Pilot plant for labelling technology

Krones (Thailand) Co Ltd
Wednesday, 11 October, 2006

By purposefully upgrading its applications engineering capabilities, with multifaceted options for customised testing and consultancy, Krones' labelling plant can offer its clients specifically tailored solutions to their problem.

The centrepoint of the pilot plant is the laboratory, with its state-of-the-art metrological equipment, featuring two metrological workstations, a work island and a conditioning cabinet. Once the properties of the label, glue and container have been metrologically analysed, it quickly becomes clear whether the idea concerned is going to work or not. "There's an increasing demand for this service, not only among clients, but among label and glue manufacturers as well.

Dress concepts are getting progressively more unusual and diverse, but at the same time bottlers want their labelling processes to be faster and more affordable, with thinner films, for example," explains Thomas Lang, head of R&D at the pilot plant. In the demonstration room, the principal focus is on applications engineering, and dressing the bottles in the labels involved. Realistic tests are run here with a second-generation modularised labeller, equipped to handle reel-fed, pressure-sensitive, cold-glue and wraparound labelling. Two interlinked loops can be run individually or in parallel. The second of these loops is additionally fitted with a Sleepvematic and a steam tunnel.

Feasibility studies

In the process room, the work performed does not involve the label actually being applied. A Garantomat, a conventional Contiroll and an APS 2 with automatic splicing are available here for trials. Tests are run, for instance, on different types of glue, the dispensing properties of pressure-sensitive labels, the label web characteristics, or cutting trials are carried out, or simulation routines performed for removing very thin labels from the magazine. The control system for the rotating bottle plates has also been integrated.

"We can simulate almost all labelling processes, and in a further step concentrate on how the labelling, dating/coding and inspection functions interact," says Thomas Lang. The principal goal is a feasibility study for clients' material on machines from the Krones range. Under the shared aegis of R&D, the applications engineering pilot plant works synergetically together with the machinery trialling department, where prototypes are tested and Krones products are design-enhanced.

The pilot plant also incorporates a store for containers, labels and handling parts, plus a cooling cell for labels. The team shares the workshop with their counterparts of the filling and process pilot plant next door.

Filling and process pilot plant

"At the filling and process pilot plant, too, the focus is on extracting synergies from basic research and application-driven studies," emphasises Dr Thomas Oestreicher, divisional manager, R&D. The pilot plant, in which 16 staff deal with nine major fields on an area of around 1200 m2 has proved highly successful. "The response has been very gratifying: lots of major companies are keenly interested in testing new products here. The demand has outstripped our original expectations," reports Dr Sven Fischer, who heads the filling and process pilot plant. "Can our new product be filled like this? What sort of shelf life will it have and in what kind of package? When questions like this crop up, we can now offer our clients soundly-based advice, and develop the processes they need. We often test unusual products in conjunction with the client, and are able to clarify quite a lot of points in advance," says Dr Fischer.

With its comprehensive range of equipment, including an aseptic line, a dynamic filling simulator, a microbiological and a chemical/physical laboratory, and a product preparation system, the pilot plant has everything it needs. Clients are particularly interested in aseptic filling, and here Dr Fischer is already thinking about expansion options. The laboratory has so far been focusing on closure sterilisation for sportscaps and bottle sterilisation.

"We're currently engaged in setting up a network between the pilot plant's different departments," explains Dr Oestreicher with an eye to the future. This includes close cooperation with the plastics pilot plant and between the labelling pilot plant and the planned packaging pilot plant at the facility in Rosenheim. "As a basic technology, for instance, film shrink-wrapping is a significant issue for both departments," says Dr Oestreicher.

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