Sorting units throughout the ages

The 92nd VLB* Brewing and Engineering Congress was held in Enschede (NL) from 7 to 9 March 2005. Some 420 participants discussed the current interests of the brewing industry in more than 28 presentations. Dr Thomas Jahnen, Technical Sales Manager at HEUFT SYSTEMTECHNIK GMBH, took the problem of the large assortment of bottles in returnable crates as the theme of his presentation on individual bottling sorting.

Sorting units have been an important part of filling lines since the beginning of the nineties. However the great significance which is attached to the sorting of returned empties nowadays could hardly have been predicted in those days. The concept in smaller and medium-sized businesses to unpack all the bottles first, sort automatically according to shape and colour in the bottle flow and then to pack into the corresponding crates manually sufficed. Nowadays such solutions are no longer of interest from an economical aspect due to the fact that manual reworking requires a large expensive workforce.

There are many reasons for the dramatic increase in the large assortment of bottles in production crates. Often the consumer does not separate PET and glass bottles which results in a problem for the drinks producer. He has to take interference into account, such as bottles falling over, if both types of material are run along a line. A greater variety of products by far, permanent labels as well as the fact that most drinks producers manufacture their own bottles are further reasons for the high foreign bottle quota in production crates. Not to forget a change in consumer behaviour as well as different marketing concepts compared to 10 years ago.
The following conditions have to be met in order to tackle this problem:

  • there must be no / only few foreign bottles along the bottle transport
  • the unpacker must be guaranteed operation without interference
  • there must be a sufficient number of empties at the unpacker in order to guarantee a 100% filling output
  • the handling of foreign crates / bottles must be automated
  • foreign bottles should be packed according to type as far as possible so that they can be exchanged with the foreign company

This is where HEUFT SYSTEMTECHNIK GMBH comes in. Foreign crates as well as foreign bottles in crates are identified using modern inspection technology and all the necessary information is passed on to the HEUFT quickSort. This is equipped with one or several gripper arms. It grips individual bottles or crates with these arms. The construction does not require the use of change parts at all. The crates to be processed can be cleared of foreign bottles and if possible filled with good bottles. The unpacked bottles are placed directly into the corresponding foreign crates. Foreign creates can be transferred onto the sorting table or a conveyor. The main difference with other sorting concepts is the fact that the bottles are not unpacked and put aside but the gripper saves the bottle until it has found a vacant space in a suitable crate. Finally correctly sorted crates leave the HEUFT quickSort. The production crates are transported in the direction of the filling line and the foreign crates directed to the palletising section.

* VLB = Versuchs- und Lehranstalt fьr Brauerei in Berlin - Research and
Teaching Institute for Brewing in Berlin/Germany