locked in place for starwheel discharge. In other words depending on where the handle is when the bottle meets the locking plate the bottle will make no turns at all or one two or three turns until it's properly oriented. The problem Beam initially encountered with the orienter was caused by just-in-time delivery of bottles. "If it's cold out when we bring the glass into the heated plant we get condensation" says bottling maintenance manager Don Sympson. Bottles that were clear become clouded. "That was negatively affecting the pixel count that the machine vision system relies on. Krones solved the problem by adding more light to the camera area so now the system runs glass that's clouded or clear. It works great."
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