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Bottling plant upgrade goes with a swing

06 December 2021

Find out how Grolsch is placing its iconic swing tops on bottles at speeds of around 3,800 bottles per hour.

New servo technology from Festo is helping Grolsch to put the iconic swing tops on its bottles of lager. The swing-top transfer unit, has been installed at the Grolsch Enschede plant in The Netherlands, custom-designed by Festo in conjunction with system integrator MCA Linear Motion Robotics.

The system provides approximately 3,800 swing-top bottles per hour with a porcelain cap and rubber ring. Bottles without clips are fed in on one side, while the swing tops are fed in from the other side. Before the tops can be positioned, a sensor detects where the hole in the bottle neck is as the bottle rotates. On the basis of this measurement, the bottles are rotated into the correct position via a servo motor located underneath. Following this, the swing-top transfer unit positions the swing top while the bottle is rotated again so the swing top can first be pressed into one and then into the other hole. The finished bottles are then transported to the filling line.

One of the most important changes in the new design was the replacement of the two electric and parallel positioned axes that carry out the horizontal movement (X-movement) by a heavy duty EGC axis. This has a double guide that is actuated by new servo technology in the form of Festo EMMT servo motors.The compact servo motor has a single cable for both motor and encoder signals. This means it can generate a very low holding torque, enabling it to synchronise several axes – even at lower speeds. In addition, the servo motor has a digital, absolute displacement encoder (single- or multi-turn) and is available in protection classes IP40 and IP67.

At the Enschede plant he existing Siemens PLC with Profibus was upgraded to Profinet using the Festo CPX-E automation system. The CPX-E is used as a central controller for both the servo and stepper motors and is configured as an EtherCAT master and motion controller. This solution delivers the required speed, accuracy and dynamic response needed from the swing-top transfer unit. 

The new controllers and Profinet system also make gathering data really easy. This is helpful for process optimisation, fault-finding and predictive maintenance: all aspects that Grolsch will focus on in the future in order to increase machine reliability and availability and reduce costs.

Commenting on the solution, Steven Groot Zevert, a maintenance engineer in this part of the Grolsch factory, said: “Thanks to the cooperation between system integrator and automation manufacturer the project has been managed quickly and efficiently. I only really needed to let them know my requirements. These were then translated into a new, future-proof design that fits into our own automation system and was also configured and commissioned professionally by Festo and MCA. 

“Everything runs according to plan and that’s just as well, as next year the swing-top bottle celebrates its 125th anniversary and I think Grolsch will be paying some attention to that!”

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