20 July, 2019

Pneumatics for bottling

16 February, 2018

By Giorgio Guzzoni, product manager, Metal Work Spa.

The market for plant and machinery used in the bottling process is extensive, and Italy holds a prominent position in this sector. For pneumatic components to be fit for purpose in this market, they must be proven to be reliable and be able to operate at high speed in order to meet, and even exceed, required productivity levels. The choice of materials and treatments must be suitable for individual zones within a plant; for example, for areas where parts may be in contact with food or detergents. Today, applications are emerging that use electrical rather than pneumatic cylinders.

What is bottling?

When thinking of the bottling process, those who do not operate in this sector might imagine the situation represented in the opening drawing. Many people (me included) still like to breath in the vapours that come out of wine while decanting it into thoroughly cleaned bottles while relaxing in the fresh environment of their cellar. However, the industrial reality is very different; we generally deal with plants that are able to fill 3000 bottles per hour, and in the mineral water sector up to 90,000 bottles per hour.

This is a very wide and diversified world. Solutions are different depending on the treated fluid: wine, water, milk, beverages, juices or oil. Moreover, they are very different depending on the container: glass, polyethylene, aluminium or steel.

The bottling, or ‘filling’, is the central part of a series of very complex processes. These processes begin with the container production; for instance, the creation of the PET bottle. In certain cases, there is a sanitisation phase. This is followed by the real filling, closure with the cap, labelling and packaging. All these steps must be carried out in compliance with food safety criteria; in accordance with the certification rules of individual countries and in line with rigid quality control procedures.

Flexibility is another requisite that is increasingly requested; for example, flexibility is necessary to construct plants that can be reconfigured for different liquids. However, containers, too, can change in accordance with designers’ requirements and market expectations. In Italy can be found the headquarters of some of the largest manufacturers of bottling plants and machines in the world. Italy also houses hundreds, if not thousands, of small- and medium-sized companies that can design and produce the widest variety of machines or special sub-assemblies.

Components for bottling

Are the pneumatic components used in this sector different from those deployed elsewhere? Yes and no. We can also say ‘no’ because if a component has been designed to perform many millions of cycles without the need for maintenance, while also offering a high degree of reliability and being compliant with European and ISO standards, it is suitable for this sector as well as for others. However, we can also answer positively, because some characteristics are singular to this industry.

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