Blowmolder control helps Nestlé Waters lighten PET bottles 20%

Nestlé Waters’ Sanpellegrino Group (Lombardy, Italy) produces five brands of mineral water on 12 bottling lines in seven plants spread across Italy. These multiple operations are all guided by an overarching commitment to deliver a consistent customer experience associated with each brand.

A major aspect of the customer experience is bottle performance, from grip and handling to cap removal and pouring. Sanpellegrino goes to great lengths to ensure that every one of the millions of PET bottles it manufactures will conform to brand expectations.Agr’s Process Pilot’s automated controls manage the Sidel blowmolder.

The key is exacting control of blowmolder operations, achieved using the Process Pilot Automated Blowmolder Control system on-line thickness measurement technology from Agr Intl. (Butler, PA).  Process Pilot manages the blowmolder to virtually eliminate the effect of the process and environmental variables that can impact bottle material distribution, from fluctuations in weather and humidity to the differences between daytime and nighttime plant temperatures.

Not only does the Process Pilot measure every bottle for changes in material distribution, but it also proactively controls the blowmolder to make sure the right amount of material winds up in the right place.

Plastics materials and technologies for blowmolding and more will be found Feb. 7 to 9, 2017 in Anaheim, CA, at PLASTEC West and Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West that’s co-located with the WestPack packaging exhibition. For more information and to register to attend, visit the PLASTEC West website.

Process Pilot proved its utility in an early light weighting initiative undertaken by Sanpellegrino’s premium Levissima brand, described as “Italy’s favorite local mineral water” and sourced from a mountain village in the Alps. The first bottling operation in Europe to deploy the closed loop Pilot system, the Levissima plant targeted a 22% weight reduction for its 0.5-Liter round bottle blown on a Sidel (Hünenberg, Switzerland) Series II Combi blowmolder.

Even with a history of running close to 40,000 bottles per hour, this was a major challenge for the integrated blowing and filling line. Lighter bottles produced on faster machines have a much narrower processing window, requiring a tight balance between bottle performance and weight.

Weight reduced by 9.5grams

“With the Process Pilot installed on this line, managing the process, we were able to reduce the weight of our half-liter bottle to 9.5g while maintaining a very stable process,” relates Sanpellegrino’s Fabio Chimetto, applications group packaging manager.

Sanpellegrino recently installed three additional Agr Process Pilots as part of a corporate-wide move toward standardized production lines. One of these will be matched with a new Sidel Matrix Combi blowing/filling/capping system as the company replaces independent equipment with a modern, integrated approach.

A project on tap for the new configuration is a further weight reduction in a 2-L square bottle, to below 28g. Given Sanpellegrino’s vast bottle volumes, the initiative promises significant savings in material, yet must be achieved without compromising bottle performance. The filled bottle, weighing two kilos, must remain convenient and reliable in consumer use despite the shrinking margin of error in the blowing process. Having confirmed that Process Pilot’s automated controls maintain the desired material distribution throughout the production run, Sanpellegrino is confident of light weighting success.

“The total cost reduction potential provided by Agr’s Process Pilot in labor, energy, scrap, and material looks to provide for rapid payback and offers a competitive return on investment,” Chimetto says. 

The Process Pilot system enables Sanpellegrino to align efficient, advanced production lines with the customer-centric focus of its brands’ marketing strategy. “What is right for the consumer is not automatically the lowest weight,” Chimetto concludes.

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