A Complete Solution for Optimum Quality

Capsules are used for a wide range of applications and, not surprisingly, they are produced in large quantities. Greiner Packaging has been in business for 50 years and is proud of their UPP – the "Unique Packaging Proposition" – that guarantees their customers the best packaging solution every time. Greiner Packaging has now digitalized its quality inspection process for capsules, thereby ensuring that the company never has to choose between large quantities and quality requirements. A key part of this innovative solution is the ZEISS VoluMax 800 CT scanner.

Non-stop production

The Capsules business unit at Greiner is found at the end of the Greinerstrasse amongst the company's manufacturing and administrative units in Kremsmünster, a town located inan idyllic alpine landscape in northern Austria. Entering the production area, you can differentiate between employees and visitors by the color oft he sterile capes and headwear. The employees have white caps and visitors red so that it is always clear who works here and who does not. The fully automated production line is over 50 meters long, beginning with the multilayered film which serves as the source material and extending to a forming process known as 'deep drawing' all the way to the final sealing of thepacked boxes. Multiple production lines next to each other whoosh and pump as they churn out millions of capsules 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. However,these products cannot be delivered until they have been inspected. In order to ensure that every single capsule meets the customer's detailed specifications, the Quality Inspection department works around the clock.

"Packaging is no longer a singular product, it has become a high-tech functional unit," explains Helmut Reckziegel (right), Head of the Capsules business unit, sitting next to Karoline Schmalwieser (left), Head of Communications.
The manufacturer of packaging solutions has been digitalizing the quality assurance process for its capsules since July 2016 by using the ZEISS VoluMax CT scanner.
"Customers used to provide us with gauges and other equipment for the mechanical inspection of the capsules. We used these to perform various partial inspections," says Quality Engineer Robert Pfundbauer, describing the inspection process before the company acquired the VoluMax 800.
Quality Inspector Muhcu Zeynep (front) shows Quality Engineer Robert Pfundbauer on the screen that the test objects in the computer tomograph meet the quality requirements.

Substantially increasing the inspection parameters

Helmut Reckziegel, Head of the Capsules business unit, explains this development: "Packaging is no longer a singular product, it has become ahigh-tech functional unit."That is why he began looking for an efficient quality inspection solution three years ago. One approach in particular caught his eye: a manufacturer of motor housings in Italy was using X-rays to inspect the quality of its capsules, and Reckziegel knew that computed tomography was the way to go. Thus a highly complex development process began that was focused on the heart of the system: the computer tomograph. Complicated algorithms needed to be programmed, virtual gauges assembled and analyses created in line with customer requirements. On top of this, weight measurements accurate to the nearest hundredth of a gram were required for the inspection process, performing μ-accurate measurements and ensuring meticulous and consistent documentation. Moreover, an extraloading logistics solution needed to be developed for the X-ray chamber in the form of capsule holders and stands, because the customer wanted to inspect an entire random sample batch in a single operation.

Developing together

While watching the system in operation, the inspection process itself seems almost mundane. Each capsule has an engraved cavity number. Fifty capsules are taken from the production line multiple times per shift – completely in line with the directives provided by the customer. The capsules are placed in specially designed holders, put onto the appropriate stands and this 'tower of capsules' is moved to the X-ray chamber. The holders and stands were designed together with ZEISS and are made from a special plastic which neither influences nor compromises the scanning process. The production data are entered, the door closes, the start button is pushed – that is all there is to it! The random samples are left in the X-ray chamber for a half hour. On the screen the operator monitors fifty colored circles, each of which corresponds to a test piece. If the seare green, then everything is ok. If one of them turns red, then the operator immediately knows which parameter has not been met. Twelve individually programmed computers are working in the background so that the results are displayed in real time. The corresponding PiWeb software is also from ZEISS. A report is generated  for every measurement in the form stipulated by the customer.

In order to digitize as many capsules as possible in the CT scanner simultaneously, the test objects are placed in special plastic holders which have been optimized for the particular customer's requirements.
Capsules are taken from the production line multiple times per shift and put in special holders. These are placed on the appropriate stands and this 'tower of capsules' is moved to the X-ray chamber.
Muhcu Zeynep from Quality Assurance standing next to the ZEISS VoluMax 800: "Now everything is a lot easier, faster and, most importantly, far more precise."
Helmut Reckziegel, Head of the Capsules business unit, and Robert Pfundbauer, a quality engineer (from left to right) agree: Greiner Packaging International is setting new standards in the packaging industry with the ZEISS VoluMax 800.

Recalls due to packaging – nearly impossibility

The company has been using the ZEISS VoluMax 800 since July 2016. Pfundbauer's pride is palpable when asked if he is pleased with them machine's performance thus far: "This system is a dream come true for any quality manager." These days ZEISS is connected via remote maintenance, while Greiner still has complete control over the machine. It used to  be the case that inspecting eight parameters took 45 minutes, now the  number is 16 in half an hour. And except for loading and unloading the  CT scanner, manual operation, such as weighing or measuring, is no  longer required. At first glance the solution appears to have tripled  employees' productivity in Quality Inspection. That is certainly  desirable, impressive and also reduces costs, but for Pfundbauer  increased throughput is not the most important benefit. For him it all  comes down to safety, and thus the question that should be asked is: "How probable is a recall caused by packaging, i.e.the worst-case scenario for Greiner customers?" Since these days twice as many parameters are tested than before and with far greater precision, the likelihood is almost zero.

More than an add-on

The consistent documentation for every batch afforded by computertomographs has another, decisive benefit: should something happen at some point, the possibility that the defect resulted from the packaging can be ruled out immediately. For example: the bottling plant downstream in the production chain receives all appropriate documents with each delivery lot.These are available at the push of a button, and all prescribed parameters are clearly marked with a checkmark.The application spectrum for capsules is enormous, and, not surprisingly, they are produced in large quantities –including in the Capsules business unit at Greiner Packaging International. Greiner employees no longer have to spend large amounts of time filling out forms, and it eliminates the risk of human errors caused by unintended incorrect entries. Thanks to this ZEISS solution, Greiner not only remains true to its slogan "do the innovation," but has also become an innovator in the area of optimized digital quality inspection and quality assurance with extremely large production quantities. This end-to-endsolution with the ZEISS VoluMax 800 at its heart is setting new standards in the packaging industry, and extensive discussions about additional fields of application are already taking place at Greiner. Reckziegel sums up his company's experience: "It's not about the measuring machine, it's about a complete solution. We were only able to tackle this challenge together with ZEISS."

The holders and stands are made of a special plastic which does not affect the scanning process. These were developed together with ZEISS.