Fully automatic inspection of kegs with latest technology and solutions by SYSCONA

Keg with defective handle
Keg with defective handle

The logistic transport and the product quality can be effectively optimized by a complete and automatic inspection of empty kegs at the return of empties. The Krombacher Brauerei realized with most modern systems of SYSCONA Kontrollsysteme GmbH a keg inspection system by which the identity, marking and condition of returnable kegs can be detected with the highest reliability. Especially the reliable detection of normally hardly detectable defects at kegs supports effectively the high demands with regard to the quality and, at the same time, reduces costs. The fine-differentiated identification of own and foreign kegs as well as the reading of keg markings and codes with high reading accuracy is realized with state of the art technology. In addition to logistic benefits, a precise keg inventory can be supported.

“Because of the reliable detection of keg defects by the SYSCONA system we are able to reduce our internal return quota and corresponding customer complaints” said the director of the filling department of the Krombacher Brauerei, Mr. Martin Gockel. “The reliable identification of foreign kegs offers concrete logistic advantages” he continues. “Due to the automatic format change via easy program selection in the SYSCONA Expert operating system set-up procedures become nearly unnecessary. Foreign kegs as well as our PLUS-KEGS and SUDEX-KEGS of the sizes 20, 30 and 50 l with a line speed up to 1.200 kegs are reliably detected during the daily routine. This are 3 seconds cycle time only!

 

Keg inspection station with handle control head
Keg inspection station with handle control head

Essentially for the keg inspection system is an especially powerful high-speed rotation station where the borders and the complete sheathing of the keg are inspected. There, the kegs are stopped, centered and turned respectively aligned. Already during the project work, special attention had been turned to the detection of hardly detectable defects that are known as being high-risk defects. Deformations are detected with an accuracy to millimeters by means of precise ultrasonic sensors of the latest design. In addition, content reducing dents, in case of PU-sheathed kegs eventually existing invisible under the plastic layer are detected via a line of inductive proximity sensors.

Hidden material weakness such as keg handles with nearly invisible hairline cracks are highly dangerous.

Via a pneumatic measuring head, unique until now, a defined adjustable control force is directed exactly to the handles. In the covered deformation area, even small defects become visible for an unmistakable differentiation of good and faulty kegs.

At the same inspection station, via image recording from the side and the top, the identification of each keg is realized by means of a logo and writing control. In case of stainless steel Kegs, the embossed writing on the side are used. Specially coordinated color camera and illumination technics provide excellent starting information. Because of mathematical analysis and classification tools, parts of the embossing are already sufficient for an identity classification with highest reliability. Even normal damages that occur every day, can not influence the detection accuracy. In case of PU – kegs, logos existing on the sheathing area are analyzed for the origin identification.

Writing detection on stainless steel kegs.
Writing detection on stainless steel kegs.

Besides, damages or dirt on the surface and writing are detected and identified by using the image recordings from the top and the side. Optionally, damages on the keg bunghole can be detected with high resolution and analyzed. This are other elements of the Krombacher quality assurance system by which “online” reactions with regard to the keg transport can be initiated. Defective kegs are ejected for the repair in parts.

The SYSCONA keg inspection program offers in addition a wide repertoire of detection and reading technics for identification marks fixed to last such as barcodes, transponder or datixPLUS codes (see fig. 1) which can be optionally activated in the keg inspection system installed at the Krombacher Brauerei. By using a newly developed system with special optical as well as camera and software technical means, SYSCONA is able to detect keg serial numbers embossed in the border of stainless steel kegs with realistic reliability. This was no function required for the project at the Krombacher Brauerei but is nevertheless highly interesting for a great number of applications by which every single keg should be tracked and transported by using the existing keg number.

The keg inspection system at the Krombacher Brauerei had been installed and commissioned in October 2006. During more than a year of hard day-to-day operation, the system had been proven in all components as being robust and reliable. The operative and commercial calculated investment had the expected effect. Again, for the Krombacher Brauerei, innovation and cooperation with an experienced technology company had been worth the effect.