In the food and beverage industries it’s often the label on a bottle or other container which gives it a face the consumer can recognize, turning a mere product into a known brand. There are several different types of label and various means of attaching these to goods which depend on the application and market requirements. In the past paper labels were primarily used with water-soluble cold glue as these could be easily removed from the containers in the bottle washer. This was particularly important for returnable containers. At the end of the 1960s self-adhesive film labels began to appear with the first plastic containers. At the same time, hot melt and the hot melt labeling technique were developed for paper and plastic labels.
Accordingly, the demands made of labeling technology have grow enormously in the past few years. Flexible systems are wanted which cater for the customer’s individual requirements. To date, the Innoket SE was the KHS labeler which offered the maximum in flexibility; it allows all kinds of labeling to be performed by docking the relevant stations onto the machine and connecting these up to supply lines for electricity, water and compressed air. In practice, however, many customers are unable to exploit the full flexibility the Innoket SE can offer them.
The Innoket Neo was thus developed according to the just-enough principle: a modular-based system solution which permits a single machine to reliably perform the full range of labeling tasks by combining a few single components. Particular attention was paid to producing a design which saves space while providing great ease of operation. Format changeovers at the infeed and discharge stars can be performed within the shortest time without the need for any tools, for example. This is made possible by the inclusion of a quick-action fastener, for instance, which enables the infeed and discharge stars to be simply removed by turning them through 90°. In order to facilitate cleaning and maintenance the table structure common to date has been replaced by an easy-access base machine with a carousel and front table. The height-adjustable stations, which are flexibly arranged on the carousel, enable variable label application heights so that the machine can perfectly adjust to the customer’s product portfolio.
All of the major labeling processes – cold glue, hot melt, self-adhesive and roll-fed – are available for the Innoket Neo as required and can be combined within a single machine using the modular system. All kinds and shape of can, glass or plastic bottle holding up to three liters can be labeled on the Innoket Neo – which incidentally processes up to 74,000 containers per hour.
- No lubrication points, maintenance-free design
- Good view during machine operation
- Separate door switches monitor every access point
- Easy access for cleaning and maintenance
- Innovative ClearLine HMI operator panel
- Setup parts with a quick-change mechanism
- Mass of the heaviest setup part reduced to under 12 kg
- Greater comfort and more convenient storage of product-dependent parts on format part carts
- Horizontal extension of stations by up to 400 mm optimizes access to the front of the units
Simply something completely different
The Innoket Neo is nothing less than a revolution among labeling machines. A new development of this class and magnitude was not born in a sudden flash of inspiration but is the result of a long process, as Klaus Krämer, the man who managed the project at KHS, explains.
At the beginning of the new millennium Klaus Krämer witnessed KHS’ takeover of Anker Maschinenbau from Hamburg in Germany, a traditional manufacturer of labeling machines. “Since then product development has been frequently concerned with avoiding redundancies: that is, not doubling up a machine in the portfolio if at all possible. We aimed to combine the best of Anker with the best of KHS to ideally produce the one series of machines which is just right,” Krämer remembers. After many minor steps and improvements the department decided to go for the breakthrough in 2011 and finally engineer a machine which can do everything with just one controller while remaining compact, the many variants of which can be realized with repeatedly new combinations of as few parts as possible.
Exploring new avenues
The team included not just Klaus Krämer but also Lutz Körtge, former design engineering manager for Anker, and a number of other design engineers. The team was coached by Dr. Peter Stelter, head of Technology Management at KHS. “It was his job to show us new ways of doing things so that we could also try out something completely different,” says Krämer. “One good example is sheet steel bending technology, with the help of which we were able to combine apparently contradictory requirements, such as the rectangular design and optics of the ClearLine concept on the one hand with the round machine shape necessitated by the carousel on the other.”
We should see the development of the Innoket Neo as being a prolonged process. “This is not the tale of one great brainwave,” states Krämer and adds, “Of course we did a lot of brainstorming and thinking outside several boxes, but basically the process involves working through a lot of lists: a lot of work for a committed team.” During the course of the project the lists turned into a giant Excel spreadsheet which then became a set of design specifications. The product structure was created mutually and at the regular meetings it was often asked what customers wanted, whether they needed this or that special feature and how it was all going to fit together. Options were often considered and then abandoned in a process of elimination; a film wrapping head for beer bottles, for example, is not really called for at the moment and was thus disregarded for the time being. In addition to parallel and straight conveying on the front tables head conveying was also first not incorporated but then later re-introduced in response to customer demand.
Focus on feasibility
One challenge which took up a lot of energy was the machine cladding. “The folding flap doors on the Innoket Neo are very special,” enthuses Krämer. “They look fantastic and grant top access. This really is something new!” Before this idea was implemented, however, there was much discussion. Plans were made, then samples were built and tested for stability; these were then changed and optimized. “It was really good that we sat down with all those involved in Purchasing and Production right from the start to ensure the feasibility of our project from the outset,” concludes Klaus Krämer. “After all, in keeping with the motto of ‘just enough’, we didn’t want to create an oversized luxury product but one which precisely caters for the needs and opportunities of the market. And this is exactly what the Innoket Neo has become.”