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Teri Maltais

The idea of having sensors on a bottling or canning line is brilliant. The fact that a line operator can have dashboards and data streamed to their tablet wirelessly has been “one giant leap” for the industry whether you want to call it Industry 4.0, Smart Manufacturing or IIoT. In some ways it was like that first step on the moon because it was totally uncharted territory.

 

But smart sensor drones that are shaped exactly like your containers are the next frontier. (Yes, I’m using space metaphors today.) In-line sensors measure precisely the pressure, spin, acceleration and scuffing that the containers are receiving and in real time.

With smart sensors, you move past understanding the vibrations or throughput performance of the line itself to the exact ‘experience’ of your packaging containers during processing.

The biggest question is if size matters. (No joking here.)

Now plants can chart every run not only to take immediate corrective action but also for informed decisions on maintenance plans and capital expenditures. When deployed, there is no debating that these smart replica drones are doing their job. There is however, in the industry, some dialogue over whether size actually matters.

Remember the adage of trying to put a square peg in a round hole?

Of course it matters. Size matters. Shape matters. If you are looking for the most precise data that you can get using the most precise sensors, an exact replica of the bottle or can being processed is required. As shown above, if the drone is too small, the impact is not received. If the drone is too large, the impact measured will be inaccurate.

Think about it this way:
Here on the east coast of Canada, where MMAAZZ is located, there is an annual rite of oncoming winter when we all change the tires on our vehicles to prepare for snow and ice on the highways. Some will store their nice wheels and put on basic rims to spare them damage, sometimes even putting on a different size wheel to save a buck on the winter tires. When you change the size of the wheels on your vehicle, the speedometer reads differently. Well, imagine that. The readings can’t be the same if the size is different.

In the Instrument Engineers Handbook, Fourth Edition it states, “If the representations of process variables drift away from their specification range, it can result in costly production downtime, create adverse safety issues and lead to production of inferior quality goods.”

 

When used correctly with exact size replicas, smart sensors have a 99% repeatability rate for shock measurement.

One particular user of the MMAAZZ sensor technology, tried it to test a new sized container. Almost immediately afterward they installed the drones on all of their production lines. Needless to say, they were ‘over the moon’ with the results!