In-line checkweighing has replaced manual spot checks on static balances, leading to improved weight control of each product. However, the demands on modern weighing technology have evolved even further. Due to the growing variety of aerosol container formats, sizes and materials, manufacturing and filling companies rely on flexible solutions that can be easily adapted to any requirements. WIPOTEC-OCS has developed a range of high-tech checkweighers that, due to their high level of modularity, can fulfil any application and format-specific requirements to meet new market demands. Additionally, the machines are data-driven, and they can safely handle products at maximum speeds.
With aerosol cans becoming widely used for a broad range of applications from industrial sprays to asthma inhalers and personal care deodorants, 2019 saw the global aerosol market size valued at USD $86.55 billion. Market experts predict a CAGR of 6.5% from 2020 to 2027 in terms of revenue. While this high demand brings in a significant revenue, it also increases the need to optimize production further, while at the same time paying close attention to safe product handling. Because of the very sensitive products and specific production conditions, including handling of dangerous substances, potential ignition sources and increased risk of a can bursting, product and production safety in the aerosol industry is strictly regulated. As specified by the Aerosol Dispensers Directive (ADD), manufacturers are obligated to analyze and eliminate any hazards which could apply to an aerosol product, particularly a large increase in pressure due to overfilling or too much outside pressure on cans.
Since overfilled aerosol products are highly dangerous to both production staff and consumers, any deviation in products’ weight from the target must be kept to a minimum. Here, probably more than in any other industry, correct, reliable checkweighing and weight documentation are crucial for safety assurance and avoidance of product liability claims. To help aerosol manufacturers achieve their production and compliance goals, WIPOTEC-OCS has developed a range of innovative, flexible and intelligent checkweigher solutions providing a unique set of features. The technology combines accurate, high-speed checkweighing of up to 400 products per minute with high levels of equipment interoperability, as well as production data collection and storage. The machines allow aerosol manufacturers to optimize their product safety control by enabling a 100% in-line product weight verification. Additionally, this allows them to analyze and document the ongoing production for regulatory compliance and manage reports in real time.
Modular design for maximum flexibility
Aerosol manufacturers know all too well that today's industry is highly dynamic, with production requirements and regulations changing and developing at a rapid pace. Since the industry is shifting towards higher throughputs and the variety of can formats and sizes is growing, rigid weighing technology with limited access to spare parts is becoming obsolete and must be replaced with state-of-the-art equipment. For this reason, every production manager appreciates reliable and future-proof solutions which are not only able to solve today’s challenges,
but are also flexible enough to accommodate future developments and changes in requirements. The high modularity of WIPOTEC-OCS checkweighers ensures their flexibility and adaptivity. Manufacturers can opt to equip the checkweigher with additional functions to meet the demands of a specific application. Different checkweighing modules can be installed and exchanged depending on specific requirements, for example, throughput speed and product formats and sizes. By selecting a modular checkweighing system, the manufacturer will avoid having to replace the entire machine in the future if there is a change in the application; they will simply need to swap separate machine modules.
Safe and smart product handling for more process reliability
As aerosol cans are unstable and prone to displacement and swaying due to their high centre of gravity and small footprint, smooth and safe product handling is a critical requirement that cannot be compromised. To ensure that cans do not sway, WIPOTEC-OCS has designed various different transport solutions for stable product handling. These solutions range from conveyors with side grips to infeed screws and a star wheel. Each conveyor solution is intended to serve a specific purpose and a particular line configuration. For example, side grip conveyors are used to take over or hand over at the infeed or outfeed of the checkweigher. At the same time, the bottom of the can could be inspected or printed on. Checkweighers equipped with infeed conveyors with a screw are used for spacing and serving as so-called bypass solutions at high throughputs. If the existing transport route is not modified or opened up, then checkweighers with a star wheel will be the appropriate solution. They can be seamlessly integrated into a line without cutting the existing conveyor. The star wheel technology has proved to be a particularly practical solution for aerosol production lines. The HC-A-IS series checkweighers are a reliable solution for small, swaying products. The product range includes single, double, triple and quad lane checkweighing solutions. The required number of cans is loaded into the star wheel pocket and weighed simultaneously. In addition, since manufacturers and fillers frequently switch between different formats, the star wheel can be exchanged within a very short period to fit a new product. The supported formats range from cans as small as 22 mm diameter up to those with diameters as big as 70 mm. This innovative approach and format flexibility prevents long downtimes during product changeover.
Since cans will frequently queue up before the checkweigher, another type of star wheel is used in front of a three-belt checkweigher. This allows the queue pressure in front of the machine to be kept to a minimum and prevents products from being pushed through or displaced.
As in the case of product takeover, sensitivity and high precision are required for the actual weighing of each aerosol container and rejection of products with the incorrect weight. Checkweighers from WIPOTEC-OCS enable safe and reliable rejection of underfilled or overfilled products. They can be equipped with different rejection technologies based on the product size, format and throughput speed. There are different options for rejection of faulty products, such as pushers, a sorting shunt that can be used to reliably reject bigger products with larger gaps, high-speed paddle ejects, air nozzles and flap conveyors. The range of possibilities for product takeover and rejection makes the checkweighers highly flexible and application-driven
and ensures that the solution meets every requirement.
Maximum production safety in hazardous zones
The solutions offered by WIPOTEC-OCS fulfil the highest standards of safe product handling. Equipped with an antistatic transport system to prevent electrostatic discharges, or with fully encapsulated components and cabinets to avoid dangerous sparks, WIPOTEC-OCS checkweighers are ATEX-conformant for Zone 1 and Zone 2. Hence they are safe to use in potentially explosive atmospheres. As a result, manufacturers can now place checkweighers close to the filling machines to keep the timeframe and distance between filling and weighing as short as possible. To ensure maximum protection of the operators, the checkweigher control unit can be installed outside the potentially hazardous area.
These checkweighers can be easily integrated into the production line. Thus it can be controlled by downstream product flow and can control the upstream product flow itself. The control unit receives the weight value, coordinates the verification of good or bad product, ejects incorrect and faulty ones, senses reliably, and monitors product jams and missing products. Using the “Product Flow Control” option, it is possible to monitor the safe rejection of products with incorrect weight. No incorrect product will pass and flow into the good-for-trade channel. The ”Serial Error” option signals when several products in a row fail to be within the set tolerances. It guarantees optimal production and operational efficiency. There are various options and, based on the associated events, alarm signals are sent and communication is made with an external system controller. With the “Filler Feedback” option, the checkweigher can send signals to the filling machine. Based on the mean value of the ongoing production, the filling amount can be adjusted accordingly. Since all these processes are highly automated, much less manual work is required to be done by the operator. This also implies that operators will not need to conduct time-consuming spot checks.
When data comes into play: It’s all about quality, not quantity
In addition to offering sophisticated engineering design, the high-tech weighing systems are data-driven solutions that collect, merge and store production data. Not only can manufacturers guarantee that their processes and products are safe, but they can also record and store production-related data for years on their servers, which could be useful to fight product liability claims.
Although collecting big data is all well and good, it’s not the amount of data that is important, but the quality. After all, what can be done with large numbers of unstructured and incomprehensible information records? Some of the keys to increasing production efficiency are structured, understandable statistics and reports and exact analysis of all the production data available. Only well-structured data can help users draw the right conclusions and assist in short- and long-term decision-making. This holds true for both smaller factories and large-scale, multi-site operations that deploy web-based data management systems.
To provide aerosol manufacturers and fillers with comprehensible production analytics and statistics, all WIPOTEC-OCS checkweighers can be connected to Comscale4, a browser-based data management software package provided by WIPOTEC-OCS. Comscale4 collects and stores checkweigher data and generates comprehensible and practical reports and statistics that can be used for both quick, reactive decisions and long-term conclusions.
The data derived from Comscale4 is displayed in the form of practical and understandable charts that demonstrate what can be done to maximize throughput rates and document production efficiency and statistics. The solution makes it possible to monitor production and gives an overview of product weight data and the number of rejected products across all lines and even across all sites — and all of this in real time. The innovative technology at the core of WIPOTEC-OCS checkweighers provides considerable support for the work of production managers, controllers dealing with efficiency issues, and IT managers. The software can connect all WIPOTEC--OCS checkweighers implemented in the production facility. The weight information for a line, plant, site or even worldwide production can be visualized and archived in real time. Hence, the software solution provides the means to make fast production decisions based on the latest product weight data from different locations within the facility. Further communication can be implemented through various protocols, e.g. OPC, XML, etc.
WIPOTEC-OCS is an international sales and service company that provides dynamic, high-precision weighing and inspection solutions. As a wholly owned subsidiary of high-tech specialist WIPOTEC, which develops and produces all machinery solutions at its Headquarters in Kaiserslautern, Germany, WIPOTEC-OCS has been setting global standards in the production lines of leading manufacturers for over 30 years.
WIPOTEC-OCS checkweighers weigh a broad range of products for manufacturers and contract fillers throughout different industries, including Pharmaceutical, Personal Care, Household, Food, and Mail & Logistics. WIPOTEC-OCS stands for sophisticated and easy-to-use high-tech systems. The wide checkweigher portfolio and modular design offer solutions for almost any application in aerosol production. The company designs solutions that meet even the most unique requirements and supplies customized, application-driven equipment.
Over 1,000 employees belong to the WIPOTEC family and contribute to the company’s success and global growth. Due to its strong presence in more than 90 countries across all continents, the technology manufacturer is able to provide industrial customers with local service and support.
Exceptional deep competence plays a significant role in the in-house development of all necessary core components, as well as the unique in-house manufacturing depth. The depth of production differentiates the company from other vendors and makes WIPOTEC-OCS largely independent of suppliers, while forming the basis for their reliable delivery. At WIPOTEC, the entire value chain from basic research to planning, design and manufacture to sales and service is found under one roof. Short communication channels are advantageous, guaranteeing maximum flexibility in the implementation of every individual product configuration. No matter how unusual your application may be, the company will show you a possible solution that is sure to convince you. That's what sets WIPOTEC-OCS apart from the rest.