Nestlé taps new blow molder control system for efficient PET bottle production

Blow molder control helps Nestlé Waters align efficient PET bottle production with consistent consumer experience.

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Nestlé Waters’ Sanpellegrino Group produces five brands of mineral water on 12 bottling lines in seven plants spread across Italy. These multiple operations are all guided by an overarching commitment: to deliver a consistent consumer experience associated with each brand.

A major aspect of the consumer experience is bottle performance, from grip and handling to cap removal and pouring. Sanpellegrino goes to great lengths to ensure that every one of the millions of PET bottles it manufactures will conform to brand expectations.

The key is exacting control of blow-molder operations, achieved with Agr’s online thickness measurement technology, the Process Pilot automated blow-molder control system. Process Pilot manages the blow molder to virtually eliminate the effect of process and environmental variables that can impact bottle material distribution, from fluctuations in weather and humidity to the differences between daytime and nighttime plant temperatures.

Not only does the Process Pilot measure every bottle for changes in material distribution, but it also controls the blow molder proactively to make sure the right amount of material winds up in the right place.

Process Pilot proved its utility in an early lightweighting initiative undertaken by Sanpellegrino’s premium Levissima brand and sourced from a mountain village in the Alps. The first bottling operation in Europe to deploy the closed-loop Pilot system, the Levissima plant targeted a 22% weight reduction for its half-liter round bottle blown on a Sidel Series II Combi blow molder.

Even with a stable history running at close to 40,000 bottles/hr, this was a major challenge for the integrated blowing and filling line. Lighter bottles produced on faster machines have a much narrower processing window. To deliver on customer expectations, bottle production has to strike the right balance between performance and weight.

“With the Process Pilot installed on this line, managing the process, we were able to reduce the weight of our half-liter bottle to 9.5 grams while maintaining a very stable process,” says Sanpellegrino’s Fabio Chimetto, Applications Group Packaging Manager.

As part of a corporate-wide move toward standardized production lines, Sanpellegrino recently installed three additional Agr Process Pilots. One of these will be paired with a new Sidel Matrix Combi blowing/filling/capping system as the company replaces independent equipment with a modern, integrated approach.

A project on tap for the new configuration is a further weight reduction in a 2-L square bottle, down below 28 g. Given Sanpellegrino’s vast bottle volumes, the initiative promises significant savings in material. Still, it can only move forward as long as the lightweighting is accomplished without compromising bottle performance. The filled bottle, weighing 3 kg, must remain convenient and reliable in consumer use—despite the shrinking margin of error in the blowing process. Having confirmed that Process Pilot’s automated controls maintain the desired material distribution throughout the production run, Sanpellegrino is confident of lightweighting success.

“The total cost reduction potential provided by Agr’s Process Pilot in labor, energy, scrap, and material looks to provide for rapid payback and offers a competitive return on investment,” Chimetto says.

The Process Pilot system enables Sanpellegrino to align efficient, advanced production lines with the customer-centric focus of its brands’ marketing strategy. “What is right for the consumer is not automatically the lowest weight,” Chimetto says.

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